Natalie’s Posts

Natalie McDonald—the “happy guinea pig” who was homeschooled for 7th and 8th grade—graduated with honors from Pomona College in 2019. She continues to love learning as much as she did when studying in her backyard schoolhouse ten years ago.

The Happy Guinea Pig
Natalie McDonald

Acting on Hope: From Art to Politics

The other night, as I went through my inbox deleting the junk mail that had accumulated throughout the day, a subject line caught my eye: “Dreaming in moments of uncertainty.” The email was from Women for Political Change (WFPC), one of the many Minnesota organizations that provided support to protestors in Minneapolis following George Floyd’s

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The Happy Guinea Pig
Natalie McDonald

“Say Nothing”: On Breaking Historical Silences

I recently finished Patrick Radden Keefe’s award-winning book Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland (Doubleday, 2018). It is a fascinating study of the Troubles and their aftermath. But the questions Keefe raises transcend Northern Ireland: Why is it important to reckon with the violence of the past? What role

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The Happy Guinea Pig
Natalie McDonald

Embracing Imperfection with Sourdough – Part 2

I have finally figured out my sourdough baking regimen. Dare I say, perfected it? I think not (note the title of this post), but I am happy enough with my routine that I’d like to share it with any aspiring sourdough bakers seeking inspiration, encouragement, or reassurance. As I explained in Part 1 of this

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The Happy Guinea Pig
Natalie McDonald

Embracing Imperfection with Sourdough – Part 1

Shortly after the pandemic began, my household acquired a new member: Stan the sourdough starter. Stan’s appearance in our lives was prompted by the concern that we would not be able to obtain bread while in COVID-19 lockdown; we take bread very seriously in our house. So we ordered a dehydrated starter, and after a

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The Happy Guinea Pig
Natalie McDonald

Teaching Citizenship on July 4th

Since January, I have been volunteering as a citizenship instructor, teaching weekly classes (over Zoom for the duration of the pandemic) to immigrants here in Los Angeles who have applied to become naturalized U.S. citizens. My co-instructor and I focus on preparing our students for their interviews with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, as well

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The Happy Guinea Pig
Natalie McDonald

A New Chapter for “The Happy Guinea Pig”

When my mother (Pamela Beere Briggs, Two in the World’s resident “Book Lover”) launched this website with me last year, we intended “The Happy Guinea Pig” to be a space in which to reflect on our two-year homeschooling experiment—and how this wonderful adventure continues to resonate in our lives 10 years later. But the world

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The Happy Guinea Pig
Natalie McDonald

This Little Light of Mine – Part 2

Here I am singing one of the various verses of “This Little Light of Mine.” We’re singing this song each day in our house. It reminds us that we must not give up. We have to believe that every little thing we do can help make a difference. And singing helps us breathe a little

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The Happy Guinea Pig
Natalie McDonald

When We Play, We Learn

“The play activity feeds a curiosity that may lead to a quest for knowledge…” Dr. Stuart Brown, National Institute for Play When I was homeschooled for 7th and 8th grade, I began each day by donning my straw hat and venturing out to the backyard where I would spend half an hour watering my vegetable

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The Happy Guinea Pig
Natalie McDonald

“The Skylarks’ War” by Hilary McKay

“The historical stories we tell have a profound impact on the world.” Dana Goldstein, New York Times journalist Both my mom and I loved this book so much that we purchased five copies to give away over the holidays. I recently read an adult novel that covers the same period (World War I) and said

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