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Student Perspectives on Homeschool Connections

Addendum to the Learning Styles Column of the Winter 2010 Issue of mater et magistra

We were unable to fit all the student reviews of this program in the magazine,
so we have compiled them here for you.

My name is Kaleigh; I am 16 years old and am a homeschooled junior from Decatur, IL. Taking
classes through Homeschool Connections has been incredibly beneficial. I have gained wonderful
experiences through these online classes. I participated in classes taught by Dr. Henry Russell, (Ave
Maria), in which we discussed the books Beowulf and the Macbeth. I had to read these books for
school anyway, but the opportunity to discuss them with other homeschool students from all across the
U.S. added a new and beneficial dimension. I learned so much from Dr. Russell and thoroughly
enjoyed the lectures and dialogue. I also completed the Introduction to Philosophy class taught by Dr.
Jean Rioux. Under normal circumstances I would not be able to take a Philosophy class in high school.
But because of Homeschool Connections, not only was I able to take this course, but my teacher was a
professor from one of my top college choices! Dr. Rioux consistently challenged me intellectually.
Using selections from the works of Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, St. Anselm, René Descartes, Blaise
Pascal, and St. Thomas Aquinas I was introduced to the magnificence of Philosophy. I soon discovered
Philosophy is a difficult subject. It definitely makes you think, yet it is incredibly interesting. Through
Homeschool Connections not only have I been able to develop academically, but spiritually as well.
Participating in truly Catholic dialogue enhanced my understanding of our rich Faith. I truly cherish
my experience with Homeschool Connections and anxiously await next semester’s Fallacies and
Paradoxes course with Dr. Jean Rioux from Benedictine College.

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Homeschool Connections—that wonderful, convenient, engaging way of taking your classes. Go

online at a certain time of day once a week, and you're connected with people around the country, led in
discussion by amazing and amusing professors. You can ask questions or comment via a microphone,
or type them into the chat box. After only one class, you will not only be interested, but actually
anxious to go to class the next week. The catch for all this fun? You might accidentally learn a lot of
neat things.
Homeschool Connections is a great way to take your classes. The lectures, other than giving you
an idea of what college will be like, are a much better way to learn than simply reading the materials.
Reading a passage of a book and then answering questions on the literal level of the reading is so basic,
so boring that unless the reading is thrilling (which unfortunately does not happen very often), it is soon
and easily forgotten by the student. The professors at Homeschool Connections make the classes as
engaging and interesting as they can by giving details that bring the reading to life and put it in an
entirely new light with depth, unknown meanings, and other little tidbits. For example, in Geoffrey
Chaucer's day, if a person's teeth were widely spaced, it was believed that that person was wordy and a
lecturer (did I get that right, Dr. Russell?), which is not only just an interesting insight into the minds of
the Medieval people, it shows what the first readers of Chaucer would have understood the Wife of
Bath to be when she was described as being "gap-toothed". Also in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the
Monk is described as bald, fat, and having red, shining eyes and a shining face- a sure sign that he is
used to a life of luxury, and as such is not a good and proper monk. Such details make the reading not
only more interesting, but also more memorable.
The professors challenge you to make connections between independent details on the times, and
the actual reading. You might be told that Medieval Literature was full of Catholic allegory. Given
that information, why is Sir Galahad's shield red and white? What do the seven evil knight-brothers
symbolize? Why are the spindles on the ship Faith red, green, and white?
As an additional benefit, because the professors make the classes so interesting, they make it easier
to remember thinks that might be on exams. How else would I remember that Sir Gawain and the
Green Knight was written in the style of bob and wheel?
—Eileen W.

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A Touch of Class
By Marie Therese

We don't often participate in a class, but this semester my brother Ben and I were able to take
two internet classes through Homeschool Connections: "What Do Philosophers Do and How Do They
Do It?", and "Microeconomics." I enjoyed both tremendously! My Dad taught the philosophy class,
and it was more familiar. We often discuss philosophical questions during dinner and learn a lot that
way. This was very different, though. Rather than have Dad introduce some logical conundrum, and
then sit back with a contented smirk on his face while we consider it, this was a team effort. The whole
class prepared a reading, and we discussed it together. And Dad helped us! He knows how to ask the
right questions, the ones that lead the mind to the right answers. We read St. Thomas Aquinas' Five
Ways in which he proves the existence of God, although these proofs do not identify Him as the
Christian God. (That's a job for Faith, not reason.) We began by wondering if the existence of God was
self-evident, but soon discarded that idea. The very fact that someone can object to the existence of
God indicates that it is not self-evident. We then asked if the existence of God could be demonstrated,
and, using Aquinas' arguments, showed that it not only could be done, it has been done. I loved the
First Way (the "Unmoved Mover") best because it's so simple. Understanding the First Way took a
while, but it was interesting to see the insights of the other students, ones I had not considered before.
Philosophy has the reputation of being difficult to understand and inaccessible to the average person
but it's really not. In fact, part of the beauty of philosophy is that the arguments, once you understand
them, are often surprisingly simple. In fact, philosophers, I learned, love simplifying things! They have
a principle called "Ockham's Razor" to "shave" or eliminate unnecessary causes. It's exactly what Mr.
Strunk insists we do when writing: "Omit needless words. Omit needless words. Omit needless words."
Not all arguments are simple of course, but even the more difficult ones can be distilled or broken
down into parts.
The class was both informative and fun. It helped me to ground my beliefs in logical argument
that, in turn, helped me to hold them more firmly. It also helped to see more clearly why some
arguments don't really work. For example, St. Anselm's ontological argument seemed quite persuasive
when we began the discussion, but we soon saw significant problems. Using Anselm's reasoning, we
would have to conclude that the most perfect unicorn must exist and, well it doesn't. Having my Dad
as a teacher was wonderful, especially because we could continue the discussion when he came home
at night.
I was expecting Microeconomics to be fairly difficult, but I was pleasantly surprised. The teacher,
Dr. Harris from Benedictine College, was able to translate the subject into clear and easily
understandable terms, while still retaining the important concepts. I learned a lot, and enjoyed myself at
the same time. Dr. Harris was humorous, and careful to make sure that everyone understood what he
intended to convey, but not willing to squander time aching over every aspect. I knew economics was
useful somehow to somebody, but I didn't expect it to be so useful, and interesting, to me! I learned
about the inner workings of market forces and how these might practically impact business decisions.
Dr. Harris didn't just teach the basics of economics, though. He showed us how the social teaching of
the Church works for the common good by overcoming poor or immoral business practices. A fringe
benefit, as an economist might say if he were unsparing in his words, is that my fantasy worlds are
more realistic. I am an aspiring writer, but, until now, a comparatively poor economist. It's incredibly
helpful to have a better understanding of how economics works, so that I can apply similar financial
structures to my worlds. I am very glad that I had the opportunity to take these classes, grateful to those
that made them available, and hopeful that I can do it again next semester!

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