A Graduate’s Journal

A Graduate’s Journal

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In our Graduation Program we not only want to hear about the curriculum you might be doing, but we want to know who you are, what influences your thought process and the person you are aspiring to be. Because in a society that has forgotten to value wisdom, curiosity and introspection, young adults who are nurtured in this way during the most developmental period of their life are an incredible asset to our world as whole.

Prospective graduate, Michael Heaton, delivers a reflective report of his personal growth and shares his thoughts as he navigates a trivial time in his life.

If I’m honest, I could call February my realization month. I read many books from prophets to philanthropists, philosophers to fables; everything. Many of them had different messages and sometimes they were conflicting. But the things I have learned have helped me to see where I truly am, where I will go if I continue doing what I am doing, and where I truly want to end up.

In the beginning of February I had a huge personal expense come up. The good news is that I finally paid it all off. But that whole month I felt totally broke. Which is not a bad thing to feel at my age because I don’t have a family or spouse depending on me. It just makes me realize how much growing I still have left before I am really ready for the real adult world. In a nut shell I’d say the beginning was humbling.

That works out perfectly for this type of education because it proves the old story of Socrates. Most people know about the young man who goes to Socrates and says something to the fact that he wants to learn from Socrates and be wise like him. Socrates then walks down to the beach and shoves his head in the water. The young man fights to come up to breathe. And finally when he almost drowns Socrates lets him up. Of course the young man is furious. Socrates responds calmly saying that once he wants truth and knowledge as bad as he wanted air, then he would teach him. That very desire that Socrates points out, is what I had in February. I got tired of settling for the life I had. My income seemed capped. My friendships, limited and self absorbed. My spiritual life, mundane and routine. My physical health, mediocre at best.

After I realized where I was at, I wrote some things that I wanted to change. I put up a white board where I can track my progress in different areas in my life to see what I needed to work on. Although I’m not perfect at updating it, it is in my room and I constantly look at it as I do my schooling. I’ve learned that if you want something to improve, you need to track it. The moment you do that, it becomes a priority. That has really helped me appreciate the gift of a day. There will never be a day like today ever again. And each day we are given, we trade for the things we think are important. Whether we are just killing time, or investing it, we can never get that day back. So we must use it wisely.

Previous to February, I often found myself bored, unfulfilled, and not where I wanted to be. If that continued, I’d follow the saying, “Some people die at 25, and aren’t buried until 75”. I don’t want that by any means. When I was bored and unfulfilled I also found that it effected my relationships. Not because people were all a sudden being jerks. But because I was focusing on myself so much more because I had nothing else to do. And lets be honest, none of us like a friend who is self centered.

Once I realized that my laziness was effecting who I was becoming, I decided to change. I started passing out flyers to expand my landscaping business in South Phoenix. I’m reading deeper into the words of God. I’ve tried to be less task oriented and play with those around me when they ask for my attention. When I think of old friends, I send them a text to let them know that I appreciate their role in my life. If I have down time, I invest it into my future. Just those simple things have revolutionized my life; not to mention my self confidence.

Now I know a lot of this could not be classified under math, science, or history. But I still believe that it is education. I believe that education is supposed to make life easier. Without knowing the things that I’ve just shared, life would be much harder. And if I could narrow down everything I’ve learn last month, I’d say this, success is never an achievement or trophy that we can attain and lock away for the rest of our lives. That is what you call a goal. Most people, including myself, think that success can eventually be achieved once we do this, or accomplish that, or face a certain obstacle. But the truth is success is only realized in the pursuit of your goals. The moment we stop stretching for what we want, and becoming a better person each day, we are no longer successful.

So thanks again for this program of credibility, and accountability. It’s helped me a lot already. Talk to you next month.

A Graduates’ Path to Self-discovery

A Graduates’ Path to Self-discovery

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The West River Academy Graduation Program students are a true testament to the philosophy that there is beauty in diversity. The young adults that we cross paths with have learned that it is okay to hit walls, question your identity, and feel imperfect. Because what you learn from that is how to bounce back, be authentic and embrace your uniqueness.

Marta Chan is an exceptional young woman in our Graduation Program Class of 2018. In one of her monthly report assignments, she reflects on a trip to Finland, growing up in Estonia and her journey to self-discovery.

“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful, it’s ordinary and mundane and routine… And it’s breathtakingly beautiful!” L.R. Knost has managed to put into words the description of how this month was for me.

I learned once again, that sometimes things just don’t work out as you planned. I thought I had already learned this lesson, but this month proved me wrong. Nothing seemed to go the way I wanted. I was really upset and irritated. But then, I started noticing all these unexpected little, wonderful things that happened in my life. I realized how I sometimes rush to get everything done and forget the reason why I’m doing these things in the first place. Writing my thoughts and feelings down into my journal, really helped me find some serenity and peace of mind.

One thing that was constantly on my mind this month, was my dad’s Chinese origin and his ancestry. It’s challenging for me to do family history from his side, because I do not speak neither Cantonese nor Mandarin Chinese. I’m learning the latter, but it’s rather difficult. It’s not so much the language that’s hard to learn but the notion and culture of the Chinese people. As I have learned more about their culture and traditions, I have recognized pieces of it in myself. I know my parents gave and still give their best in raising me and my siblings and I am really grateful for them, because they have allowed and encouraged me to become the best me. But at times I feel like I am disconnected from the Chinese “part” of me. When I was younger, I always tried to convince others (and myself) that I am a “true- Estonian”. And I remember being so upset when someone would point out that I’m “half- Chinese”, because it made me feel as if I’m incomplete and hence insufficient. But with time I came to realize, that’s not true! Rather than trying to define myself, I learned to know myself. Who I am? Who and What I love? What are my fears, my talents, my passions? What do I do to accomplish my dreams? These are the things that matter. These are the things that make me complete. Not perfect, far from that. But whole.

I learned that if we come to accept ourselves the way we are, it helps us move forward and better ourselves. The beauty in being a human is that we have both the ability and power to improve ourselves. Our backgrounds and situations do not play important roles in this. Our attitude does. My dear grandpa told me once: “A bad attitude is like a flat tire. You can’t drive the car anywhere until you change it. And if you change it, you can go anywhere your heart desires”. I agree with him.

February Twenty-fourth officially marked the one-hundreth birthday of the Republic of Estonia. This gave me again a reason to dive into my family history and celebrate the people who built this country. Their sacrifices and diligence in hardships don’t cease to both amaze and impress me.

Screen Shot 2018 03 16 at 2.21.51 PM 48x36@2xOne of the highlights of this month was our family trip to Finland. We went there by a ferry. It was really cool to see the frozen Baltic Sea. All of the water was pretty much asymmetrical blocks of ice. Finland is really pretty! They have many lakes (about 168 000) and endless uninhabited boreal forests! But our first priority was to visit Helsinki Finland Temple. I believe it to be (along with the rest of the 159 operating temples our Church has) a sacred place and the house of God. It was wonderful to visit it and it really made me appreciate everything that has been created, even more than I did before. The time there also gave me a chance to rewind everything that has been going on in my life lately and steer myself back to where I want to be. In conclusion, this month I mostly analysed and studied myself. As ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle said: “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”

The Balancing Act: Eden’s Story

The Balancing Act: Eden’s Story

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“Everyone brings into the world unique talents and abilities, and some of mine include my strong will and determination. I will continue to engage myself in school, work and sports and try to remember to enjoy the journey along the way. Somehow I have managed to get to the places that always feel right, and this is where my education has led me.”

Eden Mccoy is enrolled in our Graduation Program for the Class of 2018. In her Educational Biography she describes the balancing act that is her life as an athlete, student and actress.

I was in the third grade when my parents enrolled me in a two-week theater camp. They told me it was just for fun, but they were hoping it would help me be more confident about speaking publicly. It’s safe to say that it worked.

At the conclusion of the camp, there was a showcase performance, where our parents and also a few Hollywood youth agents were invited to see us perform the monologues and plays we had been working on. An agent approached my parents at the end of my performance and asked them about me, and although they laughed it off at first (we weren’t a “performing arts” sort of family), I let them know that acting was something I definitely wanted to pursue. My parents agreed to support me in that pursuit as long as I maintained my good grades in school. So we began our journey into balancing school and acting work that I am still on today.

I’ve learned that in the auditioning process for acting jobs, there is very little that you can control in terms of getting the job you are auditioning for. This is because there are many factors that have nothing to do with the audition (contracts, salary, availability, co-stars, network requirements, agency agreements, etc.) that determine who books the role. In schoolwork it is just the opposite. When I put the effort in, know the material and complete the assignments and tests to the best of my ability, I know that I will most likely get the desired result.

I could not be more grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given on a show that’s been a part of American pop culture for 65 years. I am surer than I have ever been that acting is what I want to do with my life. My work on General Hospital has taught me that I need to dig deep to get to some of the emotional places that the stories require, and I know that having a “regular” life with school, sports and non-actors has helped give my performances depth and helped them to feel real. I have an acting coach who once told me that I should “read about and learn everything you can about whatever you can, because even if you never have an acting job related to what you are learning, it will still give your acting depth.” When my character, Josslyn, struggled with her embarrassment at her schoolmates learning of her kidney transplant, I knew that I could show her emotions realistically because I know what the pressures of fitting in at school and wanting to be like everyone else feels like.

No one is exempt from turmoil in their lives, and I can honestly say I am grateful for the challenges I have had because they have strengthened my character and brought forward certain virtues I might otherwise not have known. Coming so close but ultimately not getting a few huge acting jobs that would have been life-changers has been heartbreaking for me. But everyone brings into the world unique talents and abilities, and some of mine include my strong will and determination. I will continue to engage myself in school, work and sports and try to remember to enjoy the journey along the way. Somehow I have managed to get to the places that always feel right, and this is where my education has led me.

Max’s Story

Max’s Story

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“Homeschooling has been a fundamental part of my life for as long as I can remember. It has given me exciting opportunities along the way that I would have never been able to fulfill otherwise. I am beyond grateful for my parents’ decision to teach me of their own values and truths rather than subjecting me to the sometimes unproductive world of public school.”

Max Rollins, a lifelong West River Academy student, is now enrolled in the Graduation Program for the Class of 2018. In his Educational Biography, he describes his childhood as an unschooler in Colorado.

Our Home was built on sixteen acres of dense forest, consisting of sprawling gullies, arid meadows grazed down by cattle, and meandering streams, full of life. All of it seemed to be as infinite as the universe to my youthful imagination. I spent hours exploring every nook and cranny of the acreage with my closest of friends and even drew up fictional names and trails we’d discovered on to a map. I still, to this day, think back on how exhilarating it was to stumble upon a new stream or clearing in the woods and how obsessed we became to find all the secrets our plot had to show.

As I grew older, my parents started teaching me the art of gardening and cultivating the land. They showed me that a hard day’s work had more value in it than almost anything else in this life. I didn’t quite see it as a value at the time and just saw it more as a distraction away from the truly important things in life, my Star Wars action figures. But eventually, I started to see what they were all about.

When I was about 8, my mother and some other homeschool moms in the valley started a Thursday-school that I attended with many of my friends for a handful of years. We would participate in arts and crafts, conduct skits, and do other fun activities that hardly seemed like school, which was quite all right by my amigos and me.

By the time high school rolled around, my time of being taught by my mother was coming to a natural end, with my needing a more social outlet for learning and her not being able to teach me the harder subjects in school, such as Chemistry and Math. I started attending classes at Grand Valley Academics in the fall of my 8th grade year. It was a sort of make-shift school led by a handful of homeschool parents who were well educated in different subjects and fields. My first year attending, I took Creative Writing, Biology, and Literature all with the same teacher. Weird, huh? Thankfully, within a year they had upgraded from the youth room of a local church to their very own building with actual classrooms! I’ve taken classes with them for my entire high school experience and have acquired a wealth of knowledge from all of their brilliant teachers along the way. I’ve had many of them for my entire high school career and will be sad to see them go when I graduate. However, I’m still exuberant to be going on to college and excited to see where it takes me.

Homeschooling has been an incredible experience for me, and, if I could, I wouldn’t change a single thing about my education. It has given me the chance to wholly delve into subjects of interest that I wouldn’t have had being confined to an 8:00-4:00 routine. I’m so appreciative of the effort both my parents put into making my time learning as beneficial and enjoyable as possible, and I hope to provide a similar experience for my children one day.

Happy Holidays from Our Family to Yours!

Happy Holidays from Our Family to Yours!

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As the end of the year rings near, we want to express our gratitude for your trust in West River Academy which has allowed us to support families all over the world.

West River Academy is expanding more and more every day, and we are so happy to share our experiences as an unschooled family with you all! Now that WRA is a family business, each of the sisters brings different strengths, yet we have in common the same goal, which is to provide a safety net built on freedom and individuality for the upcoming generations.

We invite you to read Our Story, which describes each of our very unique unschooling journeys. We are pleased to be able to offer you the perspectives of Karen, Stacey and Rachel as unschooled children as well as Peggy’s perspective as an unschooling parent.

The main topic of discussion at our Thanksgiving table was how we can now, as a family, serve you. So, please know that the West River Team has your back and truly wants the best for you and yours!

Warmest holiday greetings from all of us,

Peggy, Stacey, Rachel & Karen