Friday, December 17, 2010

Ballet Dancer Finds Strength

Madeline, a  2011 diploma candidate from Oregon, USA writes in her November 2010 monthly report:

"I have recently been cast in a piece with the second company and that means lots of rehearsals with the director. After several hours of being singled out and yelled at, I took some time to think about what was going on. I knew that the director was a harsh and often offensive person, and that he would never hold back for fear of hurting my feelings, but what I didn’t understand was why he was picking me specifically.

"The first thing I had to consider was the fact that I had been paired with a pas de deux partner for the piece that was both inexperienced and immature. For a while I just became angry because I was getting yelled at for things that I knew were actually his fault, and I felt like he wasn’t even trying. With this frame of mind, we both continued to struggle and I felt like nothing was getting accomplished. Finally, I decided it was time to stop being silently frustrated, and time to get something accomplished. I began letting my partner know every time something was going wrong, and found the strength to tell him it needed to be fixed. I got him up to practice when he was sitting talking, and I made sure he was paying attention when the teacher was correcting. After all this I was expecting him to be upset with me, but instead as things began to improve, we both became more positive and encouraged. This really taught me that being too sweet and weak to tell someone something that’s bothering me may not be the best answer, and that it is helpful to have my own opinion.

"I then took the time to think about the personal reasons why I may be struggling in the rehearsals. I was missing some corrections that I usually would have gotten, and was having a hard time learning the choreography when I am generally a quick learner if I focus. It hit me when one of my good friends said to me, 'I can sense the fear when you are in rehearsal with him; he yells at you because he knows you’re afraid. I can see you shaking and that makes you seem weak; the last thing he wants is an innocent little girl.' They were right, I was afraid, and that was why I couldn’t focus the way I should. I have always struggled with my nerves and I knew that they were affecting me in a negative way. When I get nervous my muscles get very weak and shaky, which causes my legs to give out and is disastrous to my dancing. I made an active decision to relax and take care of my mental health. Nobody was worth having my dancing fall apart, and I know that I have something to offer, it is my job to enjoy my art form and give my best.

"Overall the lesson I learned this month was about having more strength in not only me as a dancer, but me as a person. I am proud of what I have accomplished and feel good about myself and the hard work I put in every day. I am doing what I love and I have that no matter what anybody thinks about me. I am glad to have the opportunities I do and am looking forward to the rest of this year."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Canadian Senior's Journey to Unschooling

A student originally from Croatia and now living in Canada writes about her journey from public school to homeschool to unschool as she enters her final year of high school. Here are excerpts from her educational biography:

"As a true homeschooler, I believe that my education didn’t start from the moment that I stepped into a school but rather the moment I came into the world, so I feel that it is only right to begin my educational biography from my beginnings.

"Originally, I am from Croatia. Croatian was the first language I learned, and it was the language in which I began to read at 3 years of age. That in and of itself is already a valid argument for the belief I stated previously.

"My mom regularly took me to the children’s section at the public library from an early age. There I would enthusiastically look through all of the picture books, both in Croatian and English, and take home the ones that I wanted to learn from that week. At home, my mom would sit with me and go through all of the books. I would always repeat them until I’d know them by heart, then I’d go back with my mom to the library again next week and pick some new ones to memorise, which delighted me greatly...

" grade 3, I had become too worn out to continue with public schooling. I found that I dreaded not only going to school in the morning, but also the learning itself was feeling as though it was just a burden and not an enjoyment as before.

"My mom knew that I was still unhappy in school and feared that I would lose whatever enjoyment of learning I had left, so she began looking for whatever other option existed, and she found one. That summer, after some careful forethought, my mom asked me if I would like to start homeschooling. My immediate response was “Sure! Why not?” I don’t think I actually realised the gravity of the decision my mom had made. For me, all homeschooling meant at the time was more space for all of my extracurricular activities and courses (finally) and no more homework! What more could I ask for? Only now can I understand the extreme pressure she put on herself with that decision. She decided to devote all of her time into exploring what it was that my learning needed. And she truly delivered.

"Grade 5 marked my first homeschooling year. That year I was enrolled as opposed to just registered, meaning I still had to show my work to an instructor who would grade me every semester and give me a report card at the end of the year. But that still wasn’t what homeschooling was all about. What is the point of working at home only to be graded by a teacher again, and this time one that hadn’t even taught me what I know? We had found a homeschooler support group that we would be with and we had some pleasurable times with them. There were always organised trips of some sort and all of the homeschool children really enjoyed being at the center. But, once again, we found that my needs and wants were bigger than that of the other homeschool kids so I began to sign up for many courses around the whole lower mainland. There are numerous educational and arts centers that cater to the public for extracurricular courses and each community has at least one that the locals can easily go to. I didn’t stick to just the closest one but rather searched all around and tried to get as many in as possible, no matter how far we’d have to travel by transit. Martial arts, gymnastics, swimming, scuba diving, volleyball, speech and drama, Shakespeare, theatre acting, writing, speed reading, science,electronics, architecture, economics, sculpture, weaving, knitting, “girls only” clubs, St. John’s Ambulance babysitting, ... there was a myriad of things that interested me, and because of unschooling, I was able to partake in them all. It is true that I learned from 8:00am-6:00pm almost every day, but the courses at the end of the day were my way of having fun. It was there that I was able to socialise with many other students, both homeschoolers and public schoolers. It is important to note, though, that I still followed the B.C. curriculum guidelines as they were available on the internet, despite the many extra classes I took. The main reason I was able to do so much was because my schooling was continuous year-round. I didn’t take summer breaks and that is why learning became so enjoyable: The motivation was making learning fun, not getting a three-month break during the summer as a “reward”.

"After I realised that this was the best choice for me, I switched to being completely unschooled, continuing all of my studies as usual and just renewing my registration with my school every year. But by then, mom was feeling the pressure. She wasn’t sure whether I would be missing something that the kids in school had. So she made sure I got the most well rounded education possible, combining the curriculums of Canada and Croatia as well as the U.S., giving me enough places to go to socialise with kids my age, working at a skill level that was formatted to me personally letting me proceed faster in some subjects if it was within my capabilities. Despite all of this, she still wasn’t sure what to model my schooling against, so one year we decided to go to the Annual British Columbia Homeschool Convention and partake in some of the seminars. It was after those two days that my mom then realised that I wasn’t lagging behind in any way. Everything that she wanted to get more information about in those seminars, she found that she already knew through all of the research and investigating she did before, and that came as a big relief. The convention was still beneficial in the fact that all of the information a homeschooling parent could need was all in one place. The parents would help each other in finding resources, discovering new paths available for homeschoolers, and explaining the different learning styles there are for every individual child and how to find it. We enjoyed it so much that we decided to attend every subsequent convention after that.

"As High School approached, so did another anxiety. How was I going to have a High School Diploma that would be recognised by colleges and universities while still keeping the same learning style I had for the last 3 years? That began the search for a homeschooling “school” that would allow me to do just that. The search was long and hard. It spanned the course of almost a year and asked for countless hours of research and analysing, trying to find the best fit, but finally we came across West River Academy. At first it looked too good to be true. I was expecting that I would have to give up at least some of my freedom as an unschooler in order to get a diploma, but W.R.A. didn’t expect anything like that. “Write me a yearly report, finish the High School Program and you’re set.”--can be a summary of what the website basically said. I didn’t believe it at the start. Yet the more I looked into it, the more I became convinced that West River Academy was a legitimate accredited High School, and that it was the right school for me.

"The rest is all history. As I look back now, my education has been rather varied. Some might even say unorganized and “all over the place”, citing all of the different methods of schooling I have experienced, but I beg to differ. I went through all of the different systems and took only the best parts of each in order to create a custom fit. Although it may be true that how I started my education is far different from how I have finished it, the lessons I have learned along the way and the conclusions I have reached from the whole experience has shown me that it is always necessary to evaluate the path you are heading down even if it means completely changing your previous decision. If that’s what is necessary for you to fulfill your dreams and to grow into a complete human being, then it is much more important than sticking to the status quo. A little variety can go a long way.

"The decision to homeschool has changed me for the better. My passion has become life and learning and that is the most direct way that it has changed me. But it is almost as though my homeschooling “appearance” can be plainly seen. Through the years, the longer I was a homeschooler, the more others would single me out as someone they could respect, offer a job to, even confide in. By becoming a homeschooler, I not only helped myself but also those around me.

"That’s the greatest benefit of all."

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pluses and Minuses of Homeschooling for 2010 Graduate

 Stephany from Denver, Colorado USA writes about the advantages and challenges of homeschooling in her last monthly report before graduating. Here are her comments:

"I feel I have learned a lot of good stuff by being homeschooled. I learned about life and family, received a good education and I also really enjoyed being homeschooled. Like any school it was tough at times.  The good thing is we were able to find some homeschool programs and a gym program for home schoolers.  I am not sure that it would have been that much fun being home schooled without other homeschoolers for friends. I'm also glad I was in Girl Scouts and Westernaires.  In these outside programs I was able to make many friends. People need friends, and I'm grateful that God brought me these things. I learned that it takes much more effort and discipline to be homeschooled. I also got to have a closer educational and personal relationship with God as a homeschooler. I also didn't have to stress out with homework, peer pressure or the drug scene as a homeschooler. One fun thing is that I got to sleep in and do school in my pjs.  However, homeschool isn't all fun and games, it is hard in many ways. For instance, if I wasn't in Girl Scouts or Westernaires, I wouldn't have all the friends I do now. Life isn't fun when you’re a teen or kid without friends, and some homeschoolers have to work hard to find friends.  Another hard thing is the responsibility was mine to prepare myself for college and my future.  It is always a temptation when you have a TV and computers in your reach not to do school and watch TV or play on the computer instead. Trying to do school can also be a pain in the neck when your siblings are in the same classroom.  However, homeschooling has taught me to be more patient than some teens I know, especially with younger siblings. I think I have a pretty good social life for being homeschooled. I really think highly of homeschooling no matter what non-homeschoolers may say. I love how everyone I know that isn't home schooled is very interested in my homeschool life. I have also learned that a lot of people out there would love to be homeschooled. But even though my school years have the normal ups and downs, I still feel it is a great way to be educated and a lot better than public schools. I wouldn‘t change it or my life in anyway."

Friday, July 2, 2010

Reflections on a Life of Change

A 2010 Colorado USA graduate reflects on the ups and downs of her last 4 years

"I never knew I could change or watch others change SO much in such a short period of time.  Some things have definitely stayed the same but some things really haven't.  In just four short years I have carried at least 5 different jobs (maybe more!) and I have had 2 new baby brothers born into my family.  I’ve fallen in love with a sweet, young kid and fallen out of love with the same, stupid kid.  I’m really happy with all of my decisions so far, even if they’ve hurt me a lot.  It is through pain and redemption that I am able to find and understand more of myself.  And let me tell you, high school has been painful and, at some points, redemptive.  I've met so many people, learned quite a few hard lessons, and there are things I've learned that before I never used to consider as important.  I've changed my mind a million times and I've failed in enough situations to know how much it hurts.  I've also stuck with a few of my values and I've succeeded enough to know how powerful the taste of ambition is, and the sweetness that comes after you've accomplished your goal.  I've loved and lost.  I've loved and gained.  I've lived with my mother, my father, and my basketball coach in the course of just 3 years and that, more than anything, has really opened my eyes to the diversity that exists just within my own small world.  Family dynamics are such unique and complicated things and I've really enjoyed moving around and finding the small differentiating details.  So far, the best place I've lived is with my coach, Monte, and his wife, Kiva.  I love the way this household is run--efficiently, smoothly, and most of all, honestly.  Everyone is usually on the same page and if we're not, we make sure we get to the same page within an hour or so. Communication is clear and prominent and respect is the foundation for all of our relationships.  It's a beautiful thing, to be able to come home to a place that is calm and well rounded, through both people and vibes.  It's like having a recharge station... and I've never had that before...

"...As of right now, I’m enjoying my last summer of financial freedom (since I have minimal bills and all that good stuff) and I’m looking forward to my new experiences as a college student.  High school has been an incredible experience for me and now I am ready to move on to bigger and better things, both academically and personally!  So thank you for this wonderful program and the chance to write all of my experiences and thoughts down for the past 6-8 months.  I’m glad I got the opportunity to do this and I’m so thankful for the fact that I will be able to have an actual diploma at the end of it all.  You’ve really made a difference for me and my future and I thank you for that!"

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Shy, dyslexic child matures to victory

A happy California mom of a second WRA graduate writes about her daughter's path to further education midst some challenges. Read on:

"We received Kristine's diploma. You will be getting a request for her transcripts from the Institute of Technology in Clovis, CA...She's all enrolled to start the Baking and Pastry Specialty program there July 17th. She's very excited about it!

"It's been an interesting process. She went from not being sure what she really wanted to do, to realizing how much she likes to decorate cakes. Suddenly she was researching schools and emailing various bakers and decorators, asking for their input. She came to me asking if we could go meet with this local school and she had everything all set up. She was even doing what she could to figure out the financial aid and budgeting for her schooling. The way things are with this program seems to fit her very well. You may recall that she has severe dyslexia. When we were just about done with the initial interviews, they were going to do an entrance exam and my heart sank. I was amazed to see her agree to take the test even though I knew she was scared. Thankfully, they gave her a pretest that gave her a little taste of how the testing would be and she did fine. After she went in to a meeting they showed me the pre-test and it definitely was not easy. I took it myself and struggled a bit with it, and I'm one who does very well with test taking typically. It was one of those moments, as a homeschooling parent, that you realize that your child has absorbed much more than you may ever realize.They had to get at least 12 correct and she got 13. It may not be the greatest...but it didn't matter. The bottom line is that she got in, and that's all that really matters! The majority of the program is spent in the baking kitchen and very much hands on. I have no doubt that she will thrive in the environment.

"So here was my shy little girl (of course I've never thought she was shy, but others do) going in by herself, meeting with the Assistant Dean of Admissions explaining her desire and commitment to completing this program, ready to take on whatever may come. I am firmly convinced (once again) that while she still may have her cautious demeanor, she would not have the same curiosity and creativity if she had not been given the opportunity to explore and learn in the ways she truly needed to.

"So again, I thank you for the opportunity you have given us with yet another one of my children. Your program provides a way for parents and students to validate their work, and helps in navigating through all the bureaucracy out there."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Financial Challenges Inspire Child-Led Learning

A year-end portfolio from Sonja in Colorado describes the learning of 10-year-old son Sasha when an expensive curriculum had to be given up and their resourcefulness and creativity engaged. Here's Sonja's opening paragraph:

 "This school year has been one of the most challenging homeschool years ever. My husband became victim of the economic downfall and lost his job in August of 2009. He is still unemployed as I write this portfolio. Due to the sudden loss of income, our school year needed to be changed accordingly. There was no money for the boxed curriculum like Oak Meadow or My Father's World. (Both programs were a hit at hour house in previous years.) Instead (if we wanted to continue homeschooling) we opted for a more relaxed type of homeschooling, one that was truly student-led, utilizing our homeschool library and public library system as much as possible. The result: a wonderful, innovative school year that proved to be educational, engaging, challenging and most of all FUN! Learning was not restricted to school books and schedules anymore, but was led by a child's natural desire to learn about his world, environment, history, science and geography."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Class of 2010 Commencement in Grand Junction, CO

West River Academy's Class of 2010 included 40 graduates from all over the world. While most were in the US, we also had 2 in China, 1 in Spain, 1 in Germany, 2 in Colombia, 7 in Chile, 1 in Taiwan, 2 in Korea and 1 in Japan. The ones in the picture were the 6 who chose to come to Grand Junction, Colorado to participate in the Commencement Exercises.

And what was special for me was the graduation of my youngest daughter, Rachel (to my right in the photo). Each graduate gave a short speech, some with powerpoint, movie or musical presentations. Truly, each one was a valedictorian!

2009 Grad on her Way to Associates in Science Degree

Here's a note of appreciation from a 2009 grad:

"Thank you so much for this wonderful unschooling program :) I can't believe I only have one more semester till I graduate with my Associates of Science! It is only because of this amazing program that I am now where I am today. THANKS!"

Allie, 2009 graduate
Buena Vista, CO USA

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Jay Graduates with a Dream to Write a Best Seller

Jay, a 17-year-old graduate from Oakley, CA just submitted his last report. Like most seniors, he is excited about what this means for him.

"I can't believe this is my final report before I graduate. This year has gone by super fast! Actually, I think my whole school experience has gone by quickly. I have really enjoyed being homeschooled. It has allowed me to investigate my interests and strengthen my weaker areas. I have met a lot of neat people along the way. My parents always gave me the option of attending public school, but that wasn't something I ever wanted. I have enjoyed being at home and learning at my own pace and receiving a customized education. I think my family is a lot closer because of it. I wish more kids had the opportunity to be homeschooled. I think they would really benefit from it. I suppose it is not for everyone, but it was definitely the right choice for me."

Jay's final paragraph in his last report:
"Over the years, I have often wondered if I would be ready to enter the “real world.” At this moment, I still do not know the answer. I think I am. I hope I am. If only I could see into the future and steal a glimpse. Wouldn't that be helpful? All of this reminds of a quote I heard years ago on a T.V. Show I used to watch called, Boy Meets World. “Life's tough, get a helmet!” Now, if I only remembered where I put my hard hat!"

Going back over Jay's educational biography, I found some highlights to share with you:

"I don't believe that education begins when we enter kindergarten. I believe it really begins when we are much younger. Many of the things we learn at that time are not taught in textbooks. We learn to feed ourselves, dress ourselves, tie our shoes, recognize colors, write our name, maybe even begin to read. Some people may not see these as true learning  experiences, but without these skills, we would not be able to take the proper steps to adulthood. These are some of the things that start us off on the road to learning. My "schooling" started when I was small. My mom said she knew the moment I was born that she would homeschool me and I am glad she did.

..."Since my mom made the decision to leave our district's home study program to join West River Academy, Ithink I have grown a lot, not just with academics, but as a person as well. Her decision came at a time when my grandad suddenly became ill and passed away. That was a tremendously difficult time for my family, especially my mom. Being with W.R.A. allowed us to take all the time we needed to be there for my grandad when he needed us and to be there for each other after. I learned how to be more sensitive and compassionate towards others' feelings during that time. I believe that is an important life skill."

Speaking about his love of insects, animals, Legos and writing, he mentions some career paths such as working at a zoo or aquarium, or for Legos Corp., with this ultimate dream in mind:

"It's hard to believe that my high school experience is coming to an end. It doesn't seem possible. I'm a little scared because I don't know what the future holds, none of us do. I know that as this chapter in my story comes to an end, another one is about to begin. Our book grows with each year and each new experience. I'm not really sure what I want to do with my life. I do know that I would love to see one of my books published someday. That is probably my biggest dream. I plan on working really hard to make that happen. I think it would be awesome to be on the best seller's list or have one of my stories turned into a movie! I know I will have to focus and be very organized to realize that dream. I have been working hard on my writing skills and will continue to do so. There is always room for improvement.

..."Whatever I do, I want to make a difference in the world. My mom always taught me that one person can make a difference and that I should strive to leave this world a better place than when I arrived. I don't believe that learning ends after you graduate. Learning is a lifelong process and provides us with endless opportunities to grow as individuals."

Right on, Jay! I can't wait to read your first best-seller!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Brandon's Bio and Reports Reveal One Talented and Busy Teen

Brandon, a 17-year-old  senior in New York, was homeschooled his whole life. He starts of his educational biography this way:

"Let me tell you, being homeschooled is by far the best gift one can be given when it comes to their education. While most kids sit in classrooms doing (or pretending to do) work, most of which will prove inconsequential in their adult life, the homeschooled child gets to experience hands-on learning based on their interests and educational needs. While most kids are only half way through the school day, the homeschooled child finishes early to go off for a trip with other homeschooled kids.

    "This is precisely the gift I’ve been given, and I’m thankful for every bit of it. For as far back as I can remember, my learning has been a family affair. In the early days I would sit down with my mother and she’d work with me to make sure I understood each subject. She’d make special tools to help me with math, and often my father would help me through the tougher problems. I believe his explanations could very well be the only reason I understood it at all. The same is true for just about every subject; I owe my great understanding of many things to their dedication.

    "When it comes to my textbook learning, I’ve become a lot more independent, taking care of most of the work without any help at all. I no longer sit at the counter with my parents to do my work, but just knowing that they are still there if I need their help is a huge comfort. Now, however, my parents are playing a huge role in my real-world education. Much more significant than anything you’ll learn in a book,  my mother has taught me life skills like cooking, cleaning, organizing, scheduling, and so on. Many people who are very ‘book smart’ don’t make it far in life because they lack basic life skills like these."

Brandon goes on to talk about his interests in electricity and computers. He started building websites, eventually turning it into a neighborhood business. Later he got into podcasting and started his own show. Then he started a web design business. When the iPhone came out, he created a movie showtime application for it, which is widely used today by iPhone users: "GoMovies". Brandon is now in the advertising design business with a partner and they run a firm called Ipsum Creative.

Since November of 2009, Brandon has learned to drive, bought a car, and started a restaurant job in addition to doing his design business and academics. He has been learning time managment skills, to say the least - sometimes the hard way! Here's how he summarizes it:

"This is a constant struggle for me: figuring out what’s most important in life. It can often be more difficult than one might think. Beyond that, trying to find places to squeeze in the things you want to do among those that you need to do is a challenge. I devised a system by the end of the month. Basically, I found that I need to list everything I need to do, prioritize it, and try to eliminate some things from the bottom of the list. This way I always have a concise list of my priorities in my head."

Come March, Brandon's report shows another aspect of his learning. Read on!

"March was a month of hard work for me. As I continued with my job and other duties, I learned to perfect many of my skills and to balance my efforts even more effectively. I was working five nights a week and loved making the extra money. I was also helping a friend remodel their kitchen on the side, teaching me a lot about various types of work.

    "This job was proving to be quite educational. First off, I was starting to really observe a lot about the inner workings of the restaurant, and ask questions. I wanted to learn about the industry, as it was one I was always interested in. I watched the chefs prepare dishes, I noticed how the managers handled various situations, and I really started to absorb everything that went on around me while I was doing my job. I was actually inspired to reconsider being a chef, something that had always been a possibility for me. This thought had been developing since I started working there, but by now I was really tempted. It seemed like the chefs had such a great time and I could imagine nothing better than cooking for a living.

   " As for my remodeling work, my friend and I started off by painting. There were actually several rooms in the house that needed a fresh coat of paint, and we both had experience painting, so we got some rollers and off we went! In addition to walls, I learned about the process of painting cabinets, something that is much more involved. We had to remove all the cabinet doors, organize the hardware, and pretreat the wood. We used a product called a ‘de-glosser’ that etches the original finish of the wood, making the paint adhere better. We then got to work with our paint brushes, and a few days later the old 1960s cabinets looked as good as new (or better.) We reattached the doors, which in itself is a lesson in organization. It’s essential to label the doors, or else it’s difficult to tell which ones go where.

    "After the painting was finished, we moved on to the floor. We decided to lay down some tile. To start, we had to rip up the old linoleum. Since the floor was already falling apart, this took nothing more than a little elbow grease and the back end of a hammer. Once the subfloor was exposed and clean, we had to lay down backer board. We mixed up a bucket of adhesive, learning somewhere along the way that it is important to follow the mixing directions properly. Soon after, we put down the first board and screwed it in. Once we hit the first place where we couldn’t fit an entire board, I tapped into my math and geometry brain to measure and cut the boards to the appropriate shapes and sizes. Throughout the project this became my job, as I was quite good at it, even in complexly shaped spaces.

    "Once the backer board was down, we moved onto the tile. The measuring was once again my job. I marked each tile and my friend cut them on the wet saw. We did a ‘dry run’ before laying them down, and they fit together like a perfect little puzzle. Although I wasn’t around for the laying and grouting, I was still proud of my accomplishments in my first ever experience with flooring. I learned about how to work with each type of material and got to flex my brain a little with the measurement and marking. All-in-all it was a great experience that may come in handy some day if I ever want to lay my own floor.

    "While not the most exciting in my life, this month was full of learning that will be very useful in my later life. In fact, it may have even changed the career path I take. I’m still loving life, and looking forward to April!"

Brandon has one more report before he graduates. You may join me in looking forward to the final installment of his exciting homeschooling career!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Chilean Senior Enjoys Monthly Writing

Students who wish to graduate from West River Academy must write an educational biography, describing their educational life, followed by 6 monthly reports detailing what was learned during the month. This occurs during the last 6 months of their senior year. Students may resign themselves to this task, not knowing what to expect, or not looking forward to the work. Often, however, the students tell me what a valuable experience it has been to write about their lives and learning. It prompts them to think more about themselves, their relationships with others and what they want for their future. This student from Chile expresses such sentiment. I'm publishing it in its original Spanish. He says it's been fun for him to write about the activities he enjoys, what he thinks about issues, and his day-to-day life, knowing that someone far away will take a few minutes to read what a Chilean adolescent has been doing and learning.

In his words:
"Como último me gustaría decir que ha sido entretenido escribir todos los meses sobre las actividades que me gustan hacer, lo que pienso de algunas cosas y lo que es mi día a día, se siente agradable escribir todo eso y saber que alguien que está muy lejos de acá  va a tomarse unos minutos para leer las cosas que ha hecho y ha aprendido un adolecente chileno. Gracias."

~ Diego, Isla Negra, Chile

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

WRA student Madison Moellers co-stars in The Mentalist 4/29/10

Madison Moellers is a 7-year-old WRA student who is co-starring in the April 29, 2010 episode of "The Mentalist". It's on CBS this Thursday evening. The April 9th Entertainment Weekly has a full-page spread of Madison on the set, with this caption:

Baker and Robin Tunney tried to have fun with co-star Madison Moellers, but – stop the presses! – the pint-size  actress wasn’t falling for Baker’s charm. “She wasn’t very interested,” he concedes. “She was playing tough with me. She was a sassy little girl.”

Congratulations, Madison! We hope to see you on the big screen soon!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mom Can't Stop her Kids from Learning

A mother of 4 in Colorado, including a graduating senior, writes:

Thanks again for WRA! I am so relieved that despite some ups and downs here at home, we are able to school the kids this way. I can't keep my kids from learning. They are learning ALL the time, no matter what I do, or don't do! We will continue to travel, read, and learn as much as we can for the rest of our lives. I am thinking about going back to grad school, and we'll just figure out how to mix it all up and enjoy the journey!

~ JoAnn, Longmont, CA  USA

Monday, April 26, 2010

Spring 2010 Offer

I am offering an early bird discount for enrolled families for the 2010-2011. An email went out a couple days ago so I hope families received it. The offer is that if you pay by check or money order made out to WRA/M.Webb and have it postmarked by May 31, 2010, you can save $40 on the enrollment fee. So instead of $325, you pay $285 for the whole family for the year. Also, you can pay for as many years as you wish at this price.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Un estudiante chileno recuerda el terremoto de marzo 2010

Una nueva alumna que vive en Santiago, Chile escribe en su primer informe:

"A principios de este año estudiantil, fuimos afectados por un terremoto, que no dejó tranquilo a nadie. Eran ya el principio del año estudiantil para muchos jóvenes, pero el gobierno de Chile decidió atrasar un tiempo el inicio de clases en los colegios. Esa noche fue la mas larga que recuerdo, y muy chocante. Recuerdo gente corriendo por las calles; el sonido era una fusión de gritos, ladridos de perro, cosas cayendo, gente llorando. Yo estaba muy afectada emocionalmente; fue increíble lo que pasó. Nadie sabía de las familias, cientos de mis amigos estaban perdidos, y empecé a buscarlos por un buscador de personas que habilitó el famoso buscador de “Google”.  Hice perfiles de mis amigos para que sus familias supieran de ellos y sus amigos también, etcétera. Semanas después mis amigos estaban muy agradecidos por mi labor."

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Californian's month of Chinese, Literature, Cuisine and Early Childhood Education

A 17-year old young lady from California has impressed me with her writing style from the time she submitted her educational biography right up to this monthly report for March 2010. The report must be one full page, single-spaced, and it must focus on the learning that took place during the month. I'm including hers in its entirety to give an example of an outstanding and captivating essay.

"My March calendar was loaded with so many countless events that I thought it might burst.  Being incredibly busy, it wasn’t until now when I stopped to think that I realized just how much I learned this past month:  so much more than I imagined!

In world news and events I studied the mistreatment of women.  I learned more about the terrible domestic abuse and human rights violations against many women in the Middle East as well as of the horrors of the Thai sex trade.  Such atrocities are horrendous and I will continue trying to find ways to help.  I also educated myself further in Chinese current events and culture.

The amount of Chinese I’ve managed to learn in only a few months thoroughly amazes me.  It seems as though each week I become progressively faster at learning Mandarin!  So, during March I especially improved my Mandarin skills.  Last month I had the wonderful privilege of meeting my friend’s aunt visiting with her non-English-speaking husband and two little children from Shanghai, China.  Listening to the family engage in Mandarin and being able to understand snippets and even chunks of their conversations was utterly thrilling!  I was especially excited to find that I could understand quite a lot of what the children were saying.  Although I was too scared to venture speaking a little Chinese to the adults, I managed to work up the courage to partake in limited Chinese banter with the five-year-old girl, Anna.   She was so shocked and excited to hear me speaking her language that she decided to practice a bit of English with me!  It was absolutely adorable.  She even brought me one of her beautiful drawings for me to write my American name and Chinese name - 楚睿恩 (Chǔ Ruì ēn) – on.  Anna was quite happy discovering that part of my name睿 (ruì) was also part of her Chinese name.  Since January I have acquired and – to my great delight - retained the knowledge to read and write over 160 Chinese characters, over a third of which I learned in March.   I utilized these skills as I handwrote essays and dialogues in Chinese characters for exams.

Learning so many Chinese characters also helped me with not only reading and writing Japanese kanji, but also in understanding the origins of many Japanese words.  Though Japanese and Chinese sound very different, the more I study Chinese, the more I come to realize the many seemingly subtle similarities between the two languages.

Whether I sing in Chinese, Japanese, or English, the emotion of my voice consistently grows deeper in expression, and its clarity rings stronger and stronger.  During March I constantly sang in front of class, learning to sing various styles of music.  Performing  in an encouraging environment has helped me better learn to manifest nerves in a such a way that is not destructive to one’s health or performance and to build more courage to sing in front of audiences.  I’ve experienced development of my singing technique and the quality of my voice, both of which continue to improve.

What has also grown stronger this past month is my ability to write stories full of vibrant detail, and intrigue.   Reading well-written, engaging literature created a cycle as the reading improved my writing and the writing improved my reading.

I’ve also improved in quickness and efficiency of cooking dis,hes and meals, and have improved in making them appear even more appetizingly beautiful.  With ease, I now can quickly de-scale and debone a salmon before using a new, pretty wrapping-style to wrap my mushroom wontons.  To my amazement, such a wrapping-style holds the wontons together quite nicely.  With sugary or fattening foods I’ve unveiled more tricks to make the treats healthier while deceptively delicious.  These tricks are especially handy when I cook for the children I babysit.

One new chapter in my continuing saga of Early Childhood Education involved  a great deal of hands-on experience, as for several days I cared for a flu-stricken toddler spewing his half-digested breakfast all over his dinosaur pajamas as well and anything else that happened to be around him.  Using a very stubborn 8-year-old boy as my guinea-pig, I also found ways to discipline effectively without resorting to punishment.

I feel accomplished and satisfied with how hard I worked to learn in March and will strive to do the same during the remaining weeks of April."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Graduating senior realizes the importance of family

West River Academy's High School Diploma Program requires students to write an educational biography detailing their years of learning and then to submit monthly reports on their learning activities. Here is an excerpt from a report that came in today:

"A very important part of this month was my being able to finally visit my grandfather, Paw Paw. He has been in hospice care for the past couple of months. My family was unable to visit him though, due to scheduling problems. So when spring break approached we were finally able to take a week off to visit him. He lives in Oklahoma City, and it is difficult for our family to schedule trips when we can all go. I will remember this trip for the rest of my life. My grandfather is losing his eyesight and is mostly deaf. He is also unable to walk, and is in a wheelchair. The only way he really knows who we are is through sound or feeling. We all spent time holding his hands; my grandmother says it helps him feel safe. My siblings took turns playing the piano for him, and I knew then that those hours would be some of the last memories I would have with him. As I sat there and held his hand, looking into his eyes, I realized that in this life the only thing that really matters is family. Despite our living far away, because we are family we are bonded by a love that keeps us close. Looking around the nursing home, I could see many other faces of people with no family there, and then I would look at how happy my grandparents were for us to be there, and I realized that no matter where we go, I will always love them because they are my grandparents.
    "While we were in Oklahoma City, we also visited many other places. One of the most prominent places is the Oklahoma Science Museum. As a child, my parents took me to this museum almost every week. It is better than I remember. They have added countless new exhibits and the old ones have been well kept. My little siblings were running from one thing to another, they had too many things to see and too little time! It was incredible to see their new found interest in science, and it sparked mine as well. I remembered how curious of the world I was as a child, and it was very touching to see the innocent and curious nature of a child’s mind. It was a very educational trip. The Oklahoma Science Museum is packed with exhibits that educate and challenge the mind. From math to science to history, it covers nearly anything you can think of. The best thing about the museum is everything is hands on. Their motto is “Please Touch,” which is fantastic, because the best way for children to learn is for them to try things themselves. Throughout my first two years of high school, I was trying to educate myself because my teachers told me to. These past two years of home schooling, I have been trying to regain my thirst for knowledge. This museum has definitely helped spark my curiosity with science and I hope to take that with me to college next year."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

New homeschooling mom gets it and son thrives

Here's an email from a new homeschooling mom. It shows what happens when we let the kids lead:
"Evan had asked me what a photon was. I mentioned to him that I knew it was part of physics but I wasn't sure exactly what type of particle it was, so we should look it up together. He mentioned that he heard about it from a cartoon. We got into a long search and discussion which turned into a lesson that lasted a few days about quantums, quarks and the formula for the speed of light (which to this DAY he still has was almost 2 weeks ago) . After all was said and done, he joked, "That'll teach me to ask YOU a question!" we both got a big kick out of it and he really took notes, which was something he doesn't relish. We both learned a lot. :)"