iLEAD Exploration Remains Open Virtually for Learners

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

Aug 23, 2020 @ 01:00

Monday Message

Our News & Events

The Virtual Science Fair – Next Steps!

science labs

Hello, scientific thinkers! You are now ready for the next steps in the process: Guess & Test. Think of it like a recipe, mixing together all the observations, questions, and wonder to form a “hypothesis” (your best guess about what you think is going to happen based on all that you know so far). Then, you will need to test your hypothesis to see if what you think will happen actually does! This is the exciting part of being a scientist: testing and exploring your ideas to see what more you can discover about your topic of interest.

Here are some helpful resources for recording your hypothesis and testing your theories.

Don’t forget to register here for the upcoming iLEAD Science Fair (to be held virtually). If you would like to be a part of this fun experience, all submissions will need to be turned in by January 15, 2021!

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood


Editor’s Note: This article is one in a series on the pillars of iLEAD’s educational philosophy and approach.

Communication is key, but if we lack understanding in our relationships, how can we ever hope to clearly communicate?

This month we are examining Habit #5: Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood.

Many of us seek first to be understood. We want to get our point across, and in doing so, it’s easy to ignore the other person completely. We might pretend that we’re listening, selectively listen to certain parts of the conversation, or attentively focus on only the words being said. Doing so may mean we miss the meaning entirely. In doing this, we filter everything through our own life experiences and decide what someone means before they’ve even finished speaking.

Our listening tends to fall into four categories:

  1. Ignoring: We’re not listening at all.
  2. Pretending: We may say “uh-huh, right,” but we’re not really tuned in.
  3. Selective listening: We hear part of what the person says, but the rest of the time we’re distracted.
  4. Attentive listening: We’re actively listening and paying attention, but not taking our listening to the ultimate level — empathetic listening.

Dr. Stephen Covey defined empathetic listening as listening with the intent to truly understand. In order to really understand, we need to get inside another person’s frame of reference, and see the world from their point of view. Our listening also needs to be driven by an authentic desire to understand the other person and to build trust with them.

As part of the iLEAD educational model, we encourage learners to incorporate the following practices into their communication:

  • I listen to other people’s ideas and feelings.
  • I try to see things from their viewpoints.
  • I listen to others without interrupting.
  • I am confident in voicing my ideas.
  • I look people in the eyes when talking.

When we listen with the intent to understand, instead of with only the intent to reply, we begin true communication and relationship-building. Seeking to understand takes kindness; seeking to be understood takes courage. Effective communication is a balance of the two.

For more information on the 7 Habits and other leadership resources, click here to visit the FranklinCovey website.

Field Studies: Kelp Forest Virtual Tour

Kelp Forests Exploration

Please join us for a virtual tour of the Kelp Forests!
RSVP HERE by January 11, 2021

Learner Spotlight: Karina, Victoria, Adrianna, and Samuel Ramirez


The Ramirez family is filled to the brim with creative, fun-loving learners who enjoy supporting each other in everything they do. Karina (9th grade), Victoria (6th grade), Adrianna (4th grade), and Samuel (1st grade) love spending time with their family and their dog, traveling in their RV and experiencing new places. They have been homeschooling since 2012 and have been with iLEAD Exploration for three years.

The quest for understanding before acting is something these learners hold dear. Karina (14) asks lots of questions to facilitate understanding. She strives to make connections with others and enjoys sharing ideas in general. She loves to communicate and to philosophize about morality. Victoria (11) tends to be more quiet and reserved. She sits back and listens, but her great sense of humor appears every once in a while, showing you that she’s been listening. Nine-year old Adrianna loves to tell you how she feels and is very kindhearted and compassionate. Samuel (age six) has lots of ideas he enjoys sharing with the group. He longs to have the whole family’s or group’s attention before he speaks and then the ideas flow, surprising others with his vocabulary and understanding.

An awareness about the people and communities surrounding them comes naturally to these learners. Karina, acting on her finely tuned sense of justice and compassion, wants to help others and dreams of helping homelessness in the future. Victoria strives to connect with others by asking questions and finding things in common with others. Adrianna loves to tell you how she feels and is also very kindhearted and compassionate. Samuel is very friendly and outgoing and loves to make friends at parks.

All four of the kids love anything LEGO. Their favorite subjects are history and science. They love doing anything that is hands-on. Karina, interested in a career in criminal justice, plays the guitar, swims competitively, and loves crafting, especially focusing on “upcycling” or repurposing discarded objects. All-star soccer player Victoria also loves to read and write and is currently reading Keeper of the Lost Cities. She enjoys writing books and is currently working on one she hopes to self-publish one day. Adrianna adores dinosaurs and ninjas and anything related to art. She is currently remaking My Little Ponies into other cartoon characters. Samuel is all about video games! But he has also just learned how to ride a bike without training wheels and wants to play baseball when in-person activities are once again allowed.

If you love dinosaurs, guitar-playing, soccer, video games, and DOGS, check out this fabulous iLEAD Exploration family.

School-Wide Learner Outcome: Social Intelligence

Social Intelligence

Social intelligence is an important life skill that helps to build healthy relationships. It is one’s ability to interact well with others. Often called people skills, it is a learned ability involving situational awareness, understanding how to act within different social environments, and communicating easily with people from all walks of life. Someone who has high social intelligence (SI) is gifted at understanding others, making friends, and handling new situations. Social intelligence looks different across various cultures and demographics, as every group values different social skills.

Social intelligence continually develops throughout one’s life. It’s never too late to sharpen it and children are especially easy to teach. Educating children on healthy communication helps them to be a friend who is empathetic, generous, kind, and a good listener. There are four main characteristics of social intelligence.

Empathy: Empathy determines how well one relates to other people’s thoughts and emotions. Empathetic people consider and understand diverse perspectives, even if they don’t share the same ideas. They can pick up on a person’s mood and adjust their reactions accordingly.

Respect: Many cultures value esteem between children and adults as well as between spouses. Respecting others can mean adapting your communication style to fit their needs or coming to a compromise. Mutual understanding calls for a degree of respect.

Behavior: This component concerns how people carry themselves in social situations. Are their actions appropriate for the setting? Do they make others feel relaxed or uncomfortable? A person must be able to change their behavior when necessary while still maintaining their core attributes.

Self-Efficacy: This characteristic refers to how a person judges themselves on their capacity to perform particular tasks. If someone has a stable sense of self-efficacy concerning social intelligence, they’re confident in their social abilities. They experience little stress or worry over interacting with others.

CLICK HERE for some fun ways to encourage and develop social intelligence in your child.

The Virtual Science Fair: Explore your Questions!


Children are such natural scientists, constantly asking questions and wanting to know more about their topics of interest! Last week we introduced the first step in the Scientific Method: Making Observations.

After making great observations, you are ready for the next steps of questions and research! Now it is time to explore those questions and begin to research to see what others have discovered about your questions. Take some time with your learner this week to press into those inquiring minds.

Here are some helpful tips for capturing those great questions that just might lead to the next world-changing invention!

Asking Good Questions

Elementary Research Template

We hope to inspire your scientific research as you begin to prepare for the upcoming iLEAD Science Fair (to be held virtually). Please register here if you would like to be a part of this fun experience! All submissions will need to be turned in by January 15, 2021.

Upcoming Events: Snowstorm in a Jar


Join us and learn how to make a snowstorm in a jar!

Let’s make it feel like winter right here in our homes! You will need to gather a few materials (see registration link for details) and get ready to have fun creating a snowstorm, a cool way to experiment with science! Please register here for this fun event.

VirtualEvents_Fall2020 (1)

Newbery Film Festival


The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is an annual video contest in which young filmmakers create weird short movies that tell the entire stories of Newbery-winning books in about a minute and a half.

Please take a look at this site for more information and deadlines to enter.

Learner Spotlight: Grayson Ferrera-Schmidt


iLEAD Exploration kindergarten learner Grayson Ferrera-Schmidt has a joke for you!

Q: “What do you call a fly without wings?”
A: “A walk!”

Grayson will “bug” you with his jokes; he’s got a million of ’em! But, seriously, this learner and his family make a great learning-and-living-together team. When he finished kindergarten last year, he said he wanted his mom to be his teacher for every grade.

Way back when, homeschooling wasn’t something the Ferrera-Schmidt family considered. By the time Grayson turned two years old, however, his mom knew she wanted to teach him, instill him with critical-thinking skills, and challenge him to look at everything from different viewpoints. Homeschooling with iLEAD Exploration does that for them. It gives them a unique environment to make choices in Grayson’s education.

Seeking first to understand and then to be understood, Grayson is always applying this habit. Grayson always wants to fully understand anything he is talking about, no matter the subject, before he tries to weigh in on it himself. He wants to understand new information so that later he can use it himself. He is very inquisitive and blows his mom away by using what he learns correctly at a different time.

When others hear of Grayson homeschooling, they often ask, “What about his social skills? Aren’t you worried he will be socially awkward?” The answer is absolutely not! Grayson is an outgoing little boy with a great sense of humor who will talk to anyone willing to listen. People who speak with him often forget he’s only six years old. His vocabulary is beyond his years, and he easily makes friends and has great conversations with everyone.

Grayson’s hobbies and interests include all things dirty and gross! He wants to learn about every new bug he can find. He could spend hours capturing bugs, butterflies, dragonflies, and lizards to examine and watch them and then release them back into nature. He loves to study about animals and all the things they can and cannot do. He also likes to practice karate moves. Although he has never taken karate classes, that does not stop his imagination from running wild. When karate studios open again, Grayson is looking forward to taking classes.

Even though this is just their second year of homeschooling together, Grayson, his mom, and sometimes his little brother Levi make a pretty good team. They could not imagine life any other way.

Giant Stuffed Animal Club

Little teddy bear

Do you have a GIANT stuffed animal that you’d like to share with other iLEAD learners? Join the club! Share your giant stuffed friend, and see the giant stuffed friends of other learners during this fun virtual meet up!

LINKED Stuffed_animal (1)

Virtual Wax Museum

Virtual Wax Museum

We are very excited to share this Virtual Wax Museum tour. Our very own iLEAD learners researched historical figures from the past and created amazing presentations to share with. We hope that you enjoy learning and exploring the past. Please take a look at the link below to start exploring!

Virtual Was Museum


NASA’s Moon Pod Essay Contest


On September 15, 2020, NASA, in partnership with Future Engineers, launched the Artemis Moon Pod Essay Contest. The contest, which is open to all (public, private, and home school) in grades K-12, asks participants to imagine they are leading a one-week expedition to the Moon’s South Pole. In the essay, learners will need to describe to NASA what (and who) they would bring to help make their expedition a success.

The Moon Pod Essay Contest is presented in support of NASA’s Artemis program. The student challenge is part of NASA’s efforts to engage the public in its missions to the Moon and Mars. NASA is returning to the Moon for scientific discovery, economic benefits, and inspiration for a new generation. Working with its partners throughout the Artemis program, the agency will fine-tune precision landing technologies and develop new mobility capabilities that allow robots and crew to travel greater distances and explore new regions of the Moon.

Visit the Artemis Moon Pod Essay Contest page for important program dates.

The challenge will require students to imagine and share their thoughts on leading a one-week expedition at the Moon’s South Pole. Additionally, participants must include the types of skills, attributes, and/or personality traits they would want their Moon Pod crew to have and why. For a full description of the contest, including the requirements and who can enter, visit the Moon Pod Essay Contest website.

Every student who submits an entry will receive a certificate from NASA and be invited to a special NASA virtual event – with an astronaut!

Selected semifinalists will be invited to represent their state or territory in a series of Artemis Explorer sessions with NASA experts. In addition, nine finalists will travel with a parent to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in 2021 to learn about lunar exploration, and the national winner in each grade division will win a family trip to see the first Artemis test launch to watch the most powerful rocket in the world launch from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Entries for the contest are due no later than 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time on December 17, 2020. Children and students who live in the same household with NASA employees cannot enter. Read the full description of contest rules at Artemis Moon Pod Essay Contest (“The Challenge”) Rules.

High School Advisement


iLEAD Exploration is extremely pleased with the advisement and resources available through our high school advisors. We encourage you to take advantage of the many services they offer to assist you now and as you plan for the future.

Academic Counselors

Bethany Maddox (A-K)

Heather Fecarotta (L-Z)

Our academic counselors offer a number of important services for our high school learners. In addition to the advice they provide your amazing EFs, their virtual doors are always open to learners. Annual graduation plan meetings are a great way to help them get to know you better, personalize your high school experience around your goals, and receive suggestions for courses and electives of interest.

Our academic counselors also sign and approve all dual enrollment paperwork. If you’re interested in taking classes at the community college, they can assist with course selection and how to get started. Not sure what you want to do after high school? They can help you discover and narrow your options throughout high school so that you graduate prepared for whatever next steps you choose. They answer questions regarding classes, graduation requirements, and the academics required for college.

Our academic counselors have a wealth of experience working with college-bound learners and work in tandem with our college advisor to align your high school plan with your college goals. They will write your college letters of recommendation and look forward to framing you in the best possible context for admissions. Sign up to speak with them today!

Last Names A-K:

Last Names L-Z:

College Advisor

Laura Kazan

Laura Kazan is here for all of your college and post-secondary educational needs. For learners applying to four-year colleges, Laura can help you create a balanced college list, explain financial aid, assist with essays, and help with the completion of college applications. Juniors considering college should make an appointment as soon as possible. For learners interested in community colleges, trade schools, and careers, Laura can provide information on transfer options, associate degrees, certificates, and more. To take advantage of this amazing resource, you can make an appointment anytime.

The personalized attention provided by our academic counselors and college advisor is unique. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to chat with them this year.

Giving Tuesday Is December 1


#GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world on December 1, 2020, and every day. This #GivingTuesday, people around the world will be making online, year-end donations to causes and organizations they care about. We ask that you consider financially supporting iLEAD Exploration in that special and simple way on December 1.

If you’d like to contribute now, please click here to donate. Thank you for your support!

Learner Spotlight: Brown Family

Brown Family

Introducing iLEAD Exploration learners Kaleb and Kaden Brown. Kaleb is a senior who will graduate this fall semester. Kaden is in 10th grade.

The past two years of homeschooling have been filled with meaningful experiences. Homeschooling has allowed these brothers to excel in academics and learn outside the box by researching, traveling, and giving back to the community. In their third year of homeschooling, they have engaged in important work.

This semester, Kaleb and Kaden enrolled in US Government together to better understand the principles that led to the creation of the Constitution and to better understand the electoral process in this year’s presidential election.

They are involved and committed with Soar ‘N Deep, an educational company that brings knowledge and awareness through exploration and adventure. Through videos and projects, they are able to participate in important work. They were part of a teen panel public service announcement broadcast on social media to highlight that every vote counts. Recently, they were interviewed for the NAACP Voting Symposium. This experience provided them an opportunity to share their passion and advocacy for the power of voter participation even though they are not yet old enough to vote.

Kaleb and Kaden are grateful for the opportunities they have and the importance of giving back to their community by volunteering at a local food bank.

They created a live talent show #istandwiththebatwa to bring awareness to the culturally important and endangered Batwa tribe in Uganda who have been displaced from their land where they thrived for centuries.

Kaleb and Kaden are accomplished Brazilian martial artists of capoeira and have demonstrated this art at the 2019 iLEAD Talent Show! They also performed a rap. They are very talented rap artists, creating their own music.

Kaleb has a passion for the ocean and scuba diving and has studied with a mentor in San Diego. Kaleb was recently interviewed for a position on a podcast and was given the task to read a speech from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. He is an articulate and composed natural public speaker.

Kaden loves to fly and looks forward to being a pilot one day! He is part of the Young Eagles program at Compton Woodley airport and has earned flight hours including performing both takeoffs and landings with his co-pilot.

The Brown family enjoys traveling. They explore the history and learn from the communities they visit. They traveled extensively in Ethiopia in the Omo Valley visiting the Arbore, Dassanech, and Dorze tribes. Kaleb created a fantastic slideshow for his world history class to share what he learned with others!

Last February, the Brown Family traveled to the southern United States. They went to the New Orleans Mardi Gras in Louisiana and then visited the Whitney slave plantation in Alabama. Kaleb wrote about what he learned and felt in an essay for his US history course.

Both Kaleb and Kaden are committed to learning, having fun, and advocating for social justice.

Upcoming Educational Events

Fall 2020 Virtual Events

If your learner is in TK-3 and enjoys sharing, then you won’t want to miss our TK-3 Show and Tell that is happening on November 17 at 11:00 a.m. Register here to sign up for this fun event.

You can also register by clicking on any upcoming events on the flier.


Fall Webinars

Fall Webinars

On Wednesday, November 18 at 12 PM, please join us for a webinar where we will be sharing ideas for how to supplement core social studies curriculum with learning kits. Register HERE.

Updated Webinars flyer with links

Virtual Science Fair 2021- Step 1: Observation


Last week, you may have seen our flier for our upcoming Virtual Science Fair. It’s time to get started. Below you will find some helpful ideas to complete step 1 of your science project.

“What big eyes you have”… to make great big OBSERVATIONS! The scientific process begins with making observations from the world all around us! This initial process of collecting information involves more than just our eyes of course! We must teach our learners to use all of their senses to gather these observations. Try engaging in one of these activities to activate your five senses!

5 Senses Popcorn Investigation

Five Sense Interactive & Engaging

Poetry 5 Senses

Health Five Senses Activity

With these activities, we hope to inspire your scientific observations as you begin to ponder your participation in the upcoming iLEAD Science Fair (to be held virtually in the spring). Please register here if you would like to be a part of this fun experience! All submissions will need to be turned in by January 15, 2021.

Virtual Hearst Castle Tour

Hearst Castle Tour

LINKED Hearst_Castle_

Learner Spotlight: Enzo Cosio

Enzo Cosio

For third grader Enzo Cosio and his family, iLEAD Exploration has felt like finding the last puzzle piece. Even though COVID-19 has shut down external get-togethers, iLEAD Exploration feels like the community they were searching for.

The family has been homeschooling since January 2020. Traditional school was never a good fit for them, and the more they learned about homeschooling, the more they felt it was worth considering. The traditional classroom always felt like something of a compromise because there was never enough time to go as deep as Enzo wanted to and he rarely was able to follow his passions toward deeper understanding of a subject. With homeschooling, Enzo has a chance to fully explore the subjects at hand — and the people who love him the most are his teachers.

Homeschooling has brought out the collaborator in Enzo. Rather than simply consuming his education, he partners with his teachers on it. During his nature school days, he collaborates with his friends, searching through tide pools or exploring Griffith Park. Even at eight years of age, he understands that a good day is one in which everyone finishes happy, definitely a win-win for everyone. He translates this growing empathy to his interest in the natural world (raising and releasing pollinators) and to his politics (marching in demonstrations and helping send postcards urging folks to vote).

Enzo is always wonderfully positive and enthusiastic about life. His mother said she was grumbling about how hard 2020 has been, and Enzo said, “Maybe, but 2020 is also the year we’ve all stayed home together and spent all this time together. Nobody had to travel for work. We raised chickens, which we probably wouldn’t have done if things were normal.” What a grateful and optimistic young man!

Enzo loves all things science, particularly marine biology. He loves to read adventure books and play math games with his mom. He likes documentaries and is always making up songs. He bakes bread with his grandfather, is learning to cook with his grandmother and loves to play Mario Kart with his dad. Enzo also enjoys boogie-boarding, rock painting, reading every day, playing with his dog and taking care of his backyard chickens, Alice, Martha and Momo.

Enzo is inspiring to those around him because he is so enthusiastic about everything he’s learning and enjoys talking about all the interesting projects he’s involved in.

Let’s Cook


Our Let’s Cook deadline has been extended to January 15! Please take this opportunity to show off your culinary skills and share them with us. We can’t wait to see what’s cooking!

letscook b

2021 Virtual Science Fair


iLEAD Exploration invites you to participate in our 2021 Virtual Science Fair. In the upcoming weeks, we will be highlighting resources and ideas that will help you complete a science project from start to finish. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the scientific process while developing a deeper understanding of a scientific concept that fascinates your learner. We look forward to seeing all of your wonderful experiments!


Habit 4: Think Win-Win


At iLEAD, we believe development and growth are vital to one’s well-being and to our community. Over the years, our staff has been collectively studying and implementing the philosophies put forth by Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The concepts explored are useful for people of all ages. We will continue summarizing each habit monthly in the Monday Message, and we hope it will encourage you to explore the habits at a deeper level by practicing them in your own environment.

Habit 4: Think Win-Win!
When developing habits that lead you to personal victory, you are creating a winning situation for yourself. You find methods by which you can win, and you follow them up with action. These same skills can be used to translate that “win” into a multi-person victory. Creating a winning scenario in a setting that involves more than one person is a “win-win.”

A win-win perspective views life as cooperative rather than competitive. Win-win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks to benefit all human interactions.

Stephen Covey suggests that there are three vital traits to a person who approaches conflicts with a win-win attitude:

1. Integrity: Holding steadfast to your true feelings, values, and commitments.

2. Maturity: Expressing your ideas or feelings with both courage and consideration at the same time.

3. Abundance Mentality: Believing there is enough (success, benefit, etc.) for everyone.

Try approaching decisions by creating an opportunity for both sides to win. It may not always be possible to come up with a deal in which every single party wins; however, at the very least, you can create a deal that shows your teammates that you are looking out for everyone’s interests equally.

Upcoming Educational Events

Fall 2020 Virtual Events

If your learner is in TK-3 and enjoys sharing, then you won’t want to miss our TK-3 Show and Tell that is happening on November 17 at 11:00 a.m. Register here to sign up for this fun event.

You can also register by clicking on any upcoming events on the flier.

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