iLEAD Exploration learner Olivia Armstrong has been homeschooled for about six years. She started with early preschool curriculum at two and a half years old and is currently working on completing 3rd grade at age 8. The family was drawn to homeschooling because it enables them to provide one-on-one, focused instruction for Olivia in all her subjects, to customize her curriculum, and to empower her advance at her own pace.
Olivia loves to dance. She dances competitively throughout the year with the dance company Project 21. She spends 16-20 hours or more per week dancing in various styles, including ballet, jazz, ballroom, contemporary, musical theatre, and more. Some of Olivia‘s favorite things about dancing include attending conventions and master classes, learning from her teachers at Project 21, and working hard alongside her friends. Olivia also really enjoys being an ambassador for the dance wear brand Tiger Friday. As a TIGERCUB, she has had the opportunity to meet so many amazingly talented dancers from around the country and to learn from teachers she may not have otherwise had the opportunity to take class with.
With a very demanding schedule, Olivia has learned to “put first things first” by prioritizing her tasks, creating routines, being consistent in her work ethic, and establishing and focusing on what needs to be accomplished day by day in order to get everything done and meet her goals.
Most importantly, Olivia has learned to continually put in the required work each day and do what’s needed, even at times when she doesn’t feel like doing it. Olivia embodies the idea of grit by balancing a full schedule with all of her work for school and dance, especially at times when things don’t go as planned or when additional tasks are added unexpectedly.
Olivia particularly enjoys reading and writing, as well as learning about other countries and cultures. Olivia began reading the Harry Potter series this past fall. She is learning French, and in January she started working on 4th grade language arts and science. In addition to dance, Olivia also likes to draw, paint, and craft. She loves her two chihuahuas and all things Disney. Olivia is responsible for a backyard kitchen garden, where she grows many things throughout the year, from kale and lettuce to broccoli and tomatoes. She is also learning how to cook and bake and was able to help prepare food for the whole family at Christmas.
To dance “on pointe” is the ultimate goal of serious ballet students, and it is the same for iLEAD Exploration learner Emma Weisenberger. The Weisenberger family has been homeschooling for five years. Homeschooling has given the family more time to be together to pursue passions like ballet and to complete schoolwork at their own pace.
Since it is her “first thing,” Emma sets a specific amount of time weekly for schoolwork and for ballet practice. She has a full schedule and knows that hard work and discipline are required for her to accomplish her goals. Emma also displays perseverance and doesn’t give up easily. She will practice her little heart out until she has successfully navigated her studies and learned her ballet routines.
Emma dances with American Ballet Theater Gillespie School (ABT) in their children’s division. She asked to take ballet at age four and has been twirling around ever since. Her favorite ballets are Don Quixote, The Nutcracker, and ABT’s Of Love and Rage. One of her favorite memories is getting to dance onstage at Segerstrom with the ABT company and “falling asleep” on her favorite dancer’s lap in The Nutcracker.
This hardworking 4th grader also loves to create crafts, hike, spend time outside, and hang out with her friends. Emma has also been able to participate in the American Ballet Theater summer intensive in New York as well as the Joffrey Ballet summer intensive. Someday Emma hopes to be a professional ballet dancer in New York with the ABT company.
The Wuns are a family who play together and learn together! Meet iLEAD Exploration learners Mailee (8th grade) and Keoni (6th grade)!
The Wuns have been homeschooling for the past three years. They describe choosing to homeschool as the best decision they have made. Mailee and Keoni are so much happier and learning at their level with their preferred learning style. This was not always the case. Even though their mom, a 20 plus-year veteran of private and public school teaching, had always wanted to homeschool, their dad wasn’t so sure. He was hesitant because of the old “homeschool” stereotypes. After talking to an experienced homeschooling friend about all the amazing resources available, he became willing and excited to give it a try.
Even though both Mailee and Keoni excel at learning at home, math lessons had become a bit of a challenge. Both learners were complaining, saying they didn’t like math. Well, this didn’t fly with their math-loving mama! Since both learners were strong in math, she knew she just needed to find out how to make it more enjoyable for them. The family was able to choose teachers, curriculum, and other activities to best fit each learner’s personality and learning style. It turns out, making math the first lesson of the day (putting first things first), made a huge difference in their attitude and success.
Mailee has been working hard at ballet and just moved up a level. She is so proud of herself! She also loves gymnastics, art, and music. She has shown a lot of grit by sticking with ballet classes via Zoom, which is not easy. She was able to participate in an online dance show highlighting what she has learned and worked so hard to achieve.
Keoni loves baseball and is really good at it. He recently tried out for a competitive travel baseball team. He made the team but didn’t have a starting position due to not being in his top shape. He knew he had some hard work ahead of him to earn a starting spot on the team. He strove to put first things first with baseball. He exhibited such grit in achieving this goal: exercising with ladders and cones out back, cardio workouts on YouTube, and daily fielding practice. After a lot of difficult training and determination, Keoni has gotten back in shape for baseball and even earned a starting position in his last game this season. He played hard and did a great job! He saw firsthand how putting first things first and demonstrating perseverance can pay off.
Aside from baseball, Keoni enjoys sailing and robotics, while Mailee is drawn to ballet and acting. Overall, Mailee and Keoni have been more curious in their learning since the family began homeschooling. Since homeschooling is flexible, they are able to travel more and do school on the go at times. This has initiated new curiosities and questions about the places they visit and new things they see. A perfect example is when they recently traveled to Lake Havasu, Arizona, for Keoni’s baseball tournament. They were able to take a hands-on learning approach while visiting lakes, dams, windmills, and the London Bridge in field-trip style.
Mailee and Keoni have attended the OC Learning Studio for the last three years and have made good friends and learned so much. They love their teachers and have grown in their leadership skills, working with other learners on projects and book discussions.
iLEAD Exploration learners Mateo and Quinn Garcia have been homeschooling for three years. Originally, they began homeschooling to have more time together as a family after a particularly trying year. They had planned to return to brick-and-mortar school after the first year, Quinn to the Waldorf school for 6th grade, and Mateo to a local public high school.
After one year of homeschooling, both learners discovered they enjoyed the rigor of homeschooling. They decided to continue so that they could pursue their outside interests. Homeschooling has allowed them to dive into the topics that interest them most and to focus on independent projects.
The essence of synergy is to value and respect our differences, build on strengths, and compensate for weaknesses. Through family time, friendships, and other outside interests, the Garcia Family has been given the opportunity to practice this habit to build and reinforce a mindset that says, “I get along well with others — even people who are different from me.” For curious learners like Mateo (11th grade) and Quinn (7th grade), it is less important to have the “right” answers and more important to create an environment where questioning and learning can occur.
Eighteen-year-old Mateo has many active hobbies; he enjoys surfing, skating, and snowboarding. He is also an accomplished musician. He plays bass and guitar and studied music at Los Rios Rock School in San Juan Capistrano with a Grammy-winning musician as his mentor. He plays in the advanced live group at his rock school, performing at multiple venues around Orange County, including House of Blues and Coach House. Mateo has worked with the younger and less experienced students at his school, volunteering as a junior instructor. Mateo played bass on a re-creation of The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” album through Los Rios, which was a final contender for a Grammy nomination for 2020. He is currently in a band that plans to release an album of original music soon. Mateo has taken community college courses in music, in addition to his regular curriculum load through iLEAD. Mateo is particularly interested in music technology and production. Mateo also really loves the ocean. He often cleans our local beach, which he can walk to, after rainstorms or high surf. He is conscientious and diligent. Mateo is very good at balancing his work and leisure activities.
Quinn (7th grade) is as accomplished as her brother. She enjoys reading, writing, creating, and surfing. Quinn is a multitalented young lady and never has trouble filling her time. She is nearly always writing or creating something. Her mind is full of imagination for stories and drawings. When she isn’t creating new work, she is reading. She hopes to become a published author at a young age. She loves to recommend books to other people and likes to say that she is a “book doctor,” giving a prescription to cure what ails you. Quinn is currently creating content with the intention of either publishing a blog or hosting a website for her fan fiction and fan art. She is a member of South Coast Repertory Theatre’s Junior Players ensemble, which is a select group of young actors that participate in paid performances at the theatre. In addition, Quinn performed in A Christmas Carol at South Coast Repertory as one of the Cratchit children. She also participates in musical theatre classes. Since COVID-19, Quinn has acted in two radio plays, and she wrote a play that was performed virtually through Little Fish Theatre in San Pedro, CA. Most recently, she won Drama Notebook’s contest for Best Original Monologue. Lately, Quinn has enjoyed making videos of her science experiments.
I, Heather, am a writer. I find fulfillment in expressing myself through the written word, and this results in short stories, novellas, and drafts of books and TV scripts. I am passionate about writing content for future generations that is inspiring, encouraging, and challenges them to discover who they are and establish their beliefs. I have won a Sweepstakes Ribbon for my creative short story at the L.A. County Fair, have edited and published a children’s book, and have written and published two historical fiction novellas. Editing and composition are also passions of mine, which I practice while creating newsletters. In addition, I enjoy helping others with their struggles. In the future, I hope to become a motivational speaker and/or a mentor.
I, Hope, am an artist. My two biggest passions in life are helping others and expressing myself through artwork, both of which I hope to do in my future as an art therapist. I love art of any kind and have worked with almost every medium, including watercolor, acrylic, oil, pastel, charcoal, etc. One of my new favorite mediums, however, is digital media, in which I use a drawing tablet to paint on my computer. I draw inspiration from the world around me, whether it is nature, music, or movies, using it to paint scenery and characters. Like my sister, I have entered some of my drawings into the L.A. County Fair, and have received multiple 1st place awards and sweepstakes. I continue to sharpen my gifts by practicing new styles and entering into art challenges, as well as creating character concept art for an L.A. director (who happens to be my cousin!). I hope to not only spread light and joy through my art in my future career but in my everyday life.
We continue to develop our gifts and passions through the flexibility of being learners through iLEAD Exploration. Our schedule allows us hours of time for rehearsals, shows, recitals, tournaments, writing, and art. We are excited about our futures and hope to make a difference in our world through our gifts. We understand that getting the most out of life isn’t about how much we keep for ourselves, but how much we pour into others.
Thank you, Heather and Hope, for sharing your stories with us! We are so proud of you and grateful to have you as part of our iLEAD family!
Luggage + Library = Elisabeth the Book Lover! 💜
The Sur family started with iLEAD when Elisabeth was beginning her educational journey as a budding kindergartner just last fall. They chose homeschooling because they knew these foundational years were important and wanted her learning lens to see the good, the true and the beautiful! Mom was also excited about the chance to learn alongside her, not wanting to miss any part of this childhood phase of curiosity and wonder.
Elisabeth enjoys being a daughter, sister, cousin and looks up to the older friends who play an important part in her young life. She rotates well between the relational roles of a confident leader to the littles who look up to her and learning from older friends. Elisabeth’s ability to see multiple perspectives helps her synergize in a wide range of relationships.
Elisabeth is a curious first grade scholar. She delights in the exploration of questions, such as “What are Kingdoms like?” “What’s involved with going on a quest?” Even the idea of a time travel and how to create a time machine is on her exploration checklist.
Her endless thirst for more knowledge has led her to a strong love for literature. She has a broad reading range and wonderful stamina for sitting with a stack of books to explore and absorb! Elisabeth loves books so much that her mom has to take rolling luggage to the library to haul all the books home! Elisabeth is also excited by the idea of creating her own library of books and is currently writing and illustrating several little readers for her younger sister to enjoy.
iLEAD’s independent and flexible learning model has empowered Elisabeth to thrive in her quest to become a budding children’s author. We can’t wait to see your illustrated works on shelves someday, Elisabeth!
DreamUp to Space is a project that challenges young people to understand and explore the impact that microgravity has on matter. Through a partnership with DreamUp, iLEAD learners in grades 5-12 are inspired to develop the skills and knowledge to design, develop, and propose an experiment that could be run on the International Space Station.
In July of 2020, two teams from iLEAD Schools were selected for flight in the 2020 DreamUp to Space Virtual Mission & Experiment Design Challenge. Currently, learners from across the network are collaborating on these two teams — Team Carrot and Team Adzuki — in preparation for a spring launch of their experiments to the International Space Station.
Each learner has unique interests, strengths, and goals to bring to each team. We’d like to introduce you to our team members! Today we’re introducing Raegan Brown!
Meet Raegan Brown, Team Carrot
A 14-year-old freshman at iLEAD Exploration, Raegan has a passion for everything creative and loves to express herself through graphic design, art, and science. Among her many dreams and aspirations, Raegan would like to get into marketing and graphic design. She’s currently taking AP psychology, and in her spare time she loves to act and participate in theatre. Right now she has an LA agent and has been able to do commercials and audition for popular series and movies for major networks like Netflix, Nickelodeon, ABC, Disney, Warner Bros. Pictures, and Fox. When she gets the chance, Raegan loves to bake snickerdoodles, scones, and anything strawberry flavored!
We had the chance to ask Raegan a few questions!
Q&A with Raegan
How does it feel knowing that you have an opportunity that very few people have — to be part of a team sending an experiment to space?
“It feels great to know that I’m participating in such an amazing production, and I’m ever so grateful to have this opportunity to participate with such an incredible team and talented members.”
What’s a fun fact about you?
“I love everything Marvel! I’ve seen all the movies and television shows, I have merch, and I’ve recently gotten into the comic books!”
In what ways has this experience influenced or inspired you?
“After badging up with the DreamUp to Space program, I now can look at science in a way I’ve never looked at it before: Science is now very fun for me. It used to feel like another chore, and it is now one of my favorite subjects in school.”
We look forward to introducing more team members to you soon!
iLEAD Exploration 6th grader Sebastian Buckhalter encompasses all that is wonderful about homeschooling. This is his second year with iLEAD Exploration, and he has been enjoying the flexibility to learn, explore, and follow his passions.
Sebastian has been a dedicated ice hockey player since the very early age of two. His family decided to look into alternative education options that would allow him the freedom to find a healthy and sustainable balance between hockey and his education.
Although most children are naturally curious about the world they live in, Sebastian takes it a step further. He loves project-based learning and dives into concepts. Sebastian’s curiosity has driven him to a love of science and, in particular, marine biology. He hopes to one day become a marine biologist. It is not uncommon for him to show up to learning period meetings with huge displays, dioramas, field trip pictures, experiments, and projects. Always eager to learn something new, Sebastian explores his creative side through art and music as well.
A bonus to homeschooling is that Sebastian and his family explore and adventure together!
What is your favorite saying in your native language?
My favorite saying is “Que si” because it’s very funny when I say it to my dad when I play around.
What is a family tradition that you enjoy?
Every year in December, we go to this place called Candy Cane Lane. We go with the family to see the lights and walk while we’re drinking hot chocolate.
What career would you like to have?
I would like to have a job making video games or toys.
What is your favorite subject?
I like science because you can see cool reactions and experiments.
Has being multilingual allowed you any special opportunities?
No, I don’t think so. I get treated the same as others.
What is your favorite hobby?
My favorite hobby is to build Legos, look at science experiments on YouTube, and puzzles.
What advice would you give to someone trying to learn a new language?
There’s help everywhere. It will get hard, but it will get better. Don’t worry—you’ll get it.
How long have you been homeschooling?
Almost a year.
What do you like about homeschooling?
I get to stay at home and be comfortable. And I like the classes given to me because I like the kids in my class.
iLEAD Exploration kindergartener Olivia Edwards lights up a room with her smile and enthusiasm about her studies. She really does embody optimism, and her family loves to make learning fun, engaging, and memorable.
Two years ago, Olivia’s family became interested in homeschooling because it would allow them to spend more time as a family. They appreciate the flexibility it gives their days, the outside time it allows, and the ability to focus on their kids’ strengths.
Olivia is always so eager to learn! She is constantly asking questions and is proactive about learning the new things presented to her in creative ways, such as memorizing songs to help her learn states and capitals, repeating chants to memorize parts of the body, and adding hand movements to help her remember key information about her studies. Olivia is a great collaborative learner! She loves to synergize within her homeschool group and really enjoys working with others. Her extroverted nature goes perfectly with this month’s focus.
Olivia is not only eager to learn; she is genuinely excited about it! She is optimistic about everything and excited to share all that she has learned with such passion and joy. She always has a good attitude about her coursework and is having so much fun learning! Olivia is such a curious learner! She is always wanting to learn more. She engages in everything with a sense of excitement and wonder. She loves to ask questions and search for answers.
Olivia has many hobbies and interests. She loves drawing, making up stories, playing with her American Girl doll, reading, and painting. She also enjoys riding her bike and swimming and is looking forward to playing basketball and swimming more this summer.
Hey, I’m an Aussie who moved to Los Angeles almost 5 years ago as my brother is an actor and musician.
I have always loved sports. At one time, I was even pursuing professional soccer but, I didn’t really have the passion for it. However, about a year and a half ago, I decided on a career in stunts. My brother and most of my friends are actors, and while I’ve never had any interest in acting, stunts are something that fill me with so much excitement. I knew right away that stunts and I were a perfect match.
So for the past eighteen months, I have been studying taekwondo, wushu, trapeze, silks, sword-fighting, bo staff spinning, parkour, and tricking. I have made some great relationships with stunt coordinators and met people that are featured in the Avengers, Wonder Woman, Birds of Prey movies, and many more. The one thing they all tell me is, “You are so lucky to start so young.”
Being a student of iLEAD Exploration has allowed me to work all these lessons into my existing academic curriculum to be able to train with industry professionals on their timetables. I’ve found it’s been a great balance to do a couple of hours of physical work and then a couple of hours at my desk. I am so very grateful to iLEAD that it has allowed me to dedicate many hours to my career, giving me a head start in a competitive and physical industry.
The high school team at iLEAD is so proud of you, Amy, and we look forward to seeing you and your awesome moves on the big screen someday!
When 3rd grade iLEAD Exploration learner Fiona Zoss first started reading, it was tough for her to finish one chapter of a book. Since then, she has developed a love for reading and reads every moment she can. She recently wrote her favorite author, Ellen Miles, who penned The Puppy Place series. Surprisingly, Ms. Miles sent a lovely card and wrote her encouraging words to continue with her love of reading. Fiona definitely took Ms. Miles’ advice and is currently reading an average of four books per day.
Fiona’s other passion is dance. Due to the pandemic, she hasn’t been able to train in the studio, but she has embraced other ways to stay inspired and continue doing what she loves. Despite all the changes, Fiona remains optimistic and is currently preparing for her first solo. Dance gives Fiona joy, and it gives those around her joy to watch her perform and grow her talent.
Every month Fiona sets goals and achieves them, whether mastering Stack the States, preparing for a virtual spelling bee, conducting a new science experiment, or just trying something new. She is a joyful example of a thriving 3rd grader.
Fiona and her family enjoy traveling, and although they haven’t been able to go very far lately, this past month Fiona went on a little field trip to tour Fox Studios. She learned a lot about the history of the Fox Lot and got to see some of the studio’s cool sets. She also enjoys hiking several times per week. Fiona is a talented artist and incorporates art projects into most of her units of study.
Overall, Fiona has had a successful first year of homeschooling!
Have you ever met a ninja warrior who is also a dodgeball champion? Well, look no further: We would like you to meet iLEAD Exploration learner Ethan Datt!
Ethan, age 10, has been homeschooling for four years now. His family decided to homeschool so that their children would have an education based on the values of their family. They wanted to put an emphasis on leadership, growth mindset, finance, morals, and values. They also wanted their children to get the attention they needed while providing an individualized learning environment.
Ethan does his best to be proactive by making sure he completes work ahead of schedule. He is a positive and fun person to be around. He shows optimism daily in various tasks and as he communicates with others. Ethan shows his optimism for his future by always talking about the life he will live as an adult. He aspires to own a gas station “because people will always need gas” and so his business will thrive. He also plans to be married and have a family.
Ethan loves to boogie board at the beach, skateboard and travel. Last year he won Jr. American Ninja Warrior for the city of Santa Clarita. He was also featured in the Santa Clarita Valley Signal newspaper for his donations to the children in the ER. A fun fact about the Datt family is they have won two first-place trophies from the Canyon Country Recreation Center for family dodgeball.
Ethan enjoys entertaining family and friends with his sense of humor. He is extremely confident and can make friends anywhere he goes. He is certainly the light in any room.
iLEAD Exploration learner Tyson Olivieri is a four-time jiu-jitsu world champion. This talented 8th grader is also a top-ranked athlete for Sports Jiu-Jitsu International Federation in both Gi and NoGi.
It’s easy to see that Tyson acts daily upon this month’s habit from the 7 Habits: “Be proactive.” He trains up to two hours every day at his dojo and puts in extra time at home. He is always eager to learn new tips to better himself as an athlete. Despite the fact that there are currently no competitions, he trains hard daily to keep his skills sharp so that he will be ready when competitions resume. Tyson is an excellent example of being proactive even when things are difficult.
Tyson, age 13, began his homeschool journey four years ago when some learning challenges led his family to seek options outside of the traditional classroom. They found that homeschooling allowed Tyson to learn in a way that works best for him. It has turned out to be the best decision for Tyson and his education.
During his years homeschooling, Tyson has shown optimism while working through many challenges, including dyslexia and ADHD, to become a successful learner. iLEAD has helped support Tyson by giving him the tools and resources he needs to be successful in his education. Jiu-jitsu has also helped instill optimism in him and has given him the confidence he needs to keep working hard in school.
Tyson is a friendly, positive, and outgoing kid. At jiu-jitsu competitions, he has been nicknamed the Social Butterfly of the Bullpen. While he waits for a match, he likes to chat with his opponents about common interests, such as video games and surfing. Aside from jiu-jitsu, Tyson enjoys surfing, skateboarding, video gaming, reading, and playing the guitar. He has long aspired to own a business, so last year he started his own sticker business called Stick Sticky Stickers and makes unique and custom stickers.
Thank goodness for the endless supply of ebooks at Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL)! iLEAD Exploration fourth grade learner Faye Battat is an insatiably voracious reader and LAPL helps keep her immersed in reading material. She loves reading anything and everything she can get her hands on, whether it is fantasy, classics, poetry, mystery, or 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 worksheets and activities they will need every 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 she 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 comic books, complete with very accurate facial expressions. She also enjoys outdoor activities, such as climbing trees, riding a bike, visiting the beach, hiking, rock climbing, and swimming.
It is clear to see that Faye is never afraid to roll up her sleeves and dig into 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 mentally prepare her for what lies ahead. The schedule includes break times for things she enjoys, such as 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, which 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.