EPISODE 171 | Ever wondered what it’s like to use BookShark? Today’s guest Pamela has been an experienced user of BookShark for over 7 years. Listen in as she and Janna provide valuable insights into the benefits and challenges of homeschooling. Their appreciation of BookShark for its comprehensive curriculum and high-quality literature fosters a love for learning and critical thinking skills. However, homeschooling can present challenges such as balancing different grade levels and seeking socialization opportunities. Despite these challenges, Pamela's experience with BookShark has been overwhelmingly positive, witnessing academic and personal growth in her child. Her insights offer valuable guidance for those considering BookShark or homeschooling.

ABOUT OUR GUEST | Pamela Osorno, was born and raised in the south side of Chicago. Approaching 50 years of age, she’s been homeschooling her children from the beginning with the Bookshark curriculum and they are thriving! As a family, They have adjusted to a life of homeschooling with Pamela as the main educator working primarily with BookShark, Her husband works from home and is a strong proponent of teaching life skills to their girls who are learning and finding their own passions. 

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Podcast Transcript

Janna  00:00 Welcome to Homeschool Your Way. I'm your host Janna Koch and BookSharks Community Manager. Today I'm joined by Pamela Osorno. She is a homeschool mom of three. And she's been using BookShark for seven years, we're gonna dive into her story of what attracted her to homeschooling. And what's kept her there for so long! So let me bring her in. Pamela, thanks for being here.

Pamela  00:20 Hi, Janna. It's very nice to be here. Thanks for having me.

Janna  00:24 I'm super excited for you to share your story because I think each story brings validity to another family who has chosen to educate their child in a non-traditional way. And here on homeschool your way we love to highlight the different ways that people choose how to homeschool. You're one of my favorites because you're a fellow homeschool mom who uses BookShark. So we'll have lots to talk about. But I think just really delving into what attracted you to homeschooling in the first place and then kind of how you found your groove and all the exciting things that have kept you there over the years. So how about you just introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about you and your family?

Pamela  01:05 Okay, once again, I'm My name is Pamela Sarno and we have been homeschooling since the get-go pre-COVID days, I know, there was a slew of homeschooling families who jumped on board for that reason alone, but for us, it was before. I met my husband and we were in our 30s. I was 35 he was 37. So we met kind of late in life, neither one of us had children. And once we got married decided to start a family he was he was actually it was he was a rare breed. He was the one who recommended the idea not recommended but suggested the idea of me being an at home mom. And on top of that homeschooling I know that's rather unusual. I know it's usually the moms are the promoters advocates for homeschooling, my husband was the one who suggested it to me, and I have a high school education. I took a couple college classes, I am by no means a college grad. However, I do have a love of learning, my path just didn't take me into a full college experience. So I thought, I don't know. Um, you know, I'm just a high school graduate. I don't know what what I can teach. And I did go to one counseling conference in St. Charles, Illinois some 10 years ago, and it definitely boosted my confidence, I thought, you know, I left there after hearing a lot of discussions, hearing a lot of other moms hearing a lot of educators who really made it make sense to me, and gave me that a desire to want to try this. So we had our firstborn, it back in 2012. And at that point, it was you know, I knew homeschooling wasn't an option at newborn stage. So I just did what you did with with babies than toddlers. And at that point, I had given birth to multiples. I have triplet daughters, too, who are still with us. So balancing a toddler, a three year old and two newborn babies was not easy, but I knew I wanted to start the education process. And I did not want to succumb to preschool, I wanted my children at home, I wanted to be responsible for them. I wanted to nurture them in the state of Illinois, where we don't have any regulations, or actually no regulations. And so I decided to go the cheap route and go to a library and just look all this stuff. You know, come come, you know, put together things that would be good for my daughter. I was spending two, three hours a weekend at the library doing doing one week's worth of stuff. After about two, three months, I looked at my husband, I said, this is not fun. This is it's not it's not fun at all. So I decided to do a little online research and I found a couple of curriculums within the old contact information. And the first one I received was a magazine from BookShark. With BookShark I had, you know, I had a four year old and I thought well, you know, I'll start with the pre-K as the pre-K didn't have as much in you know as much as the further years therefore was significantly cheaper. In my mind. I said, we'll try it if it doesn't work. We didn't lose a ton of money.

Janna  05:09  It was worth those few $100 to get you out of the library on the weekend. Yes.

Pamela  05:13 Okay. Absolutely. Absolutely. And when I got the package, realize all the books, all the workbooks, all the things came included. And I'm a very type A, like, I need things organized. And the way the setup was for it, it was so just easy. You know, I put everything where it was supposed to go. It was open up the book, these are the workbooks I need, these are the sheets I need, Wallah done. It was I shouldn't say no effort on my part, but very little compared to what I was doing. And so my four year old at the time was just, you know, she was loving it. Just like okay, Rock on, let's let's do this, then I thought, Okay, what's what's going to be the next level, you know, it's gonna get a little harder. And we have found through the years that the joy and the wonder of BookShark is, once you get into your rhythm, it's the same rhythm, different material, you know, they they have comfort in that. They don't have that, that situation of we got to switch classes, we got to switch teachers, different teacher methods, different students around you, you know, they don't have that. And I think, especially during COVID, it was a huge benefit to them, because it wasn't sitting by your phone every day. Are they gonna have class? Are they you know, what's required to come in what's you know? They didn't know that. I mean, they knew that that was happening. Sure, but it wasn't affecting them directly. Aside from going places with a mascot. 


Janna  07:12  I will say that that very point of being able to homeschool prior to COVID really helped, like homeschool families kind of had a leg up in the sense that our day to day didn't change as drastically as the rest of the population, which having teenage daughters at the time was really helpful for us. Because I remember talking to a friend in town who specializes in counseling for Teen Girls. And she was like, How are your kids doing? And I'm like, we're great. Because yes, things have changed. And there's stress, but it wasn't the same amount of stress as other families were going through because of what you just mentioned. I mean, the stress of being a working parent, and then wondering what you're going to do with your kids is today going to be different? Am I gonna be able to go I mean, so many things that it's like, if you got to step into homeschool during that time, I hope you were able to get some of that stress relief for you the way the rest of us were already kind of in that.

Pamela  08:13 Right. Right. Yeah, it was. That was that was a very difficult time overall. But it just the poor kids. You know, I spoke to a fellow mom, who she was inquiring about homeschooling, this was at the heart of, you know, the lock downs and all that stuff. And she, she was asking me about it. And I was given her as much information as you know, and of course, offering any help and recommendations that I could. And she said that her you know, the other moms that had students in the same classes that her kids were in, you know, their attitude was, well, yes, they're behind, but at least they'll all be behind together. And that's, she's just like, that did not resonate with me at all. And I'm like, it wouldn't for me either. You know, you want to keep moving, you know, with with their, with their little brains moving so fast and soaking up so much to have a stall and to say that's okay. You know, and you could say, you know, while it was beyond circumstances, but if you could just take that education and bring it home and run with it. Then granted at the time, you know, we were living we knew, you know, week to week, day to day, month after month, you know, we didn't know what we're doing. But yes, as a homeschool mom. We it didn't bend. It didn't hurt us in any way, shape or form. So I was very grateful for that. Very grateful for that. Another point, if you don't mind, me making one thing that was a huge, huge benefit in homeschooling, we recently lost my parents. In 2022, I lost my mom in February of 2000, to my dad in October of 2022. Now, in our typical homeschool week, we follow what that BookShark does, it's a four day week. And what we would typically do is, you know, two days of school go visit grandma day in Georgia, and the days of school, and then we had our weekends to do whatever we wanted. I was very grateful that we have that and that my kids knew their grandparents before they passed. And they, you know, they have those treasured memories, you know, even though they're little, but you know, my oldest is 11, she was nine, when when they passed, and she was very close with them. And same as her her younger sisters, I'm grateful that we were able to homeschool, because then they knew my parents, they knew them, they love them, they received the love from them before their time was up. And on top of that, you know, with my mom's passing, it was a shock, we didn't see it coming, we were not prepared. And to sit there and say, You know what? Schools going to, it's going to be set aside for a week or two, until we can figure everything out until we can grieve until we're ready. That in itself was such a blessing to be able to do that. Instead of okay, you know, Mom, Dad, it's time I gotta get you, I gotta get you to class, I gotta get you to did did. You know, we were able to handle our family's business appropriately. And resume when we were ready. You know? And I think, you know, because life does get in the way it gets in the way into home school. You work around it?

Janna  12:31 Yeah. Well, it's amazing, because we weird, our society is very academically driven. But the truth is, there's so much to learn in life outside of text books. And those are the type of skills I think coupled with academic learning. I mean, I, I have a advanced degree, like I love to learn, I'm a lifelong learner, like you. I love that part of learning. But I also know that balance and has how many families are so focused on one that the other one, you know, doesn't get like, like you said, you gave it space, you were able to do life in a way that didn't sacrifice one thing or the other. It was just a season for one. And then the time came to bring back and the other that is just something I think most families don't even understand that it's a possibility for them, that they can actually dictate how they choose to spend their time and how much space they give to they get to give to the things that really matter. Because you're right, in a typical situation, it would have been okay, your weeks up, we kind of need you back or now you got to now you've got piled on all of this stuff. You need to get through it. You know, it's like adults who don't want a vacation because they know when they come back. They have twice the workload. Yes, right. But we get this opportunity to share with our kids that life does not have to be like that. Like we have responsibilities. We we're not we're not slackers, we're like you said type A, I like to think of myself as an AB, I like to get my work done so that we can just do whatever we want to do, because life is education. But what what a great point to bring to the table that I don't think a lot of people either have experienced or understand that that is a possibility for them.  

Pamela  14:23 Yes, it is. It's finding that that true priority in our lives in our family, you know, it's to not, you know, to Yes, educate, to present them with the materials to get them to do the work but also, you know, not only to prioritize the things that matter most life but as well as giving them the option to explore their own loves and explore the things things that they enjoy. You know, my eldest daughter she is she, it, I don't want to say it worries me but she has got so much in her backpack it of the things she wants to do. She wants to make candles. She's currently on a crocheting kick. She loves to do those things. You know, my two younger ones, they are drawers, they are big time drawers, and they're making stories and they're, you know, it's, you know, and they, they are so inspiring, because I don't think I've ever heard from any of my kids, those dreaded words, I'm bored. They're constantly, you know, in if they kind of imply that, you know, it's like, I want some tablet time, you know, like, Well did you do your schoolwork? You know, it's like, okay, well, and if they aren't ready to do their schoolwork, because I'm not too strict. With our structure, my oldest is independent, I just give her the work, she runs with it, she gets it done. The other two, I do need to work with them a little bit more hands-on. So I do say, you know, okay, we have this time, we got to do this, this time, we got to do this and so on. But, you know, there's, there's days that it's just like, okay, you know, what you need to do? And, you know, I think that's also a skill that is not really a priority is learning priorities, learning that you need to get this done before you can go and you know, be on your tablet or go drawing or stuff like that. I think that's something that you know, as a homeschool mom and as an at-home mom in general, you know, you sit there and say, Hey, I got all the time in the world. You know, you want to do this, don't do it. But you know, you need to do this other stuff too. And I think that teaching right or learning learned priorities is also beneficial with homeschooling. You know, it's that's how life goes.


Janna  17:27 Well, I don't know about you, but in our adult circle of friends, I'm always being told like Janna you're always doing something you always have an idea you're always out there like either if it's winter then I want to snowshoe and if it's summer I'm on my paddleboard and, and I'm like I take the kids if they want to go and if they don't want to go I'm gonna go anyways like, and, and I feel like our society has kind of has theword brainwashed, but for better just programmed us maybe to kind of go, Okay, you work you do the things you have to do. And then in your very, very small spare time. People don't know what to do. They don't even know what they like they don't even know like, I mean that now my husband who didn't grow up nearly as adventurous he was he was raised by bankers, I was raised by hippies, you can kind of imagine how that worked over the 20 years. Thankfully, we have both come kind of in the middle. And it's been a great pairing. But I was raised to like, we just went fishing, we got our stuff. Like we didn't even think about it. We didn't have planned vacations. It was like a Friday. And we're like, oh, nobody's doing things. Well, let's go camping. Like we just, that's how we lived. And so I just assumed that that's how everyone else has lived. And I'm finding more and more that that's just not the case. Now, with my girls having homeschooled. They're the kids who are like, Hey, let's go camping and then to their friends. Hey, I know it's summer. But if we get up at 6am We can go paddleboard before we all have to go to our jobs in the summer. I mean, it's this amazing thing to see the next generation going, oh my gosh, this is actually working now. Mind you, all of these girls. And a couple of them also homeschooled with my girls, but they're all college bound not to say that that's the end all be all. But that that was a choice they could all make because they did get a quality education being at home, but was also so balanced. And it wasn't just about academics. It was about the memories that they made. Even now as they're seniors in high school, they're able to like, you know, on Instagram or Facebook, people make these like picture collages. Well, micros can't even fit all the pictures of all the things that they have done with their friends, and let alone like with our family, and to knew that that is a life worth living. That is what I want my children to know is that, yes, we work and we work hard and we do our best. But that is not what drives us in this life. Like we get to choose the things that we prioritize, and I think homeschooling really helped them see the benefits of that because my husband and I are both hardworking people. Like we Do we do our jobs and we do them well, but then we do have this space where we get to go, let's go to a concert this weekend, let's go out and go on a hike. You know, like, what, I don't want to just sit around and stare at my four walls or, and don't get me wrong, I like to binge watch every now and then to like, I'm not saying I'm anti, you know, technology or screentime or anything like that. But it really is neat to see, you know, all of the things that we have been able to do with our family because we chose to homeschool and do it differently.  

Pamela  20:33 Yeah, yeah. It's, it's nothing but a luxury to be able to homeschool. A, you know, I'm going to dote on BookShark to have a curriculum that I mean, I have behind me I have every year, I've got every year and I don't plan on selling them. I know some people do nothing wrong with that. But there's so much rich knowledge that the kids do they go back and forth. Can I see the red book? I know, that's the red book from the pre-K section and in. But, you know, just to have, you know, another thing I love about BookShark is that it isn't online. There's it's book, it's book, it's paper in its pencil. I you know, call me old school call me not progressive. That's just to me, you can't take that away. You know, it'll, it'll be there. You know, I mean, God forbid, there's like a fire or something. But you know what I mean? It's just, this is information that's going to be here. It'll always be here. And it won't be one day, you know, oh, it's not available that you know that website's down. Or, you know, God forbid, power goes out, you know what I mean? Yeah. Or the server went down from whatever website they were using. Yeah, I'm not trying to put down you know, online programs. But, you know, my husband and I have talked many times, and I've expressed my opinion on, you know, sometimes, like, I'm a Saturday, Saturday stays off for Mama. So Mama doesn't cook mama doesn't, you know, and I may give them their tablets, or they love to play Roblox and they love to, you know, do this and that. And, you know, he's just like, oh, I don't want to mind that all day. I'm like, hon, their schooling is book, paper pen. Right. And a lot of kids in schools, everything is online. And I just, I think that that's such a detriment, you know, I mean, hey, kids are learning from a great, that's I'm not, I'm trying not to give a negative opinion toward it. But I just think it's so much more nurturing, to use the old fashioned book, pen paper. And it's a you know, like, it's a, it's all right there. And that's why I won't get rid of any, you know, kids could be out of the house, we can offer them to the grandkids, or I like them, there's many of these books that I will just sit down and flip through and my kids, my kids, they'll just pull out a book. And you know, whether it's just fun reading or they're, you know, we've had many instances all I remember this from last year, and they'll scamper off and get the ball. Okay. And it is it's just such a rich life we have.

Janna  23:49 I will interject to bring validity to your concerns about screens, I have a friend and I've read some studies about how this current generation is having a hard time with peripheral vision, because they're focused so closely in on the screen. And the difference between what I muscles are used to focus on a screen even though the words are printed out right in the same font the same size, it is totally different than using paper because of the backlight on the screen. I mean, there's so many little nuances to this idea of why we stick with actual books. And why you're still writing, you know, it's like, well, I don't I don't need good penmanship. We're gonna, you can type everything out nowadays. Right, which there is there's truth to that. And yeah, like you pointed out, power goes out, servers go down. Things do happen. And so if we have if we have the ability to know both, then our kids are going to be able to be more adaptable. There was another book I read recently. And she was saying that what our kids are going to be doing in the next 10 to 20 years. far as career and jobs, it's not even created yet. So how can we prepare them for something that that is out of our scope or understanding? Well, we can't. But what we can do is make sure that they are creative, that they are critical thinkers that they can problem solve that they can recall, in order to do those necessary skills. And so I get so excited talking about homeschool, because I'm like, Oh, well then weren't good. Like, kind of, like, you know, it's like, we're preparing our kids for those things. And like, not even really knowing why we want to keep holding on to books, right?  Well, I'm really interested in this. In your story, as it progresses as you guys, you know, you kind of were you weren't necessarily organically drawn to it, which you and I are the same there. I had no desire to really homeschool my kids, even though I was homeschooled. So go figure. And then you you know, you were kind of approached, same thing, I was approached by my spouse, and he's like, Hey, what do you think about this? And I'm like, you've got to be kidding me. That is, you had mentioned a luxury and when you said that I wholeheartedly agreed. But I also felt like we also have sacrificed in order to be able to homeschool. So it's one of those weird tensions of it's a luxury that we can, but it's a sacrifice that we do. Yeah. And so you know that you have been dedicated to your children at home for all of these years, I was a part-time worker and still homeschooling and making it happen. Now I'm full-time and slightly homeschool, just because my kids are older. But it's amazing that it people really do need to come to eyes wide open. Like it's a luxury. But there is a lot of not necessarily like you're saying if you have the right curriculum, it's that's not the work part. It's the it's the intentional time you are building into your children. That is the work part.

Pamela  26:59  Yes. You know what I love, love, love, love. The fact that I do a lot of I mean, granted my, my one-on-one time with my oldest because she is darn near independent. That's when we sit and talk and I'll read her questions. And we have discussions. I had mentioned earlier in fact, this was mind blowing to me. As she it was it was fascinating watching my child sitting there crashing, talking about mythical gods. And I'm like, I just, I wasn't hearing a word. She was saying I was just watching her like, oh, my gosh, you know that, you know, things like that, I've expressed to many of my teacher friends. I get why you do what you do. Because to see that light bulb go off, and to see go off in your own kid. Worth worth it all worth it all. 

I think anybody can be an a homeschooling parent. You know? Anybody can make it happen. However, I think it can be the most amazing joy ride. If you yourself, have a love for learning. I only took two two college courses. I went from high school right into a full-time job. I can't say I'm the most educated person on paper. But even in my 20s, even in my 30s, a pastime for me was going to the library and just wandering and just what do I want to learn today? What do I want to learn? Oh, this looks neat. You know, I always had a love for learning. And then when it came time to say, Okay, we're doing this homeschooling kids, looking over the material, and either teaching them what is to be taught, or us learning together. That is just magical. I remember with teaching my oldest, which I now this year teaching my youngest, U.S. History. I had an awful, I won't use names. But I had an awful US History teacher in high school. It was there was a discussion on on Facebook and I wasn't the only one who couldn't stand him. He was brutal. Regardless of that, I had no education, no enjoyable education on US history. So when I opened up when we We started our school year and I opened up the book, I looked at my kid and said, I'm gonna be honest with you. We are going to learn this together. Because I do not. I mean, I know Christopher Columbus, I know George Washington beyond that I am ignorant to it. And to sit there and teach her and learn, at the same time, was just oh my gosh, is such a great experience. You know, when I had an aha moment, I would share that with her. Oh, well, that makes sense. Because this is how things are, you know. So it was, it was really an enjoyable, enjoyable experience. And I have so many of them now, and now teaching to more. So a lot more perspectives and a lot more points of view that, you know, I can work with, and, you know, teach them the basics, and then talk about how it relates to real life. Such a connection is made there when you're learning something together.

Janna  31:09 Now, I have to ask, Does your husband ever feel like he's missing out? Because he is not the main teacher who gets to learn alongside with the kids? Like, I know, sometimes my husband was be like, Oh, what do you guys do today? You know, oh, that sounds like fun, you know, and part of me was like, oh, like, he doesn't it mean, granted, it's not all roses, right? And rainbows, but at the same time, he was definitely seeing our kids grow. And I think there was a little bit of FOMO from him, you know, that he was that he could be in that because he was publicly schooled his entire life. And hated school, did not have a love of learning now. He does, uh, you know, certain subjects, he'll go and research because it just really fascinates him. So he does have that. And I'm always like, man, if you would have homeschooled, like, you could have done that all day long and just done the things that like, you get done quickly, what you need to get done so that you can then do the things you want to do. Because, yes, I am like you like we're gonna get we're gonna get through it all. But I just think about the disservice to him and his education. Because, I mean, there's so many times he'll be like, you guys, do you realize that like, I never got any of this, like, I wish somebody would sat down. And if I didn't like it one way, we could turn around and look, view it from a different angle, you know, because there's time and their space. And it's customizable to each child. And it's just like, so amazing. So when I see the contrast in my own house, being public schools, and then homeschool myself and him being totally public school, it's interesting to see the perspective and sometimes I think I'm like, Oh, he's missing out, because I get to do it again, which I already did it once. And he's not done it at all.  

Pamela  32:58 Yeah, my, you know, what we have been, we have been very, very blessed. My husband works from home. So he's upstairs in his office. And he, you know, he gets to overhear some of the some of the lessons going on. And, you know, the kids may run up to them. Hey, Daddy, look what I did, you know. So I don't think he feels too, left out because he's in the house. We are so so so blessed with that, with that fact, because he does, you know, get some of it. I don't know if he feels that, you know, he's completely out of the loop. A lot of times at dinner, we'll you know, sit down at dinner, and oh, what what we learned today, you know, just to make conversation and to share, you know, I didn't know about this. Just the kids. My youngest two. They were I like to go on to YouTube. And we're learning you know, learning about mammals. And we were learning about the eye. I've never heard of an eye. And the kids. We looked up the eye and oh my gosh, that was the topic for a good two, three days. I want an eye and then the name of it was silly and you know, but you know that it's kind of it's the whole point of it. You know, it's enjoying what you're learning, having fun with what you're learning and making it a family thing. Share the wisdom to just enjoy it all. You know it. It breaks my heart at times when my kids will get upset because they didn't get something right So I do not do x's. I think that's, it's wrong. No, I don't, I don't do tests. We don't do grading. If they get something incorrect, I do a little red arrow, which says, We need to look at this one again. And we'll do it together. Because I just, I think the pressure of test taking the pressure of OH my god, I got it wrong. You know, I, you know, I tell my kids all the time, if you got it all right, then I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing. Because you know it all and not supposed to know, and nobody knows it all. I don't know it all, you don't know. And that's why we do this, you know, except if you get something, except if you get something incorrect, and figure out what went wrong. You know, that's, you know, and you do it together. And it's like, oh, okay, well, that now that makes sense. You know, I think that that is such a privilege in the homeschooling environment in in most homeschooling environments. Because, you know, it's like, and I remember even when I was in public school, you got things wrong, you got them wrong, you got you know, that your grade, that's what's gonna work hard.

Janna  36:22 Right, you didn't necessarily learn to understand why it was wrong, or what was actually correct. It was just an acceptance of this is your letter, this is your number, you're done. We'll move on. And, and so yeah, it is definitely it's a definite shift in perspective, and, and types of learning. And it is an absolute privilege. Pam, well, before we wrap up, I would love to know if you have a homeschool hack for our families.

Pamela  36:53 A homeschool hack, I don't know. I think like I say, I think the best hack is what we were just talking about. Its don't, don't let tears or anger get in the way of education. Education is supposed to be something enjoyable and fun. And if you cannot find, you know, if you have a kid that hates math, try to do your best in making it fun. You know, you I remember early on, given my kid, you know, teaching her to skip count by 10s, I'd put 10 chocolate chips in a row 10, top chocolate chips. And when you can 1020 you get all of those. You know, you just kind of you just kind of maneuver the rough times when just learning from a book doesn't cut it. You know, my younger two, they love they love YouTube. It's restricted, of course. But they love YouTube. So therefore, history and science. I read them everything from the books, but then we look on YouTube. And it kind of puts it together. You know, it's it's finding the hacks for your family that work and makes them smile at the end of every lesson.

Janna  38:27 I love that I love your enthusiasm and your joy. Even in your seventh year of homeschooling three children that you still have! I mean that that love of learning, that's what we want this next generation to continue is to continue to love and be curious and adventurous. And in those things, I think will then change the world for the better. So thank you for doing your part with your family and for sharing your story with us. I appreciate your time. And for you coming on today and just telling us a little bit about how it has worked for you.

Pamela  39:02 Well, thank you for inviting me. Thank you for having me. It's been an honor. 

Janna  39:09 Absolutely. Thank you guys. Until next time, bye bye