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

ilead exploration

Learner Spotlight: Jedaiah Pierce


Jedaiah Pierce has the “first things first” habit down pat. This 6th grade iLEAD Exploration learner starts his day with a plan and makes a checklist of everything he plans to do for the day. He does schoolwork first, then chores, and then it’s playtime.

This active eleven-year-old was born with cerebral palsy, which affects the left side of his body. However, Jedi has not let this stop him from doing things he loves. Even though some activities may take him more time and effort, he keeps the growth mindset at the forefront of his mind. He plays soccer, rides horses, plays Fortnite, swims, and wants to learn archery. He has been doing physical therapy and occupational therapy since he was six months old. He has had five years of equine therapy (PT/OT on horses). He is constantly trying new things to help strengthen his arm and hand. Two years ago, Jedi started having seizures related to his cerebral palsy. Although this was scary, Jedi has been courageous in the face of this development and takes active measures to improve the health of his brain. He always has a good attitude with doctor visits and bravely faces uncomfortable procedures.

Kind and generous, Jedi is friendly with everyone. He loves life and loves to have fun. He is also really funny and likes to joke around. Jedi is the youngest of three boys. Jedi’s parents are both teachers and his beloved older brothers are in high school where their dad teaches. He lives in Joshua Tree near Joshua Tree National Park, so hiking is one of his favorite things to do. His favorite national park, however, is Yosemite. Jedi also enjoys Fortnite, watching gaming YouTubers, Marvel and DC superheroes, soccer, and traveling, but he also loves coming home to his family’s three dogs.

Jedi’s first year homeschooling has been a success so far. He had been in public school since kindergarten, but his family decided last year (pre-pandemic) that they would homeschool him this year for several reasons: to spend more time with family, to have flexibility for medical appointments and sick days, and to enjoy the atmosphere of school at home.

Jedi has achieved so much in his life. One of his favorites was winning first place for his science project at the local district and then being selected to go on to the county science fair. Congratulations, Jedi!

Inspiration: Mud Kitchen Fun

mud-kitchen-makers (1)

By Nicole Huguenin
Director of Arts Integration and Play Maker, Maker Learning Network

Remember: Kids are 100% washable!

Are you running out of ideas to entertain your bright learners at home? We have just the thing for you: Why not build your family’s very own mud kitchen?

Mud kitchens are so much fun for your kids! Not only do they completely engage children and provide you with some much-needed extra time, but they also encourage the following:

  • Exploration
  • Creativity
  • Imagination
  • Social Skills
  • Role-Playing
  • Fine Motor Skills
  • Math
  • Sensory Play
  • Wonder and Joy

Did you know that dirt is healthy for your kids? Find out “The Dirt on Dirt” and the many health benefits of mud!

How to Make a Mud Kitchen

Mud kitchens can be as simple as a bowl, a stick, some dirt, and some water. They can also be a little more elaborate. Click here for our collection of mud kitchen ideas on Pinterest! Let your child’s imagination guide them in their mud kitchen adventures. See what you can find from this list:

  • Cupcake Tins
  • Wooden Spoons
  • Mashers
  • Whisks
  • Spatulas
  • Metal Bowls
  • Wooden Bowls
  • Sifter
  • Small Pans
  • Mortar and Pestle
  • Colanders
  • Ladles
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons
  • Rolling Pin
  • Pots and Pans
  • Expired Spices
  • Dried or Old Flowers

Mud Kitchen Supply Ideas

Items for mud kitchens need not be new. They can be things from around the house, or you can ask friends and relatives if they have any. Thrift stores are also a great place to find things for mud kitchens. See what you can find from this list:

  • Cupcake Tins
  • Wooden Spoons
  • Mashers
  • Whisks
  • Spatulas
  • Metal Bowls
  • Wooden Bowls
  • Sifter
  • Small Pans
  • Mortar and Pestle
  • Colanders
  • Ladles
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons
  • Rolling Pin
  • Pots and Pans
  • Expired Spices
  • Dried or Old Flowers

Remember: “Kids are 100% washable!” —Lisa Latimer, iLEAD Agua Dulce School Director

Have fun! #GETMUDDY

Be sure to share your mud kitchen photos with us here!

Fall MAP Testing

Fall MAP Testing iLEAD Exploration

We wanted to remind you that our MAP testing window is coming to a close on October 30. We hope you take this opportunity to gather information regarding your learner’s progress.


Upcoming Educational Events

Virtual Activities

We are very excited about the upcoming virtual events listed below! Please register for the upcoming Pet Show & Tell on November 5th at 1:00 p.m. by visiting here. Now is your chance to show off that pet of yours!

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


Virtual Halloween Parade

Halloween P

It’s not too late to join the fun! The deadline has been extended to October 23!


Fall Webinars

lifelong copy

Interested in learning about your child’s learning modalities? Join us for a webinar on October 21 at 12:00 p.m. Register here.

Updated Webinars flyer with links

Upcoming Educational Events

Virtual Activities

We are very excited about the upcoming virtual events listed below!

  • Please register for Skribbl Pictionary on October 23 at 2:00 p.m. by visiting here. Also, please note that we have extended the registration deadline for Let’s Cook to 10/23.

Digital Citizenship Week and Virtual Book Club Kickoff


Digital Citizenship Week and Virtual Book Club Kickoff

iLEAD California strives to foster a community where our learners are digital citizens. Being a good digital citizen is about understanding the best way to connect and collaborate with others. Now more than ever, fostering digital citizenship is essential.

When we go online, we’re participating in a world where we can be instantly connected to thousands of people at a moment’s notice. When learners connect with each other from a distance, it can affect the way they behave. For example, their actions can feel removed from consequences or discovery. When people are anonymous, it’s easier to behave irresponsibly, cruelly, or unethically.

iLEAD is participating in the annual Digital Citizenship Week as a way to help our families generate conversations about what it means to be a good digital citizen, stay safe in the online world, and utilize the wonderful tools 21st-century technology has to offer to the best of their abilities.

We’ll be focusing on 5 main topics for discussion and learning this year:

  1. Media Balance and Well-Being
  2. Media/Online Literacy
  3. Building Relationships and Communication as a prevention technique to Bullying, Digital Drama, and Hate Speech
  4. Using Digital Footprint and Identity to Foster Digital Leadership
  5. Digital Privacy and Security

Each topic will include family-centered activities and discussion guides to support this driving question: “How do I demonstrate through my actions that I’m a good digital citizen?”

We encourage you to submit activities and reflections to

Join in a parent virtual book club this fall!

iLEAD California is offering a network-wide virtual family book club as part of our efforts to join in the national movement to foster digital citizenship. We’ll be reading Raising Humans in the Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology by Diana Graber.

Book Club Kickoff: Thursday, October 29, from 6:30-7:30 PM

Book Club Discussion and Reflection: Thursday, November 29, from 6:30-7:30 PM

With weekly emails throughout the month for guided questions, resources, and asynchronous discussion.

Click HERE to register.

Learner Spotlight: Adrian Staab

Adrian Straub falcon

After a particularly disappointing loss in a jiu jitsu tournament, someone told iLEAD Exploration learner Adrian Staab: “You never lose; you only learn.” A third grader who has earned a yellow-white belt in jiu jitsu, Adrian took this message to heart and came to understand that losing isn’t the end of the world; it’s just an opportunity to learn and grow. Now he happily applies this growth mindset to other aspects of life.

Homeschooling for Adrian started four years ago as a necessity since he had a problem with his esophagus that could cause him to choke easily and his parents didn’t feel comfortable sending him out to school. Homeschool not only provided a safer option but also the opportunity for outside classes with incredible teachers. Some of his favorites have been LEGO engineering, marine biology, Spanish, and theatre.

Another benefit of homeschooling is that Adrian can travel more easily with his family. Since his parents own their business that requires them to travel often, homeschooling allows Adrian to travel with them. The family believes travel is wonderfully educational, and it has enabled Adrian to visit many museums, learn about other states and countries, socialize with many different types of people, and so much more.

When it comes to “first things first,” being kind is the first and highest value for this family. Once, after Adrian won a jiu jitsu match a few years ago, the child who lost started crying and got really upset. Rather than celebrate his victory, Adrian immediately patted the other child on the back and gave him an encouraging speech about how great he did and how he should always believe in himself. Adrian’s parents were so proud that he put someone else’s feelings above his need to celebrate at that moment.

Adrian has won three gold medals in jiu jitsu tournaments. He is the highest-ranked child in his Muay Thai class. He also enjoys speech and debate, playing piano, and helping his parents with their business.

Homeschooling has shaped who Adrian is today. Having the option to customize Adrian’s learning, learn through travel, and focus on his growth has been awesome for the Staab family.

Upcoming Educational Events

Virtual Activities

We are very excited about the upcoming virtual events listed below:

  • TK-3 Show and Tell, October 13 at 11:00 a.m. Register here.
  • Let’s Cook, October 16 at 1:00 p.m. Register here.
  • Skribbl Pictionary, October 23 at 2:00 p.m. Register here.

World Food Day

World Food

Food is seen as a basic human need, and yet one in nine people globally experience chronic hunger. As far back as 1945, the United Nations recognized food not as a privilege but as a right. This is why they created World Food Day. It is observed annually on October 16. It’s a day of observance to draw attention to the plight of the hungry. So this week, join us in eradicating hunger.

Here are some ways you can help:

  1. Give to a local food bank.
  2. Support small, local farms.
  3. Raise money to end hunger.

For more information, you can also visit the World Food Day page on the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ website.

Learner Spotlight: Gianelle and Madilyn Do


iLEAD Exploration learners Gianelle and Madilyn Do believe in the power of “yet,” and are always looking for new interests to explore and finding creative ways to help others.

The Do family began homeschooling when they realized their younger daughter was struggling to keep up in a traditional school due to dyslexia. The family also loved the idea of interest-led learning, and they wanted these 5th and 3rd grade girls to love what they were studying and explore other areas they would otherwise never have explored. As an entrepreneurial family, they also wanted the girls to learn to be independent and consider all the possible options out there. Lastly, they wanted to be able to spend more quality time together as a family.

The Do family has put into practice tackling the hard things first since they started their homeschool journey. The family tackles all their “busy” projects at the beginning of the week, leaving the fun or less busy projects until the end. Ultimately, Fridays have always been their “Fri-yays!” and are filled with a fun learning activity. This comes naturally to the girls and has been their go-to schedule from the beginning.

A growth mindset is central to this family. They love using the word “yet” and have learned this is a powerful word. Examples: “I don’t know how to draw this yet” or “I can’t read a full chapter book yet, but I am working on it and will get there.” They also love to try new things. Often, when they’re trying new things, mistakes happen and difficulties arise, but they love to “try again.” Gianelle and Madilyn learn from their mistakes because they know mistakes are only teaching opportunities, and if they don’t try, they’ll never know the outcome. They also believe they can do hard things. As you can see, a positive mindset is a big part of their schooling and life in general. They enjoy writing in the Big Life Journal and listening to the related podcast.

Madilyn, age eight, has been interested in dance for years. She is now in her second year of ballet and her first year of contemporary. She started as a beginner in ballet and has successfully moved up to intermediate. Her goal is to be accepted into a pointe class and move up from there. She also enjoys video games, practicing piano, spending time with her friends, and playing with slime.

Gianelle, age ten, loves to sing. She fought through her fears of performing in public, which was a big step for her. She is passionate about helping others. Last year she was able to meet with the mayor of her city for an interview and to make a public video to ask her community to help her gather supplies to make care bags for people without housing. She was able to make 100 bags! She also loves to make crafts and sell them at kids’ business fairs and saves a portion of her earnings to give back. Gianelle also enjoys fashion, makeup lessons, and her ukulele.

Virtual Halloween Parade

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Virtual Wax Museum

Wax museum

Virtual History Wax Museum flyer

Student Support Symposium


This year’s Student Support Symposium will be held virtually on October 13, 2020. Please register here.

Jonathan Mooney, an award-winning writer, entrepreneur, and activist who first learned to read at 12 years old, will be the keynote speaker. In addition, over 20 exceptional education sessions will be offered. Topics include the following:

  • Understanding the Assessment Process and the Role You Play
  • How Present Levels Drive the Whole IEP
  • Occupational Therapy Activities to Support Optimal Participation in School
  • Understanding Anxiety in Children
  • 8 Skills to Facilitate Learners’ Optimal Communication Skills
  • And many more!

Due to the symposium, the curriculum library will be closed for any pickups on Tuesday, October 13, as iLEAD Exploration staff will be attending the Student Support Symposium. We hope you will find topics of interest to attend as well!

Upcoming Educational Events

Virtual Activities

We are very excited about the upcoming virtual events listed below:

  • Virtual Book Club: October 8 at 11 a.m. Register here by October 5.
  • Scattergories for learners in grades 3-5: October 5 at 2 p.m. Register here.
  • TK-3 Show and Tell: October 13 at 11 a.m. Register here.
  • Let’s Cook: October 16 at 1 p.m. Register here.
  • Skribbl Pictionary: October 23 at 2 p.m. Register here.

Fall Webinars

lifelong copy

Have college application questions and need answers? Join us for our next College Application Q&A webinar on October 9 at 10 am. Register here:

Updated Webinars flyer with links

Meet Your EL Team


Name/Role: Stephanie Casolara, EF and EL Coordinator
Location: Yucca Valley (near Joshua Tree National Park)
Family: Two energetic, awesome boys, ages eight and five.
Interests or Hobbies: I love to read, run, and hike, along with rock scrambling.
Fun Fact: I was born and raised in Upstate New York. I came to California to teach and absolutely love the Southern California desert life.





Name: Amri Gallardo, EF and EL Support
Location: San Fernando Valley
Family: Husband Bruno, daughters Grace and Faith, turtle Pepe Pepino, hamsters Rocky and Drago.
Interests: Watching MMA and 90-Day Fiancé. (It is the story of my life because I got engaged six weeks after meeting my husband and then brought him over to the US. I don’t recommend it, and I use the show as a teaching tool for my daughters.)
Fun Fact: I used to be an aircraft mechanic before becoming a teacher.




Name/Role: Jennifer Billig, EF and EL Support
Location: Yucca Valley
Family: Husband, a six-year old daughter, an eight-year old son, one German shepherd.
Interests or Hobbies: I enjoy running, hiking, camping, music, and watching The Office or crime shows.
Fun Fact: I backpacked across Ireland and Scotland for a month with my husband.





Name/Role: Jennifer Hudson, EF and EL Support
Location: Central Los Angeles
Family: I live with my husband and two daughters in a craftsman bungalow southwest of downtown.
Interests or Hobbies: In my free time, I enjoy reading, hiking, birdwatching, and doing arts and crafts.
Fun Fact: I am learning to play the cello.





Name/Role: Jennifer Ramirez, EF and EL Support
Location: Lake Forest
Family: Married to Alex, and we have three kids who are ten, eight, and five years old.
Interest/Hobbies: I enjoy baking, sports, and traveling.
Fun Fact: After backpacking through Spain for a month, I returned home, sold my car, resigned from LA Unified, and decided to return to live and teach in Madrid, Spain.




Name/Role: Lorraine Kajikawa, EF and EL Support
Location: Torrance
Family: Married to my wonderful husband, Gavin, with two beautiful daughters, eight and ten years old.
Interests or Hobbies: I love creating and caring for my succulent arrangements and propagating succulents. I also enjoy baking all kinds of baked goods!
Fun Fact: I once “climbed” the Great Wall of China!




Name/Role: Patty Plascencia, EF and EL Support
Location: Chino
Family: I’ve been married for nineteen years to my hubby, Orlando, and we have three beautiful homeschooled girls: Abby, Keilah, and Roxana.
Interests or Hobbies: I love adventures, especially, trying new foods and going to new places! I enjoy reading and love finding great deals!
Fun Fact: Complete strangers let me borrow their newborn baby. I like babies!

Hispanic Heritage Month

Hight School Clubs and Organizations

Every year from September 15 to October 15, we honor our ancestors from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America during Hispanic Heritage Month.

September 15 was chosen as the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month because it marks the anniversary of the independence of Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile also celebrate their independence during this period on September 16 and September 18.

To help honor this amazing culture, we are including some resources that you may want to investigate:

PBS Learning Media

Scholastic: Celebrate Hispanic Heritage

Hispanic Heritage Book Ideas

NEA: Hispanic Heritage Month

Teaching Central America

Teaching Tolerance: Latino Civil Rights Timeline

ELAC Meetings 2020-2021


The English Language Advisory Committee (ELAC) is a school-level committee of parents, staff, and community members designated to advise school officials on English learner programs and services. Each school with 21 learners must form an ELAC and the committee must meet at least four times a year.

The dates of iLEAD Hybrid’s (of which iLEAD Exploration is a program) ELAC meetings are on Thursdays at 9:30 a.m. on the following dates:

  • November 19 at 9:30 a.m.
  • January 14 at 9:30 a.m.
  • February 11 at 9:30 a.m.
  • May 13 at 9:30 a.m.

We want parents to join these meetings, as the purpose is to support families and learners. iLEAD will send out a survey so families can indicate topics they would like to cover at meetings this year. These are public meetings, and all are welcome. At the next meeting, we will elect the following officers: President (Chair), Vice President (Vice Chair), and Secretary. If any voting takes place, only the parents/guardians of English language learners can vote. We want your voices heard.

The agenda and log-in information will be sent via email to EL families a few days prior to each meeting. Here are the minutes from our first meeting of the school year.

Tips for Building an English Vocabulary

Meet the Team

Learning the vocabulary of any new language is considered to be the key to understanding what learners hear or read during the school day. It is very helpful for English language learners to build their English vocabulary as quickly as possible to increase learning of both the English language and new concepts and ideas.

  1. Parents should try to speak English at home at some point each day. It is very difficult for students to learn a new language if the language is not reinforced at home consistently.
  2. Read aloud (or use a website that reads aloud) with your student in both English and their native language each day.
  3. Encourage your student to continue to read for pleasure in their own language even while learning English.
  4. Have your student create a scrapbook, journal, or diary of their time in the United States.
  5. Help your student make a personal dictionary with vocabulary words they are learning.
  6. Use art to increase English vocabulary.
  7. Watch appropriate English language television programs or DVDs with your student or use singalong or storybook music tapes.
  8. Commit to learning English with your student.
  9. Use Rosetta Stone Classroom each day to practice English.
  10. Use the internet to find and access websites with ESL practice activities.Practice makes perfect!

Things to remember:

  1. Learning a new language takes time to comprehend and practice. Be realistic about how quickly your student can progress and be patient!
  2. Making mistakes is part of the learning process.
  3. Students are both active and passive learners. They typically “understand” and “recognize” new English words before they are comfortable “speaking” or “writing” them. This is a normal part of the process of acquiring a second language.
  4. English language learners cannot absorb everything they are exposed to every day. It takes time!

English language learners typically improve their English proficiency at an amazing pace. We are so proud of them!

EL Supports on iLEAD Exploration’s Website

Presenting Online Curriculum Options for High Schoolers another idea

The EL team has developed resources for EL learners on its website. To view, go to iLEAD Exploration’s home page and log into the Hub. On the Hub Quick menu page, select English Language Learners and you will find a whole page dedicated to everything EL! You can meet our EL staff, learn about ELPAC testing, find ELAC meeting agendas/minutes, read EL newsletters, and search resources specific for EL learners.

Additionally, did you know that our Exploration website can be translated into several different languages? Simply scroll down to the bottom of the page, and click on the “Translate” button. From there, choose your home language. It is important to note that the translate feature is not able to translate documents (PDFs, Google docs, etc.) that are viewable on the website.



Every English Language Learner will have access to BrainPOP EL. You can watch this video to learn more about the program. More information coming soon.

Learner Spotlight: The Gomez Family


Second-generation homeschoolers, Maximus (grade 4) and Tobias (grade 1) are two inquisitive, driven learners with a clear purpose for their education. The Gomez boys have been homeschooling with iLEAD for the past five years because their mom, raised as a homeschooler herself, recognized that her boys from a young age needed to be challenged. Four walls could not contain the knowledge to be gained by this family, so they chose to make the world their classroom. Able to follow their passions, these learners have their sights set on high achievements.

Maximus began reading chapter books at the age of five and has not stopped since. He enjoys studying anatomy, robotics, coding, swimming, and is an experienced pianist. From a young age, Maximus has been fascinated with the medical field. His ultimate goal of becoming a heart surgeon has led to many in-depth, academically-challenging projects. Maximus was fortunate to discover his purpose at a young age and amazingly has not veered from that path.

Tobias, too, has a passion for his education. He has always been interested in the dental field. He spends his time exploring the scientific names and functions of all his teeth. He is able to identify each of the teeth he loses (and many of them are currently wiggly). Tobias is also a gifted creator, builder, and often explores his artistic side. Many days he can be found drawing and creating art. This summer, Tobias took on a new hobby and is now surfing regularly.

As a family, the Gomezes enjoy hiking, traveling to new places, and exploring museums, such as LACMA. Spending time together as a family cultivates the ultimate homeschool environment. Maximus and Tobias continue to pursue a path that will lead them to success. Although they are young, they set goals and model a sense of purpose in the passions they pursue.

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