Q&A: Meet four homeschooling families

Staff Writer
Baystateparent Magazine
The MacMillan family has homeschooled for the last three years.

Last year, nearly 8,000 families in Bay State homeschooled their children, a number that’s been slowly on the uptick for at least the last three years.  

With uncertainty of the upcoming school year, more parents than ever are looking into the option of homeschooling their children. But what’s it really like? We interviewed some local moms to find out how homeschooling works for their families. 

The MacMillan Family

Salisbury, Mass.

Homeschooling: Madison age 8, Bridget age 8, and Charlotte age 5, for the past three years. The twins, Madison and Bridget attended public school for Pre-K, Kindergarten and first grade. Charlotte attended half a year of Pre-K because of COVID. 

Why did you decide to homeschool? 

Madison and Bridget had a very scary bullying incident (both physical and emotional) in our local elementary school. I felt it was a safer environment to homeschool them.

Give us an idea of a typical day for your family?

Everyday is an adventure for our family. We do not have a specific time we sit down at a desk and call it school. We are a very active family and do a ton of field  trips. Sometimes we are doing some workbooks on our way to a playground, because the weather is perfect, or perhaps we are writing and sketching next to the lion exhibit because we took a trip to our local zoo. Other days, we are doing more book work, or games filled with learning, such as money themed math games, while others may be completely filled with science experiments and cooking in the kitchen. Reading is a consistent activity that we do, oftentimes we utilize our traveling time to read. Sometimes books on tape will be used for really long rides.

How do you select your curriculum? 

When we started homeschooling I had an outline I created that I went by, and it was a lot stricter than the outline I use now. I sit down with my daughters and ask them what are the things they want to learn more about, the places they want to go to, and the community service project they want to work on and I am sure to incorporate it into the outline.

Last year, all three girls wanted to learn about dinosaurs, fossils and rocks, so we did. We spent a couple weeks on learning about the different types of dinosaurs (and rocks), we went to the Science Museum, watched Dino shows and movies, we completed fossil digs and made model dinosaurs and we took an overnight trip down to Connecticut to the dinosaur museums, and Mystic Aquarium to see the exhibits there. We all had a blast! The twins were interested in the Salem Witch Trials, and so we read books on books about witches, and we spent a few days in Salem (and Danvers) and we immersed ourselves in hands-on activities to finish off that lesson.

It is incredibly important for my daughters to be involved in our curriculum because they are eager to learn, they like hands-on things.

What are some challenges you’ve had to navigate? 

The very first big challenge that I had to face was honestly being easier on myself. I had built such a fear I would fail my children if I homeschooled them. I kept thinking about how they would not build the social skills, they would not be as good in math as they should, after all it is my least favorite subject, or that they would be too sad and want to go back. Once I let that fear go, homeschooling wasn’t scary at all, I discovered that the possibilities are endless, the adventures even greater, the fun was just beginning and that it was impossible to fail Madison, Bridget or Charlotte because we are a team.

The second big challenge I faced when I first started homeschooling was being a stickler for my planned out schedule. Flexibility is important with homeschooling (unless your child works best on a schedule!). If we didn’t finish spelling because we ended up playing ball at the park with friends, or bringing lunch to dad and learning how to do an oil change, it would be okay to finish it tomorrow or even the next day. I won’t hide the fact that some days one of us may wake up and we just were not feeling school, instead of pushing and being pushed back to complete their work, we have learned to make changes. That may mean that we put a National Geographic movie on, write a journal and draw some pictures instead of math, and practice our vocabulary words. Some days that flexibility goes the other way and we are on fire with our work, and we do a few extra activities or worksheets.

I have Crohn’s disease, and I had a surgery back in April which required teaching in a different way. They attended work with my husband, learned about vehicles, practiced oil changes and detailing cars and did worksheets, journals, online programs and other activities. They adjusted and so did I, but the feelings of failing them crept up again. But each day the girls were excited to reiterate what they learned and I realized I don't even know how to change oil in a car! Homeschooling is ever changing to adjust to what works for our family and what works for our family may not work for yours. 

What’s surprised you most about homeschooling? 

The biggest surprise to me about homeschooling was how much more of a social life my kids have! Our weeks are packed with tons of options to get together with our homeschooling community. There are nature groups, book groups, seasonal groups, playground groups, gym activities….the list is so long.When I first thought of homeschooling there was partial horror that my daughters would not have any friends, they would become antisocial and secluded. Boy was I very wrong. We still even meet up with their friends they met in public school.

We are in many groups from 4H, to Girl Scouts and a book writing class, to a gym class, karate and dance. They have attended gymnastics and cooking in the past as well as swimming and a sewing class. We utilize our local libraries because they offer so many amazing opportunities, classes or events.

What benefits of homeschooling have you seen in your family? 

The biggest benefit that I have seen in my entire family is that we are so much more stress-free. We are not stuck in the rush of pushing your child out of bed early, rushing them to get dressed, urging them to eat quickly and barely getting a chance to wave bye as they scramble to the bus before they miss it. We no longer hurry them off the bus when they return home, try to push through homework (they may not understand) and hurry to an after school activity like karate. Then we need to rush home to figure out dinner, eat and do our bedroom routine. Some nights we were eating dinner on the go if there were two back to back activities. We could feel the stress dripping off of each other each day.

Now, the girls typically sleep comfortably until their body is ready, typically 8/8:30 and we enjoy a breakfast together, sometimes with the girls cooking something and we work together to do our work. Dinner time is not usually rushed and we can have a conversation about anything. 

Do you believe you provide the same level of education that the children would get going to a public or private school?

This was my biggest fear when I made the leap to homeschooling. I felt I could never give them enough knowledge as sitting at school could, but I soon realized I was very wrong. Honestly, I now feel that I offer a higher level of education to my daughters then what they would be getting from a public or private school. What we learn in a week, or the life experiences Madison, Bridget and Charlotte are getting can not be learned sitting at a desk. They are receiving more one-on-one attention, and if there is something that they do not understand, we keep working on it instead of moving on. Being hands-on and visual learners, I am able to provide better examples to help them understand a subject. If something is not working, we can easily adjust to fix the problem. They aren’t lost between the cracks of the system. They aren’t a number.

Are there any common misconceptions about homeschooling you wish you could dispel? 

I think the biggest misconception that people find about homeschooling is that “I” am not smart enough to teach my kids. You do not need to be an expert on anything, you just need the willingness to learn alongside your child/children. I was no expert on dinos, but with the help of my daughters, we learned more together. The other misconception that is common is that we are antisocial home-bodies. Far from it, our schedule has more options and get togethers than ever before.

What advice would you have for a family considering homeschooling? 

Take a leap. There is such an adventure waiting for you. To be able to watch your child blossom and grow is one of the best opportunities that you can be given. It may seem so scary, and so much work but aren't the best things in life sometimes hard?

I feel lucky to be able to have my daughters along my side learning more each day. I enjoy each day, yes even the challenging ones and I could not imagine sending them off to someone else again!


The Hill Family

Monson, Mass.

Homeschooling: Haileigh, age 9, and TJ, age 16, for the last four years. Prior, the children attended public school; TJ until grade 6 and Haileigh a half year of kindergarten. 

Why did you decide to homeschool? 

My daughter was struggling within the Kindergarten classroom. Her class size was 36 children. She did not fit into the box public school expects all children to fit into when it comes to learning styles. Haileigh would breeze through her workbooks and worksheets that were meant to be for the week in a day. Then she would watch the clock until it was time for me to volunteer at the end of the day. Haileigh was very tearful about going to school, and I volunteered because I wanted to see what was going on in her classroom. Every day I came into her classroom it was chaos. Eventually, she was being punished for doing too much work. After a long discussion with the principal expressing that a child’s love for learning should be nurtured and not destroyed, I brought Haileigh to the store. I took her to the book section and told her she could buy whatever workbook she wanted and when she was done with them, we would go and get more. Her face lit up with joy and we haven’t looked back since. Haileigh is a naturally curious child who loves learning. She is above grade level and thrives with homeschooling.

TJ’s story is a little different. TJ is special needs (high functioning autism) and was struggling within the public school system. He was not at grade level and was being bullied. TJ is now on grade level and has learned to socialize and make friends (something that never happened in school).

Give us an idea of a typical day for your family?

We school year-round and see everything as an opportunity to learn something. For instance, if we are baking or cooking, we will cut the recipe in half or double it to challenge their math skills (also while sneaking in home economics). If we are going to the grocery store, the kids will have to create the list of what we need, create the budget and stay on budget at the store. When we get to the register their favorite game begins, beat the cash register. Basically, whoever can get the change we are owed right gets to keep it.

A typical day for us begins at 9:30. They independently work on worksheets to review past information in the morning that I have previously taught them. I typically leave it in a folder for them and they enjoy the sense of freedom in deciding which worksheets they want to do first. Around 10:30 we begin to work our way through Math, Science, History, and English whether it be together, online, or within a group class with friends. Some days we are done by noon, other days they get immersed in learning and will be involved in researching it further and learning more until 3 or 4 o'clock. We also make time for reading every day. 

There are special field trip days when we go on outings with the homeschool field trip group I run. The group is called Outstanding Homeschool Adventures (OHA) and it allows us to connect with homeschooling families and experience some hands-on learning/fun together. We also love getting together with friends to work on group lessons. You can learn so much from other homeschooling families. 

Where do you get your curriculum?

Most of what we have chosen was recommended by fellow homeschooling families. We get our curriculum from curriculum swaps, Amazon, The Dollar Store, Walmart, BJs, Costco, online homeschooling curriculum sights, our local library, and Facebook homeschooling groups. The best thing you can do is ask homeschooling families for suggestions and ideas. I always encourage people to join a homeschool Facebook group and ask questions! The homeschooling community is very welcoming and we are more than happy to help. Pinterest is also amazing for finding fun projects to do.

How has homeschooling changed as your children have gotten older?

As you school them you learn what works best for them, and as their learning style changes you have the freedom to change your teaching styles to compliment that. When their interests change you can change your curriculum to support their new found interests and foster their learning even further. With homeschooling there's endless room and opportunity for growth and change. 

What are some challenges you’ve had to navigate?

Figuring out what style of homeschooling worked for us was a challenge. Some families love their homeschool co-ops, which are made up of many different families and each family contributes lessons for the children throughout the year. We tried a few until we found one that worked for our family. We also had to figure out what curriculum works for us. We utilize our local library to try out the curriculum before deciding to use it.

What’s surprised you most about homeschooling? 

Just how easy it could be. I was so overwhelmed with the concept of needing a curriculum, a schedule, a plan and it took another homeschool mom to remind me “you are not the public-school system.” Hearing that it allowed me to stop obsessing over figuring everything out right away. We took our time to figure out what worked for us as a family. Things didn’t get comfortable until our second year in. I was amazed how well my kids became with homeschooling and how they strive learning at home.

What opportunities do your children have to socialize with other kids?

My Outstanding Homeschool Adventures Group provides access to so many group trips and experiences with other homeschooling children and their families. Homeschool park days are also one of our favorite things to do. We also go to nature, art, baking, ninja warrior, gymnastics, theater and dance classes as well. What I love the most is these experiences provide them the opportunity to socialize with others outside their peer group which wouldn’t typically happen in a public-school setting. 

What benefits of homeschooling have you seen in your children? 

Watching my children’s love for self-guided learning grow. Watching them pick up a book to read on their own, or asking to watch a new documentary they read about, or just simply asking “hey can we learn about the Mayan Ruins?!” The freedom for them to explore what interests them makes it worth it. I also love that they are comfortable speaking to children of all ages and even adults. They have such a strong sense of self, confidence, and knowledge that will carry them far in life.

Do you believe you provide the same level of education that the children would get going to a public or private school?

Homeschooling families go above and beyond for our children and their educational needs/goals. We are absolutely providing them with an education that is one of a kind. Learning for our children is an experience and not a task. 

Are there any common misconceptions about homeschooling you wish you could dispel?

The most common misconception about homeschoolers I have heard is that we do not socialize our children or we are just simply odd. Not the case at all. Our children have better social lives than we do! Between park days, get togethers, field trips, classes, co-ops, and sports we have to say “no” to many things we are invited to be a part of. 

What advice would you have for a family considering homeschooling?

Try it! Worst thing that could happen is you decide public school is the better option for your family and you re-enroll your children. However, I have only heard of a few families who have decided to try homeschooling and didn’t end up loving it. Join a few Homeschool Facebook Groups. Ask what groups are in your area. Go to the homeschool park days and talk to other parents while your children play. Come on a field trip or to a class with OHA! The more you get involved in the homeschool community the easier it will be. Feel free to reach out to me through the OHA (Outstanding Homeschool Adventures) page. If I don’t have the answer, I can absolutely connect you to someone who does.


The Miranda Family

Lexington, Mass.

Homeschooling: John, 11, for three years. John attended public school from kindergarten through Grade 2. 

Why did you decide to homeschool? 

We decided that public school wasn’t a good fit for our child. A major source of discomfort for us was how boys with normal, healthy energy were consistently labeled by both teachers and administrators as difficult or troublemakers and were often punished for simply behaving as kids. Our son was on the cusp of being labeled ADD/ADHD, and our fear was how these adult-assigned labels could adversely affect a child’s self esteem, relationships with other children, and how they are treated by adults as they progress through the system. The label, in our son’s case, would have proved out to be completely wrong. At the root of the behavior issue was that our son was bored by the daily “learn and burn” approach of constant busy-work and repetition. We felt our son’s creativity was discouraged at every turn (including, oddly, in art class) and he was becoming more and more unhappy and self-doubt was setting in. It was painful for us to watch day after day, so we knew we had to make a change immediately. 

What's a typical day for your family? 

There is no typical day, really. Some of the learning experiences are set up weeks or months in advance and the rest, we fill in. An opportunity may come up that starts the next day and we will ask our son if he’s interested. If he is, then we sign him up. We both work full-time and run our own businesses from home, so our daily schedule is reflective of what’s going on with everyone in the family on any given day. Our brand of homeschooling, pre-COVID-19, included classes or programs anywhere from Massachusetts to Maine three to four days a week, and online classes for the remaining time. And, of course, downtime when needed. 

Where do you get your curriculum? 

We don’t follow a set curriculum, we follow our son’s interests. This year, he was showing a strong interest in history, so I looked for classes online for art history, found resources for science with a historical context, and introduced him to the history of math through mathematicians. He attends classes for art, science, natural sciences, French speaking, including a special class for cooking French food. This also challenges my French while trying to read his recipes! 

How has homeschooling changed as John has gotten older? 

We’ve seen the anxiety that developed while attending public school gradually fade away and watched him grow to embrace his curiosity. When he was eight, we introduced him to as many new experiences and ideas as possible. Now that he is 11, our role is more as facilitators to what he wants to learn while also filling in the gaps like learning note-taking or researching facts that we know he will find useful and supportive in whatever he decides to do. 

What’s surprised you most about homeschooling? 

We were surprised by how self-motivated kids can be if you give them input in their own learning. That is not to say we never have to push, but we found that if a child has real input in their daily life, they are less likely to “slack off.” We also realized we had forgotten how much we, as adults, love to learn. It has forced us to look at our own education, question where we could have gone if we had the freedom to learn as opposed to being educated. In homeschool circles it’s called “de-schooling,” so taking a hard look at ourselves helps us to help John think about life differently than we did. 

What about opportunities to socialize with other kids? 

John likes to socialize with kids and adults alike, so he finds other kids with similar interests, hangs out with friends from his school days or wanders over to the neighborhood kids’ houses. John’s sat with authors, actors, paleontologists, historians and other adults who love what they do and enjoy sharing it with others interested in what they do. I’ll often put together a program and invite others with the same interest to join at a museum, Lexington Historical Society or a number of other untapped venues. This is a fun approach to learning with John, getting him involved in organizing around an interest and teaching him skills he’d never experience in a classroom. 

What benefits of homeschooling have you seen in your family? 

As John says, “I get to meet all kinds of kids from all over,” kids he would never get a chance to meet going to the same school every day. He has learned to collaborate with kids of all ages. He doesn’t think twice about approaching a high school kid or a someone much younger or even an adult to talk about similar interests. Homeschooling doesn’t really recognize age boundaries and this has built his confidence when it comes to getting to know people. 

Homeschooling is a lifestyle, so we’ve made necessary changes to accommodate what we see as important for the entire family. Flexibility is the best! If we want to travel, take a day off, enjoy a snow day, go into Boston for lunch or New Hampshire to explore the beach, we do it. The positive mental health benefits along with feeling in control of what we want our future to look like is phenomenal. 

Do you believe you provide the same level of education that the children would get going to a public or private school? 

We provide a more comprehensive and experiential learning experience that exceeds what any educational environment and testing can provide. How can you compare meeting one-on-one for an hour with a paleontologist discussing a fossil you found on the coast of Maine during the summer to sitting in a classroom watching a teacher talk about the topic? The best part is he can progress at his own pace, whatever the subject. 

Are there any common misconceptions about homeschooling you wish you could dispel? 

We’re part of a growing number of parents who have taken a hard look at education and realized because “that’s how it is always been done” doesn’t mean it is the only way learning can be done. If this crisis has taught us anything, it’s that public schools simply aren’t equipped to handle online learning, something that has been around for more than a decade. 

A big misconception that surprised us was how people assume that there was some political reason or agenda behind why we decided to homeschool. The only agenda we had going into this was to keep the love of learning alive in our child. 

What advice would you have for a family considering homeschooling? 

It’s like jumping into a cold New England ocean, hold your breath, take the leap and know you will adjust to the temperature. There are so many resources to choose from, however, your decision starts with what’s going to work for your child and your family. Ignore negativity, doubters, and naysayers. There are many more who will “get you” and cheer you on. Connect with others in your area, ask as many questions as you need to, include your kids in the decisions and enjoy the ride. 


The Sedlier Family

North Brookfield, Mass. 

Homeschooling: Ducati, age 9. Ducati has never attended public or private school, but his three older siblings attended public school in the past. 

Why did you decide to homeschool?

We first homeschooled one of my older sons because he was getting in trouble at school and headed down the wrong path. It took years to get him on track after getting him out of that environment. There are some kids who really fit the public school model; their learning styles match the parameters the school operates within. Those children are successful, as one of my sons happened to be, so that is the best educational avenue for them. Other children do not fit the mold, they struggle, challenge the structure, and are then defined by the label they grow into within that model. My husband and I saw all the benefits of the homeschool educational model and committed to providing that individualized education for our youngest son right from the start. 

Give us an idea of a typical school day for your family?  

We homeschool year-round because we believe learning doesn’t just happen in a window of defined hours in a day. On a typical day, we get up around 8:30 a.m., have breakfast together then write our “to-do” list for the day. I write down the subjects we have to do for the day and then my son adds things he wants to accomplish that day. It might be a game he wants to play together, a place he wants to go, or something he wants to do. We make sure to do the “must-dos” first and then work to accomplish everything on that list. Knowing that we will do stuff he added to the list helps get his cooperation for the things I add to the list. 

Typically, if we are not doing a field trip learning experience, we pull out the structured work for the day, such as math and any writing assignments. Then we take a break to read for as long as we want, sometimes hours. We read outside or inside, on the couch or on the floor. I read to him, he reads to me, we read together, we read separately. Sometimes it’s a graphic novel, sometimes it’s a book I chose and sometimes one he chose. Then, we have lunch together and then do our errands or an activity from the list. 

Science and social studies come in the afternoon. These activities are usually hands-on or through biographies and science programs. We do a lot of field trips and spend many days in the world learning. We learned about Roman history and then went to Rome. We went to Pompeii. While studying American Revolution we went to Boston a few days and walked the Freedom Trail, took some tours. Then we went to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia and participated in some tours and homeschool days they had there. We had planned to spend several days in D.C., but COVID has pushed back those plans. We know most people don’t have the ability to do that kind of traveling but there are pretty great museums, historical attractions, and nature programs in the Bay State. 

Where did you get your curriculum?  

I go to the mass.gov website and look for the educational standards for the grade. I print them out for each subject and then decide what materials or programs we can use to best teach the subject. Math is the most structured. I typically get the Spectrum Math book and make sure it covers all the standards that the state listed. To teach the topic I usually look up the lesson on MathAntics YouTube Page, or Khan Academy. There are many online resources for teaching and if he doesn’t understand it with one method, I have the benefit of being able to look for another resource or tutor to help him understand it another way. For the other subjects, I look online at the beginning of the year to find resources that I can use to teach him in the way I know he learns best. We modify as we go but make sure we cover everything. 

What are some of the challenges you’ve had to navigate?  

Challenging my own attitudes about how learning occurs. Society tells you that kids learn at school where there is an organized curriculum and that only qualified professionals are capable of teaching them. The truth is, I don’t have to know everything. I have to have a desire to help my child succeed. I have to be his learning guide. Let him ask questions then spend as much time as it takes finding the answers to those questions. As his guide, I have to make sure that I provide him the tools to learn and I expose him to new ideas and information. Once I stopped holding myself to the standard ideas of education, I was able to be open to child-directed learning with my role as his guide.  

What about opportunities to socialize with other kids?

A common misconception is homeschool children don’t get socialization. All the homeschool kids we know, and we know many, are active, fun, and welcoming kids. They can naturally interact with kids of all ages because they don’t get limited to their own age all the time. 

My son takes acting classes, participates in theatre groups and gets to work on student films, TV projects and commercials. He meets many kids who love the same things as he does and we get together fairly often and he plays Minecraft with them or talks online when they can’t physically be together. He also loves being active with local friends, some who homeschool and some who don’t.  He attends a homeschool class at a local farm based program that meets once a week for 3 hours as the kids work together outside. We belong to some local homeschool groups and they plan group activities like art classes, gymnastics classes and zoo trips.

What benefits of homeschooling have you seen in your children/family?  

Having had children in public school for years and now doing homeschool, I can say that the biggest difference is in the stress level of the kids. My public school kids were always stressed and my homeschooler isn’t. The ability to individualize education, to allow extra sleep, breaks or food when needed truly helps children be able to listen to their bodies. 

Are there any common misconceptions about homeschooling you wish you could dispel?  

  1. Kids are homeschooled because their parents are religious: I’m sure some kids are homeschooled for that reason, but I have met very few of them.  Most are just parents who have seen their kids struggle in the traditional model, or maybe they had horrible experiences themselves, and they want a better educational environment for their kids.  

  2. Homeschool kids don’t do anything really: The parents who homeschool are constantly looking for experiences for their children. They feel pressure to make sure they are not only meeting the requirements of the school – but exceeding them. There are some parents who "unschool,” which is an extreme of child-directed learning that bases the child’s education on real world experiences with little to no structured schoolwork.  Conversely, there are some that spend thousands to use an online, or pre-packaged, curriculum run by private schools so their children can log in during scheduled hours and truly do school at home. Then there are the vast majority of homeschoolers who create something somewhere in the middle that works for their child and family.

  3. Homeschool children are not safe because they are kept out of the orbit of mandated reporters. While concern for the safety of children is absolutely valid, one should not automatically be suspicious of homeschool families. The number of homeschooled children being abused is very small but when it does happen it makes the news.  However, the very real danger to children in a public school environment includes school shootings, increased exposure to viruses, bullying and increased exposure to drugs. Being around mandated reporters is no guarantee a child is protected. 

  4. Homeschool kids do not have opportunities to socialize: How many times have you heard a teacher say to a child “You are not here to socialize – you are here to learn!” There certainly are benefits to a child being “socialized” in a traditional learning environment.  If you can’t provide those experiences to a child in your homeschool set up then you should make sure you seek those opportunities out. Most homeschool families provide opportunities for their children to socialize and create friendships.   

What advice would you have for a family considering homeschooling?

First, don’t judge homeschool based on what you all just had to endure since March! What you did was “crisis schooling” and is based on a distance-learning model. You had no time to prepare yourself or your family, no time to research your options and make the choice of what method works best for your child and family. If you are considering true homeschooling I would recommend you take a breath – a BIG one – exhale slowly….now, ask yourself some questions before you do any research. 

  • How does my child learn best? Some kids learn best with structured lessons on the computer. Some learn best with hands-on activities and a lot of parental involvement.

  • What are my resources? List a budget of what you can afford for materials or courses, who you have available in your circle of support to help supervise the child(ren),  what internet or physical space resources you have to set up a work area.  

  • What local resources are available?  Libraries, museums, parks, trails, other homeschool families or homeschool groups. Look online for Facebook homeschool groups in your area.

  • What resources will the school provide? In some districts the school has an educational consultant that can help you come up with some lessons on subjects you may be struggling to find information on. They may also be able to give you the state standards for the grade your child is in. In some districts the school will allow your child to participate in school specials, like music or art. You may be able to borrow textbooks on the grade subject or get a list of books they will be using for the year and you can find out if the library is able to get them for you. Amazon, Barnes & Noble and EBay are also great places to find used textbooks.  

Once you know the answers to these questions it will help you focus your research.  There is a lot of information out there on homeschooling and when you head down the rabbit hole without knowing what you are looking for it can be overwhelming!