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

learner spotlight

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!

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.

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.

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.

Learner Spotlight: Katelyn Bright

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Katelyn has been homeschooled her whole life and joined iLEAD Exploration three years ago. Homeschooling allows her to pursue her life passions, including dance. Katelyn’s love of dance began while she was still in diapers. She will dance anywhere – at the beach, in a parking lot, on top of a mountain, in the desert or at the hardware store. Her passion has taken her to New York City, San Francisco and Philadelphia for training. Her dream is to dance for a progressive company that integrates different dance styles and cultural representations.

Dance and training usually add up to more than 20 hours per week, but Katelyn has many other interests. Last year, she enjoyed participating in the iLEAD Artisan Boutique and the Science Fair. This year, she is taking her first community college course as a ninth grader. iLEAD gives her the flexibility to direct her education and allows time for her main passion, dance. She loves to learn about history, archaeology, cultures, food, and nature wherever she goes. The Mojave Desert is her favorite place for rockhounding and the Sierra Mountains are her favorite place for backpacking. This year’s ‘high points’ were Boundary Peak at 13,146 feet, New Army Pass, at 12,400 feet and Cottonwood Pass at 12,126 elevation. Next year she hopes to reach the summit of Mt. Whitney.

Katelyn knows that dance is usually a short career and has a “Plan B” for a career after dance. Since animals are a close second to her love of dance, she plans to explore the veterinary or marine science fields. During summer camp at a wildlife rehabilitation center in California, Katelyn worked with exotic animals, cleaned cages, and learned about animal nutrition. She is hoping to explore marine science in the future through community college courses and summer programs. One benefit of the pandemic has been the large amount of online educational resources from aquariums around the world. Katelyn spends any extra time watching videos and learning about ocean environments.

iLEAD Exploration is a great fit for someone who has so many interests and has a passion that is very time consuming. Katelyn is so thankful for her style of education. It has allowed her to design her life around the things that she loves.

Learner Spotlight: Akiro Niella


Because 4th grade “just wasn’t making sense,” Akiro Niella, 12, began his homeschooling journey with iLEAD Exploration. Now, three years later, he is clearly thriving!

This happy, busy 7th grader takes action to improve things. When Akiro sees areas he needs to grow in, academically or otherwise, he seeks out help and works hard to improve. For instance, Akiro has been working hard to shore up his math skills. As a homeschooler, Akiro can work at his own pace and focus on his individual needs. Through his determination and the freedom of homeschooling, he is proud to be confidently working in his math class at grade level. Akiro also acts proactively in areas beyond himself when he sees areas in our world that need help. An example of this can be seen in his last science project, which was a creative and out-of-the-box idea for eliminating the waste our world produces.

Animals and writing are two of Akiro’s passions that help give purpose to his life. Akiro loves to write, specifically to create imaginative stories. He has an interest in pursuing this for his future, so he consistently spends time working to get his amazing ideas onto paper. As he puts it, “I love to write because when I start to write, I get to be in my own world.” Akiro also cares deeply about animals. Once he even saved the life of a rescue cat by feeding it with a syringe. He has many pets and takes excellent care of them. His favorite animals, though they aren’t among his pets, are black panthers and sharks. He appreciates the quiet stealth of these master hunters.

Akiro also enjoys studying everything about Japan. He has taken Japanese classes for the past three years and is learning the language and culture. His goal is to visit there one day soon.

LEGOs are another interest of Akiro’s. He enjoys collecting them, playing with them, and repairing broken sets to give them new life. Homeschooling has also allowed Akiro to pursue a variety of classes and interests, from stagecraft to drawing, muay thai, and even stunt work. He enjoys trying new things and seeing which of these hobbies and interests can enhance his learning in his core subjects.

Learner Spotlight: Ackah-Miezah Family


The Ackah-Miezah family are longtime successful homeschoolers starting their 12th year learning from home and their fourth year with iLEAD. Lena Ruisseau (grade 12), Oliver, (grade 10), and Edward Winston, (grade 6) have all made the best of their time with iLEAD Exploration.

These learners are incredibly proactive about social justice, their education, and their extracurricular activities. Over the summer, the Ackah-Miezah learners invested time in reading books that focus on social justice issues, having lots of family conversations about social justice, and initiating talks with peers and adults about their views on how we can create a more just and equitable world, as well as attending rallies around social justice causes. Ruisseau has created a “social justice” club with a group of friends who will gather monthly over the next school year to discuss and participate in activities, which they hope will proactively create change. Some of the events on the schedule include feeding the homeless in downtown LA, attending marches, raising money for causes they are passionate about, and volunteering at an urban garden.

These learners have also all been proactive about the kinds of topics they want to study this year. Even though the curriculum is aimed at Winston, the whole family is super excited to dive into a decolonized history curriculum called Woke Homeschooling. They are looking forward to all the beautiful and educational books it covers. Winston had his passion for African American History piqued this past year when he did a unit for Black History Month featuring important events and people in the Civil Rights Movement.

In addition to their foresight and preparation, the Ackah-Miezahs also live with purpose: acting as youth mentors to younger children and always representing their biracial family with pride. These learners work hard in all they do, including supporting the family business, Cafe Ruisseau in Playa Vista. They spend all day on Saturday and many days during the summer at the cafe talking with customers, wiping down tables, running errands, and organizing the stockroom. The entire family has set out to be purposeful about creating a safe coffee community where all people can come and enjoy coffee, community, and conversation. Even though their outdoor cafe has taken a big hit because of COVID 19, the Ackah-Miezah family is committed to working as a family in their black-owned-and-operated business to best serve their customers.

Overall the Ackah-Miezah learners are self-motivated to finish their school work at a high level, and their mom sees herself as more of a coach and a cheerleader than the motivator. They bring this dedication to being the best they can be to track (Ruisseau), basketball and football (Oliver) and basketball (Winston).

Ruisseau is back at iLEAD Exploration after two years of private high school. She was awarded with the junior year English award and has been an honor roll student all her high school years. She enjoys running track and jumping long jump and triple jump. She has been mentoring youth in her community since the age of 13. This year she is volunteering as a youth mentor at a local urban garden called “Black Thumb Garden.” She is also going to take an iLEAD Online acting class for the first time this semester. She enjoys swimming, surfing, skiing, hiking, watching movies, reading, eating out, spinning, workout classes, spending time with friends, traveling, church, and horseback riding. Oliver enjoys basketball, football, surfing, skiing, traveling, swimming, eating out, hiking, video games, Magic the Gathering, science, earning money, church, and riding quads. Winston plays hours of basketball every day. He enjoys being the baby of the family and all the perks that come with it. His best friends are his older siblings, and he loves playing piano with the Burbank Music Academy. He also enjoys video games, traveling, riding quads, swimming, surfing, skiing, and watching movies with his family.

The Ackah-Miezahs really enjoy traveling together and went on some adventures this summer to the Yuba River in Northern California, where they cliff jumped into the river, inner tubed, and hiked to majestic waterfalls. They also took a surfing trip to Santa Cruz, California, because they love to surf together and with friends. They took another jaunt to the San Juan Islands in Washington state for ten days of island fun on the beaches, swimming in the lakes, hiking, and lots and lots of family tennis.

Overall, the family appreciates the time homeschool affords them to invest in their children and their education, which is equipping them to be kind, successful, emotionally intelligent, and fulfilled adults.

Learner Spotlight: DeCoursey Family

DeCoursey Family

Meet Ruth, the newest — and eleventh — member of the DeCoursey family!

This past June, baby Ruth had the good fortune to join this large, loving iLEAD Exploration family who enjoy music, reading, and science. This active and accomplished family is animated by purpose — a purpose that leads them to serve and love one another and their community. Together, they make it a habit to participate in service projects with iLEAD Exploration, their church, and other organizations.

The DeCourseys: Sarah (12th), Ben (10th), Rebekah (8th), Daniel (6th), Lydia (4th), Hannah (3rd) and Josiah (1st) are also proactive and forward-thinking and, after four years of homeschooling, they have gotten homeschooling down, with everyone working together to prepare for what comes next.

The DeCourseys start out the year by writing down goals, both personal and academic — and even the little ones participate. When something occurs in the world that concerns them, the DeCourseys take action and employ their highly valued and well-honed writing skills to contact local elected officials to express their concerns.

The family’s two high schoolers showcase the family’s values. Twelfth grader Sarah has taken many community college courses to prepare for a bachelor’s degree in administration of justice and, ultimately, law school. She has also planned high school electives for herself in jewelry design and fashion design. She enjoys party planning and even organized a baby shower for her mom to welcome baby Ruth. Ben, 10th grade, wants to be a neurologist when he grows up. In a purposeful and proactive move, this young man designed a neurology elective for himself in 9th grade.

This family loves to sing and make music together, and all take lessons through a community music school, Harmony Project. Some of you might remember the DeCourseys singing and playing instruments together in the iLEAD Exploration talent show in 2018. They all love to stay active and through PE, with Ben and Daniel especially excelling at basketball. The DeCourseys are all readers and love doing science experiments together, with the older ones helping to teach the younger.

Hats off to the DeCoursey family!


Learner Spotlight: Layla Solano

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iLEAD Exploration 8th grader Layla Solano is new to homeschooling this year, but you would not know it with how creative and connected she has been with so much of what she has studied this year. Her enthusiasm for what she has learned is palpable when you hear her speak about the historical figures, literature, and cultures she has studied. Layla has been taking classes with a co-op and has been homeschooling with her mom, and she often has beautiful poems, stories, or artwork to accompany her assignments. She has the ability to build a connection and feel a relationship not only with her studies but with people too.

Layla is part of a close church community, a small group of people who are like family and have helped to shape so much of who she is. She has been fortunate to have many people of all ages, races, and cultures invest in her and love her, and these relationships have helped her understand how to interact with so many people. It has become natural for her to be able to socialize and have conversations many people, young and old. Her family has tried to instill in her an outward focus on life. Who can she encourage? Whose day can she brighten by being kind and giving? She has a way of thinking of others while being aware and grateful for all she is lucky to have. Through the years, Layla’s parents have been open with her and willing to engage in whatever discussions she’s interested in. It is this that has made her confident in who she is and secure in knowing that she will always be supported and loved.

Layla has many interests: music, singing, acting, animals, and some pretty cool hobbies, like skateboarding! She comes from a huge music-loving family, so she has been exposed to music since she was little. Her singing talent and passion have blossomed and helped her learn how to persevere through those challenging times when things don’t come easy. In recent years, she has begun acting in movies and commercials, which has helped her develop the confidence to try new and scary things. Her involvement in auditions has taught her that she can focus only on doing her best and not on the outcome or opinions of others. She has learned that if something is meant for her, then it will happen. When things don’t work out as planned, she acknowledges the validity of her feelings and works to surrender the disappointment, so she can move forward with a peaceful, grateful heart. These are the experiences that also define Layla on her homeschooling path. She is grateful that being a learner with iLEAD has allowed her to do all the things she loves, while still being able to dig deep and get creative with all her subjects. She is excited to see where her journey with iLEAD takes her next year when she begins high school.

Learner Spotlight: Ayah and Nyla Dadsi


Look out, world! The Dadsi sisters are on the move! In their second year with iLEAD Exploration, Nyla and Ayah Dadsi are enjoying the opportunity that independent study provides to delve deep into subjects they are passionate about and to incorporate their love for art, music, politics, and languages into their daily studies. Because of their diverse interests, the girls have had ample opportunities to develop their social intelligence skills. Both are empathetic and good listeners. They respect others’ views and are open to having conversations with everyone regardless of whether they agree with them or not.

Ayah is a 3rd grader who loves playing soccer, roller skating, skateboarding, and riding her scooter. The quarantine hasn’t stopped her, as she can still be found pushing her little sisters (and big sister) up and down hallways on anything that has wheels! She loves math and science and has strong interests in politics and world events. She can be found helping her classmates, making sure everyone feels included and accepted, often going out of her way to speak up against any injustice she sees. Don’t be surprised if you see her on the front page of a newspaper one day, fighting for human rights or breaking some world record in athletics!

Nyla is a 6th grader and talented musician and artist. She can always be found singing or editing videos about her newest favorite musician and memorizing every song she sings. She played violin for three years, recently switched to ukulele and voice lessons, and is looking forward to performing in a virtual recital this month. Nyla loves science and social studies and has an affinity for languages, creative writing, and digital art. She enjoys rollerblading and helping take care of her two baby sisters, as well as cooking and baking new recipes while listening to her favorite music. She, too, is passionate about helping others and fighting for human rights and wants to change this world for the better!

Both Ayah and Nyla speak Arabic, Darija (the Moroccan dialect), and study French at home. They love to play with their baby sisters, play online games, go to the beach with their family, and travel. During the quarantine, they have been busy inventing a new board game, playing online with friends, and writing inspiring chalk messages on the sidewalk for others. They are anxious to see their grandparents, travel again with family, and see their friends at the OC Learning Studio. In the meantime, they are busy spreading positivity and empathy from home as much as possible.

Learner Spotlight: Lindsay Yang


Eighth grade iLEAD Exploration learner Lindsey Yang showed a great interest and love for music from an early age when watching her older sister play piano. By the time she was 5, Lindsey demonstrated an internal discipline that allowed her to sit and play on her own for hours at a time. Her mom decided to have Lindsey begin piano lessons at age 8. Lindsey has always enjoyed both school and music. However, after entering middle school, she found it more difficult to find the time to practice and prepare for competitions due to the heavy workload of homework outside of her regular school day.

Enrolling in 2018 with iLEAD Exploration has allowed Lindsey to have the freedom and flexibility to make her own schedule in balancing her music and also her academics. She has been able to greatly improve her technical skills and to also grow and mature musically through a variety of activities to widen her perspective. Through iLEAD Exploration, Lindsey has been able to take music theory classes and swimming lessons. Lindsey displays social intelligence in her diligence in pursuing music. She participates in music festivals, competitions, master classes and recitals. Lindsey has had many opportunities to travel to various places, experience different cultures and meet new people.

Lindsey’s musical bio is long and extensive and includes many competitions and accomplishments in both the states and abroad. Last summer, Lindsey participated in a two-week long music festival in Italy where she had the privilege to learn from pianists and professors from various countries around the world. Students came together with different backgrounds and languages to communicate in their common passion, music. They were able to learn from one another and share new ideas and musical interpretations. Lindsey is also a member of a local Chamber Music group that practices and prepares together for performances.

Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all of Lindsey’s competitions and concerts have been canceled. She continues to take her lessons via Zoom and is using this time to learn and practice new songs that she has always wanted to play. Her chamber music members are planning to record their music individually and put together a “quarantine chamber music video” online.

When Lindsey is not playing piano, she also enjoys reading, baking with her sister, spending time with her friends and dog Lucky, traveling, and playing guitar with her dad. She is also looking forward to her newest pursuit of harvesting her home-grown vegetables to share with her neighbors.

Learner Spotlight: Mason Harris


Mason Harris is an extraordinary 1st grade iLEAD Exploration learner who shows social intelligence by being very empathetic. In fact, Mason often says “I like to help people because it’s kind. Everyone should help!” It isn’t surprising to learn that Mason loves to volunteer and help others. He assists his elderly neighbors by bringing in their trash cans, reads to younger kids and helps with crafts and snacks at the Moms of Preschool (MOPS) group, helps with his baby brother, passes out bulletins at church, brings food and blankets to the animals at the Humane Society, and donates his Halloween candy to the troops.

Mason’s hobbies include building with Legos, performing magic tricks, learning about science and building things with his dad. He loves being outdoors, hiking, camping and exploring. He loves to travel and see new things. His family recently took a trip to the Central Coast where they visited Hearst Castle, Pismo Beach and Big Sur. Mason made a really cool travel brochure highlighting what he learned. Mason also enjoys helping his mom cook.


Learner Spotlight: Ami Kharitonov

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Ami Kharitonov is graduating from middle school this year and will be a freshman with iLEAD Exploration. He has been with iLEAD since 2016 and speaks English and some Russian. Ami’s interests are stop motion animation and mixed martial arts. He is at a senior premier level with the National Children’s Chorus.
Name: Ami Kharitonov

What languages do you speak?
English and some Russian

What is your favorite saying in your native language?

What is a family tradition that you enjoy?
Passover – Hide the Matzah tradition. Adults hide the matzo around in a room and children try to find it. Whoever finds it gets a prize.

What career would you like to have? How would being bilingual help you in your career?
Animation and film production. Russian would help in making friends.

What is your favorite subject? Why?
History is my favorite subject as you learn about facts and reasons in the form of stories.

Has being multilingual allowed you any special opportunities?
Yes, you can have private conversations with someone in public.

What is your favorite hobby?
Stop motion animation.

What advice would you give to someone trying to learn a new language?
Practice consistently. You can take breaks when learning a new language, but longer breaks will make you forget the material.

Learner Spotlight: Ace Maestas


Ace Maestas has been homeschooling for two years. The flexibility that is offered through iLEAD Exploration to focus on strengths, work on weaknesses, and cultivate social intelligence has been the ideal classroom for him. A past injury resulted in some uphill battles for Ace, especially in the areas of social and speech development. With the support of our amazing speech team, Ace has been given the opportunity to develop his skills at a pace that is feasible for him. Ace attends the OC Learning Studio where he practices his newly developed speech skills with his peers. Through the interactions, he has learned many key components to developing his social intelligence including recognizing his feelings, understanding body language, self-regulation, and coping skills. During this time of quarantine, Ace has been expanding his social intelligence with activities at home. Ace has been busy keeping a kindness chart, writing cards to neighbors, volunteering to clean within the community, and dropping off supplies to those in need — all examples of how to interact with others in our new normal.

If given the choice, Ace would solve math problems and logic puzzles all day! Not surprisingly, his love of math has also driven him to be curious about things in science, such as the human body, volcanoes and rocks. Ace has an extensive collection of LEGOs at home, which allows him to dive into his creative side. His latest creation was a re-creation of the Eiffel Tower that stood as tall as he was! In his free time, Ace enjoys taking advantage of iLEAD Exploration’s field trips. The opportunities are a great complement to his educational experience at home as well as at the learning studio.

Ace’s family balances school and social development using words from Aristotle as their inspiration, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” iLEAD has provided Ace an opportunity to discover a love of learning as well as support him in his social needs. If you ever have the chance to interact with Ace, you will find that he is eager to share what he has learned!

Learner Spotlight: Everett Family

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The Everett family didn’t set out to homeschool but have totally embraced the lifestyle. Since both Ben, first grade, and Caroline (Caddie), kindergarten, have an immunodeficiency diagnosis, it is much safer for them to do school at home. These two iLEAD Exploration learners are thriving in their family’s learner-led homeschool. Ben and Caddie definitely embody this month’s school-wide learner outcome: curiosity.

The questions and interests of the children drive instruction in the Everett household. One time Ben wondered how many cars on his street were white. He made an estimate and charted tally marks as he walked through the neighborhood, testing his hypothesis. Caddie collected shells at the beach and made a bar graph showing the different kinds of shells she found. These are a few examples of the way the Everett family facilitates self-initiated math in everyday life!

The quest for knowledge abounds with Caddie and Ben. Before going on a cruise to Alaska with his family, Ben wondered what color the ocean would be at night. He knew that the water appears blue during the day because it reflected on the color of the sky. He predicted the color of the ocean would be clear at night since the sky would not be visible. He was so interested in this experiment that his parents let him stay up until 11:00 p.m. (since it was summer in Alaska) to test his prediction! Ben also loves math and was accepted to the Summer Institute for the Gifted. His project was “How to Make the Fastest Hot Wheels Car.” Ben measured and charted variables that affected the speed of the cars in order to determine the winner.

Caddie loves to learn about famous people in history. She has studied Marie Curie, women’s rights activist Emily Pankhurst, Marie Antoinette, painter Frida Kahlo, Amelia Earhart, King Tut, and Queen Elizabeth I. Caddie loves art and enjoys taking online classes at Outschool. She even created original art about penicillin for the cover of the August issue of Pediatric Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Any visit to Caddie and Ben’s house reveals how much they are learning. One memorable time his EF came by, Ben shared his Found Art Museum. He had written descriptions about each piece of artwork displayed around the house. Another time Caddie asked how she could save astronauts from sunburn. She experimented with many creative ways to answer this question.

Caddie and Ben attended some unique day trips with their parents this year. They were excited about a numismatist they met at a coin show. They also wrote about their trips to an airplane museum, the Aquarium of the Pacific, and the Exploratorium in San Francisco. Ben and Caddie asked questions to learn more about the things they were curious about. These kids are excited to learn wherever they go.

Learner Spotlight: Ariella Clarino

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Ariella has been homeschooled for the past nine years, and this is her second year with iLEAD Exploration. She is currently in 10th grade and already has an impressive high school career! Ariella not only takes classes at a local community college, but she also participates in a homeschool co-op and takes classes through iLEAD Online. Even though her academic classes keep her busy, she finds time to volunteer in her local community and church for such events as Relay for Life.

For the past two years, Ariella has been very involved in the Navy Sea Cadets, a non-profit, youth organization supported by the United States Navy, United States Coast Guard, and the Navy League of the United States. Cadets receive instruction in marching, drills, CPR, and classroom content on United States military and seamanship. Ariella endures rigorous physical training and drills and also has the opportunity to move up in rank. She was honored with the Daughters of the American Revolution award for outstanding leadership, honor, service, courage, and patriotism. This award is given to only one person per year in the unit and is a great honor among the cadets. Way to go, Ariella!

In addition to being an active Navy Cadet, Ariella enjoys crocheting, bullet journaling, singing, and drawing. She also entered a youth cyber-security competition with some of her peers. This was an amazing learning experience for her. For Ariella, one of the main benefits of homeschooling has been all of the wonderful travel experiences she has had. Her travels have included going to both Canada and Mexico once, China five times, Korea six times, and the Philippines nine times. All of this travel has not impacted Ariella’s academic career as she maintains well above a 4.0 GPA taking A-G courses, and she also faithfully serves on iLEAD’s ASB.

Ariella loves homeschooling because it does not limit her but rather allows her to pursue her interests. One of Ariella’s favorite US Navy cadet mottos is “Chart Your Course.” Ariella certainly has charted her course in her homeschooling career and we at iLEAD celebrate her success!

Learner Spotlight: Lily Ochoa


iLEAD Exploration eighth grader Lily Ochoa has been homeschooling since fall of 2018. She finds that home study fosters her creativity and inspires her to dig deeply into what interests her. Her academic environment allows her to enjoy learning but also remain motivated and persistent as she moves toward mastery. Lily keeps her mind and body stimulated with creative academic choices to engage in the learning process. She stretches her creative aspirations both inside and outside of the “classroom.”

You can find Lily exploring the world on frequent field studies. You might find her absorbed in the anatomy section of the CA Science Center or taking notes at local history and art museums or drawing animals at the zoo or cataloging state facts on cross country road trips.

Lily’s creativity doesn’t stop there, as she thrives on flexing her artistic muscles. She loves to draw, paint, illustrate digitally, and play her ukulele in her spare time. She is enthusiastically becoming the “Jill of all trades!” Just this year, Lily began her equestrian journey learning how to ride horses Western style. She quickly learned how to steer, walk from a stop, and how to halt. Her next goal is to learn how to jump!

Lily’s compassion and gentleness have led her to a great passion for animals. Since she was in kindergarten, her lifelong dream has been to have a career that is dedicated to animal health, safety, and preservation. This may mean becoming a veterinarian, a zookeeper, or even opening up her own dog shelter! Certainly, giftedness is a developmental journey, and Lily is well on her way.

Learner Spotlight: Garrett Family

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The Garrett family joined iLEAD in 2019 and thus began their first ever homeschool journey, primarily animated by a thirst for knowledge. At first they were nervous about the change but remained optimistic that homeschooling would be the right fit for them because it would allow them to discover what interested them. These ever curious iLEAD Exploration learners Zion (15) , Zaida (11), and Zoë (9) anticipated that homeschooling would both allow them to catch up in academic areas of need while allowing them to focus on areas of interest and follow where their educational desires took them.

And they were right! Their inaugural year has proven to be a successful adventure for the Garrett family. Ninth grader Zion loves to draw, dance, and sing. She also enjoys video games and animating. Most days you will find Zion creating stories, painting, and drawing. She also enjoys exploring nature and the outdoors. A warm and caring girl, Zion has a soft spot for animals and for her baby sister, Zurielle, whom she enjoys helping her mother with. She also loves science, crafting, and making slime and is currently working on her comic series and has recently completed her first animated short entitled Hodgepodge.

Fifth grader Zaida loves to play with toys and video games. You will likely find her on adventures to the park, the beach, and amusement parks. Zaida loves drawing and helping cook at home. Zaida won first place on her track team and enjoys roller skating and dancing.

Zoë, a third grader, likes roller skating and swimming. A budding sportswoman, she received an award for her accomplishments in volleyball and earned second place on her track team. Epitomizing her family’s can-do philosophy, Zoë likes to say, “When someone says you can’t do it, do it twice and take pictures!”

Learner Spotlight: Stephenson Family

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The iLEAD Exploration learners in the Stephenson family transitioned to homeschooling only a couple of years ago but have been customizing learning and pursuing their dreams ever since! Tahani (15) Taaliah (11), and Tahlil (5) exude this month’s SLO of optimism. Each of these learners holds great hope about their futures and an unshakeable confidence that they will achieve their goals.

While in middle school, 9th grader Tahani explored an interest in law and criminal justice using the iLEAD online mock trial class and by seeking mentoring from a relative who is a lawyer. Last fall, she signed up for the first course in the administration of justice track and challenged herself (and succeeded!) in getting an A on every single assignment. She is now working hard on the second course as well as other college courses and is optimistic that she can earn her associates degree in justice administration before she finishes high school. She also loves sewing and fashion design and is shown here with a dress she sewed for her mom while modeling a shirt she made. In the picture below, her sister is modeling a matching pant set. All of these beautiful outfits were designed and made at iLEAD vendor Ms. Sylvia’s sewing studio. Tahani also enjoys acting and loves the way iLEAD has allowed her the flexibility to explore and follow multiple dreams at once.

Taaliah, 6th grade, shown here modeling an outfit her sister made and holding an alligator during a family road trip, transitioned to homeschooling this year at the start of her middle school career. Before she left her brick and mortar school, she had already made a list of activities she wished to explore. She is excited to have more freedom to continue working at track and field, pursue acting like her older sister, and sample gymnastics classes. Taaliah also has a long list of books she wants to read.

Kindergartner Tahlil is excited to learn to read this year. He works very hard on his academics and pushes himself to master numbers and letters as quickly as possible. He loves science and Legos and is hoping to take a Lego robotics class soon.

Learner Spotlight: Lila Inman


Optimism is the way you see and think about what is happening around and to you, looking for good in each situation. Optimism describes iLEAD Exploration learner, Lila Inman!

Always smiling, Lila is a 5th grader who approaches life with joy, sweetness, and perseverance. At a young age, Lila discovered that she has dyslexia. Some areas of learning have been hard for her. However, she perseveres by devoting multiple hours a week to receiving additional tutoring and remains hopeful in the face of her dyslexia. With her positive outlook and hope for her future, she has grown in her academics and extracurricular activities.

One of her favorite activities is dance. Lila has been dancing for two years and spends multiple hours, three days a week perfecting her dance. She has a goal this year of perfecting a quad pirouette. Lila is also a very talented crafter. She loves to sew, crochet and create. She is an out-of-the-box thinker and can easily improvise when she is crafting. She has knitted coffee cozies, sewn bags and created many other beautiful pieces.

Lila’s joyful, persistent, and upbeat outlook on life inspires those around her. Lila’s joy and positivity can be seen and felt as soon as you meet her.

Learner Spotlight: Grace Gilroy

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When you think of a learner who exemplifies the notion of what a homeschooled 10th grader might look like, you think of Grace. She thrives in this environment and strives for excellence in all that she does! Not only is she a talented dancer, spending countless hours in the ballet studio, but she also loves to perform on stage and beams in front of an audience. Grace has performed in the Nutcracker, Hansel and Gretel, and will be in Cinderella this Spring. Dancing fills Grace’s heart with so much joy! Not only does Grace thrive in the dance studio, but she is also an amazing scholar! She puts forth so much effort in both areas, proving that hard work pays off.

Grace would love to attend the University of Nebraska when she graduates in 2022. We have no doubt that Grace will continue to find success in all that she does. It is part of her character and embodies who she is to the core.

“I know the price of success: Dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.”
– Frank Lloyd Wright

Learner Spotlight: Corban and Deacon Barnett


iLEAD Exploration learners Corban and Deacon Barnett are so different and yet these brothers both exude optimism, each with his own brand of it. Older brother Corban is a confident kid who never doubts his ability to do anything and he certainly never stops until he gets it right. He tried for a year to master a forward flip on the trampoline. He never got frustrated and didn’t give up until he had it perfect. Younger brother Deacon always sees the good in every person. As his family says, Deacon has “never met a stranger that wasn’t a friend.” Always hopeful to make a new buddy, he joyfully includes anyone in every activity that he does.

Corban (5th grade) and Deacon (3rd grade) love listening to audiobooks and dancing to music every morning. They enjoy doing flips and tricks on the trampoline, playing with neighborhood buddies and riding around the neighborhood on their hoverboards and crazy carts.

Corban adores both cooking and baking and reveals his creativity through producing new and exciting recipes. He also greatly enjoys writing short stories based on books that he has read as well as filming and editing movies for his YouTube channel. Deacon loves to use his imagination to build and is often found designing and constructing miniature golf courses in the backyard. He also adores making music and has created a number of one of a kind songs using GarageBand on his iPad.

In addition to a full workload at home, both boys enjoy taking art, writing, PE and science classes at a local learning center. When they are not participating in academics, both boys can be found learning new tricks in their acrobatic trampoline classes, or acquiring new techniques in their parkour classes.

Learner Spotlight: Jaidynn Watson


iLEAD Exploration learner Jaidynn Watson always sees the bright side of a situation even if the initial outcome isn’t always favorable. She is open to new experiences because she believes that there is always something new that can be learned.

Jaidynn, 6th grade, loves to participate in a wide variety of sports and activities. Her current favorite sport is standup paddleboard racing. She loves competing, especially in open water races. She took 1st place in her division during Pacific Paddle Games last year, one of the largest annual SUP contests, which was a very memorable moment for her. She has sampled many different sports and activities including basketball, soccer, gymnastics, ballet, dance, parkour, karate, jiu jitsu, kickboxing, swimming, and skateboarding.

Jaidynn loves science and has spent much of this school year studying marine life. Additionally, she is taking a math class that is above her current grade level and she has risen to the challenge with a strong understanding of the subject material. Being a part of iLEAD allows Jaidynn much flexibility in pursuing her passions. She can hit the skatepark in the morning when it’s empty or surf when the waves are good. She can also study the ocean and marine life in hands-on, in depth life lessons by visiting the beach regularly. She is grateful that being a learner with iLEAD allows her such flexibility that she is able to thrive in both her studies and sports.

Learner Spotlight: Kennedy Gravitt


Kennedy Gravitt meets every challenge head-on with an optimistic attitude, making her a great example of this month’s SLO: Optimism. This hopeful and confident iLEAD Exploration third grader has been homeschooled since kindergarten and has always been a very driven, agile, and fun-loving kid. She learned to walk at eight months and hasn’t stopped blowing her parents away with her abilities, drive, determination, and grit. She learned how to surf at age six, excelled with parkour and free-running, has grown immensely in her basketball skills, all while becoming an incredible little motocross racer. Kennedy is small in stature, but that seems to trigger something in her that makes her work ethic and drive that much stronger.

Kennedy has dedicated herself to honing her motorcycle skills and has participated in many different race series. As trophies and awards added up, her confidence and excitement for the sport also grew. Her races were based primarily on age and the size of the motorcycle, and for most occasions this meant she was the only girl in her race. Never daunted by a challenge, Kennedy always cheerfully rises to the occasion. As her confidence grew, she expressed an interest in racing in front of the biggest stage for motocross — Supercross — and her eyes were set on that goal.

Her parents did some research on the requirements to request an invitation to the coveted KTM Junior Supercross challenge. Each race selects only 15 kids throughout the world to race. After a few months of nervously waiting, Kennedy’s family received a phone call announcing that she was chosen as a competitor for the Anaheim 2 Supercross race at Anaheim Stadium! This was a dream come true for her (and her dad), and the whole family was beaming.

The month prior to her big race, Kennedy participated in a three-day camp with PanicRev, which is an intense training program. She continued to practice and prepare for the Supercross race. The day of the race came and her family was ready to watch Kennedy do what she loves, competing against 14 other kids (all boys) from New Zealand, Great Britain, British Columbia, Minnesota, Kentucky, Montana, and California. It was a busy day from beginning to end. Multiple track walks, photo opportunities, tours through the KTM factory semi, practice laps, meeting professional racers, autograph sessions (for the kids). After an awesome day of practice and fun, Kennedy put on her gear, complete with a brand-new hot pink 6D helmet, and hit the starting line ready to race. With 40,000 fans cheering wildly, it was a day, experience, and memory that will be forever cherished. Her family is so proud of Kennedy’s work ethic, accomplishments, humility, and overall confidence and grit. Way to go, Kennedy!

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