Learning on your own terms: the benefits of homeschooling as a teen

There are several reasons why I prefer homeschooling over traditional schooling. Some of these include:

  1. Flexibility: Homeschooling can provide more flexibility in scheduling, which can appeal to some teens with other interests or responsibilities. For example, I can write my novels any time as long as I finish all my weekly high school requirements. I can also dual enroll with a university or college, finish high school, and get college credits.
  2. Personalized education: Homeschooling allows for more personalized instruction. This means I can cater my education to my interests and needs rather than following a one-size-fits-all curriculum. Because I get to choose my curriculum with my teacher, I almost always have no problems finishing my schoolwork quickly.
  3. Avoidance of negative social situations: Some teens may prefer homeschooling to avoid adverse social problems such as bullying, peer pressure, or a lack of inclusion. I never had this problem; most homeschooled high students I met or knew were too busy with their day-to-day lives. Most of the time, we’re with older adults, so there are no such adverse social problems.
  4. Increased family time: One of the advantages of homeschooling is that it can provide more opportunities for family time and closer bonds between parent and child. I like homeschooling because I can spend time with my siblings whenever I want or need to. When my family decides to travel, I can take my schoolwork with me, and there are no missed school days to make up. This is a huge perk for my parents and me since we love to travel.
  5. Religious or philosophical beliefs: Many families homeschool because it aligns better with their religious or philosophical beliefs and values. I have many friends who homeschool for this reason. It’s important to families that their children receive an education that aligns with their ideas. Because we’re living in the US, we have the freedom to choose; we all should take advantage of how we want to do school to improve ourselves as model citizens.

It’s worth noting that homeschooling is only for some, and this form of education can also be challenging and complex. The most difficult in homeschooling is being motivated and disciplined with your schedule. You are on your own when finishing and staying on task with your schoolwork. No teachers ask you to do it and finish it on time. No classmates to compete and get you going. No- just you competing against yourself to be the best version of yourself. This is why I love homeschooling, but many teens choose not to. However, for some teens like myself, homeschooling can provide an excellent choice and preferred educational experience.

Bella H.

The Dark Side of Fishing

Throughout history, fishing has been one of the most popular pastimes for all ages, renowned for relatively passive participation required to be successful (ie. sitting on a dock waiting for the fish to come to you). But this does not take into account the negative consequences towards the other half of this game – the fish themselves. 

Conventionally, fish are thought of as dumb, unfeeling creatures, making them the perfect specimen for a practice that is essentially dragging animals from their home environment on barbed hooks solely for human entertainment. This is a treatment that we would not give to any other member of the animal kingdom that we believe to exhibit a certain level of sentience, or the ability to think for itself. For example, cruelty against dogs or cats is heavily dissuaded, whereas such violence on fish, worms, or other “non-sentient” creatures is implicitly allowed.

This assumption about the pain capacity of fish, however, has been proven false. As it turns out, fish have the same types of pain receptors that humans and other animals due, alongside the necessary nerves and senses to detect this pain. They can be shown to feel bee stings, so one can only imagine how strong their pain must be when caught on a hook. 

Additionally, fish are much more intelligent than they are shown to be. Through experimentation, fish have been shown to be able to efficiently learn geometrical relationships with landmarks and navigate mazes, thus shattering conventional stereotypes about fish and with it humanity’s casual belief in their superiority. One cannot help but wonder about the pain these intelligent animals must have felt, and what thoughts would have gone through their minds as they were abused and killed simply for the pleasure of a stronger animal. 

While it is undeniable that fishing is important on various levels, from personal to cultural, it is equally important for us to ensure that our fellow animals are not needlessly injured for our own entertainment and do our part to protect this much munched on group of the sea.

Information adapted from Victoria Braithwaite’s LA Times article “Hooked on a Myth” (https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2006-oct-08-oe-braithwaite8-story.html)

– Mahak M.

Album Review: SOUR by Olivia Rodrigo

I’m sure you have all heard the very popular song, driver’s license, by Olivia Rodrigo. But have you listened to the entirety of her album? I think it is one that definitely deserves a review post.

The opening track, brutal, isn’t necessarily one of my favorite songs to listen to. I do love the fact that it starts off strong and I think it makes a great introduction to the album. It is definitely relatable to me, and I’m sure it is to other teenagers as well.

The second track on the album, traitor, is definitely a very well-thought out, emotional song. But, I personally think it has been overplayed. When it first became popular, I heard it all the time on the radio and on various social media platforms. I do love the song, I think it is amazing, but it is way too overplayed.

The tenth track, favorite crime, is one of my all-time favorite songs by Olivia. It is so incredibly emotional and you could tell that the story behind the lyrics is very personal. The bridge of the song has to be my favorite part of the song, it really sums up the purpose of the song.

Overall, I rate this album an 8/10. It isn’t something I would listen to on a daily basis, but I do listen to it once in a while. I do enjoy most of the tracks on it, if not all, but some are definitely over played. If you like heartbreak-pop, I would definitely recommend this to you.

The Tea Dragon Society Series

The Tea Dragon Society series is a series of graphic novels written by Kay O’Neill. The three-part story is set in a fantasy world in which dragons grow leaves and flowers on their horns, that are able to be brewed into tea. Whoever may drink the tea is able to see the memories of the dragon’s owner. 

The first book, The Tea Dragon Society, follows young Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, as she discovers the art of caring for a Tea Dragon after finding one lost in the marketplace and returning it to its owner. She meets Hesekiel and Erik, the owners of the tea shop that she returns the dragon to. There, she befriends Minette, a shy girl with no memories of her past. We learn that she used to be a prophetess, and in an attempt to see every future possible, lost all of her memories. The book is short, with beautiful calming art and a nice cozy story.

The second book, titles The Tea Dragon Festival, takes a turn to a new character named Rinn, when they find a real dragon in the forest outside of town. The dragon’s name is Aedhan, and it is revealed that he was assigned to look after the village, but fell asleep in the woods eighty years ago. It follows Rinn as they help Aedhan adjust to a new life, solve the mystery of his long slumber, and accept that he can not get back the time he lost.

The last book of the series is titled The Tea Dragon Tapestry, and once again follows Greta and Minette as they face challenges in their lives. Greta is tasked with creating something beautiful to impress a skilled blacksmith, and become their apprentice. All the while, she is learning how to care for a grieving tea dragon after it fell into her care when it’s previous owner died. Minette receives a mysterious gift from the place she once lived, which throws her whole life into questions and confusion. She learns over the course of the story that one must open themselves to those who care about them, to truly understand oneself. 

The Tea Dragon Society by Kay O’Neill is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library.

Book Review: Thornlight by Claire Legrand

Thornlight is a book I picked up recently—an adventure-filled fantasy novel that exudes creativity, combined with heartfelt character development.

Before anything, though, I want to take a moment to appreciate Jaime Zollars’ beautiful illustrations that help to set the fairy-tale atmosphere straight from the get-go.

Thornlight: Legrand, Claire: 9780062696663: Amazon.com: Books

Okay. The story follows twin sisters Thorn and Brier, who, despite being twins, have utterly distinct characterization with unique struggles, not to mention their equally unique yet lovable animal companions. On a journey to close the chasm, known as the Break, that divides their world, the story’s characters encounter witches, evil creatures, and numerous obstacles that keep you intrigued.

One thing I love about this book is that it’s told from three points of view—the twins and a third character named Celestyna—that alternate consistently. You would think you’d lose track of the story because of this, but it’s quite the opposite while reading. The story flows smoothly and the changing perspectives keep you hooked.

I also love how Legrand conveys the relationships between her characters. No matter how fantasy-driven this novel is, the interpersonal relationships and the struggles that accompany them are portrayed realistically, in a way that touches your heart.

The only criticisms I have about this novel is that the pacing can feel rushed in some moments, particularly with Thorn’s character development. A few side characters also have resolutions that come off as unsatisfying, or don’t align with prior emphasis placed on them. Other than that, Thornlight was nothing short of an entertaining read, and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys well-written fantasy.

Climate Change

Cracked and crumbling, the earth once full of life and water lays barren and dry. Dust bunnies blow across the land without a single living thing in sight. Blue skies turn gray and smoky. Trees that once seemed to hold up the sky with their strong arms are now reduced to stumps. That is the future that lays ahead. 

Climate change has always been a big problem. Politicians ignore it as if they weren’t the ones who created it. Advocates protest, and we turn a blind eye. Brushing it off like it’s nothing, a mere annoyance. No one expects the earth to crumble away in their lifetime. We flourish in our big cities focusing only on what’s ahead of us, but not what’s above or below us. We move too fast to acknowledge problems that seem to loom ahead. Problems that are screaming to be solved. Problems that are bolded and put in italics for us to see. Problems that are shoved in our faces but we choose to ignore.

So what if the earth is dying? Why should I care? It won’t happen in my life so there’s no reason for me to do anything. These are all excuses. Excuses not to care nor act. Excuses to not do anything. We waste our lives away waiting for someone else to do it for us. We wait and wait and never yet to consider that everyone else may be waiting too. 

There must be something done soon, or there wouldn’t be an earth to worry about.

Books about climate change are available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. They are also available to download for free from Libby.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

As usual, school has required readings. The third book required for me this year was The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. I’m sure many other people know of it. Majority of my friends said they loved the book and remember reading it. 

This coming-of-age novel is split into vignettes–short chapters or episodes–told in the perspective of the main character, Esperanza. She tells stories about things that happen in her life, but in no particular order. It starts with her and her family moving into their new house which is on Mango Street. As she grows up in the new neighborhood, she tells plenty of short stories of different people, what has happened to her, and what has happened to them. 

This is a very short book but it’s still a great read. Most of the book is told in an almost childlike way using simple words and many variations. But even with its simplicity, it holds some very detailed descriptions and symbols. I know that a lot of people would rather not pick out the symbolism and figurative language when they read a book, especially if the book is just for enjoyment. Trust me, if it weren’t for school, then I probably wouldn’t have either. But if you’re willing to look deep into the story and really pick apart a few phrases, then it can make your reading of this book, and others, much more interesting.

This book has so many symbols that really help convey the message more clearly than it already is. It adds so much more to the theme of the book and while you don’t have to pick out symbolism and such, it can enhance this book a lot more.

While it may seem like a fun and happy story, there is a surprisingly darker undertone if you take the time to really look at it. If it didn’t have this other side to it, I don’t think I would have really liked this book. If you’re considering reading this book, just keep in mind that there are some dark messages and scenes that can definitely make you a little uncomfortable. 

Overall, The House on Mango Street was a pretty good read for me. Taking a deeper dive into the symbolism and finer details of the book was fun for me. I think I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a short, good read. But I’d mostly recommend this to people who are a little older, really anyone out of middle school. It’s a great book and a good choice if you’re looking for something to read and really delve deeper into.

-Nicole R.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: a Review

Being 517 pages, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a pretty long book. Despite this, it’s become one of my all-time favorites to pick up off the bookshelf.

Let’s talk about why. (No spoilers!)


The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is the prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy. If you haven’t already read that, it’s amazing, go do it. It will help make the prequel make far more sense, as well.

The book features Coriolanus Snow as the protagonist, reliving the events of his life after the Dark Days war.

Part One- Positives

The book draws from a lot of the philosophical questions in the original trilogy. Good and bad, black and white.,

The characters are phenomenal, with believable development throughout. It was hard to imagine how Suzanne Collins was going to be able to write such a downright coldhearted individual to be a believable protagonist, but it totally worked.

The book makes it clear that Snow isn’t in the right by any means – but it still makes sense why he does it.

Part Two: Negatives

Admittedly, this book features a bit of repetition, especially in the beginning. Snow goes through the same routine, over and over. Additionally, the plot can get a bit twisty and confusing, and can give you a bit of whiplash.

Part 3: Conclusion

Let’s sum up.

• Fast-paced/Action-packed

•Builds on the original trilogy

• Confusing at times

I’d say that’s a net positive!

This book is beautiful for those who have already read the original trilogy. If you have, definitely check this out!

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Book Review: Konosuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonder World: Oh! My Useless Goddess (Yes I am aware the title of this book is overly long)

Okay, so Konosuba I’m not writing out that whole title again is an isekai comedy written by Natsume Akatsuki and is the first novel in a long-running series. (Also for those who don’t know isekai is a Japanese word for other world and will be used frequently in this review). The series follows its protagonist Kazuma Sato as he blunders his way through his journey where the only thing he really has going for him is his above-average luck and genre awareness.

So as mentioned above Konosuba is extensively a comedy. Said comedy is mostly drawn from subverting tropes commonly found in its second genre: Isekai. You see the isekai genre as it currently exists mainly contains teenage male power fantasies; stories where a normal nerd can gain insane amounts of strength, power, and magic with about as much effort as it takes to open a bag of chips. This is not the case for Konosuba’s protagonist however as he is recognized in-universe as one of the weakest adventurers in the guild. Additionally, this is not something that changes later in the book with Kazuma’s biggest achievement by the end of the novel being the fact that he killed a larger-than-normal amount of sentient cabbages during the harvest.

Another bit of comedic subversion in this book is how Kazuma’s team is set up. You see in normal isekai stories the protagonist is typically surrounded by a party whose gender ratio generally leans in the opposite direction to the protagonist, i.e. if the protagonist is male there will be a disproportionate amount of females. However, the subversion with Kazuma’s group is not that they are mostly male but rather the fact that they are completely worthless. With a group that consists of a healer who refuses to do anything unless she’s in crippling debt, a wizard who only knows one spell that can be cast once per day, and a paladin who can’t hit a target that is standing right in front of her Kazuma almost has to play the role of babysitter for the group of idiots that he found himself with.

None of this is to say that Kazuma himself is not also an idiot, he is, just less than the others. For example, the only reason the group’s healer, Aqua, is with the group is because Kazuma dragged her along. You see in this novel Kazuma is brought to his new world after he died a tragic death in our own. Upon dying he met Aqua, who claimed to be a goddess who could send him to a new world with one item or power of his choosing. However since Aqua mocked the way Kazuma died, in an act of pettiness he decided to bring Aqua with him to the new world.

However, I have gushed about this book for long enough and need to finish this review somehow. All in all, I personally believe that if you are a fan of the isekai genre this is a novel worth picking up and if you aren’t this novel still contains its fair share of good jokes.

TV Review: The Defenders (2017)

After I watched the show Daredevil on Netflix, I found this show suggested to me by Netflix, and decided to give it a try. However, it not only featured the famous Daredevil/Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) but also the heroes Luke Cage (Mike Colter), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), and Danny Rand/Iron Fist (Finn Jones). After I finished each of the following shows and had an idea of who each of these heroes were and the plot leading up, I watched the series. Although it told the story from multiple viewpoints and seemed a little fast at times, I really enjoyed the show and believed that it deserved a second season before its untimely cancellation by its owner at the time, Netflix.

The story takes place in New York, as each of these heroes face a common enemy in The Hand, a villainous organization that fought Daredevil and Iron Fist prior to the series and desired one thing above all — immortality. The stable consisted of the leader Alexandria Reid (Sigourney Weaver), Bakuto (Ramon Rodriguez), Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho), Murakami, Sowande, and Elektra (Elodie Yung) as they stormed New York, which held the key to their goal. As their plan involved the destruction of New York, these four heroes united to protect the city that they lived in and swore to protect.

Each hero faces their own conflict in the series caused by the Hand. Elektra turned out to be Daredevil’s lover who died fighting the Hand alongside him and became resurrected and manipulated by Alexandria to join and fight for the Hand, which burdened Matt and motivated him to try to bring back the Elektra that he knew. Danny faced a plane crash that killed his parents and nearly killed him before he became rescued and trained by a group of monks to earn the Iron Fist, a weapon earned by killing a dragon – before he learned of the Hand’s role in the crash. Luke Cage witnessed as Sowande forced Harlem boys to partake in illegal activities for the Hand and even killed off any potential threats to the organization. Jessica Jones failed to help one of her clients, who was worried about her husband as he helped the Hand in their business and died at the hands of Elektra, unbeknownst to his wife.

Despite the Hand threatening everyone whom the four heroes loved, the Defenders manage to overcome the Hand and save New York from mass destruction — at the price of a tear-jerking sacrifice and a heartbreaking end sequence. As the final episode came to an end, each of the heroes’ upcoming season storylines became teased and introduced before the end credits rolled.

Although the organization of the seasons to watch was very confusing at first, I still enjoyed watching the show very much and definitely recommend this show to anyone, especially Marvel fans. This show, along with the shows of the four heroes, are streaming on Disney Plus after being transferred by Netflix. It can be watched at any point, however, to get the best experience, the recommended order of the show is to start with Daredevil Season 1, then Jessica Jones Season 1, then Daredevil Season 2, then Luke Cage Season 1, then Iron Fist Season 1, and then finally getting to The Defenders.