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May 13, 2020 @ 07:00

Learner Spotlights

Our News & Events

Learner Spotlight: Nolan Grimes


Last year, Nolan Grimes started training at Firestorm Freerunning and Acrobatics, a parkour gym. This is a popular vendor with iLEAD learners who dream of one day competing on America Ninja Warrior!

From day one, Nolan’s coach, Richard “Freelove” Young, passionately encouraged him as he began training in floor, vaults, walls and bars. Before long, Nolan advanced to the next rank. Even though he received a new coach, he continued his relationship with Coach Freelove during open gym hours.

Unfortunately, Coach Freelove sustained serious injuries at a parkour competition in Las Vegas. Firestorm started a GoFundMe campaign to help him cover his medical bills and living expenses during his recovery. Nolan decided that day to raise funds for his coach. He cleaned up his bike, dug through his toys, prepared cupcakes, cookies, brownies and fresh lemonade to sell, and he made a banner stating why he was having a yard sale. News got out to neighbors and friends, and by the end of the day, Nolan raised over $130 for his coach!

That week, he wrote his coach a letter, added the money, and gave it to him before class. Seeing his coach cry and hug him made Nolan feel glad he was able to give him something in return for all he had given to Nolan over the year. To this day, they have a special relationship, and happily, Nolan has him as his coach once again! It has been an incredibly positive environment for Nolan, where he has grown not only in technique and skills, but also in character.

Nolan has been surrounded by coaches who model sacrifice, hard work, and who always encourage support and generosity!

Learner Spotlight: Mason Sanders

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Mason Sanders is a passionate learner who loves homeschooling because it gives him the freedom to be outdoors and involved in kinesthetic, active learning. Homeschooling also gives him the time to work with his community. Whether he is at the fire station working with his local firefighters on a toy drive, or corresponding with his longtime friend, Vanessa, who his family sponsors through Children’s International, Mason is happiest when he is giving to others.

Since Mason’s mom, Angie, is a certified parent educator, Mason and his family work on developing emotional intelligence and empathy as part of their daily life practices. Recently, Mason embraced a proud leadership role in a class that earned him his radKIDS Personal Empowerment Safety Education certification. In addition, he successfully ran a lemonade stand and chose to donate much of the proceeds to the Humane Society. He is a devoted animal lover, and his two cats and dog mean the world to him!

On the top of Mason’s mom and dad’s wedding cake sat Han Solo and Princess Leia, so how could Mason NOT be a huge Star Wars fan? Learning to be a stellar Jedi, he attended Galactic Warrior classes and, of course, has seen and read all the Star Wars movies and books. He also has a passion for Pokemon, Minecraft, and Legos. Mason loved attending Lego Engineering class and regularly builds his own amazing characters, vehicles, and cities. He loves to engage in imaginative play with all his inventions and creations; however, he likes to remind all of us that if he were to become president, “there would be no real guns – only nerf guns!” When he grows up, Mason wants to be “a good guy!”

Mason and his family spend time traveling in order to gain firsthand experience of history, social studies, and science. On his recent trip to an old colonial village, Historic St. Mary’s College Village in Maryland, he learned how colonists prepared their meat, and how the Native American Chaptico tribes made their food and musical instruments.

Mason also loves sports and outdoor activities. In his Apprentice of the Wild course, he learned about botany and edible plants, and he learned many survival skills. He loves parkour, jumping on his trampoline, bowling, kayaking, hiking, and miniature golf. Mason is a very generous and loyal friend. If you are fortunate to converse with Mason, you will have fun, feel happy, and learn something new!

Learner Spotlight: Ayva Royster


Choosing just one learner to spotlight is always a challenge, but Ayva Royster is one learner who really stands out! At 10 years old, she has already accomplished things many adults only dream about, such as becoming bilingual, performing at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and winning medals in track.

When she was 5 years old, Ayva went with her mother to watch Debbie Allen’s “Hot Chocolate Nutcracker” and announced that she wanted to perform in the show. Just three years later, after countless hours of daily practice in ballet and other forms of dance, she auditioned and her dream came true. She is now in her foutth year with the Burbank Dance Academy where she trains 12 or more hours every week in ballet, jazz, and contemporary dance. This Christmas she had the privilege of performing with the Miami City Ballet as they performed “Balanchines Nutcracker” at the Music Center in downtown Los Angeles. She is competing in her first solo at the Youth America Grand Prix Competition in San Diego in February and was just accepted to the American Ballet Theater summer dance intensive in New York.

Ayva loves to stay active in a variety of ways and she started running track at age 4. Last year, she won the long jump in her age division in the Valley Youth Conference, but has decided to focus only on dance this school year. She has also worked as a print model and is a member of the Screen Actors Guild.

While she seems to stay very busy with her extracurriculars, Ayva also loves homeschooling, especially hands-on science projects. She learns about fascinating topics in science every month at the California Science Center. One of her favorite things about homeschooling is the opportunity to do science experiments on a regular basis with her family. She is always eager to show pictures and videos of her latest science and engineering projects to her educational facilitator and others.

She worked hard to master reading, writing and speaking in Spanish at a bilingual school she attended before joining iLEAD and continues to read and write in Spanish to keep up her skills. Her current favorite reading genre is comic novels. She writes excellent creative stories at her learning center and is excited to start a cooking class for the spring semester. Ayva’s determination and passion for everything she tries is truly an inspiration!

Learner Spotlight: Jadelyn Cristalinas

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Jadelyn Belle Cristalinas is an eighth grade learner with iLEAD Exploration. She is a kind, compassionate, driven, young lady who enjoys school, dance, writing, art, and going to Disneyland with her friends and family.

In school, Jadelyn excels at math and likes writing short stories. She participates in a weekly class with a group of her peers discussing current events, practicing formal logic, math, Latin, and public speaking. Jadelyn is definitely not one to shy away from speaking in front of a group or crowd. She is quick to memorize speeches and reports, and even quicker to recite them with the fervor and inflection of a true story teller.

Jadelyn LOVES dance. Dancing since she was 3 years old, it is safe to say that it is one of her greatest passions. She takes nine classes a week, in the styles of: ballet, jazz, hip hop, tap, and body percussion; ballet being her favorite. She has participated in her local studio’s recital for 10 years straight and doesn’t look to stop any time soon. Jadelyn has recently performed in the Antelope Valley Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker,” for the third time, and was asked to be a part of the company’s cast as an apprentice member. She is delighted for the opportunity and even more excited to be able to work with talented professionals.
Outside of school and dance, Jadelyn is still just your good ol’, fun loving 13-year-old girl. She enjoys hanging out with her group of close-knit friends, playing video games, reading, and watching anime. One of her favorite pastimes is going to Disneyland with her friends and family. She has visited the park over two hundred times and never tires of it.

Learner Spotlight: Samantha Sada


Introducing Samantha Sada, a first grade pint-sized powerhouse!

Samantha’s journey on ice began in kindergarten with the Learn to Play Hockey program, a free program sponsored by the Anaheim Ducks for children 4 to 12 years of age. The program triggered her interest in hockey and she began the Homeschool Hockey Initiation Program at The Rinks Lakewood using her instructional funds.

With one year of learning under her 6-year-old belt, she tried out to join the Lady Ducks junior league this fall and made the team just as she began her first grade year. Homeschooling with iLEAD has allowed her to develop her skills through the Hockey Initiation Program, as well as providing the flexibility to travel to the games every two weeks across the state of California.

She has also had wonderful opportunities to meet great role models like Cayla Barnes, who plays defense for the USA Olympic Hockey Team. Barnes began her journey to the Olympic team as a young Lady Duck right around Samantha’s current age!

When Samantha is not on the ice, she loves to participate in her American Heritage Girls Troop crafting and serving her local community. She enjoys cooking, learning through science experiments, and excels in math.

Between hockey, cooking classes, swimming lessons and serving with her troop, she squeezes in time to read her favorite book series, Magic Tree House and Junie B. Jones books. Her mom often asks if she would like to skip out on any of the activities that keep her so busy, but Samantha has yet to decline as she eagerly awaits each opportunity.

When asked why she loves homeschooling, Samantha’s answer was simple and to the point – “It’s fun!”

We agree, Samantha, we agree!

Samantha would like to encourage iLEAD learners who might be interested in learning hockey to check out the free Learn to Play Hockey Program. She would like to especially encourage girls to try it out!

Additionally, she would like to share where you can learn to play hockey through our approved vendor, The Rinks. Both the Yorba Linda and Lakewood Rinks locations offer the Homeschool Hockey Initiative Course.

Learner Spotlight: Aidan Hodge

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Playing sports, volunteering, studying science and history, acting, and traveling are just a few of the many activities that sixth grade learner Aidan Hodge enjoys doing. He has read over 20 books so far just this school year! Aidan also loves being a military child and despite moving a lot, he has been able to excel academically. This year he received a military child academic achievement award!

Aidan plays sports year round including basketball, which he is currently playing, baseball, and football. He has even received an academic excellence award from the Pop Warner Foundation. Aside from organized sports, Aidan enjoys spending time with his brothers, woodworking, art classes, Coastal Survivor Class, camping, hiking, fishing, ice skating, skateboarding, and he is looking forward to learning how to snowboard this winter.

Aidan is involved in Torch (a leadership program) and is an avid volunteer. Aidan has worked as a special needs mentor for the Dodgers foundation and has participated in many beach clean-ups. He also volunteers with his local youth center, and most recently he volunteered to be the elf at the community Christmas party for local children. On Thanksgiving, Aidan volunteered to serve the less fortunate.

Anatomy and physiology are among Aidan’s favorite subjects. He is also fascinated by World War II and military history. Recently, Aidan has been working as a background actor and works several times a week. He enjoys traveling and his favorite place that he has traveled to is Europe.

Aidan’s goal is attend and play football for the University of Notre Dame where he will study criminal justice.

Learner Spotlight: The Hemsley Twins

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Heather and Hope are eighth grade twins. They are uniquely gifted and share the same passion for music, theater, and serving others. Being homeschooled, they have been given more time to develop their gifts. They have enjoyed being involved in musical theater, and their most recent musical was “Singing in the Rain.” Both girls play the piano, and have enjoyed accompanying vocalists, leading worship, and playing for the elderly. Both girls love any serving opportunities! They have put in several hours with Operation Christmas Child packing shoe boxes this holiday season.

Hope is passionate about art. She has entered her art work yearly in the L.A. County Fair. She has been developing this gift with a variety of art courses, the most recent being a landscape course. Hope sets up her easel in different locations every day. She thrives on the challenge to create a piece that reflects what she is seeing. She desires to one day teach art in order to inspire others to see the beauty around them.

Heather loves to read and write! She always has a story in her head and multiple stories in progress. An idea book called “Writers Block” is where she continuously is writing her thoughts down for future stories. She has a love for language and words. She recently completed NaNoWriMo, a young writer’s program that challenges writers to finish a novel in a month, and then they will print it for you. Heather desires to teach one day, and also be an inspirational writer on the side.

One goal they share is to write and illustrate a book together! Heather and Hope are sisters, best friends, and are enthusiastic about life and all the opportunities that await them!

Learner Spotlight: Amy Chabroux


Amy is a sixth grader at iLEAD Exploration. She excels in academics, but her favorite subject is science, especially chemistry and geology. There is nothing more fun than science experiments where she gets to explore and explode things. Amy is an avid collector and, among her treasures, you will find great collections of coins, stamps, bookmarks, erasers, rocks and minerals, but her greatest collection is her dragon collection. Finding interest in these mysterious beasts has turned into a great passion for Amy, and her collection includes over 60 dragons from all over the world.

During her three years of homeschooling, Amy has been able to explore art, which she really enjoys. She draws, paints, takes pictures and creates jewelry. A couple years ago, she decided to enter her works into a competition and ended up getting a blue ribbon. After winning a blue ribbon, Amy has been entering contests such as Imaginology Youth Project Competition at the O.C. Fair, Excellence Through Classics, The Learning Tangent magazine and Science Cube, which has resulted in winning many prestigious awards.

Despite her many talents and achievements, Amy remains kind and thoughtful and wants to give back to the community. For her 10th birthday, instead of gifts, she asked her friends to give her stuffed animals and she donated 55 of them to U.C. Irvine Hospital’s pediatrics department. After that experience, her desire to give grew and she started creating a line of jewelry that quickly became an attraction. By selling her necklaces at various art fairs and school markets, she raised enough money to buy plenty of art supplies, and in October 2016 she donated 430 art kits to U.C. Irvine Hospital’s pediatrics department. Her next goal for U.C. Irvine Hospital’s pediatrics department is to purchase tablets for those children who are confined to bed. In order to help with her goal, she launched a new website where she hopes to reach more people.

Learner Spotlight: Melody Mitsui


This is a year of “firsts” for Melody Mitsui. She is a first grader, it is her first year homeschooling, and her first year with iLEAD Exploration.

Melody is enjoying learning at home this year, because she likes being with her mom and being able to go on vacations with her family. This fall, they were able to travel to Korea together to celebrate a family wedding.

Melody loves to study history and is especially interested in a timeline that is helping her learn about the Middle Ages. She has also been busy learning all of the 50 states and their capitals as well. Other “firsts” for Melody have been learning Latin and playing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on a tin whistle.

Outside of school, Melody is involved in her church and sings in the children’s choir. She has enjoyed learning how to ride a horse, ice skate, and dance. When she has free time, you can find her happily playing Pokemon cards with her older brother, Matthew, or wrestling with her younger brother, Micah.

Melody also gets to share about her homeschooling experience with friends on a radio program each week. Tune in on Thursdays to KGBC 1190 AM at 2:30 p.m. to hear her live!

Melody is a sweet, talented learner who will have many more “firsts” throughout her education!

Learner Spotlight: Gracie Dykes


Gracie Dykes is a sweet and talented sixth grader who has been homeschooling with iLEAD Exploration since second grade. She loves homeschooling because it gives her time to explore her true passions.

Gracie loves to write funny, creative stories and always includes little pictures to go along with them. She also enjoys music and has been taking piano lessons for two years, but her greatest talent is her drawing! She absolutely loves to draw and does an amazing job!

She took art classes at KidsArt in Valencia for four years, which simply enhanced her natural abilities. Now she has combined her love of art with her entrepreneurial spirit to start her own business selling her art! You can check our her work on Etsy. She will even do custom artwork!

Her latest passion is for all things Japanese. Gracie is taking a Japanese language and culture class at Learn Beyond the Book, a learning center in Santa Clarita. One of her favorite things to do is to visit Little Tokyo in Los Angeles where she can eat her favorite food, veggie ramen.

One day she hopes to visit the real Tokyo in Japan! Gracie loves to draw anything Japanese and her life goal is to become a professional anime/manga artist/illustrator.

When Gracie is not drawing, reading, or writing about Japan, you can find her at the beach learning to surf or hanging out with her best friend Sumi, a Shih Tzu/Yorkshire terrier mix.

Learner Spotlight: Julia Witt


Julia is in 4th grade and has been with iLEAD Exploration since kindergarten. Mom began her homeschooling journey for two reasons: to support Julia’s learning one-on-one and to be able to travel, which is important to their life. Mom looks at their homeschooling journey as world schooling. They love to take Julia’s studies on the road, airplane, or cruise ship.

At just 9 years old, Julia has taken her school work to Paris, France, Venice, Italy, through Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, the Giant Redwood Forest and various other National Parks. Julia has also traveled to New York, to Athens, Greece, to San Francisco, to the Southernmost point in the USA (in Florida), and most recently to Madrid, Barcelona, Seville and to Don Quixote’s windmills in Consuegra, Spain. Julia loves immersing in other countries and cultures, experiencing how other societies speak, what they eat, and how they live.

Not only is Julia a world traveler, but she is also a history buff, Girl Scout, volunteer and quite a little chef. Her current obsession is the American Revolution and the birth of our nation. After seeing “Hamilton,” this interest has grown exponentially! History is definitely her favorite subject and she has an uncanny ability to remember dates, rulers, major historical events, and commonly unknown historical tidbits and tales. When Julia is not immersed in history, you may find her in the kitchen or volunteering. Julia loves learning how to cook through various classes and experiences. She has tried her hand at making homemade pasta, homemade gelato, and has even learned the fine art of making and filling bite-size cream puffs. You will also find Julia with her hair pulled back in a hair net, packaging pasta and beans and food items for those in need. She loves to volunteer her time and abilities and some of her favorite volunteer projects have included adopting a family for the holidays, making toiletry kits for a local women’s shelter, donating toys to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and packing care packages for troops overseas.

Julia just bridged up to a Junior Level Girl Scout and absolutely loves the unique experiences she is privileged to have as a Girl Scout. She is in a homeschool troop with 30-plus other homeschool girls whom she’s so proud to call her Girl Scout sisters.

Right now, Julia is working on her “Caring For Children” badge and is enrolled in the American Red Cross’s Babysitters Course. Julia loves children and works as a Mother’s Helper whenever she can.

Learner Spotlight: The King Family

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Not one or two, not three or four, but seven boys? How do you do it, Mom??!!

Here are some tips from one of our veteran moms who has 10 children and is homeschooling seven of them.

What helps you most in structuring your school week?

Our many calendars! We sync our schedules through calendars on our phones/computer and a large calendar on the wall. This way everyone knows what classes, activities and appointments are scheduled. I am a big planner so we also have a white board where I will write the daily schedule for the kids, including chores (not to mention adhesive chalkboard paper on the fridge for meals and one on the pantry for grocery items). At the end of the night the kids ask for the next day’s schedule. They like knowing what to expect and what is expected of them. Planning and structure ensure we make time for necessary tasks (which include some fun things, too).

How do you organize paperwork and materials for multiple learners?

What paperwork? Almost everything is electronic now. The kids have a Dropbox account just for schoolwork. There they can save and access files from any computer. This is very helpful with printables. Most of iLEAD’s paperwork is available through the hub so I don’t save those. The kids will use Google Docs to share their drafts. They keep their books and materials (pencil box and supplies) in a personal cubby. The shared school books are in a shared cubby. They each have a backpack but something tells me those may be filled with Legos.

What are your favorite family vendors?

I have no doubt my kids would name Firestorm Freerunning and The Impact Program as their top two vendors. I would also add Science 2 U for upper grades.

What advice would you share with new homeschooling families who have several learners to teach?

Plan ahead! Add all the learning period meetings and dates to claim attendance to your calendar and set alarms. Sync your schedules so the older ones are available to help (reading aloud or doing chores to free you to work with the little ones). Look for unit study friendly material. We like “Story of the World” for social studies. Science can also be taught in different levels. If you only have little ones, you can make it so much fun! Have play dough, Legos, coloring pages available to keep them busy (in their high chairs) while you work one on one with their sibling. Have the older ones sing ABC’s or nursery rhymes so you can grade papers, make lunch, etc. I find the kids are eager to help. It also builds a bond between siblings and I believe my kids are close because they’re accustomed to working as a team. It can be challenging and at times overwhelming, but the beauty of a large family is you are not alone.

How do you tailor instruction to help different learning styles?

When I teach I try to have different activities available. I try to teach by storytelling or through conversation. The kids are more attentive and engaged. If I am reading from a text, I may do “popcorn” where we switch off or simply let some kids color while I read. Afterward, they usually have the option of copy work, crafts or some other hands-on activity. I may add a song or video (my kids enjoy BrainPop). I find they retain more information when they simply discuss it among themselves or retell it to my husband.

Do you have a favorite family memory from homeschooling boys OR anything else you’d like to share about your journey?

Some of my favorite memories are our spontaneous late-night conversations, whether it be the questions, the sharing of ideas and the silliness. I realize these conversations will be rare and few as they grow older and we get busier. I treasure those moments. They remind me why I first began this homeschooling journey.

Elijah 16, Joshua 14, Jeremiah 12, Noah 11, Isaiah 9, Jonah 6, Gregory 5, Anthony 4, Ava 2

Well done! Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us, Jaymee King.

Learner Spotlight: Siva and Miriya Ridley

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Siva and Miriya Ridley are two iLEAD learners with a hunger for adventure! Mom began her homeschooling journey when Siva entered kindergarten because she wanted to have time to focus on his interests, and later the same would be true for Miriya. They all enjoy the flexibility that iLEAD Exploration offers because it affords them the opportunity for hands-on learning, life experiences, and the ability to build relationships with children from diverse backgrounds.

This past summer, the duo traveled to Oregon to experience the full solar eclipse. Siva was in awe of the experience and describes how when the eclipse was happening it “got colder and much darker.” Recently, the Ridleys swam with manatees at King’s Bay in Florida, and watched as a mama manatee nursed its baby. In addition to traveling, Siva and Miriya visit museums, national parks, farms, printing presses, and more!

When Siva isn’t seeking adventure, he is looking for ways to improve the world. He is involved in the First Lego League this year, and the theme is “exploring the location, use, storage and movement of water.” After seeing pictures of hurricane victims carrying cases of water, Siva and his team decided to create a drone that will carry clear plastic balls of water to people during a hurricane. The choice of a clear plastic ball wasn’t by accident: after the water has sat in the sun for 6 hours, it will be purified and drinkable!

With her free time, Miriya loves to create. She writes and illustrates her own books and enjoys taking classes at Fashion Camp where she has created many original items including a doughnut costume and a taco purse!

Learner Spotlight: Samantha Bangis

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Not only is Samantha Bangis whip smart, she is also thoughtful, creative, and has a heart of gold!

Samantha enjoys spending hours creating incredible LEGO feats. One of her favorite building accomplishments was constructing the Cinderella Castle from Disneyland! Her hard work and determination pays off in many ways. Samantha finds math challenges exciting and is an avid fan of all things STEM.

While her math and science skills are strong, Samantha’s real love is found in the arts. She is in her third Shakespeare play, “Romeo and Juliet,” and has a supporting role as Princess Escalus. Art has always been Samantha’s favorite subject and for years she has enjoyed taking art classes.

One day Samantha would like to be an art teacher and own her own studio where she teaches art and runs Shakespeare classes, but she will do all that after she fulfills her dream to travel to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower.

Oui! Oui! Samantha! You will get there someday soon! Keep dreaming, creating, and building your dreams!

Learner Spotlight: Ky Baldwin

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Ky Baldwin is a busy and talented 11th grader with iLEAD Exploration. He is originally from Australia and came to America 16 months ago to pursue his career in music. He loves the flexibility of homeschooling and being able to take responsibility for his own learning. He enjoys exploring new ideas and finding ways to dig deeper into his interests and his passions. He is is an avid reader, and recently had the opportunity to visit and interview his favorite author, Rick Riordan, in Portland, Oregon. His main passion, however, is music. This year, he was fortunate to be selected as a Mouseketeer in the latest iteration of the iconic brand, Club Mickey Mouse. He gets to sing and dance with seven other great kids, and is so thankful that iLEAD Exploration gives him the opportunity to pursue both his education and his career!

If you’d like to see him in action, check out the following!
Instagram: @iamkybaldwin
Facebook: @iamkybaldwin
Twitter: @iamkybaldwin

Club Mickey Mouse
Instagram: @clubmickeymouse
Facebook: @clubmickeymouse

Learner Spotlight – Ava Otto


Ava Otto’s family embarked upon the homeschool journey a year ago as a result of Ava’s need for accelerated learning. She was a year ahead in her studies and traditional first grade curriculum didn’t offer the challenge and the learning experience she needed. Ava’s family was pleasantly surprised to find the variety of options iLEAD Exploration has to offer. They found the perfect balance between in home instruction and classroom experiences to satisfy Ava’s learning and social needs.

Ava loves many aspects about homeschool, but especially her ability to help create her monthly lesson plans and have the freedom to take unconventional approaches to studying the required materials are what she enjoys the most. Ava likes taking an interesting assortment of classes with iLEAD vendors every semester and is planning to participate in fun field trips. She recently visited the California Science Center for a class about the galaxy.

Ava enjoys taking these classes, because she is able to work with other homeschool learners and make new friends. Ava plans to take her learning on the road in the near future! She has a growing list of places to visit within the United States and abroad. The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, Big Ben in London, England, the Great Pyramid and other ancient monuments in Giza, Egypt, are at the top of her list.

Ava is an avid reader of fiction detective novels, but math is what she enjoys the most. She finds great satisfaction in solving multiplication problems and calculating measurements. Ava’s favorite homeschool learning activity is definitely her mock grocery store! She enjoys using her third grade math skills to operate her very own mock store at home. She is also currently enrolled in a course that requires the learners to use these same math skills to plan and run their very own zoo from the ground up.

In her free time Ava loves playing Minecraft with her friends and writing in her journal. She also enjoys watching DIY videos on YouTube and trying them out at home. She is a huge fan of slime and collecting LOL Surprise Dolls. Two of Ava’s favorite things to do when she wants to unwind is to have movie nights with her mom and dad and to cuddle with her two dogs Church and Uzi.

Ava is incredibly passionate about dance. She fills her free time training as a competitive dancer. She studies ballet, lyrical, jazz, contortion and tumbling at To The Pointe Dance and Pilates in Valencia. She competes as a lyrical and jazz soloist and is on three teams. Ava’s passion for dance has been fueled by the love and support of her teachers and teammates. Studying dance provides many rewarding experiences for Ava, but she most enjoys learning new tricks, working with a diverse group of talented teachers and performing with her teammates. Along with dance, Ava also likes to explore her creativity through storytelling. She recently decided to pursue her passion for acting and looks forward to joining a theater group next year.

Ava is extremely compassionate and loving. She is never at a loss for words and loves using her unique sense of humor to make people laugh. Her friends and family are her greatest treasures. Her favorite stuffy “Yaya,” her glittery slime collection, and rare collectible LOL Surprise Dolls rank just below them.

Ava’s favorite movies are “Inside Out” and “Descendants 2.” If she could be a fictional character, she would be Harley Quinn. If she could meet anyone from the present or past, she would choose Steve Jobs because she is a huge fan of the internet. She is obsessed with sea otters, unicorns and the original “Teen Titans” television series.

Learner Spotlight – Audrey Bernhardt

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My name is Audrey Bernhardt and I am 11 years old. I live in the Los Angeles area. I have been dancing for two years and I am already en pointe (that’s French). I am the only one at my dance studio who went en pointe in just one year! This means I can now dance with the special shoes that put all of my body weight on the tip of my toes like Misty Copeland does. Misty Copeland is a famous principal ballet dancer who is a role model for me.

I dance at The Dance West dance studio in Los Alamitos. This is where I take ballet, jazz, contemporary, and tap. I dance six days per week for at least three hours a day and I love every minute of it! Dance West is like another home for me. My teachers show me what to do and teach me proper techniques. If you want to know more about The Dance West studio, visit here.

Right now, I am working on “fouette turns – en pointe.” It is very hard, but I will get it. Being homeschooled with iLEAD Exploration gives me the time I need to dance, and it allows me to have a proper education.

Here is my sister and me doing a science experiment. We are learning about atoms, molecules and how they are bonded.

Every year Dance West presents “The Nutcracker.” This year I have several parts. I am a Russian, a Party Girl, in the snow scene, and I am part of the Waltz scene. In addition, I have three ballet solos, one jazz team dance, and two contemporary solos.

For fun, I like to go camping with my family, but when there is a camping trip the same time as an audition I stay home with my grandma. I also love the 13 Bobwhite Quail we have at home. We have hatched 11 of our birds and hand raised them. I help take care of them with my sister and we eat the quail eggs. They are delicious!

A future goal that I have for myself is to dance with the American Ballet Theater or New York City Ballet.

“Give a girl the right pair of shoes and she’ll conquer the world.” ~Marilyn Monroe


I cannot handle stepping on a crack or stepping on uneven tiles.

I love making bath balms in all sorts of colors and scents.

Learner Spotlight – M’ma-Syrai Williams-Tabu


M’ma-Syrai Williams-Tabu, an eighth grade learner with iLEAD Exploration, is an unassuming, soft-spoken, and kind young woman. But don’t let that fool you, as she is also a force to be reckoned with! Her interests are wide and varied. She enjoys acting, singing, dancing, and storytelling. She also plays piano and drums, and is beginning to learn the guitar. M’ma-Syrai has been an avid reader since she was young. Her favorite genres are sci-fi and fantasy.

M’ma-Syrai is also an activist. Her passion for activism brought her to speak in front of Herb Wesson, L.A. City Council president, about human trafficking, when she was only 8 years old. Currently, M’ma-Syrai “aspires to work with organizations for homeless people.” Mma-Syrai is “coming up with a plan to make pouches with everyday necessities for people in need. She wants to participate in feeding the homeless with the L.A. mission.”

M’ma-Syrai is a foodie who enjoys exploring the many different cultural cuisines that one can find in Los Angeles. In the future, she plans to “travel the world to sample food while running a catering business as her main source of income and continuing to act.” One of her proudest accomplishments is portraying Tiffany Cochran in “American Crime Story: The People V O.J. Simpson” alongside Courtney B. Vance, and directed by John Singleton.

How does she have time for all of this? I’m not exactly sure. But if you think she couldn’t possibly fit anything else into her schedule, you’d be wrong! M’ma-Syrai has been taking community college classes every semester since the beginning of sixth grade and will have completed all of her coursework for her associate’s degree soon. She does struggle with memorization, retention of math facts and foreign language vocabulary. However, her innate determination and constant review help her with this challenge.

Last, but definitely not least, she shines as an incredibly thoughtful and nurturing big sister to her little sister Ella. M’ma-Syrai was one of my first learners when I started as an EF, and it has truly been an honor to watch her grow and thrive over the years.

Check out M’ma-Syrai’s awesomeness on her YouTube channel and on her website.

Written with admiration by her educational facilitator, Maggie Pulley

Learner Spotlight – Chloe Albert


Chloe Albert is a vibrant iLEAD Exploration learner. She is in third grade and this is her second year homeschooling through iLEAD. When asked what she enjoys about homeschooling, her first response was, “I like that I can be with my family and see my dad more often.” She and her two sisters enjoy playing, exploring together and learning about nature.


Her favorite books are the Anna Hibiscus series. She says she likes books because they are “awesome.”

“I like getting to know the characters’ personalities. When I’m really into the stories, it feels like I am actually IN the stories and I think that is really cool.”

Chloe enjoys doing gymnastics and taking art classes. When she grows up she says she may want to become a pastry chef who specializes in allergy-free foods because she has food allergies herself and she loves baking.

We are grateful to have Chloe as part of our iLEAD family.

Learner Spotlight – Logan Abrams

Logans art 2

Logan-Archery-165x300.jpgLogan Abrams is a fourth grader at iLEAD Exploration. Logan excels in academics but his favorite subject is math. Logan has really enjoyed the freedom homeschooling provides to allow him to not only thrive academically but also to embrace his creative side and explore his extra-curricular activities!

Last year, Logan broke his ankle and was not able to take breaks from academics to play outside. So, he picked up a pen and began to draw! Logan fell in love with drawing. He enjoys drawing cartoon characters including video game characters, a cartoon Harry Potter, various TV and movie cartoon characters, and much more. Recently, Logan’s artwork was displayed at the California Homeschool Conference at the Great Wolf Lodge in Garden Grove.

Blizzard-Trip-225x300.jpgLogan also discovered that he has an ear for playing piano. This past April, Logan sat down at a piano and discovered he had the ability to play by ear. Logan began playing the “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” theme songs by ear. Since making this discovery, Logan has started to take piano lessons with a local iLEAD music vendor to hone his craft even further. His goal is to learn to play all of John William’s music, Disney’s best hits, and the theme songs to popular video games including Super Mario Bros!

When Logan isn’t drawing or playing piano, he can be found playing or designing video games and aspires to one day be a video game designer. Logan feels so lucky that he was able to enjoy a private tour of Blizzard Entertainment last year. Logan also enjoys computer coding with Bitsbox, and practicing his archery skills at a local archery gym. Logan loves “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” and jokes that if sorted, he would be sorted into the Ravenclaw house.

Despite his many talents, Logan remains humble and down to Earth. He is wise beyond his years and has a heart of gold by striving to consider others above himself. Logan enjoys spending time with his family and is an incredible big brother and role model to his siblings. Logan’s creativity, kindness and wisdom are true gifts to those with whom he comes into contact!


Learner Spotlight – ​Connor Amacio Matthews


LearnerSpotlight-e1504991142345.pngConnor Amacio Matthews is a fifth grader with iLEAD Exploration. He is a kid actor and YouTube host. He enjoys learning at home because it allows him to follow his acting passion. His favorite subject is math because he is good at it and it comes easy to him.

What he enjoys most about acting is being in front of the camera filming. He also enjoys eating food from craft service. He has some advice he would give other kids who would like to pursue acting, and it is for them to always be themselves and if they don’t get the job, not to worry because there is always another audition for which they can try.

In between his school work and going on auditions, Connor hosts his own YouTube show, “In the Flow with Connor Amacio,” where he takes other kids and adults on educational experiences around Los Angeles. He has featured the La Brea Tar Pits, The Petersen Auto Museum, and the Getty Center. He has also had the pleasure of interviewing many interesting guests. If you would like to enjoy a fellow learner just like you who is following his dreams, check out his show on his YouTube channel.

Learner Spotlight – ​Claire Stevens


FreshmanFreshman Claire Stevens is entering her second year with iLEAD Exploration. She attended and excelled in a traditional brick and mortar school through seventh grade. However, at the end of that school year, her jaw was broken. This led the Stevens family to look for alternative learning solutions. We are so fortunate that she found iLEAD.

Claire is an exceptional learner who has always achieved a high level of success in the classroom. The shift to independent study is not always an easy one, but Claire has made the transition seamlessly. She enjoys learning online because she is able to learn at her own accelerated pace. The fact that there is not a lot of wasted time and everything is to the point really appeals to her. This direct style allows Claire to complete her work and spend more time focusing on her passion: music.

ClaireClaire has been singing for as long as she can remember. She began taking it seriously when she was 7 and began writing her own songs a year later. Claire not only sings, but also plays the guitar, piano and ukulele. She hopes to be a successful singer, songwriter and musician. Claire is well on her way as she has already released two EPs with a third coming this December.

If you are interested in learning more about this talented young lady, you can visit her website, There you’ll find links to her music, YouTube videos, and social media accounts.

Learner Spotlight – ​A ‘POWER’-ful Duo


IMG_8167-300x225.jpgMorgan (12th grade) and Kate (8th grade) Powers are a dynamic sibling pair! ​​On top of excellent and rigorous academic performance, they both have hearts of gold and a desire to serve others. Under the guidance of their mentor, piano and choir teacher, ​​iLEAD Vendor ​Jenny Park, they have been able to ​use their talents to serve others as a vocal coach, section leader, piano accompanist and ​conduct​or​. As a way to serve the community and the less fortunate, Ms. Jenny started a musical academy and choir at the OC Rescue Mission’s Village of Hope (or VOH for short) and created an opportunity for the Powers girls to be involved!

IMG_8168-300x225.jpgWhile at VOH, ​the girls had the opportunity to lead vocal warmups, help the kids get the wiggles out, teach some piano basics and lead music-related games. The best part, according to Kate, was forming close relationships. Kate said, “I wanted to pour into the girls at VOH and make sure they felt safe and loved. At first, the children were a little shy but by the end of the semester all of them came out of their shells. It was amazing to see all of their musical talents!”

Her sister Morgan explains further, “Kids from VOH are living in transitional housing and have not had an easy life. My sister Kate and I have been able to get to know the kids as they talk about their day, their fears and their joys, and even their birthdays! The very best part of working with the kids at VOH is getting hugs at the end of our time together each week.”

Their experience volunteering at Village of Hope has taught them how to sing with true joy. They are encouraged to live life to the fullest and have learned how satisfying it can be when you use your gifts, talents and passions to bless others.

Learner Spotlight: Bella Wunderlich


“I love doing school at home because I really love being with my family. It makes me feel closer to them and I really get an opportunity to master the subjects that I’m studying. I also enjoy homeschooling because we do a ton of fun activities that most schools never do.”

So states Bella Wunderlich, iLEAD seventh grader. Bella enjoys reading Harry Potter books, sewing, art, swimming and Greek mythology. She also likes to spend time helping others.

In addition to being a Potterhead (absolutely LOVING Harry Potter books), Bella is also a talented artist. She loves to draw her own original characters, create digital art, and watercolor. She even features them on Musically. Bella has fun taking sewing classes at Sewciety and has made a skirt, purse, and even a pillowcase for her brother.

Being a Girl Scout is very important to Bella (she is a Cadette). Over the summer, Bella is working on a service project to earn her Silver Award. She organized a book drive for a local hospital. Bella is collecting books from now until September for the pediatric and burn units of the hospital.

“I chose this particular community service project so people in the burn units and pediatrics can enjoy a good book while they are on the road to recovery,” says Bella.

If your family is interested in donating books to help the patients in these units, you may contact Bella’s mom, Yvonne, at 909-559-0514.


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