Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Penguins, by Andrew


Penguins live in Antarctica. It’s very cold there, so they have to huddle together to stay warm. Penguins have to fish to survive. They eat mostly fish, krill, jellyfish, and squid. They have a very smart, interesting way of testing the water for predators. They push the first few penguins in and see what they do. If the water is safe, they dive in, too. But sometimes there are leopard seals in the water. If a leopard seal catches a penguin, he thrashes the bird around until its dead then picks off bits of meat until it’s mostly bone. But the penguins who survive in this incredibly dangerous place grow up into adults.

Adult penguins have a long, difficult challenge ahead of them. First they have to find a mate. They sing songs and show off their bodies until they find a mate. When they find a mate, they have intercourse and lay an egg. The dads have to watch the eggs while the moms cross the icy plains of the Antarctic to find the water. When most of the moms come back, they try to find their mates by singing to them. When the mom finds the dad, he is reluctant to give up his baby to the mom, but he needs food so he gives the baby to the mom. Then the dads go on their journey to find food.

The mother and father take turns watching over the baby and finding food for it. Eventually, the baby penguins are old enough to find food for themselves. When the penguins go try to find food for the first time, they start out in the shallows first, so no predators kill them and eat them. Some leopard seals though adopt a strategy. They make themselves look like boulders across the rocky coast. They slide slowly closer until the small penguins are an easy target. Sometimes a full grown leopard seal can grab two baby penguins at once.

But the penguins that do survive have to continue their hard life cycle until they grow up into adults. Then they have to find a mate and have more penguins and continue the same life cycle. What is the point of the penguins and why do the keep on going? No one can say for sure, but they are just so adorable, that makes it worth it.

By Andrew, age 10

Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Pencil Drawing, by Olivia

Armon and Tristan Natsua

Olivia is a sixteen-year-old writer and artist who enjoys spending her time sewing, first person interpretation acting, and attempting to exchange dairy goats for small children under the age of one. She currently works at The Texas Renaissance Festival and Sherwood Forest Faire and attends Interlochen Center for the Arts summer camp.

Student Art, Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: The Rise to the Land of Peace, by Eddie — Age 13

Eddie is participating in an arts contest for the Jewish Federation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust. This year’s theme is “Out of the Darkness and Into a New Life.”  He created this 3D piece of a half happy, half sad person who is flying out of a broken gas chamber into a new afterlife.



Eddie has been happily homeschooled since second grade.  He likes funky hairstyles, video games, and comic books.  His favorite subject is science.  He is not into nature and considers himself very much an indoor person.  He’s been known to watch an episode or twenty of Dr. Who.

Student Creative Writing

Student Spotlight: Spence’s Humorous Essay

Editor’s Note: This humorous essay was part of an assignment in Classical Conversations Essentials class. Spence was twelve years old.

My Happy Life

In December 2010 I, Sebastian, was sitting in a cage at Petco. People walked by me as if I was invisible. Then a nine-year-old boy walked in. As soon as he saw me, his eyes lit up with excitement. I could tell his dad was thinking it over. When his dad saw how happy the boy was, he said, “I will get that cat for you, but it will cost a lot of money.” I didn’t care because that day I got my best friend Spence. We play together. We sleep together. Sometimes I do a little pest control for the family.

My favorite playmate is Spence. He loves when I bite his arm or leg hurtfully. With a string or laser, he enjoys teasing me. Someday I am going to catch that crazy red dot. Even the parents’ dog is fun to play with. I chase her wildly across the yard. Other times she sits on me and happily chews my ear. I think she’s trying to pierce it! Spence and I have a lot of fun even when the dog butts in.

I love taking cat naps. On Spence’s snug, cozy bed, I enjoy sleeping. The heater in the hall makes a warm spot to lay also. During Spence’s school time, I like to sleep in a basket on the table. My favorite spot to sleep, though, is the big Spinning Chair which is covered in cat hair. All cats love to sleep, and I am really good at that.

My people have a pest problem: their yard is filled with mice! When I go outside at night, I see mice scurrying about. Happily, the morning light reveals my gifts near the door. By her expression, I’m not sure the mom appreciates my generous offerings. The family rodent problem is resolving, thanks to me.

That day over three years ago changed my life. Playing and sleeping, my boy and I enjoy our life together. Now if only I could teach him to catch mice…..

Student Creative Writing, Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: A Poem by Andrew


by Andrew, age 11

A leaf falls from the tree,
Turning it barren,
Swept away by the wind
And then by the snow, pinned.

When the snow melts,
The leaf is found
by a curious cat
and is furiously ripped


Andrew has been homeschooled since first grade.  He enjoys learning about history and music. He’s an avid fan of Rick Riordan books.  He also loves most animals, especially goats.  He takes horseback riding lessons and piano lessons.

Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: The Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne, by Miranda

Nathaniel Hawthorne


Nathaniel Hawthorne was just one of early America’s great writers. He wrote many classic books over the years and published one of the first mass-produced books in the United States.

Nathaniel Hawthorn, Jr. was born on July 4, 1804, to Nathaniel Hawthorn and the former Elizabeth Clarke Manning. They lived in Salem, Massachusetts, at the time, where their ancestor, John Hawthorn, had once lived. John was the sole judge in the tragic Salem witch trials. Later in life, Nathaniel added an “e” to the end of his last name to keep the relation to John a secret.

They soon moved to Raymond, Maine, near Sebago Lake in the summer of 1816. Nathaniel loved living on the farm, but at age 17 he was sent back to Salem for school. He missed his family and sent them a handmade newspaper, The Spectator, that included essays, news, poems, and much more.

Nathaniel almost did not attend college. His parents could not afford it, and he did not have the desire to go. But a rich uncle from his mother’s side wanted Nathaniel to go to school and could afford to pay for the education. Nathaniel was sent to Bowdoin College in 1821. He learned a lot and ended up joining Phi Beta Kappa, a liberal arts and science fraternity, in 1824.

After college Nathaniel went to Boston and became the editor of the American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge. He stayed with a friend while he was working. In 1828 he published his first book, Fanshawe, which he later suppressed because he did not feel it was good enough. Nathaniel wrote many short stories but none of them brought any publicity to his writing abilities. In 1837, Horatio Bridge collected all of Nathaniel’s short stories into one volume, called Twice-Told Tales, and published it, making him a locally known name.

A year after Twice-Told Tales was published, Nathaniel became engaged to Sophia Peabody. To save money to get married, Hawthorne got a new job at a custom house as a weigher and gauger. Three years later he moved to Brook Farm, a utopian community based on the idea of equal labor.  While he did not believe in the utopian ideas, he worked there in order to gain more money. Nathaniel’s job was to scoop manure from a hill called “the Gold Mine.” While his time at Brook Farm was unpleasant, it did prove useful later when Nathaniel used his experiences to help write The Blithedale Romance. He left after less than a year and then married Sophia Peabody.

After marriage, Nathaniel and Sophia moved to The Old Manse in Concord, Massachusetts. There they had their first child, a girl named Una, in 1844. Nathaniel wrote most of Mosses from an Old Manse while there. Two years after Una was born they moved back to Salem where Nathaniel worked as a surveyor. Shortly after the move their son Julian was born. While in Salem, Nathaniel had a hard time writing. His job was lost after the presidential election of 1848, but soon he was re-employed as the corresponding secretary of the Salem Lyceum.

In 1850 Hawthorne finally got back into writing, and The Scarlet Letter was published. It was extremely popular and 2,500 copies were bought in the first ten days. The Scarlet Letter was one of the first mass-produced books in America.

In 1850 Nathaniel and his family moved to the Berkshires near Lenox, Massachusetts. The two years that they lived there, Nathaniel wrote three books: The House of the Seven Gables, The Blithedale Romance, and A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys. The House of the Seven Gables was very popular and almost as famous as The Scarlet Letter. The Blithedale Romance took inspiration from many places and events during Hawthorne’s life.  It was also the only book that Nathaniel wrote in first person. He worked on A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys for six years before it was finally published in 1851. It was a collection of short stories that contained rewritten myths and legends. While at the Berkshires, Hawthorne also wrote The Life of Franklin Pierce for Franklin Pierce himself. He helped Pierce get into office and in 1853 was rewarded for his work.

After he published the Tanglewood Tales, he became the United States consul in Liverpool, England.  While his time at the Berkshires was productive, Nathaniel did not like it very much and was glad to move to the Wayside in 1852. The Wayside, located in Concord, was originally called the Hillside and was owned by Amos Bronson Alcott, a fellow writer.

After Pierce’s term was over in 1857, Nathaniel and his family toured the rest of England and Italy. They did this for three years and then returned to the Wayside in 1860. During his seven years in Europe, Hawthorne had a hard time writing. When they finally returned to America he got back into it and published The Marble Faun.

In 1862 Nathaniel went to Washington D.C. with William D. Ticknor, one of his publishers. They met many important people while there, including Abraham Lincoln. Hawthorne wrote about his adventure in 1862 in a book called Chiefly About War Matters. At this point Nathaniel knew that his days were drawing to a close.

Hawthorne tried to work on new romances but never got to finish them because of stomach pain and his failing health. He decided to go on a vacation with Franklin Pierce to the White Mountains. Nathaniel died in his sleep on the trip in 1864. Franklin sent Sophia Hawthorne a telegram to inform her of her husband’s death. Nathaniel was 60 years old.

Miranda Elise–Miranda is 15 years old, is one of three sisters and has been homeschooled since the third grade.  She is an avid photographer, loves to cook, and helps run the sound booth at church.  In addition to learning at home, Miranda also takes courses through a local co-op once a week.  She is looking forward to graduating in 2017, and is considering going into video production.

Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Louisa, by Genevieve



Louisa is an eight-year old who loves chickens, sisters, and art of all flavors.



Genevieveis a former public and private school teacher who has five children and has been homeschooling for the past thirteen years. In her free time she provides slave labor to Dancing Dog Dairy, making goat milk soap and handspun yarn, which can be seen on Our Facebook Page and at Dancing Dog Dairy .

Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Hardships and Inequalities — a Paper by Miranda

Editor’s Note: This was an assignment from Excellence in Literature in which Miranda responded to a prompt about social issues in writing.  10th Grade

Hardships and Inequalities

In most stories the author uses their characters’ views and morals to reflect their own. Whether it is something as simple as a love for dogs or something as serious as their views on monarchy, authors express themselves in their stories. Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is no different. Twain used A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court to illustrate his own views on slavery and the views of 19th century America.

In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court Hank is transported to the time of King Arthur. Through a series of events he becomes “The Boss,” a high power in the kingdom, and decides that he is going to try and change the crude ways of Camelot.

One of the problems Hank strives to correct is slavery. Slavery was a large dilemma in Camelot, where everyone who wasn’t a noble was, in his eyes, a slave. Most of King Arthur’s British nation were slaves, pure and simple, and bore that name and wore the iron collar on their necks; the rest were slaves in fact, but without the name. (8.3)
Hank tried to free the slaves slowly in order to prevent a revolt from the knights. He took King Arthur on a journey disguised as peasants to show Arthur how the people were treated. After they end up being taken captive and sold as slaves, Arthur finally realizes how bad slavery really is. After a long hard journey slavery finally comes to an end in chapter 40. Slavery was dead and gone; all men were equal before the law; taxation had been equalized. (40.2)

Throughout the book Hank’s views on slavery are made very clear. He is disgusted with the way slaves are treated and tries with all his might to set them free. These negative thoughts against bondage seem to come straight from Mark Twain himself.

As a young boy Mark Twain (Samuel Clemmons) lived in a small city in Missouri. In this small city slavery was still legal and very prominent. Twain grew up talking to the slaves and listening to their stories. A Twain biographer by the name of Ron Powers says, “Race was always a factor in his consciousness partly because black people and black voices were the norm for him before he understood there were differences. They were the first voices of his youth and the most powerful, the most metaphorical, the most vivid storytelling voices of his childhood.” But soon the problem of slavery became very clear when Twain witnessed the shooting of a slave and found the body of another in a river. After this Twain struggled with the way slaves were treated his entire life.

In almost all his books Twain has a very strong view against slavery. These views reflect his own and are strengthened by the force of the pro-slavery movements of his time. Against all that he had been told as a child, Twain fought for freedom. Even though he couldn’t free the slaves in his own time, Twain fought for the ones in his stories.


Student Art, Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Art and ASL

I took an eight-week workshop on using American Sign Language in song and dance. The first thing we learned was the alphabet. I love to draw and thought drawing a message in finger spelling would be a great way to practice. The message says, “I made some art for you.” I used Fire Alpaca, a drawing program, to create this on my computer.


Gillian is a twelve year old, the girl variety, being homeschooled in northern California. Artist and self-published author of Infection, she loves to learn new languages, especially computer ones.