iLEAD Exploration Remains Open Virtually for Learners

iLEAD Exploration continues to operate its independent study model in an entirely virtual format. Click here for current information.

May 13, 2020 @ 07:00

Learner Spotlights

Our News & Events

Learner Spotlight – LaRue Vigil


LaRue Vigil has found her first year of homeschooling an exciting one, where learning goes beyond a textbook. LaRue, a seventh grader, finds projects and hands-on learning to be her favorite parts of homeschooling. Two of her favorite projects have been writing a screenplay for English and making a dichotomous key of her stuffed animals while learning about classification in science.

LaRue has also enjoyed choosing her own electives. She chose to learn ASL so that she can communicate better with her Deaf grandparents. The other elective LaRue chose is theater. Acting is her great love and she is thrilled to be a part of the Rising Star Musical Theater program. She’s looking forward to performing in “Babes In Arms” this month.

Another benefit of homeschooling has been the ability to do “school” anywhere — whether at a park, coffeehouse, or in bed. The freedom to learn anywhere can make a less loved subject, like math, more palatable when doing it at a coffeehouse with a delicious drink and snack nearby.

Learner Spotlight – Kalea Hoshi


Kalea Hoshi is a kindergartener with iLEAD Exploration. She is growing up in a multilingual home in Los Angeles and speaks English, French and Japanese. She also understands Portuguese and will learn Spanish in the future!

Kalea loves books and is learning to read in English and French. She’s currently working on a science unit about bees and is reading about them in French. Kalea and her sisters are Brazilian, French and Japanese and her parents are doing an amazing job teaching Kalea and her sisters about those languages and cultures. They value multilingual education because it gives their girls a connection to their diverse heritage, and research has shown its tremendous benefits to brain development.

In addition to the language skills she learns at home, Kalea takes French classes at a local school and will start Japanese classes when she’s older. She’s traveled to France twice, and will visit Japan for the first time this spring.

Kalea loves to be active and takes classes in dance, acrobatic dance and gymnastics. She also loves snowboarding and can’t wait to go again this winter. She’s learning sewing, woodworking, and gardening at 4-H and applying some of those skills at home by helping to sew buttons back on her sister’s clothing.


Learner Spotlight – Gita de la Vega


learner_spotlightGita enjoys incorporating design into her work samples, creating awesome graphics demonstrative of her learning.
Maria “Gita” de la Vega is a 12th-grade learner preparing to graduate with iLEAD this year. Her compassion and heart for service has been a strong driving factor in her life and is a core value in her family. She has channeled her artistic and musical talents into various fundraising projects to support international organizations from the fight against human trafficking to Syrian refugee support. When asked to share her homeschooling experience, she elaborated with these thoughts:

“Homeschooling has given me so much more than just an education. It has allowed me to broaden my horizons and chase the things I am passionate about. I am a creative person and homeschooling has allowed me to plug that creativity into my work. I create a lot of visual projects for my different courses through infographics, presentations, paintings, etc. It’s my favorite thing to do!

“Another thing homeschooling allows me to do is study my passions. My dream is to pursue music, and I’m very involved with my church’s music department. Because I’m homeschooled, I’ve been able to begin interning under our church’s music department and learn what I need to know in order to pursue this dream.

“Lastly, homeschooling has allowed me to find myself and become confident in who I am. Separated from the common expectations and pressure put on high schoolers, I’ve been able to focus on my faith and growth, rooting myself in strong foundations.

“It makes me sad knowing this will be my last year of homeschooling. It has been an amazing six years. I know for certain that everything I’ve learned from being a homeschooler will impact me for the rest of my life.”


Gita enjoys incorporating design into her work samples, creating awesome graphics demonstrative of her learning.

Learner Spotlight – Kerry Stiles


Kerry Stiles is an iLEAD Exploration learner in the seventh grade. For Kerry, one of the highlights of homeschooling are the classes he enjoys taking at The Arbor Learning Community. His studies include physics, life science and “History of the World: Barter and Trade.” He is engaged in many hands-on projects as he learns. For example, while learning about the ancient African and Arabian trades, Kerry said, “We mummified apples and worked on copper tooling, which was fun!”


Science is also very interesting to Kerry. He said, “I like learning how to use and explore with the microscope. Looking at prepared slides is interesting and I enjoyed seeing the cheek cells of my classmates! We also searched the school and took bacteria cell samples and placed them in a petri dish and observed the growth the following week.”

Learner Spotlight – Jesse Matthews


Jesse Matthews, a seventh grader at iLEAD Exploration, began working in programming and robotics at 10 years old. When asked why he enjoys robotics, he responded, “I love robotics because the challenge of making it work right is exhilarating when it finally works! You are watching something you just created come to life and do what you dreamed it could do.”

His mother is a programmer and has helped him with projects and programming. Jesse now assists in some of the classes his mother teaches (the kids call her “Mrs. Math”) at Terra Arts in Huntington Beach. The classes there include Arduino Robotics, Scratch Programming, Circuit Craft, Math Lab and Code Lab.

Jesse and his mother spend time brainstorming for new classes and workshops. He enjoys creating electronic projects and recently created a LED light ghost. Of the project, Jesse says, “It’s fun to see what you can create with simple LEDs, wires, batteries and things you find around the house.”

He is especially happy that the circuit craft class taught him how to create his own Dr. Who sonic screwdriver! Jesse is looking forward to having more pre-teens and teens join him in creating a club for robotics within his homeschooling community.


Learner Spotlight – Monica Sexton


Monica Sexton is a sixth-grade iLEAD learner. She takes classes such as drama and sewing at Impact. Monica, who likes to be creative, was asked to share a little about her awesome learning adventure. In her sewing class, her first project was to make a king-size pillow case. She says, “I chose a cotton fabric with teal blue and gold flowers. I picked that fabric because I really liked it and it matched my grandma’s bed. I am going to give it to her. It was not very hard to make, and it turned out great, so I am going to make more for my sister and anyone else who wants one. Mrs. Orr, who is my sewing and drama teacher, gives me great advice. I hope to be able to make my own outfit with my sewing skills. I am happy to know how to use my sewing machine and to be able to use it on my own. I’d like to help my friends learn how to sew, too!”

Learner Spotlight – Conor Kelly

conor_kellyConor Kelly is a fifth grade iLEAD learner with a passion for soccer! He has played soccer for the past six years and his position is center defense. He enjoys the sport because it’s active and keeps him moving. When asked what advice Conor would give someone playing soccer for the first time, he said, “You should always focus on what you need to do and not what is happening around you. You should be prepared when the ball comes to you.”

Learner Spotlight – Kai and Josie Kimbell


Kai (fourth grade) and Josie (first grade) Kimbell participate in art classes that focus on a historical event with Kim Frassett . Last year, they learned about ancient history and enjoyed art lessons that incorporated drawing, painting and pastel techniques. They compiled their art in a beautiful sketchbook that also included maps, timelines and narratives or essays.

This year, they are participating in the Medieval Experience at the Homeschool at Grace campus in Huntington Beach where they will be continuing their art lessons focusing on Medieval history. They will also be learning about science, economics, handicrafts and games from the Medieval era.

Kai loves learning about history and enjoys classes that help him have a deeper understanding of historical events while Josie loves learning new art techniques and has become a budding artist! They both cherish their books that contain all of their work and enjoy sharing them with family and friends!

Learner Spotlight – Zack and Joel Mabie

Zack and Joel Mabie have been enjoying Academic Chess like crazy this summer! Along with a few chess camps, they continue to hone their strategic thinking, attentiveness, concentration, and enthusiastic, encouraging team spirit during Friday night open competitions in Laguna Hills. Joel says, “Mr. Brody has encouraged me so much to do my most excellent in everything I do. He is such a happy person.” Zack has built concentration skills long enough to beat his mom in a chess game (and that’s quite an accomplishment for a very active young boy)! They will continue chess this fall at the Independent Learning Academy in Aliso Viejo.


Learner Spotlight


Lazarus Shapiro is an amazingly talented young man. This 11-year-old ninth grader is not only academically advanced, but is also an accomplished dancer.

Laz has been dancing since he was 5 years old. He began as a commercial dancer and then began ballet at 9. He currently devotes more than 20 hours per week over the course of six days to developing his craft.

lazarus_shapiro2Laz says, “It is hard to describe why I love to dance because it is such an essential part of myself. I can’t imagine a life without ballet. It allows me to express my emotions through movement and to share those feelings as art for an audience.”

Laz is on track to graduate high school at 15, at which time he would like to pursue dance further. He also plans on attending college to study law, history and political science. Ultimately, he’d like to pursue a career in government service.

Learner Spotlight


Grace and Christian Brossa are entering into their second year with iLEAD. Last year, they enjoyed training with the Orange County Water Polo Club (one of iLead’s amazing vendors located in south Orange County). This July, Grace and Christian had the amazing opportunity to play water polo with the OCWPC in the Junior Olympics held at learner_spotlight_aug-2016Stanford Univ ersity. They played their hearts out and greatly enjoyed this unique experience. The OCWPC is currently looking for new athletes and are extending an offer of the first month free to any iLEAD students interested in checking them out! In their spare time, Grace and Christian also run a pet sitting business along with their younger brother John.

Learner Spotlight


Ellie Wheeler came to iLEAD Exploration last year as a 10th grader. She has an amazing story to tell. When she was 13 years old, she went from being an active teenager to one who has had to fight chronic illness which means a life filled with pain, doctors’ offices, hospital visits, medication and most recently, legal blindness.

Rather than being defeated by her suffering, two years ago she created the Superhero Project .

undefined What is the superhero project? It is a website that creates a community for people fighting chronic illness. It’s a way to inspire them and remind them that they are all superheroes. Multi-colored super power bracelets can be ordered from the website and worn to support someone you might know who is fighting chronic illness.

Since society tends to stigmatize individuals with disabilities, Ellie’s latest endeavor is to work with teachers. She is providing them with lesson plans that teach learners about disability awareness.

When Ellie returned home from the doctor’s appointment in which she found out that she was legally blind, she decided to paint a picture of an eye. She recently entered the painting in an art contest called “Rare Artist Contest 2016.” The painting with the highest number of votes will win. She would be honored to have your vote.

If interested, please vote here.

Let’s hope she wins! She is truly an inspiration to all of us at iLEAD Exploration.

Learner Spotlight


Kyra James moved to Irvine last year from southern Illinois. She has been homeschooling since third grade. She is now entering her second year with iLEAD as a sixth grader. Kyra and her parents scrolled down the vendor list and discovered fencing as an activity. A free trial lesson was all it took for Kyra to fall in love with the sport.

Kyra started sabre fencing last December. It hasn’t even been a year yet but she is already in the advanced class! She enjoys the quick pace of this version of sword fighting and the strategic challenge of slashing your opponent first. She is excited to start competing in tournaments this fall. Her goals are set on participating in the 2024 Olympics, proudly representing the USA. Her dream is to bring home the gold.

Other hobbies of hers include horseback riding, reading, drawing, acting, singing, and riding her bike. Her favorite subject is science and learning about all the different kinds of animals on both land and in the sea. One of her favorite places to go is the beach, where she can closely examine the many creatures found in the beautiful tide pools of Southern California.

Learner Spotlight


Ellie and Emma Sousa are talented sisters with many interests spanning from gymnastics to horseback riding!

On a typical homeschool day, the girls spend around five hours training for gymnastics while their mom, a favorite writing and reading vendor at Arden Reading in south Orange County, tutors above the gymnastics studio where they work out.

In their free time, the girls also enjoy animals, art, horseback riding, and cooking. This summer, they both competed on the trampoline at the Nationals in Boston, Massachusetts. Ellie placed 15th in the nation at the elite level and Emma placed 5th.

Prior to going on the trip, the girls learned about Boston in their schoolwork. Their favorite part of the trip was competing and playing on the east coast beaches. They are now enjoying watching their coach compete in the Olympics in Brazil.

C ongratulations, Ellie and Emma!

Learner Spotlight


Ezra Lewis, a ninth grade iLEAD learner, is a motocross rider. His goal is to become a professional. We had the privilege of interviewing Ezra to learn more about his amazing talent!

When did you become interested in racing? Did anyone or anything inspire you to get into racing?

When I was four, I began racing BMX because I enjoyed the adrenaline and challenge of competition. By the age of five, I had taken an interest in motocross from watching races with my dad.

What do you enjoy most about racing?

I enjoy every aspect of it, but mostly the difficult challenges I am faced with at each race and all the great friends I have made over the last ten years.

ezra_lewis2Have you had to overcome any hurdles?

I have had a few injuries that set me back for a few months, such as a broken tibia, two broken collarbones, and a torn ACL.

What races have you been involved in?

So far I have raced in Mammoth, Texas, Washington, and California. I also plan on going to Florida and Tennessee.

How much time do you practice each week?

I practice two to three times a week with three sets of 20-minute practices and I also do weight and cardio training several times a week.

Do you want this to be your career?

It is a dream of mine to race professionally, so that is my goal. If I keep working hard, I believe I can achieve my goal. But I also know that it is necessary to have a plan B since racing does not last forever and it may not provide for my living.

Learner Spotlight


Josh Velarde, a 5th grade iLEAD learner, has spent much time studying Caesar Augustus! He participated in a Minecraft Academy class called “Pax Romana,” which gave him a good overview of the beginning of Rome, its battles, the geography, Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, Cleopatra and Caesar Augustus. He also watched online videos of Rome and read numerous books. He then followed the steps of the writing process to develop a research paper. Next, he created a presentation board, wrote a speech, memorized it, and presented it in costume to his Classical Conversations community. He also enjoyed a Mediterranean feast with chicken kabobs, rice pilaf, Greek salad, tabbouleh, and date bars. Josh’s well-rounded experience enabled him to learn many things about Rome. Keep up the excellent work, Josh!

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