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Our News & Events

8th Grade Promotion


Congratulations to our promoting 8th grade learners! Help us celebrate these learners by watching this video acknowledging each learner’s hard work.

8th Grade Promotion Video

Math Intervention

Math Intervention

The beginning and end of the school year are common times for families to begin wondering if their learners need some intervention or extra support. If you are concerned by your learner’s end-of-year MAP scores or progress made this year, please speak with your EF about fun supports you can explore over the summer break. This presentation (PowerPoint here) from the school’s intervention coordinator explores the basics of math intervention. Look for more support and information to be rolled out at the start of next year.

MAP Testing – Finish Strong!


We are on the home stretch for the end of the school year with this final week to finish strong! Congratulations to all our iLEAD learners who have completed their Growth MAP assessments in both subjects of math and reading. Be encouraged as you review your child’s MAP results, and consider this information as a tool to start your curriculum planning for the fall. Please speak with your EF and determine ways that you can best support your learner and identify areas of growth that you can celebrate!

Student Poster Design Contest Winners: Hope Hemsley and Mara

Art Studio Virtual Tour

In March, we announced the student design poster contest for A Spark in Nothing. We are excited to share the news that iLEAD Exploration learners Hope Hemsley and Mara were announced as co-winners! As a result of their artistic creativity, they were invited to the premiere of the movie, which was directed by former iLEAD graduate Griffin Loch. Take a look at the photos below to see Hope’s and Mara’s designs and the fun event they attended.

Hope Griffin poster design Poster Design Contest

iLEAD Exploration College Advisor Launches Virtual College Fair for Homeschoolers

College Fair for Homeschoolers

By Michael Niehoff
Education Content Coordinator, iLEAD Schools

Cal Alt College Fair logo

On May 12, 70 colleges and universities pitched programs and opportunities to over 500 homeschool and alternative education learners who don’t traditionally have access to college fair events. iLEAD Exploration college advisor Laura Kazan, along with a team of like-minded colleagues across multiple schools, worked together to make this unique event possible.

“We are focused on equity and access,” Kazan said. “This coalition of school partners represents students who wouldn’t have access to college reps at their schools because they don’t attend a brick-and-mortar school.”

Kazan was joined by iLEAD Exploration colleague Heather Facarotta and several others representing various charter schools and alternative education entities from around the state. Among them were Mataya Olson from Compass Charter Schools, Dana Blood from the Gorman Learning Charter Network, Jami Riley from Sky Mountain Charter School and Traci King and Erin Havrilesk from Sage Oak Charter Schools.

“The collaboration was amazing,” Kazan said. “This was significant because six of us came together representing five different alternative education organizations.”

This team began planning this event in September, when the team reached out to hundreds of colleges and universities in California and beyond. Kazan said the team benefited from several key groups.

The first was the Regional Admissions Counselors of California, or RACC for short, who are college representatives who live and work in California but represent out-of-state colleges. Second was Colleges That Change Lives, a nonprofit coalition of 40 colleges that have a reputation for greatly impacting their students’ lives. Another was the Western Undergraduate Exchange, or WUE, representing an agreement between 16 member states and territories, through which over 160 participating public colleges and universities provide steep nonresident tuition savings. Through WUE, according to Kazan, eligible students can choose from hundreds of undergraduate programs outside their home states and pay no more than 150 percent of that institution’s resident tuition rate.

These key groups became instrumental in making up a large part of the 70 colleges and universities that participated, according to Kazan. She said although they invited many of the prestigious and better-known colleges in California and around the country, that’s not necessarily indicative of who participated.

“We would not have had such a successful event without these key groups,” Kazan said. “If it’s a college that wants to recruit our nontraditional learners, they are more likely to come.”

Learners were invited via email and learned more through this promotional video. Ultimately, the event was open to any students, especially in the homeschool and alternative education communities, who wanted to attend.

Attendees learned about colleges and universities through this Cal Alt College Fair Airtable. Participants could choose at least four sessions, and the college representatives presented short info sessions on the hour and half hour.

Although the format was inspired by the pandemic, Kazan sees it as a great long-term option to accommodate interested learners and families across the state.

“If access and outreach are the goals, then this works for our community,” Kazan said.

Kazan and her team plan to continue and expand the virtual Cal Alt College Fair and to launch monthly panels and mini fairs.

There has been great feedback so far. “Several learners said this affected their future choices,” Kazan said.

In addition, Kazan mentioned one more benefit of this college fair. “The more these college representatives know our schools, the more their admissions offices will recognize our students when they apply. This work improves the relationships with those that might hold our learners’ futures in their hands.”

Learner Spotlight: Victoria Mason

Victoria Mason featured

For iLEAD Exploration learner Victoria Mason’s family, homeschooling is a way of life. Other than a quick stint in a brick-and-mortar school to see what the other side of the coin was like, Victoria has homeschooled her whole life and wouldn’t have it any other way. She wouldn’t have the chance to develop her many hobbies and passions without the flexibility that homeschooling offers. From equestrian vaulting (gymnastics on a horse) and aerial silks to musical theater and modeling/acting, Victoria enjoys very busy days. While quarantine put a damper on things, she still managed to be a part of two online theater productions this year. Before then, she was a part of 15 different productions at the wonderful South Pasadena Young Stars Theatre.

Victoria has always had big goals and works hard to achieve them. She has the mind of a writer and likes to analyze her books in a deep way. This year she has asked to start learning about philosophy, which has opened up so many amazing questions to ponder. She is an animal lover and has managed to convince her family to fit nine animals into their lives, from tiny praying mantises to her awesome dog, Lulu.

An artist at heart, Victoria loves to draw, paint, customize dolls and make wonderful clay creations. While in quarantine, she also started a YouTube channel, where she shares her passion for mythology. Victoria and some of her best friends are also starting their own rock band. She is very excited about all the fun that will come in upcoming years, when Zoom rehearsals are a thing of the past. Dungeons and Dragons is also a favorite hobby, as Victoria loves creating worlds and adventures as a Dungeon Master, leading her friends to their certain doom or glory.

Victoria is always quick to try something new and loves learning about people and meeting new friends. She is a fearless learner and thrives in multiage situations, which the family has always focused on. Learning that way has also helped her to be the absolute best big sister to her little brother, Jack, who has Down syndrome. She is his biggest cheerleader and helps teach him in fun ways that help him laugh and grow.

MAP Testing Time

MAP Testing

End-of-the-year MAP testing is currently in progress for all iLEAD learners. Whether your family has finished the assessments or is just getting started, it’s always important to know the WHY behind what you’re doing.

The MAP test is one way of providing good feedback on your child’s academic strengths as well as areas needing support. This spring, we are all participating in the “Growth” version of the testing, which simply means that it is an adaptive, more comprehensive assessment. Parents will notice there is a broader range of questions (anywhere from 40 to 52). Adaptive also means that, depending on how your child answers each question, the skills and concepts adjust across multiple grade levels to calculate better results. Results are quick and can be collected from the NWEA program within a few days, and your EF will email you the results.

The reports will include scores for every year your learner has taken the tests, providing continuous tracking and standardized results from each year. This is beneficial for targeting your instruction and planning support for the needs of your individual learner.

In addition, it demonstrates to the state and our authorizer that our learners are making progress. This became especially imperative this spring, as iLEAD was approved to utilize benchmark testing in lieu of the usually scheduled CAASPP testing. All these pieces are important for keeping our accreditation and charter. iLEAD appreciates your support, and we are so proud of all our learners!

Mental Health Awareness Month


On this second week of Mental Health Awareness month, we would like to draw your attention to a lesser-known contributor to mental wellness: hydration.

Did you know that dehydration, or the absence of water/fluids, can quickly affect how you feel and think? Dehydration can manifest in the form of headaches, mood swings or other mental processing challenges.

Every system and organ in your body, including your brain, relies on water to function. In fact, your brain makeup is about 75% water. Your mental health is primarily influenced by your brain’s activity and functioning. A 2012 study from the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory showed that a 1.5% loss in water volume in your body can significantly alter your energy level, ability to think clearly, and mood.

When your body and its systems don’t have enough water, they can’t function properly. Below are three common ways dehydration can impact your mental well-being:

1. Dehydration directly affects energy: If you are dehydrated, the energy generation in your brain is impeded, severely affecting your thinking and brain functioning, sometimes even shutting down brain functioning completely.

2. Dehydration can obstruct your brain’s serotonin production. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter in your brain frequently called “the happy chemical” because it increases feelings of well-being and happiness. The process of creating serotonin requires a great deal of water to complete, and if you aren’t properly hydrated, you may encounter mental health challenges. Dehydration also depletes the levels of other amino acids in your brain, leading to feelings of anxiety, dejection, irritability, and inadequacy.

3. When you don’t drink enough water, your body begins a self-perpetuating cycle of stress and dehydration. Stress is perhaps the best-known contributing factor to depression. When you are stressed, your adrenal glands produce excess cortisol, the stress hormone. However, under chronic stress, your adrenal glands become exhausted and can’t function efficiently. Your adrenal glands also produce aldosterone, a hormone that regulates fluids and electrolyte levels in your body. A decrease in the production of aldosterone leads to dehydration. Drinking enough water can help you lower stress levels which, in turn, alleviates depression symptoms.

Drinking water regularly throughout the day is an effective step to take to care for your mental health. Try starting with a glass of water first thing in the morning and drink two or three glasses between meals. Maybe try carrying a water bottle with you everywhere you go — and don’t forget to pause throughout the day to take a drink.

What’s your daily water plan?

Staying hydrated is just one aspect of maintaining good physical, emotional, and mental health. We are not one-dimensional, so a healthy approach to mental health is personalized and multi-faceted.

Other Resources:

Dehydration and Anxiety: Understanding the Connection

Hydrate for Your Mental Health

How Hydration Improves Mental Health

6 Awesome Jobs That Require a Second Language


There’s an increasing demand for bilingual workers. New American Economy reports that the demand for bilingual workers more than doubled between 2010 and 2015. That’s a lot of new jobs that need qualified bilingual (or multilingual) candidates!

According to the Chicago Tribune, foreign language careers are on the rise in a number of fields, including finance, health care, social services, information technology and more. Learning a second language can increase your employability in almost any field you can imagine.

Additionally, bilingual workers often earn more than their monolingual counterparts. AOL Finance reports that bilingual workers earn between 5% and 20% more than the base rate per hour.

1. International Sales Manager: In any sector that produces goods, it is likely there are international sales positions. Many international sales positions focus on B2B “business to business” sales. Businesses often sell their products to other businesses, and while these negotiations are often considered more complex, they can also be tremendously satisfying for a skilled negotiator.

2. Study Abroad Coordinator: These coordinators serve as a university’s go-to person for study-abroad opportunities.

3. Foreign Service Officer: Foreign service officers serve as representatives of their home nation in countries throughout the world. Depending on their career track, they might help Americans abroad, protect American borders, work to negotiate with foreign governments, manage embassy operations, promote mutual understanding and more.

4. International Development Program Officer: International development jobs focus on helping communities across the world. This may involve addressing issues like health, clean water, economic development, energy, the environment and more.

5. Foreign Correspondent: International journalists and foreign correspondents travel throughout the world to cover breaking news stories.

6. Intelligence Operative: Being an intelligence operative doesn’t necessarily involve sneaking into parties to follow shady characters. It might involve field work, but there are also many positions in analysis, STEM and support.

Adapted from “Living the Dream! 6 Awesome Jobs That Require a Second Language.”

Learner Spotlight: Lusineh Nasrollahi

Lusineh Nasrollahi featured

iLEAD Exploration learner Lusineh Nasrollahi cares deeply for the Earth and the animals and plants that live here. She is a member of the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club. She uses Earth-friendly products, recycles, donates items she no longer needs, and tries to not buy things she doesn’t need. Lusineh is also hoping to start composting soon. One of her goals for the family is to create as little trash as possible. In the summers, a portion of Lusineh’s backyard turns into a kind of butterfly farm for monarch butterflies. This summer, Lusineh plans to provide extra help to the butterflies, giving them milkweed, water, and possibly some extra protection.

If Lusineh is not working on a flower garden, she’s working on a vegetable garden. She takes care of fruit trees in the backyard and is now working on growing flowers and turning the family’s backyard into Descanso Gardens.

Lusineh has a wonderful imagination and sense of humor. She is very creative, and she “sharpens her saw” by doing craft projects, sewing, gardening, reading (especially Magic Treehouse, Flat Stanley, and graphic novels), drawing and modeling (especially Pokémon characters), and taking care of her pet bird. Art and animals inspire her to write more creative stories.

Lusineh participates in many different extracurricular activities for fun. Initially her family turned to extracurriculars to offer her an opportunity to develop her communication and social skills. Many of the activities have become a part of Lusineh’s life, and she has continued doing them for years. She exemplifies zest with her interests and passions.

Lusineh loves to dance. She started dancing when she was four years old. She usually dances ballet, jazz, and tap. Her favorite dance style is tap, but she also wants to learn flamenco, tango, salsa, and Irish step dancing. The family has lots of dance parties at home. Lusineh brings out the disco ball and puts songs on her mom’s phone, while she and her little five-year-old and three-year-old sisters dance until they are covered with sweat. Lusineh loves to be funny and to make people laugh. Improv (theater) class, which has been via Zoom so far, has been a great outlet for her.She is the youngest one in her class.

iLEAD Exploration learner Lusineh

Lusineh also enjoys singing in a choir. She started by singing in a small church choir. She has sung a few solos for the church congregation and has performed a solo with the adult choir. She was invited to record a tiny bit of a solo at a private recording studio. She was awarded a singing scholarship last year. With the pandemic, choir meetings have not been allowed for a year, but as soon as things get back to “normal,” Lusineh will definitely start singing again. Lusineh is now also singing in a community choir. Other artistic activities Lusineh enjoys for fun are musical theater, martial arts, art classes, and piano lessons. Recently, Lusineh has started experimenting with making her own songs on the piano.

Lusineh absolutely loves animals, especially birds. Lusineh has a pet cockatiel whom she brought home when he was only a baby. She named her pet bird Feathers and has taught him some words, songs, and games. Next, Lusineh wants to have an aquarium, and she definitely wants some neon fish and a suckerfish in there. She wants to have a farm with different animals but will settle for a chicken for now.

When it comes to academics and extracurricular activities, Lusineh’s family does not encourage competitiveness. They just want Lusineh to have a wonder-filled childhood in what they perceive as a fast-moving, pushing-children-into-adulthood world. At home, they encourage an awareness of values (and value differences between people or families) and the need to live by one’s values (and to accept and to love others whose values may be different from theirs). Lusineh’s family strongly believes that joy and happiness come from having good values and from living by those values. The amazing thing about homeschooling is that it gives Lusineh the opportunity to explore the world and herself, to fill her life with things that bring her joy, and to understand her values.

Homeschooling was not something Lusineh’s family considered. However, year after year, Lusineh was being bullied at school. When her parents found out more about the situation at school, they turned to emergency homeschooling. That changed everything, and now Lusineh has been with iLEAD Exploration for the last two years. Having had a taste of homeschooling with iLEAD and with the support of an amazing educational facilitator, Lusineh’s family has decided that homeschooling is a kind of dream come true for them, and not only for Lusineh, but for all their children.

May Webinars and Virtual Events

Fall Webinars

We hope that you will join us for our final webinars of the 2020-2021 school year. Please click the links below for all of the details on how to register:

5/18 at 11 a.m.: TK-3rd Grade Virtual Show and Tell

5/19 at 12 p.m.: Presentation by Jonathan Mooney: “Normal Sucks”

Webinars 2021

Mental Health Awareness: Supporting Your Teenagers

mental health

May is Mental Health Awareness month. During these unprecedented times, it is important that we are aware of mental health concerns. Some common mental health conditions include the following:

1. Eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating)

2. Personality disorders (antisocial, paranoia, borderline personality disorder)

3. Addiction (alcohol, opioids, tobacco)

4. Mood disorders (major depressive disorder, bipolar disorders, cyclothymia)

5. Thought disorders (schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, delusional)

6. Anxiety disorders (social anxiety, phobias, generalized anxiety)

7. Developmental differences (autism, ADHD)

Please take a look at this video regarding what mental health and well-being look like in high school learners.

MAP Testing is Underway


Who better to give advice on test-taking tips than learners themselves? We talked with iLEAD learners to find out about their successful experience taking the growth MAP assessments. Here is a list of test-taking tips for kids by kids:

1. Set a daily goal of questions you want to answer. Try to do 20 questions so you’re not stressed about doing all of them in one day.
2. Enjoy treats if your parent lets you! Chew gum or candy while working on the questions.
3. Take the test when you’re the most focused!
4. Take stretching breaks after a long question.
5. Don’t stress – just try to do your best!

DreamUp to Space Teams Load MixStix for June Launch

DreamUp Launch Teams load MixStix experiments

iLEAD Exploration DreamUp to Space Launch Team members met with their teams at SCVi Charter School on Monday, May 10, to prepare experiments for launching to the International Space Station this June. With the assistance of facilitator Shawna Brown and Kathleen Fredette, Director of STEAM Initiatives, plus a team of DreamUp and Nanoracks advisors joining via Zoom, learners carefully loaded the experiments into MixStix. We’re also pleased to have Burpee Gardening as a project sponsor this year.

Want to learn more about this year’s DreamUp teams? Click here!

Together Tuesdays


Twice per month, we share a new Together Tuesday video. Click here to submit your photos or short videos for the next edition! Submissions received by the Friday before each edition are eligible to be included. We can’t wait to see your contributions! If you have any questions, simply reply to

Learner Spotlight: Oscar Morales

Oscar Morales featured

iLEAD Exploration third grader Oscar Morales has been homeschooling since kindergarten and loves it. The thing he likes most is being able to learn through real-life experiences. He and his family spend a lot of time outdoors exploring nature, hiking, swimming, fishing, and gardening.

When Oscar is not doing schoolwork, he spends his time sharpening the saw by reading, drawing, and playing games with his friends online.

Oscar has a zest for learning new things, and he immerses himself in whatever he is learning. He especially enjoys learning about animals. His favorite places are the zoo, the farm, or the beach. He likes making connections to what he’s learning by visiting new places, trying new things, or eating new foods. With homeschooling, Oscar sees every day as a new adventure!

Oscar is learning to play the ukulele. He enjoys fishing, kayaking, and drawing. He loves to read, especially the Warriors series. He also enjoys memorizing and reciting poetry.

May Webinars and Virtual Events

Fall Webinars

Mark your calendars for our upcoming May activities! Please click the links below for all of the details on how to register:

5/12 at 3 p.m.: Roundtable Discussion About Anxiety

5/13 at 1 p.m.: TK-2 Read Aloud “It Could Have Been Worse”

5/14 at 10 a.m.: Financing College

5/14 at 1 p.m.: End of the Year Bingo

5/18 at 11 a.m.: TK-3rd Grade Virtual Show and Tell

5/19 at 12 p.m.: Presentation by Jonathan Mooney: “Normal Sucks”

Webinars 2021

DreamUp Learners Prepare for Experiment Launch to International Space Station

DreamUp Grace and James

Michael Niehoff
Education Content Coordinator, iLEAD Schools

DreamUp To Space is an exciting multiphase project that pushes the boundaries of how kids look at Earth and our universe by empowering them to design experiments to be launched to the International Space Station.

With the leadership of Director of STEAM Initiatives Kathleen Fredette, Maker Learning Network and iLEAD California schools ran the project virtually this past year. Phase one resulted in two learner-authored experiments being selected by a panel of aerospace experts. Phase two is defined by two launch teams, comprised of learners collaborating in experiment optimization and community outreach in preparation for the experiment launch scheduled for June 3, 2021.

We recently spoke to two learners on launch teams: Grace Stumpf and James Walker, who both attend iLEAD Exploration. The two told us about their experience with DreamUp so far.

What is a launch team and its purpose?

Grace: The purpose of DreamUp is to get kids excited about space exploration and inspire the next generation. This year’s launch teams are groups of students, ranging from middle to high school, working together to send an experiment to the ISS. The launch team I’m on is testing the effects of microgravity on the germination of Vigna radiata, or mung beans.

James: The “why” behind our launch team is to find reliable alternatives for food sources for long-term space travel. Currently, food aboard the ISS is blasted into space on expensive rockets. It would be cheaper and more efficient to grow/create food in space and required for future space colonization. My team is working towards sending up Daucus carota (carrot) seeds, which we obtained from Burpee Seeds, up to the ISS for experimentation of carrot growth in microgravity versus on Earth. Indeed, Burpee made a generous donation to our project!

What inspired you to apply to be part of a launch team?

Grace: I wanted to step outside my comfort zone. Space has always interested me, and I was willing to put in the hard work to make it to launch. I didn’t want to go through my life and not try anything new. I also thought that being on this team might appeal to future college admissions teams. When I applied, to be completely honest, I didn’t think I was going to make the team. But I am so glad I did!

James: Ever since I was a toddler, I’ve dreamed of being an astronaut. I always ask myself, “What is the best line of action?” for the future. So when I heard about this team, I knew this would bring great opportunities for me later in life. Not very many people have the opportunity to send something to the ISS. I think this will enhance my portfolio when applying to schools or jobs.

What will it mean to you when your project finally launches this summer?

Grace: I’m really looking forward to watching the launch on YouTube or in person, depending on how things work out. Once that happens, it will mean we’ve almost finished with our DreamUp project and something I worked on has gone to space!

James: I’ve never seen a rocket launch in person, so I’m definitely looking forward to that. We have a lot of work to do before that. But the satisfaction of seeing the work pay off could very well be the best prize anyone could ask for.

What has been the most challenging part of the project so far?

Grace: The most challenging part has probably been researching all the information on Vigna radiata for our experiment.

James: The hardest thing for me would definitely be having to shift my schedule around for meetings.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of this project so far?

Grace: The most rewarding thing so far has been writing as a guest blogger for the iLEAD Student Aerospace Projects blog. It is my dream to be a published author and write my own book. The blog was an amazing experience and gave me a wonderful opportunity to practice my writing. I would also like to thank Mrs. Fredette for providing me such a fantastic opportunity.

James: To me, the most rewarding thing so far would be the time I spend with my team over Zoom. They are amazing humans and extremely smart for their age. It is really nice to be around people who are as interested in space as I am.

What are the disadvantages and advantages of doing this work virtually?

Grace: One of the advantages is that we are able to have team members all over the country. Most of us are based in California, but we have team numbers as far away as Colorado. A disadvantage is that no matter how hard you try, you can never replace being able to see someone in person.

James: My favorite part of doing this virtually is that I don’t have to leave home. However, it is getting quite lonesome, and being able to interact with people in person is a lot easier than virtually. Experimentation on germination of carrots would also be a lot easier if we were able to work together in person.

What have you learned while being part of DreamUp, and what would you tell others who are considering getting involved?

Grace: I learned about the International Space Station, germination, microgravity and better time management. My message for others who might consider getting involved in DreamUp is this: If you’re interested in space and willing to put the work in, go for it!

James: It is a general fact that hard work pays off, but DreamUp really put that into perspective for me. If I met someone who was considering joining DreamUp, I would heavily encourage it if they were willing to do lots of work and have great amounts of fun.

Click here to learn more and to register for the next mission!

7 Habits – Sharpen the Saw


Habit 7 is the habit of renewal.

“Sharpening the Saw” is what a lumberjack must do in order to cut wood efficiently and effectively. The same applies to the scissors of the seamstress, the paintbrushes of the painter, and the tools of the craftsman.

To maintain and increase our effectiveness, we must renew ourselves in body, heart, mind, and soul. This improves our capacity, builds stronger relationships, and allows for continuous improvement. Building greater reserves builds the strength we need for those hard moments when we need to show the grit, determination, and patience that are the hallmarks of a strong character.

This week, discuss with your family ways to sharpen your individual saws to renew each family member’s body, heart, mind and/or soul.

Learner Spotlight: Hannah Sterman

Hannah Sterman Featured

iLEAD Exploration learner Hannah Sterman, 13, embodies zest in her enthusiasm for her academics. This year, she set a goal for herself to take learning into her own hands; she has chosen to spend free time researching and learning about things that interest her rather than just completing what is assigned to her. For example, Hannah recently had a friend diagnosed with epilepsy. Instead of simply asking an adult what epilepsy is, she did a full research report on the topic and learned for herself. This demonstrates that Hannah has a zest for learning. Every time she meets with her EF, Hannah shows her excitement and enthusiasm toward all her work.

For a seventh grader, Hannah is balancing a great deal. It is admirable how self-aware she is; she recognizes when she is near burnout and is taking on too much. When that happens, Hannah takes time for herself. She does this by watching Gilmore Girls with her mom and talking with her friends. She also has a personal goal for herself this year to get outside and stretch more often. Whether it’s watching TV, chatting with friends, stretching or taking walks, Hannah ensures that she spends time grounding herself in personal activities that fill her cup when academics and extracurriculars become overwhelming.

Hannah has been homeschooling for the past two years. She and her family were drawn to iLEAD Exploration because Hannah prioritizes both academics and extracurricular activities. The flexibility in schedule is a great benefit for Hannah because she takes hours of dance class, engages in dance competitions, and studies Hebrew on a weekly basis. With homeschooling, Hannah has time for both her academics and her extracurricular passions to be prioritized and well-balanced in her schedule.

Hannah has been dancing since she was in preschool. Although she has learned and practiced many forms of dance, tap has become her true passion. Hannah is on a competitive dance team. During competition season, Hannah spends her weekends performing her tap numbers in competition with other dancers in the state. Hannah truly lights up when she is onstage! Additionally, Hannah attends Hebrew school, where she learns to read and write Hebrew. She is currently preparing for her upcoming Bat Mitzvah. Hebrew has been challenging for her, especially because you read it from right to left! After getting a tutor, she got the hang of it and now genuinely loves learning this new language!

SLO of the Month: Zest

Welcome back

For the month of May, our Schoolwide Learner Outcome (SLO) is zest. You may be asking yourself, “What is zest, and why is it an important character trait?” Think of zest as more than just a character trait. It is a mindset, or a state of mind, a positive approach to life and new situations. Embracing unfamiliar educational challenges can be difficult, but having a zestful attitude can help our learners push through and gain new insights, allowing them to feel successful. When we invest in zestful practices, we experience gratitude, hope, and love from the inside (Seligman, Steen, Park & Peterson, 2006).

Zest Poster


2021 Virtual Talent Showcase

talent show

The 2021 Virtual Talent Showcase was a huge success! A big thank-you to all our learners who participated this year. Please click here and you will be able to view our talented learners in our 2021 Virtual Talent Showcase based on the theme “Together We Can.” Enjoy!

Meet a DreamUp to Space Team Member: Grace Stumpf, Team Adzuki

iLEAD Exploration learner Grace Stumpf collage DreamUp

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 were selected and are now collaborating on these two “Launch 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 Grace Stumpf!

Meet Grace Stumpf, Team Adzuki

Grace Stumpf reading booksGrace Stumpf is a 13-year-old 7th grader at iLEAD Exploration. She enjoys reading, science, and the great outdoors. As a member of the iLEAD DreamUp to Space Launch Team Team Adzuki, she will participate in experimentation optimization in preparation for the upcoming spring 2021 launch.

In the future, Grace would like to be an author of literature for children and middle schoolers. Her favorite book is I Am Malala. Other favorites are The Hunger Games, Keeper of the Lost Cities, and Percy Jackson series.

Grace is also a high-level figure skater. Her other hobbies include flying, painting, and researching Greek mythology.

An interesting fact: Grace was born prematurely at 28 weeks, weighing only two pounds and 12 ounces. She spent 69 days in the NICU. The doctors gave her a 50 percent chance of survival.

We had the chance to ask Grace a few questions!

Q&A with Grace

What is the most exciting thing about this opportunity?

“It’s wonderful to know that I may inspire some other little girl or boy out there to reach for the stars, and that to me is out of this world!”

What is your favorite animal and why?

“My favorite animal is most definitely a wombat because they are just so cute and intelligent. (I also find it very funny that they poop cubes.)”

Who do you look up to?

“I look up to all my teachers. My wonderful English teachers, Mrs. Nancy Kaser and Mrs.Chris MacLeith. My extraordinary history teacher, Mrs. Janiene Bishop. My miracle-worker math teacher, Mrs. Kathleen Crady. My exceptional educational facilitator Mrs. Julie Sato. And last but not least, my awesome science teacher, Mrs. Jill. I would like to thank each one of them for inspiring my love of learning. (And let’s not forget my amazing parents, who homeschool me and let me pursue my passions and read to my heart’s content.)

We look forward to introducing more team members to you soon!

Learner Spotlight: Milana Alexander

Milana Alexander featured

“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” Although this quote is traced back to Confucius over 2000 years ago, it couldn’t be more true for iLEAD Exploration learner Milana Alexander today.

For Milana, who has been homeschooling since kindergarten, travel is how she “sharpens the saw.” She has visited 24 countries and 24 US states so far. In September, she became interested in the US National Parks and the Junior Ranger program and hopes to visit all 63 (thus far, she has visited 10). Traveling allows her to explore a variety of cultures, climates, histories and societies. Milana has no fear trying new food wherever she travels. Exposure to diverse food has made her an adventurous eater; currently her favorite foods are sushi, any kind of pasta, and meatballs and mashed potatoes from her favorite restaurant in Sweden. She and her mom have even created a blog that documents their travels and includes tips for traveling as a family, including awesome podcasts and apps.

Traveling helps Milana hit all parts of Habit Seven, sharpening the saw. Physically, she is able to take care of her body by eating nutritious, local food. She walks around new cities and plays at many playgrounds. She gets to rest in comfortable hotels and Airbnbs as well. On a social-emotional level, Milana loves making friends wherever she goes. She is an inclusive child who has grown up playing with children all over the world; even if they don’t speak the same language, they make connections through play. She feeds her mind by reading and learning through programs, such as the national parks program, or visiting museums and even crafting. Finally, Milana fills her spiritual side by connecting with nature. Whether hiking through the Rocky Mountains, stargazing in Death Valley, or snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands, Milana can find the beauty in all of nature.

Milana shows great enthusiasm and energy for everything she does. She is particularly enthusiastic about animals, and when she isn’t traveling, she fosters kittens for a local animal shelter. She bottle-feeds them and showers them with love. She has fostered 38 kittens so far. Her hobbies and interests include traveling, animals, visiting museums (especially science!), Minecraft, reading, playing board games, and making new friends. Her favorite academic subject is social studies. She loves swimming, kayaking, sewing, horseback riding, park and beach days, and taking classes on her Peloton bike.

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