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

Confronting Perfectionism 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

See More »
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

See More »
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

See More »
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

See More »
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

See More »
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

See More »
The Happy Guinea Pig
Natalie McDonald

Learning Should be Fun; Laughter Helps!

“Humor improves student performance by attracting and sustaining attention, reducing anxiety, enhancing participation, and increasing motivation.” Brandon M. Savage et al., Advances in Physiology Education 2017 (41:3) This is a photo of sixth-grade me. I’d been sitting at the kitchen table puzzling over my pre-algebra textbook, which had a penchant for asking ridiculous (but supposedly

See More »
The Happy Guinea Pig
Natalie McDonald

How I Became the Happy Guinea Pig

“[Learning] is the only thing that never fails… the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.” —T.H. White Ten years ago, I began middle school in my family’s backyard, in an 8- by 10-foot garden shed that would be

See More »