Category Archives: Uncategorized

How Long Should Our Homeschool Day Be?

There is a lot of speculation regarding exactly what a homeschool day ought to look like and how long it should take for daily lessons. There are as many answers as there are families who homeschool. When clients ask me how long their day should take, there are several factors I ask them to consider.


What age/stage/grade is your child?

Consider your child’s age, grade level, and developmental stage. If your child is 4 or 5, consider using play, co-op groups, and field trips more than seatwork. These activities are more developmentally appropriate and foster social skills. If your child is 7 but cannot sit still for more than 5 minutes, you may need less in seat and more hands-on activities. You may also need to give your child the option to choose from a variety of activities rather than using traditional homeschool workbooks and curriculum. If your child is 16 and wants to participate in dual enrollment, you may utilize study guides or tutors for a portion fo the week to help brush up on skills needed to pass entrance tests. This may add a couple of hours per week to your child’s schedule.

Replicating public or private school is not the same as homeschooling.

Many families choose to use options like online public school or flex online schooling. If this works for your child, especially if you can pick and choose which courses while leaving courses not needed/wanted, then you are set. Sometimes this option is a good match. However, there are many students who end up spending so much time on these courses that they end up with very little time for real-world experiences such as playing with friends, trips to the library, field trips, and more. Remember that busy work, repetition without need for practice within a subject, is not a part of best practices in education. Practice is good. Too much practice of a topic one already knows can cause regression and discourage interest in learning.

Does your child have special needs?

If your child has special needs, consider the topics which may need to take a little more time versus a little less time in your school day. Also, consider how much time needs to be spent working with a therapist for those special needs. Add in the need for your child to have breaks to play, relax, and pursue their interests. Consider all fo these factors when looking at how much time is spent on schoolwork.

What are your child’s interests?

Does your child love to complete art projects? Does she write all day for fun? Does he enjoy sports? Think about how frustrating it is to never have time to participate in your hobbies. Kids need time to explore new hobbies and find out what they enjoy doing. One of the pros of homeschooling is that you can provide this opportunity for your child. They do not have to wait for a class full of students to sit quietly or finish a task before moving on. Homeschooling moves faster so you can offer more free time to your child.


Everyone needs a break.

Adults needs time off of work. So do kids. We all need a break sometime whether going on a vacation or simply staying home to enjoy a quiet afternoon while we relax from a long week. I know when I haven’t had enough time to relax. I become grumpy and feel tired. If I take the time to relax a little each day, I feel less grumpy and have more energy. Kids have similar issues when they don’t get enough time off from organized tasks like schoolwork. You may see behavior issues, difficulty with sleep, or other issues popping up if there is not enough free time.

So exactly how long should a school day be for a homeschooler?

There is no exact amount of time you must work on organized homeschool activities unless you live in a state or province which mandates a specified amount of time per day, month, or year. Most homeschoolers spend 1-4 hours a day on schoolwork. Younger children tend to spend 1-2 hours a day while older kids (middle and high schoolers usually) may spend closer to 2-4 hours per day on organized schoolwork activities. Keep in mind that there are also unstructured activities like sports, park days, co-op classes, game days, field trips, and more which do not factor in to the times I mentioned above. In the end, you have to decide what works best for your child. If something is not working, then take a break or try a different option whether that means a different curriculum or less/more time spent on homeschool activities.



For evaluations and consultations, contact Melissa, The Reading Coach!

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas


I earned my master’s degree in reading and literacy as well as an ESE graduate certificate. I hold a current teaching certificate and am working on my dissertation for my PhD in general psychology. As a consultant and reading coach, I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. Additional services include public speaking, transcript preparation, and more. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and degrees to work for you.

Please contact me with questions or to request services.

You can also contact Melissa, The Reading Coach at 407-712-4368

Moving and Learning – Whole Body Learning

One trick of the teaching trade is using gimmicks to get kids invested in the learning process.

One fantastic way to do this is to include movement into lessons. Children especially enjoy this

type of activity when the teacher or parent joins in. When we value the activity, children are

more likely to join in, too. Try the following ideas to help children commit information learned

to their long-term memory. Make sure you, the adult, join in too!

  • Tap, jump, or clap while you count.
  • Dance it out with a song from Youtube, or your favorite children’s music artist, that covers a math concept.
  • Create a scavenger hunt throughout your room, house, or school.
  • Eat foods that represent a concept such as pizza for fractions.
  • Paint or draw about vocabulary words.

  • Act out a story or play.
  • Use baking to practice multiplication and fractions.
  • Set up an obstacle course to bring each word through when writing a sentence.
  • Build a model with blocks, clay, or another medium.
  • Use packing bubbles to pop each time a child says a sound in a word you are breaking down.
  • Draw letters or shapes in a container of sand or rice.
  • Roll a back ball to each student and have them say a new rhyming word.



For evaluations and consultations, contact Melissa, The Reading Coach!

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas


I earned my master’s degree in reading and literacy as well as an ESE graduate certificate. I hold a current teaching certificate and am working on my PHD in general psychology. As a consultant and reading coach, I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. Additional services include public speaking, transcript preparation, and more. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and degrees to work for you.

Please contact me with questions or to request services.

You can also contact Melissa, The Reading Coach at


Review of “The Smart Kid’s Guide To” Books

One of the issues I sometimes see when working with clients, and saw when teaching kindergarten, is nonverbal and social skill weaknesses.

Social skills are largely based upon nonverbal understanding and hidden societal rules.

These skills and concepts may be difficult for children who have varying exceptionalities or who are English language learners. Social and nonverbal communication skills can help you make friends or cause you to be alienated from potential friends.

That’s why it’s extremely important for kids to have practice with social skills and learn how to understand nonverbal communication cues in their culture as well as when getting to know people from cultures outside of the child’s culture.

I recently happened upon a fantastic set of books which I find really help with nonverbal communication and social awareness. The “Smart Kid’s Guide To” series contains explicit instruction, examples, scripts for practice, and has photographs to assist in understanding.


I highly encourage tutors, teachers, and parents to use these books in conjunction with everyday situations to help children understand how society expects them to behave and how to read situations, then respond in a socially appropriate way.



Using one example script per day can open up a dialog for how to respond to others as well as how responses may vary, yet still be socially acceptable. This is also a great way to foster emotional learning and empathy.


It’s okay to be different than someone else, have different interests, and to prefer time on your own. It’s also a good idea to understand social cues so we can respond in a useful way so we can make connections when we want to and grow our village of support. Our kids need that, too, and these books help tremendously.

7 Reasons Homeschooling Works and One Reason It’s Tough


  1. Flexibility

When a family decides to homeschool, they get to set their schedule. Does mom work the night shift? No problem, homeschool in the morning or afternoon. Does dad have a business trip during the week and you are invited? Awesome! No absentee notes to write and have rejected by the principal because they aren’t sick notes.

Head on out to Boston, New York, or nearly anywhere you’re your wallet can afford. You may even learn something about history, cultures, transportation, architecture, or art while out and about.

  1. Family Time

Because your schedule is not set by the local school, you can decide when you have classes, trips, chores, movie night, and other events. It can be easier to schedule family time when it is convenient rather than in the time left over after dealing with schedules other entities give you.

  1. Developmentally Appropriate Lessons

I hear complaints every day. Either schools are asking students to do things they are not yet ready to understand or schools are giving kids busy work they have already mastered. We can’t blame schools and teachers too much for this. They are stuck. They have many kids and a curriculum which says it is for all, but really has expectations that all students will master the same benchmarks. Sure, teachers scaffold, remediate, and try their hardest, but some kids are ahead or behind the given benchmarks due to their developmental stage.

This means that many come away from public school frustrated because this learning model does not meet everyone’s needs. Homeschool families can choose to work at a student’s developmental stage and build from there. With one on one or small group lessons, such as in a co-op, this is an easier task than in a classroom with 18 or more students.

  1. Time for ESE

There are some fantastic ESE programs at brick and mortar schools for those living with special needs. However, there are also advantages to one on one and small group instruction provided in a home education setting. Students who are easily distracted, are too shy to speak up when they do not understand, or who get lost in the shuffle when there is a large group will benefit from having more attention and help. There is no comparison between an 18 to 1 ratio and a 1 to 1 ratio. There just isn’t. Keep in mind that with less time spent waiting for his turn, your child will have more time to attend therapist and doctor appointments, if needed.

  1. Extracurriculars

Is your child a budding actress? Does your child have an aptitude for baseball? Less time in class waiting on others to complete work or have questions answered equals more time for extracurriculars. Sometimes your local school also allows homeschooled students to join their teams so keep this in mind, too.

  1. Friends

In brick and mortar schools you meet the people who are in class with you. Hopefully, you make friends with them and see each other outside of class, too. After school time is limited, though. During school, your job is to work on academics. You don’t get to practice social skills, navigating friendships with ample time to put towards solving problems.

Homeschool students often have friends of different ages and socioeconomic statutes. They also tend to have more time to devote to getting together, volunteering, and working on social skills such as problem solving

  1. Pursue childhood

Seems like we see articles about recapturing childhood and getting rid of screen-time. One great way to do this is to give your child the gift of time to play and exercise without imposing rules about how they should do this, though safety rules may be needed in some cases. Sure, those who attend brick and mortar schools can do this on weekends and after school. That can definitely work. Homeschoolers can do this, too. They can suspend lessons to enjoy a beautiful day attend a field trip outdoors, or explore a local town.

When It Gets Tough

Homeschooling isn’t without it’s challenges. Personality conflicts may occur between siblings or parent and child. Plus, the time and commitment needed to plan and stick with this schooling model can be overwhelming in some cases. Thankfully, there are online and local support groups which often help for free. There are also bloggers, consultants, and local classes in most areas. The idea is to take a team approach rather than going it alone. Plus, adjusting lessons and activities when you see a need to do so can be beneficial and lower stress.


If you would like to discuss homeschool or unschool options, feel free to reach out to me. I receive questions every day and am happy to help. Should you need a more in-depth meeting, reading coaching or lesson writing services, please let me know. I am happy to help. Allow me to put my experience to work for you!


Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas



My Favorite Educational Gifts

This year my family is trying to focus on experiences and educational gifts instead of a pile of toys that will eventually go unnoticed. Here, I listed some of my favorite things. Affiliate links are posted in some cases, but not all. Happy holidays!


Click Blocks on Educents

We enjoy the variety Educents offers. From toys to educational games and musical instruments, there is a lot from which to choose. Our favorite choice, though, is called Click Blocks. Educents has a variety of these magnetic blocks so I suggest going to their link and searching using the keyword “magnet” or “magnetic”. This is probably the one toy the I enjoy playing with just as much as the kids do.

Melissa and Doug Life Skills Toys

With my first two children, I rarely cared about what products were made with and how durable they were. Now I see the value in a thoughtfully made product. We have enjoyed many Melissa and Doug puzzles, a housekeeping set, and even a fishing set. You can find tons of options on both Amazon (which is having a sale at the time of this blog being published) and the Melissa and Doug website.

Learning Games

Learning games are a huge hit right now. There are so many that it would be difficult to list every good quality option. Some of my favorite learning games include ABC Cookies, Allowance, Sum Swamp, and Quirkle. These games, as well as others, can be found on Amazon (links shared in this paragraph) as well as other stores and websites.

Little Passports

This may sound odd, but my son LOVES to receive mail and his Little Passports subscription allows him to enjoy that experience while also learning about other countries and cultures. There is a version for older children that teaches about each state in the United States as well. We were surprised to receive an email each month with additional resources and interactive activities to do on the Little Passports website. Right now they have a sale for 15% off if you use the code word “JOY”.

History Unboxed


History Unboxed is one of our favorite subscription packages, but the coolest part is that they offer boxes a la carte as well. You can choose a one-time box or shipment OR subscribe. Gift subscriptions are available so grandma and auntie can share the gift of learning with the little ones. We thoroughly enjoyed our boxes from soap-making to creating minotaurs. If you decide you want to sign up, please use the code edustrat to get a 5% discount on your first subscription order. If you want more info, check out my review here.

Experiences Worth the Time and Price

Experiential gifts are by far my favorite. Look in your area for science museums, free factory tours to places like the Jelly Belly factory, children’s museums, theater shows, and other family activities. Use Groupon and other coupons to lower costs. Sometimes season pass prices are lowered in the winter right before major holidays so call and ask for their best seasonal pricing.

If you know of a wonderful gift idea that I should add, please email me at using the subject line “Favorite Gifts”. Thanks!

What Does It Mean To Deschool?

What is deschooling?

When people are new to homeschooling, they often go to groups and ask questions about how to begin. Inevitably, during this type of conversation, the topic of how to deschool comes up. Deschooling occurs when you take the time to relax, realize you are not going to operate your homeschool the way a brick and mortar school is run, and have a chance to recharge your and your child’s energy. Once you are finished deschooling, you and your child should feel energized, renewed, and ready to learn. Many people will not understand this concept of taking a break in order to better utilize future learning. You could explain it as a vacation or mental health break in order to have time to rest and renew interest in learning. Most people understand the idea of a vacation or time off from work due to stress. This is the same concept as deschooling.

Child Reading

Deschooling can mean reading, playing with toys, or even traveling.

How long does deschooling take?

There is not one way to deschool. Each child or family will do things in their own way. There is no set length of time for deschooling, either. Instead, it is best to take your cues from your child. While you may not let the child make all choices, you can observe behavior and look for signs that he or she is ready to move from deschooling to home or unschooling. I suggest taking at least a week, but possibly several weeks or more depending on the situation. Always be aware of the requirements in your state, but if you are able to choose when your “summer break” is and begin your school year any time during the calendar year, you may choose to begin in a non-traditional month and to take your vacation at a time which is different than when public school students vacation. Again, keep in mind attendance laws and other rules in your state in order to be sure you deschool while leaving enough time to complete what must be done to meet state requirements.

What activities should we do during deschooling?

Many people are concerned about record keeping as well as how to provide an enriching environment while deschooling. This is a hugely important issue to address. Parents want their children to succeed and that is why homeschooling works so well in many cases. My advice is to make sure that you keep a schedule of some sort, for example wake and go to sleep around the same hour each day. Also, leave time during the day to explore toys, activities, documentaries, and play outside or attend local field trips. Do not plan set activities and do not force your child to stick to a rigid school schedule. Instead, leave the time you would normally use for homeschooling open in order to let your child find his or her interests while providing open ended options he or she may choose, if interested. You can, of course, play board games, draw anime, or create movies about your neighborhood if your child is interested in these activities, but they are not graded and have no deadlines. The activities can be completed or left incomplete. The key is to allow the child to have a break from the rigors and forcefulness of some educational models. Do not dictate the activities unless you must limit something, such as screen time, due to behavioral issues.

This is a great opportunity to let your child choose while you observe how the child learns best and, what activities are important to your child. If your child was bullied in school, use this time to work on self-esteem and how to be kind in the face of negativity. If your child found school difficult, work on self-esteem and consider where you may begin once deschooling is complete. Do not stress out if your child wants to watch television or eat junk food all day. If this is an issue again and again, then add a few rules which require outdoor time or the child to play with toys instead of only watch television.

You do not have to move from brick and mortar school directly to a homeschool curriculum. Take time to deschool so that when you do start, you and your child do not begin while being burnt out due to prior stressors. Do observe your child’s interests as well as what is easy or difficult. This will help you to know where to start when homeschooling does begin. Be aware of your state’s laws regarding attendance, work samples, curriculum, and homeschooling. Remember, not everyone has to deschool, but if you feel that you and your child need to take some time to reset your goals, ideas of what school looks like, or other concerns, then deschooling is probably a wise choice for your family.

If you would like more information about deschooling, homeschooling, unschooling, or behavior concerns, please contact me for a consultation. I am happy to put my years of working with students and families to work in order to help your family.

Homeschool Consultation FAQ

Many people wonder what a homeschool consultation is. I provide this service in order to help families navigate curriculum choices, homeschool laws in Florida, and the needs of their children as students. I am happy to help families who are not local to Florida, but you will need to be sure of the homeschool laws in your state before our consultation. Read on to find out the answers to some common questions about homeschool consultations.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at

How long does a consultation take?

Homeschool consultations take about an hour. You can request ongoing consultations in order to help you work through changes or if you are new to homeschool for a package rate as well. You will give me information in advance which addresses your concerns so that our time can be spent in discussion and problem solving rather than me focusing on research during your paid tie with me. I will research your concerns in advance of the meeting in order to give you the best service possible.

How many children’s education can be discussed during a consultation?

As long as time permits, we may discuss one or more child. If you have a large family, it may be wise to schedule more than one consultation or a two-hour block of time. If this is a concern, please let me know when scheduling so I can work with you on price and time needed for the consultation.

What types of information do you need before our consultation?

I will need to know your child’s age or grade, if there are special needs, how the child feels about school work, your education philosophy, and possibly other information depending on your family’s specific concerns.

Do you provide information about de-schooling and unschooling?

Yes, if you have a reluctant learner who has just recently left another education model, we may need to discuss de-schooling as well as how to get into homeschooling successfully after the de-school period. In addition, unschooling is a valid and fruitful homeschool option for many families. I am happy to discuss your options and how to proceed if you choose unschooling for your child as state laws will apply regardless of your choice of educational model.

Do you meet in person only?

I am available for both in person (in Central Florida) and Skype consultations.

How much does a consultation cost?

Consultation subscription packages are perfect for those who need more than one meeting with me. This option provides monthly allotted time that rolls over into future months if you do not use it. This way, you can call for a couple of questions without paying for a full consultation. For the low price of $35 you are entitled to two half hour phone calls per month for 6 months. Should you not use your monthly phone calls, they roll over to the next month. Subscriptions automatically renew every 6 months.

On the other hand, an hour consultation is $50 for an hour of service and follow up consultations are $40 per hour. This is the perfect option for someone who needs only one or two meetings in order to meet their needs and answer the questions they have.

I reserve the right to add a mileage fee if I must travel more than 30 miles to a consultation.

What forms of payment do you take?

I am able to receive PayPal payments, PayPal here payments via credit or debit card, and cash. Payment is due by the time of the consultation in order to receive the service in a timely manner.

If you are ready to schedule your consultation, please contact me using the subscription page or consultation page. If you have any questions or concerns, please email or call 407-712-4368.


Thank you for the opportunity to help your family get the most out of homeschooling!



Homeschool Tips for Single Parents

There is a growing number of single parents who homeschool. It seems like I meet someone every week who has gone this route. Some folks have remarried while others are still single. But many have spent time as a single, homeschooling, parent. Because I am currently in the same boat, I wanted to share a few tips to (I hope) help make your life easier.


  1. Use a schedule. Yes, as in write it up and follow it. You don’t have to be strict about the schedule unless you need for it to be strict. Even a relaxed schedule can work.
I have included an example schedule. Remember that unschool parents do not insist on certain lessons at certain times so the schedule is a basic outline rather than a concrete schedule planned out by the hour. Also keep in mind that my family is not considered radical unschoolers. As in all groups, there are sub-groups. Though radical unschooling is a wonderful way to live life, it is not the unschooling model my family uses at this time.

I have included an example schedule. You can be as specific or open as you want to be. This schedule may for unschoolers and relaxed homeschoolers.

2. Plan ahead even if you unschool. Talk with your children about their interests and what things they want to work on during the week, month, or semester. Then, plan academic activities, child care, classes, and field trips around your work schedule and the interests of the children. If everything is prepped and on your calendar, you can see conflicts in advance and plan accordingly.


3. Find a village of support. I am not joking. You need local people who support you emotionally and in person with actual, physical help like childcare and carpools. Look for other homeschool families with similar interests, values, and who are kind. Reciprocate as well. Perhaps you carpool on Mondays, and the other parent carpools on Tuesdays. Keep in mind that sometimes a nanny or sitter will be willing to also tutor or shuttle kids to and from activities.

4. Take care of yourself. (I’ll wait while you stop laughing at this idea.) I have difficulty with this item on the list so I can understand those who think it is impossible. But, at the very least, we should try to do this. Our health, safety, and happiness directly affect our children’s well being.

yoga stress free

5. Ask for help. It’s okay to not know everything. It is okay to need assistance from time to time. Don’t be afraid to let your kids help out, either. My five year old is so very ready to be independent that he did the laundry last week. I had no idea that he could reach all the necessary buttons!

Remember, you can do this! If you choose homeschool or unschool you can create a fruitful, academic environment in which  your children will flourish. It takes some planning, some will power, and a healthy dose of being realistic. But, if I can do it. You can do it. 🙂


10 Stress-Free Homeschool Tips

Are you new to homeschooling and feeling overwhelmed? Here are ten tips to help you find more peace and less stress during your homeschool days.

yoga stress free

Accept that homeschool is sometimes challenging.

Take breaks when you or your child feel the need.

Homeschool often takes less time during each day than other school models. Use that time to rest, have family fun, etc.

Don’t use all your cash on curriculum. With so many options available for free or second hand, you can find resources that are in your budget.

With all the saved cash from wise curriculum choices, your child can join a club, co-op, or class.

Join local groups and park day events. The support is helpful for nearly any topic.

Embrace multi-age, siblings learning together as a possibility. Sometimes children need different coursework, but sometimes you can learn as a family, regardless of age.

Take skip days. Use the time to get out and about. Visit a park, museum, science center, or go paint at the park.

Ask your children what they want to learn. You may be surprised at how quickly they pick up information when they choose the topic.

Document as you go. Take pictures of field trips and science experiments, list books read and curriculum used, and save work samples as the year goes. Keep this information in a binder. Once the year ends, you have a memory book/portfolio which will work for most state portfolio requirements and will remind you of the fun you and your child had during the year.

What On Earth Do Unschoolers Do All Day?

I am often asked what exactly unschooled students do all day long. After all, they are not forced to comply with a particular curriculum or program. State standards and Common Core are not chosen by the parents. So what do unschoolers do all day?

music lesson

Unschooling is the practice of student-chosen, student-led learning. The unschool educational model encourages lifelong learning rather than a race to a finish line or a race to a test score. A parent who allows unschooling encourages a child’s interests even if that means the child is not doing book work and tests.

So what does a day in an unschooled child’s life look like?

Some unschool students like to be outdoors playing, climbing, and exploring. Other students ask for worksheets and classes. Sometimes children choose to use a computer game to learn coding skills all day. However, most children choose a mixture of activities. The idea is that parents support a child’s choices rather than the parents choosing for the child. This not only gives the student power to follow his interests, but also enables the pursuit of learning without the constraints of testing or a one size fits all curriculum. Read on to see a few examples of unschool life.

Example 1

Joey likes to play Minecraft. He joined a club so he can learn to code. He wants to create his own mod for the game. He also joined a club where he works on pixel art. He wants to design graphic t-shirts and create his own website. Joey recently went to the library to check out books about coding. His mom cannot understand coding, yet Joey has already mastered Java utilizing books, his classes, and YouTube.


Example 2

Elise wants to be a chef. She thinks about foods, recipes, and dish presentation all day long. She chose to take a class about making sushi recently. She then began a website with a blog. She now reviews restaurants, writes about new recipes she creates, and uses her blog to explain fractions to younger children. Elise found reading difficult when she was five years old, but by age eight she had renewed interest and read through several chapter books each day. Her mother chalks this up to waiting until she was developmentally ready and interested in reading. After all, everyone develops at their own pace.

Example 3

Trevor loves to be outdoors. He paints, sketches, takes photographs, and more. He also enjoys hosting small meetups with other students to discuss plants and animals native to his area. He often brings examples of leaves for others to try to name. He recently used his birthday money to buy a microscope and guidebook. Trevor now enjoys gathering soil and water samples, then deciphering what is in each sample. He hopes to be an environmental scientist one day. Trevor will begin dual enrollment courses at the local college once he is old enough.


As you can see, there is not one way to unschool. Unschooling does not mean doing nothing. Parents may be involved in supporting the child any number of ways. Paying for classes, having discussions, driving a child to the library, and other similar actions are supportive of an unschool education. Students choose. Parents support. That is unschooling. Unschooling is not a lack of education, but a lack of forced education where a student cannot choose topics and activities.

Check out my pre-recorded webinar or contact me below to learn more about unschooling.



 Feel free to contact me to schedule a speaking event, an unschool consultation, or

a Florida unschool evaluation.

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