Thank goodness for the Los Angeles Public Library’s endless supply of ebooks! iLEAD Exploration Learner, Faye Battat, grade 4, is an insatiably voracious reader and LAPL helps keep her in reading material. She loves reading anything and everything she can get her hands on: fantasy, classics, poetry, mystery, nonfiction. Faye is always ready to engage in learning and loves to anticipate the next book she will read or the next meal she will cook. She will excitedly retell stories and adventures and activities. She and her family are very proactive with planning assignments for the learning period and creating folders with any worksheets and activities they will need for each school week.
Having a goal is crucial to accomplishing anything and Faye is optimistic and self-confident enough to keep on achieving. Whether it is working through a math book or perfecting a contortion move, ten-year old Faye trusts that every day brings her an inch closer to her target and believes regular small progress is the only way to achieve it. After a hundred days or so her progress is undeniable. Assessing how far she has come spurs her on to continue for another hundred days.
Aside from reading, Faye is also passionate about cooking and contortion. Recently she has taken up piano. She writes her own comics complete with very accurate facial expressions. She also enjoys outdoor activities – climbing trees, riding a bike, visiting the beach, hiking, rock climbing and swimming.
It should be clear to see that Faye is never afraid to roll up her sleeves and dig in to hard work. Every morning she goes through a routine that includes vigorous stretching to wake up her body, a healthy breakfast to fuel her endeavors, a chore to keep her environment in good order, and a review of that day’s schedule to prepare her mentally for what lies ahead. The schedule includes break times for things she enjoys, like baking a beef Wellington or watching videos of her favorite contortionists. Knowing that she has something to look forward to helps her work diligently on her less-than-favorite assignments. When something happens that really bothers her and tempts her to lose control, she knows that she can always talk to her family to help her feel better. For some alone time she retreats to a quiet spot with a good book. That always helps her bounce back with a renewed determination
The two years Faye and her family have spent homeschooling so far have been quite fruitful. It has allowed them increased focus and the ability to learn at the specific pace needed in each subject. It also grants them adequate time to develop interests outside of academics without rushing through family life. Faye and her siblings creatively engage in learning together and have each found a special niche where they can create, discover, collect, explore, and imagine. They are so fortunate to have a loving home with room for them all to grow into the special learners they are meant to be.
Hello! My name is Kiah Lewis. I’m a senior in high school, and I’ve been homeschooled my entire life. Some words people use to describe me are outgoing, charismatic, kind, and funny. I love dogs, animated movies, the color yellow, and making fun of the Twilight saga with friends.
Ever since I can remember, I have always had a creative mind and imagined myself in other worlds that I never was able to verbalize to others. My solution to this problem was drawing everything that came to mind. Since I learned that I had the power of art within me, I haven’t stopped drawing. I am now actively pursuing my dream of becoming a professional artist. I’m not exactly sure what role I want to play, but I know I will come to that decision at just the right time. One thing I love about art is it can come in many shapes and sizes and anyone can do it. I think what people love says a lot about what we really strive for in life. For me, I want to create things that bless others and inspire them, and art is just the tool to do that exact thing.
Another passion in my life is my guide dog in training, Draco (and yes he is named after the infamous Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter franchise). Volunteering for Guide Dogs of America had a huge impact in my life and participating was a personal goal since I was a little girl. My mom raised a guide dog named Beasley when she was my age, and I have strived to be just like her. Training Draco was full of many twists and turns and, in the end, I realized that he was actually the one training me. I learned many lessons from simple tasks like teaching him that the bathroom is outside and not on our wood floors or trusting him to lead me while I was blindfolded. My eyes were opened to the many blessings dogs give to people in need and how wonderful of an opportunity this was. While Draco ended up having a heart defect that ended his journey with Guide Dogs of America, it was only the beginning of his journey with me.
Thank you for sharing your experiences with us, Kiah! We are proud of you and we know that following graduation, many exciting opportunities await a learner with your unique gifts.
Nine-year-old Adalynn has been enjoying her homeschool journey through iLEAD Exploration. Although this year looks a little different than anticipated, she is adjusting well and even helping her little brother, Jackson (5), adjust to the homeschool life as well. She is always eager to learn new things and wants to try everything once.
Addie loves to spend her time getting lost in a good book, playing Roblox with her friends, swimming, doing all sorts of arts and crafts, and playing outside. Addie loves adventure and exploring nature when she gets the chance. She is full of questions and will always turn everything into a learning experience. She is unique in her own way and is always happy. Her excitement for life is sure to bring a smile to anyone’s face. Adalynn is incredibly helpful and kind to all; her great sense of humor is just an added bonus. Her little sister, Charlotte (3), is following in her footsteps, and that makes Addie a proud big sister.
This year has been quite the adjustment for everyone, including Addie. However, she is thriving and enjoying her learning through Fourth Grade Adventures Online. She likes the online platform and having the ability to be logged on live with other learners, all while still being able to go at her own pace. Aside from online learning, Addie spends a lot of time being creative and asking questions. She prefers to read an article and absorb information but is not afraid to get her hands dirty while conducting an experiment of some sort. You can almost always find her with a book next to her or a drawing she’s working on.
When she is not doing schoolwork, she fills her schedule with community service. She plans community service events and participates in fundraisers to help the community, with the goal of making others happy and giving back. In March of this year, Addie was crowned Little Miss Quartz Hill 2020-2021. She and her sister queens spend their time volunteering with organizations and participating in fundraisers. Recently, they organized a 5K walk to benefit one of the moms from the community who was newly diagnosed with breast cancer. They have walked and raised awareness for domestic violence, raised money and donated supplies for students in one of the local school districts, served a warm lunch to people experiencing homelessness, partnered with Grace Resource Center, and made donations to a new food pantry in their area, just to name a few examples. The Quartz Hill Queens partnered with the local chamber of commerce to host a toy drive for families in need in the community during the Christmas season. This is one of Addie’s favorite ways to give back because she loves to see other children smile. Addie also enjoys participating in fun events and is building meaningful friendships while learning crucial social and public speaking skills. Addie says that being Little Miss Quartz Hill is what makes her the proudest. She hopes to be an amazing role model for all her Little Miss and Tiny Miss sisters and will continue to look up to all her older queen sisters as well.
Homeschooling has been a great opportunity for Addie, as it allows her to focus on her commitments to her community as much as she can and to enjoy endless adventures.
For the Gompert family, homeschooling has always been the plan. Many things about it appeal to them: the flexibility it gives them, the ability to change methods and curriculum to suit the children’s needs, the option to travel as a family without having to worry about a school schedule, and most importantly, the ability to focus more directly on the children, giving them the space and tools to follow their own interests and pace.
Clive, age 8, and Lucia, age 6, begin with the end in mind by talking about and making a plan before they begin their projects or playtime. They enjoy exploring their interests so that they can become more proficient and learn new skills.
Clive and Lucia work hard and exhibit grit in approaching their lessons and extracurriculars. It takes patience and determination to learn new things, especially when everything in life is so different right now. But they have adapted well to so much virtual learning, and still work hard to connect with classmates and teachers virtually, maintaining a positive attitude through technical difficulties and the lack of in-person connections.
Clive loves playing video games, programming games, comic books (especially Dog Man), action figures, and a good joke. He likes to build Legos, draw comics, and play board games, especially chess. He thinks he might like to be a magician or a Disney Imagineer when he grows up. Clive has been in karate for the past three years and works hard to progress and improve in his training. He enjoys taking Outschool classes about interesting animals, Minecraft, learning new magic tricks, or anything building or STEM-related.
Lucia loves to sing, either Disney songs or her own originals. She also likes to dance, make friends, and enjoys anything related to art or drawing. She wants to be a veterinarian and a pop star when she grows up. She loves animals, both real and mythical (unicorns are her favorite)! Lucia takes dance and drawing classes. Since she wants to become a vet, she likes to take classes related to animals or animal science. She also started karate in the spring and is enjoying practicing martial arts.
During non-COVID times, the family enjoys going to Disneyland and science museums like Discovery Cube. Clive and Lucia both enjoy playing elaborate imaginary games, indoors and out. Their active imaginations and sense of humor will serve them well in life.
Three years ago, iLEAD Exploration learner Christina Virchis, 13, was uncertain and a little anxious about her future. The private school she had been attending was closing and she didn’t think going from a small and close-knit school family to a school with thousands of kids was the right fit for her. She and her family decided on homeschooling and, with a lot of effort, her learning has been smooth sailing since then.
Even though this is her last year in middle school, Christina hopes to attend college one day. Since she has a mindset of beginning with the end in mind, she plans to take college prep classes now and will be enrolling in college classes in the fall of 2021 at a local community college as a freshman in high school.
One of her favorite things to do is attend a learning center. From academics to the arts, she chooses classes that fulfill her both academically and artistically. She enjoys interacting with not only her peers but with knowledgeable educational facilitators who encourage her to aim high in everything she does. Christina enjoys playing the piano and painting and the Thai martial art of Muay-Thai.
My name is Priscilla Pope, and I am 17 years old. I have been dancing since I was just two! I grew up performing with the Santa Clarita Ballet Company and studied under the Royal Academy of Dance curriculum. I hold each of my examinations with distinction and have trained at numerous ballet intensives. After performing many lead roles with the Santa Clarita Ballet, I was accepted into the Colburn Dance Academy’s pre-professional program. I have received multiple scholarships for dance and have also placed and participated in numerous dance competitions. I am extremely grateful to be a brand ambassador for PerfectFitPointe and Zarely Dancewear. I am currently in the process of applying to ballet companies and colleges across the US, some of which include the University of Utah, Butler University, Marymount Manhattan University, Indiana University, and Texas Christian University. I plan to double major in both business and dance.
I joined the iLEAD family in my junior year of high school, after finding out about my acceptance to The Colburn School. Attending iLEAD has been a true blessing and has helped me balance both dance and school. Furthering my education is so important to me, so having the flexibility of online learning has helped me achieve my scholastic goals, all while keeping up with my rigorous dance schedule. It has also given me the availability to give back to my community as a volunteer and maintain a part-time job. I currently work as a waitress at Chi Chi’s Pizza in Santa Clarita and actively volunteer with The Red Cross, The Gentle Barn, and as a Real Life Church youth leader. I opened my own small business (Priscilla’s Shoe Sewing Service), where I sew pointe shoes and teach young dancers how to properly sew their own. All of these achievements would not be possible without the support and flexibility of iLEAD Exploration.
Since I was a young girl, I have always been independent and ambitious, wanting to explore the world on my own, in hopes to figure out who I want to be. Now, as a young adult, I see myself as a leader who inspires others to be the best version of themselves. I am an acute perfectionist and am always setting higher goals for myself. While I have major dreams, I always hope to be a source of kindness and compassion. My ultimate goal in life is to open my own studio one day so I can teach and inspire future generations of dancers. I want to help others find the same love of dance I have found over the years, and I want to create a space where dancers feel welcome, encouraged, and challenged. I am so incredibly grateful to my teachers/mentors at iLEAD and every dance teacher I’ve had thus far. Without them, I would not be where I am today!
iLEAD Exploration learner Everly Benning started homeschooling last year in the extended-TK program. What drew her family to homeschooling was the time her mom got to spend with her. Everly’s dad is a military member, and homeschooling allows for them to work around his often-changing schedule. They love being able to spend more time with him when he has time off.
Since Everly was a little baby, she has always been a bit reserved, so seeking first to understand comes naturally to her. At first, she takes her time to observe what is around her. She often sits backs and watches before jumping in and playing. But once she understands the lay of the land, she jumps right into the action. When Everly encounters a new environment, she is quick to observe what is going on around her and is able to easily adapt appropriately. She is also very into details and fully understanding how something works.
An empathetic people-person, Everly is very communicative with her feelings and often encourages her friends to share their thoughts or feelings if conflicts or issues pop up while playing. Everly is very considerate of others and how they will feel in certain situations; she strives to take other people’s feelings into account.
Everly has started a new hobby this school year and is learning Spanish. She has done well and really enjoys talking with her Spanish teacher, who lives in Spain. Everly is very interested in traveling to different countries around the world.
Mya is a first grade learner who started homeschooling in March of last year. She likes homeschooling because she is able to do her school work in her pajamas. She also gets to go to the library whenever she wants. Her favorite part about learning from home is that she gets to spend time with her mommy and baby brother.
What languages do you speak?
I speak English and Spanish. I am also learning sign language.
What is your favorite saying in your native language?
“Panza llena corazón contento!” In English, this means, “Having a full stomach makes your heart happy!”
What is a family tradition that you enjoy?
Family game time and the altar for Day of the Dead.
What career would you like to have?
I want to be a firefighter and a painter.
What is your favorite subject?
Math is my favorite, and working on Explode the Code.
Has being multilingual allowed you any special opportunities?
Yes, it helps me talk to “Tita” (Grandma) and my cousins from Mexico.
What is your favorite hobby?
Painting and playing with my toys.
What advice would you give to someone trying to learn a new language?
Listen to music in the new language.
The Ramirez family is filled to the brim with creative, fun-loving learners who enjoy supporting each other in everything they do. Karina (9th grade), Victoria (6th grade), Adrianna (4th grade), and Samuel (1st grade) love spending time with their family and their dog, traveling in their RV and experiencing new places. They have been homeschooling since 2012 and have been with iLEAD Exploration for three years.
The quest for understanding before acting is something these learners hold dear. Karina (14) asks lots of questions to facilitate understanding. She strives to make connections with others and enjoys sharing ideas in general. She loves to communicate and to philosophize about morality. Victoria (11) tends to be more quiet and reserved. She sits back and listens, but her great sense of humor appears every once in a while, showing you that she’s been listening. Nine-year old Adrianna loves to tell you how she feels and is very kindhearted and compassionate. Samuel (age six) has lots of ideas he enjoys sharing with the group. He longs to have the whole family’s or group’s attention before he speaks and then the ideas flow, surprising others with his vocabulary and understanding.
An awareness about the people and communities surrounding them comes naturally to these learners. Karina, acting on her finely tuned sense of justice and compassion, wants to help others and dreams of helping homelessness in the future. Victoria strives to connect with others by asking questions and finding things in common with others. Adrianna loves to tell you how she feels and is also very kindhearted and compassionate. Samuel is very friendly and outgoing and loves to make friends at parks.
All four of the kids love anything LEGO. Their favorite subjects are history and science. They love doing anything that is hands-on. Karina, interested in a career in criminal justice, plays the guitar, swims competitively, and loves crafting, especially focusing on “upcycling” or repurposing discarded objects. All-star soccer player Victoria also loves to read and write and is currently reading Keeper of the Lost Cities. She enjoys writing books and is currently working on one she hopes to self-publish one day. Adrianna adores dinosaurs and ninjas and anything related to art. She is currently remaking My Little Ponies into other cartoon characters. Samuel is all about video games! But he has also just learned how to ride a bike without training wheels and wants to play baseball when in-person activities are once again allowed.
iLEAD Exploration kindergarten learner Grayson Ferrera-Schmidt has a joke for you!
Q: “What do you call a fly without wings?”
A: “A walk!”
Grayson will “bug” you with his jokes; he’s got a million of ’em! But, seriously, this learner and his family make a great learning-and-living-together team. When he finished kindergarten last year, he said he wanted his mom to be his teacher for every grade.
Way back when, homeschooling wasn’t something the Ferrera-Schmidt family considered. By the time Grayson turned two years old, however, his mom knew she wanted to teach him, instill him with critical-thinking skills, and challenge him to look at everything from different viewpoints. Homeschooling with iLEAD Exploration does that for them. It gives them a unique environment to make choices in Grayson’s education.
Seeking first to understand and then to be understood, Grayson is always applying this habit. Grayson always wants to fully understand anything he is talking about, no matter the subject, before he tries to weigh in on it himself. He wants to understand new information so that later he can use it himself. He is very inquisitive and blows his mom away by using what he learns correctly at a different time.
When others hear of Grayson homeschooling, they often ask, “What about his social skills? Aren’t you worried he will be socially awkward?” The answer is absolutely not! Grayson is an outgoing little boy with a great sense of humor who will talk to anyone willing to listen. People who speak with him often forget he’s only six years old. His vocabulary is beyond his years, and he easily makes friends and has great conversations with everyone.
Grayson’s hobbies and interests include all things dirty and gross! He wants to learn about every new bug he can find. He could spend hours capturing bugs, butterflies, dragonflies, and lizards to examine and watch them and then release them back into nature. He loves to study about animals and all the things they can and cannot do. He also likes to practice karate moves. Although he has never taken karate classes, that does not stop his imagination from running wild. When karate studios open again, Grayson is looking forward to taking classes.
Even though this is just their second year of homeschooling together, Grayson, his mom, and sometimes his little brother Levi make a pretty good team. They could not imagine life any other way.
Introducing iLEAD Exploration learners Kaleb and Kaden Brown. Kaleb is a senior who will graduate this fall semester. Kaden is in 10th grade.
The past two years of homeschooling have been filled with meaningful experiences. Homeschooling has allowed these brothers to excel in academics and learn outside the box by researching, traveling, and giving back to the community. In their third year of homeschooling, they have engaged in important work.
This semester, Kaleb and Kaden enrolled in US Government together to better understand the principles that led to the creation of the Constitution and to better understand the electoral process in this year’s presidential election.
They are involved and committed with Soar ‘N Deep, an educational company that brings knowledge and awareness through exploration and adventure. Through videos and projects, they are able to participate in important work. They were part of a teen panel public service announcement broadcast on social media to highlight that every vote counts. Recently, they were interviewed for the NAACP Voting Symposium. This experience provided them an opportunity to share their passion and advocacy for the power of voter participation even though they are not yet old enough to vote.
They created a live talent show #istandwiththebatwa to bring awareness to the culturally important and endangered Batwa tribe in Uganda who have been displaced from their land where they thrived for centuries.
Kaleb and Kaden are accomplished Brazilian martial artists of capoeira and have demonstrated this art at the 2019 iLEAD Talent Show! They also performed a rap. They are very talented rap artists, creating their own music.
Kaleb has a passion for the ocean and scuba diving and has studied with a mentor in San Diego. Kaleb was recently interviewed for a position on a podcast and was given the task to read a speech from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. He is an articulate and composed natural public speaker.
Kaden loves to fly and looks forward to being a pilot one day! He is part of the Young Eagles program at Compton Woodley airport and has earned flight hours including performing both takeoffs and landings with his co-pilot.
The Brown family enjoys traveling. They explore the history and learn from the communities they visit. They traveled extensively in Ethiopia in the Omo Valley visiting the Arbore, Dassanech, and Dorze tribes. Kaleb created a fantastic slideshow for his world history class to share what he learned with others!
Last February, the Brown Family traveled to the southern United States. They went to the New Orleans Mardi Gras in Louisiana and then visited the Whitney slave plantation in Alabama. Kaleb wrote about what he learned and felt in an essay for his US history course.
Both Kaleb and Kaden are committed to learning, having fun, and advocating for social justice.
For third grader Enzo Cosio and his family, iLEAD Exploration has felt like finding the last puzzle piece. Even though COVID-19 has shut down external get-togethers, iLEAD Exploration feels like the community they were searching for.
The family has been homeschooling since January 2020. Traditional school was never a good fit for them, and the more they learned about homeschooling, the more they felt it was worth considering. The traditional classroom always felt like something of a compromise because there was never enough time to go as deep as Enzo wanted to and he rarely was able to follow his passions toward deeper understanding of a subject. With homeschooling, Enzo has a chance to fully explore the subjects at hand — and the people who love him the most are his teachers.
Homeschooling has brought out the collaborator in Enzo. Rather than simply consuming his education, he partners with his teachers on it. During his nature school days, he collaborates with his friends, searching through tide pools or exploring Griffith Park. Even at eight years of age, he understands that a good day is one in which everyone finishes happy, definitely a win-win for everyone. He translates this growing empathy to his interest in the natural world (raising and releasing pollinators) and to his politics (marching in demonstrations and helping send postcards urging folks to vote).
Enzo is always wonderfully positive and enthusiastic about life. His mother said she was grumbling about how hard 2020 has been, and Enzo said, “Maybe, but 2020 is also the year we’ve all stayed home together and spent all this time together. Nobody had to travel for work. We raised chickens, which we probably wouldn’t have done if things were normal.” What a grateful and optimistic young man!
Enzo loves all things science, particularly marine biology. He loves to read adventure books and play math games with his mom. He likes documentaries and is always making up songs. He bakes bread with his grandfather, is learning to cook with his grandmother and loves to play Mario Kart with his dad. Enzo also enjoys boogie-boarding, rock painting, reading every day, playing with his dog and taking care of his backyard chickens, Alice, Martha and Momo.
Enzo is inspiring to those around him because he is so enthusiastic about everything he’s learning and enjoys talking about all the interesting projects he’s involved in.
The Libbrecht brothers, Logan (7) and Nathan (5), are not just family but also really good friends. These brothers enjoy homeschooling together through iLEAD Exploration and have been doing so for the past three years.
It takes a certain kind of kid to gladly and willingly give up his time and share his possessions in order to teach friends a new skill. Logan, who’s in 2nd grade, and Nathan, a kindergartener, routinely do this and embody the kindness and care that their parents model to those around them. You can find these boys any given afternoon at the beach teaching friends who don’t know how to surf the tricks of the trade. They give up their surfboards so that those around them can learn. These boys understand that when people around them are having fun and learning new things, then everyone is having fun. Their enthusiasm for the beach is infectious. They also work hard with their mom to accomplish the daily tasks of their academics day in and day out. The Libbrecht brothers certainly demonstrate that giving of themselves and caring for others is a win-win for everyone.
Logan and Nathan definitely love being active and outdoors. In addition to surfing and swimming, they enjoy skateboarding, biking, baseball, soccer, fishing, hiking, camping, running, snorkeling, climbing trees, exploring new places, building all sorts of things, conquering obstacle courses, and working out with their dad. The boys also participate in Awana Club, co-op, and Sunday fellowship at their church. They also spend time on intricate Lego builds and creations, paintings, piano, board games, and tool/workshop activities and on further developing their athletic skills.
Logan has a unique interest in operating mechanics, such as remote-controlled cars, drones, electric scooters/bikes, and robots. Nathan’s unique interest is in animals. He loves to learn about them and care for them. He has tamed a feral kitten to be his pet, taught the family’s foster puppies new tricks, and finds lizards and geckos to gently catch and release.
Although gratitude is something everyone can grow in, Logan and Nathan demonstrate their gratitude often. Logan appreciates hard work and enjoys showing gratitude by helping around the house. He is quick to make his brothers an egg breakfast, mow the lawn for his grandpa, or mop the floor for his mom. Although Nathan loves to receive gifts, he also shows gratitude in giving whether he is sharing snacks or toys with his brothers, giving away his toys, or practicing the subtle art of thinking first of others.
Abigail is a junior in her third year of homeschooling. This year, she is president of iLEAD’s National Honors Society and enjoys leading her peers. She enjoys finding new ideas to help encourage and support all of the members as they complete their service hours. She truly appreciates the flexibility that homeschooling provides, such as the opportunity to teach preschool weekly.
Abigail has many passions, including working with little kids, baking, and making spaces beautiful and homey. She enjoys helping friends plan and decorate parties, particularly making flower arrangements. Abigail wants to be a kindergarten or special-education teacher in her future, and she would be perfect for either job!
Spending time with friends and family is important to Abigail. She has a big heart for serving others and models servant leadership. She helps teach a preschool program at her church each week, prepping crafts, and designing activities for the kids. This is the highlight of her week as she finds so much joy working with kids. Abigail also loves coffee and enjoys making lattes for everyone who stops by her house. She loves serving in her church youth group, helping with events and social media.
In addition to her many hobbies, Abigail also makes videos of all her adventures, and even put them all on a website just for fun! She has even made camp and promo videos for her youth group, as well as a wedding video, and fun montages of trips to the beach and around town.
As a homeschooler, Abigail has traveled all around the United States, but she hopes to visit Ireland and Greece someday. Abigail is indeed an amazing learner and we are so proud to have her at iLEAD!
Do you need dog training? No problem! What about a custom-made skateboard? Again, no problem! iLEAD Exploration learners Preslee and Slater Casaus have you covered. This sister and brother duo, who have only just begun their homeschooling journey, definitely demonstrate the growth mindset and a commitment to putting first things first!
Preslee is a very sweet 6th grader with a big heart for all animals. She is continuing to grow in every aspect of her life. She has a passion for writing. She has millions of notebooks full of stories. She is great at keeping reminders and organizing what needs to be done daily. Her future looks bright, and she hopes one day to be a teacher. She loves training her beloved malti-poos, Maggie and Racer. Maggie knows over six tricks! Preslee is also currently learning to rollerblade.
Slater never gives up even when his work gets hard. He keeps pushing himself to learn new things and strives to learn outside his comfort zone. He loves math, and his long-term vision is to one day be an architect. He loves all sports and recently learned how to surf, after crashing many times in the ocean. He never gave up and kept getting back up. He started racing BMX at the age of three, and this has taught him the mindset of hard work. With his dad’s help, he also made his own skateboard and skateboard ramp!
After a particularly disappointing loss in a jiu jitsu tournament, someone told iLEAD Exploration learner Adrian Staab: “You never lose; you only learn.” A third grader who has earned a yellow-white belt in jiu jitsu, Adrian took this message to heart and came to understand that losing isn’t the end of the world; it’s just an opportunity to learn and grow. Now he happily applies this growth mindset to other aspects of life.
Homeschooling for Adrian started four years ago as a necessity since he had a problem with his esophagus that could cause him to choke easily and his parents didn’t feel comfortable sending him out to school. Homeschool not only provided a safer option but also the opportunity for outside classes with incredible teachers. Some of his favorites have been LEGO engineering, marine biology, Spanish, and theatre.
Another benefit of homeschooling is that Adrian can travel more easily with his family. Since his parents own their business that requires them to travel often, homeschooling allows Adrian to travel with them. The family believes travel is wonderfully educational, and it has enabled Adrian to visit many museums, learn about other states and countries, socialize with many different types of people, and so much more.
When it comes to “first things first,” being kind is the first and highest value for this family. Once, after Adrian won a jiu jitsu match a few years ago, the child who lost started crying and got really upset. Rather than celebrate his victory, Adrian immediately patted the other child on the back and gave him an encouraging speech about how great he did and how he should always believe in himself. Adrian’s parents were so proud that he put someone else’s feelings above his need to celebrate at that moment.
Adrian has won three gold medals in jiu jitsu tournaments. He is the highest-ranked child in his Muay Thai class. He also enjoys speech and debate, playing piano, and helping his parents with their business.
Homeschooling has shaped who Adrian is today. Having the option to customize Adrian’s learning, learn through travel, and focus on his growth has been awesome for the Staab family.
The Do family began homeschooling when they realized their younger daughter was struggling to keep up in a traditional school due to dyslexia. The family also loved the idea of interest-led learning, and they wanted these 5th and 3rd grade girls to love what they were studying and explore other areas they would otherwise never have explored. As an entrepreneurial family, they also wanted the girls to learn to be independent and consider all the possible options out there. Lastly, they wanted to be able to spend more quality time together as a family.
The Do family has put into practice tackling the hard things first since they started their homeschool journey. The family tackles all their “busy” projects at the beginning of the week, leaving the fun or less busy projects until the end. Ultimately, Fridays have always been their “Fri-yays!” and are filled with a fun learning activity. This comes naturally to the girls and has been their go-to schedule from the beginning.
A growth mindset is central to this family. They love using the word “yet” and have learned this is a powerful word. Examples: “I don’t know how to draw this yet” or “I can’t read a full chapter book yet, but I am working on it and will get there.” They also love to try new things. Often, when they’re trying new things, mistakes happen and difficulties arise, but they love to “try again.” Gianelle and Madilyn learn from their mistakes because they know mistakes are only teaching opportunities, and if they don’t try, they’ll never know the outcome. They also believe they can do hard things. As you can see, a positive mindset is a big part of their schooling and life in general. They enjoy writing in the Big Life Journal and listening to the related podcast.
Madilyn, age eight, has been interested in dance for years. She is now in her second year of ballet and her first year of contemporary. She started as a beginner in ballet and has successfully moved up to intermediate. Her goal is to be accepted into a pointe class and move up from there. She also enjoys video games, practicing piano, spending time with her friends, and playing with slime.
Gianelle, age ten, loves to sing. She fought through her fears of performing in public, which was a big step for her. She is passionate about helping others. Last year she was able to meet with the mayor of her city for an interview and to make a public video to ask her community to help her gather supplies to make care bags for people without housing. She was able to make 100 bags! She also loves to make crafts and sell them at kids’ business fairs and saves a portion of her earnings to give back. Gianelle also enjoys fashion, makeup lessons, and her ukulele.
This happy, busy 7th grader takes action to improve things. When Akiro sees areas he needs to grow in, academically or otherwise, he seeks out help and works hard to improve. For instance, Akiro has been working hard to shore up his math skills. As a homeschooler, Akiro can work at his own pace and focus on his individual needs. Through his determination and the freedom of homeschooling, he is proud to be confidently working in his math class at grade level. Akiro also acts proactively in areas beyond himself when he sees areas in our world that need help. An example of this can be seen in his last science project, which was a creative and out-of-the-box idea for eliminating the waste our world produces.
Animals and writing are two of Akiro’s passions that help give purpose to his life. Akiro loves to write, specifically to create imaginative stories. He has an interest in pursuing this for his future, so he consistently spends time working to get his amazing ideas onto paper. As he puts it, “I love to write because when I start to write, I get to be in my own world.” Akiro also cares deeply about animals. Once he even saved the life of a rescue cat by feeding it with a syringe. He has many pets and takes excellent care of them. His favorite animals, though they aren’t among his pets, are black panthers and sharks. He appreciates the quiet stealth of these master hunters.
Akiro also enjoys studying everything about Japan. He has taken Japanese classes for the past three years and is learning the language and culture. His goal is to visit there one day soon.
LEGOs are another interest of Akiro’s. He enjoys collecting them, playing with them, and repairing broken sets to give them new life. Homeschooling has also allowed Akiro to pursue a variety of classes and interests, from stagecraft to drawing, muay thai, and even stunt work. He enjoys trying new things and seeing which of these hobbies and interests can enhance his learning in his core subjects.
The Ackah-Miezah family are longtime successful homeschoolers starting their 12th year learning from home and their fourth year with iLEAD. Lena Ruisseau (grade 12), Oliver, (grade 10), and Edward Winston, (grade 6) have all made the best of their time with iLEAD Exploration.
These learners are incredibly proactive about social justice, their education, and their extracurricular activities. Over the summer, the Ackah-Miezah learners invested time in reading books that focus on social justice issues, having lots of family conversations about social justice, and initiating talks with peers and adults about their views on how we can create a more just and equitable world, as well as attending rallies around social justice causes. Ruisseau has created a “social justice” club with a group of friends who will gather monthly over the next school year to discuss and participate in activities, which they hope will proactively create change. Some of the events on the schedule include feeding the homeless in downtown LA, attending marches, raising money for causes they are passionate about, and volunteering at an urban garden.
These learners have also all been proactive about the kinds of topics they want to study this year. Even though the curriculum is aimed at Winston, the whole family is super excited to dive into a decolonized history curriculum called Woke Homeschooling. They are looking forward to all the beautiful and educational books it covers. Winston had his passion for African American History piqued this past year when he did a unit for Black History Month featuring important events and people in the Civil Rights Movement.
In addition to their foresight and preparation, the Ackah-Miezahs also live with purpose: acting as youth mentors to younger children and always representing their biracial family with pride. These learners work hard in all they do, including supporting the family business, Cafe Ruisseau in Playa Vista. They spend all day on Saturday and many days during the summer at the cafe talking with customers, wiping down tables, running errands, and organizing the stockroom. The entire family has set out to be purposeful about creating a safe coffee community where all people can come and enjoy coffee, community, and conversation. Even though their outdoor cafe has taken a big hit because of COVID 19, the Ackah-Miezah family is committed to working as a family in their black-owned-and-operated business to best serve their customers.
Overall the Ackah-Miezah learners are self-motivated to finish their school work at a high level, and their mom sees herself as more of a coach and a cheerleader than the motivator. They bring this dedication to being the best they can be to track (Ruisseau), basketball and football (Oliver) and basketball (Winston).
Ruisseau is back at iLEAD Exploration after two years of private high school. She was awarded with the junior year English award and has been an honor roll student all her high school years. She enjoys running track and jumping long jump and triple jump. She has been mentoring youth in her community since the age of 13. This year she is volunteering as a youth mentor at a local urban garden called “Black Thumb Garden.” She is also going to take an iLEAD Online acting class for the first time this semester. She enjoys swimming, surfing, skiing, hiking, watching movies, reading, eating out, spinning, workout classes, spending time with friends, traveling, church, and horseback riding. Oliver enjoys basketball, football, surfing, skiing, traveling, swimming, eating out, hiking, video games, Magic the Gathering, science, earning money, church, and riding quads. Winston plays hours of basketball every day. He enjoys being the baby of the family and all the perks that come with it. His best friends are his older siblings, and he loves playing piano with the Burbank Music Academy. He also enjoys video games, traveling, riding quads, swimming, surfing, skiing, and watching movies with his family.
The Ackah-Miezahs really enjoy traveling together and went on some adventures this summer to the Yuba River in Northern California, where they cliff jumped into the river, inner tubed, and hiked to majestic waterfalls. They also took a surfing trip to Santa Cruz, California, because they love to surf together and with friends. They took another jaunt to the San Juan Islands in Washington state for ten days of island fun on the beaches, swimming in the lakes, hiking, and lots and lots of family tennis.
Overall, the family appreciates the time homeschool affords them to invest in their children and their education, which is equipping them to be kind, successful, emotionally intelligent, and fulfilled adults.
iLEAD Exploration 8th grader Layla Solano is new to homeschooling this year, but you would not know it with how creative and connected she has been with so much of what she has studied this year. Her enthusiasm for what she has learned is palpable when you hear her speak about the historical figures, literature, and cultures she has studied. Layla has been taking classes with a co-op and has been homeschooling with her mom, and she often has beautiful poems, stories, or artwork to accompany her assignments. She has the ability to build a connection and feel a relationship not only with her studies but with people too.
Layla is part of a close church community, a small group of people who are like family and have helped to shape so much of who she is. She has been fortunate to have many people of all ages, races, and cultures invest in her and love her, and these relationships have helped her understand how to interact with so many people. It has become natural for her to be able to socialize and have conversations many people, young and old. Her family has tried to instill in her an outward focus on life. Who can she encourage? Whose day can she brighten by being kind and giving? She has a way of thinking of others while being aware and grateful for all she is lucky to have. Through the years, Layla’s parents have been open with her and willing to engage in whatever discussions she’s interested in. It is this that has made her confident in who she is and secure in knowing that she will always be supported and loved.
Layla has many interests: music, singing, acting, animals, and some pretty cool hobbies, like skateboarding! She comes from a huge music-loving family, so she has been exposed to music since she was little. Her singing talent and passion have blossomed and helped her learn how to persevere through those challenging times when things don’t come easy. In recent years, she has begun acting in movies and commercials, which has helped her develop the confidence to try new and scary things. Her involvement in auditions has taught her that she can focus only on doing her best and not on the outcome or opinions of others. She has learned that if something is meant for her, then it will happen. When things don’t work out as planned, she acknowledges the validity of her feelings and works to surrender the disappointment, so she can move forward with a peaceful, grateful heart. These are the experiences that also define Layla on her homeschooling path. She is grateful that being a learner with iLEAD has allowed her to do all the things she loves, while still being able to dig deep and get creative with all her subjects. She is excited to see where her journey with iLEAD takes her next year when she begins high school.
Look out, world! The Dadsi sisters are on the move! In their second year with iLEAD Exploration, Nyla and Ayah Dadsi are enjoying the opportunity that independent study provides to delve deep into subjects they are passionate about and to incorporate their love for art, music, politics, and languages into their daily studies. Because of their diverse interests, the girls have had ample opportunities to develop their social intelligence skills. Both are empathetic and good listeners. They respect others’ views and are open to having conversations with everyone regardless of whether they agree with them or not.
Ayah is a 3rd grader who loves playing soccer, roller skating, skateboarding, and riding her scooter. The quarantine hasn’t stopped her, as she can still be found pushing her little sisters (and big sister) up and down hallways on anything that has wheels! She loves math and science and has strong interests in politics and world events. She can be found helping her classmates, making sure everyone feels included and accepted, often going out of her way to speak up against any injustice she sees. Don’t be surprised if you see her on the front page of a newspaper one day, fighting for human rights or breaking some world record in athletics!
Nyla is a 6th grader and talented musician and artist. She can always be found singing or editing videos about her newest favorite musician and memorizing every song she sings. She played violin for three years, recently switched to ukulele and voice lessons, and is looking forward to performing in a virtual recital this month. Nyla loves science and social studies and has an affinity for languages, creative writing, and digital art. She enjoys rollerblading and helping take care of her two baby sisters, as well as cooking and baking new recipes while listening to her favorite music. She, too, is passionate about helping others and fighting for human rights and wants to change this world for the better!
Both Ayah and Nyla speak Arabic, Darija (the Moroccan dialect), and study French at home. They love to play with their baby sisters, play online games, go to the beach with their family, and travel. During the quarantine, they have been busy inventing a new board game, playing online with friends, and writing inspiring chalk messages on the sidewalk for others. They are anxious to see their grandparents, travel again with family, and see their friends at the OC Learning Studio. In the meantime, they are busy spreading positivity and empathy from home as much as possible.
Eighth grade iLEAD Exploration learner Lindsey Yang showed a great interest and love for music from an early age when watching her older sister play piano. By the time she was 5, Lindsey demonstrated an internal discipline that allowed her to sit and play on her own for hours at a time. Her mom decided to have Lindsey begin piano lessons at age 8. Lindsey has always enjoyed both school and music. However, after entering middle school, she found it more difficult to find the time to practice and prepare for competitions due to the heavy workload of homework outside of her regular school day.
Enrolling in 2018 with iLEAD Exploration has allowed Lindsey to have the freedom and flexibility to make her own schedule in balancing her music and also her academics. She has been able to greatly improve her technical skills and to also grow and mature musically through a variety of activities to widen her perspective. Through iLEAD Exploration, Lindsey has been able to take music theory classes and swimming lessons. Lindsey displays social intelligence in her diligence in pursuing music. She participates in music festivals, competitions, master classes and recitals. Lindsey has had many opportunities to travel to various places, experience different cultures and meet new people.
Lindsey’s musical bio is long and extensive and includes many competitions and accomplishments in both the states and abroad. Last summer, Lindsey participated in a two-week long music festival in Italy where she had the privilege to learn from pianists and professors from various countries around the world. Students came together with different backgrounds and languages to communicate in their common passion, music. They were able to learn from one another and share new ideas and musical interpretations. Lindsey is also a member of a local Chamber Music group that practices and prepares together for performances.
Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all of Lindsey’s competitions and concerts have been canceled. She continues to take her lessons via Zoom and is using this time to learn and practice new songs that she has always wanted to play. Her chamber music members are planning to record their music individually and put together a “quarantine chamber music video” online.
When Lindsey is not playing piano, she also enjoys reading, baking with her sister, spending time with her friends and dog Lucky, traveling, and playing guitar with her dad. She is also looking forward to her newest pursuit of harvesting her home-grown vegetables to share with her neighbors.
Mason Harris is an extraordinary 1st grade iLEAD Exploration learner who shows social intelligence by being very empathetic. In fact, Mason often says “I like to help people because it’s kind. Everyone should help!” It isn’t surprising to learn that Mason loves to volunteer and help others. He assists his elderly neighbors by bringing in their trash cans, reads to younger kids and helps with crafts and snacks at the Moms of Preschool (MOPS) group, helps with his baby brother, passes out bulletins at church, brings food and blankets to the animals at the Humane Society, and donates his Halloween candy to the troops.
Mason’s hobbies include building with Legos, performing magic tricks, learning about science and building things with his dad. He loves being outdoors, hiking, camping and exploring. He loves to travel and see new things. His family recently took a trip to the Central Coast where they visited Hearst Castle, Pismo Beach and Big Sur. Mason made a really cool travel brochure highlighting what he learned. Mason also enjoys helping his mom cook.
Ami Kharitonov is graduating from middle school this year and will be a freshman with iLEAD Exploration. He has been with iLEAD since 2016 and speaks English and some Russian. Ami’s interests are stop motion animation and mixed martial arts. He is at a senior premier level with the National Children’s Chorus.
Name: Ami Kharitonov
What languages do you speak?
English and some Russian
What is your favorite saying in your native language?
What is a family tradition that you enjoy?
Passover – Hide the Matzah tradition. Adults hide the matzo around in a room and children try to find it. Whoever finds it gets a prize.
What career would you like to have? How would being bilingual help you in your career?
Animation and film production. Russian would help in making friends.
What is your favorite subject? Why?
History is my favorite subject as you learn about facts and reasons in the form of stories.
Has being multilingual allowed you any special opportunities?
Yes, you can have private conversations with someone in public.
What is your favorite hobby?
Stop motion animation.
What advice would you give to someone trying to learn a new language?
Practice consistently. You can take breaks when learning a new language, but longer breaks will make you forget the material.