Homeschooling Global Summit 2020

Homeschooling Global Summit 2020

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An influx of questions has flooded the internet in recent months regarding homeschooling and we are thrilled to address an array of topics in this virtual event called the Homeschooling Global Summit!

There will be ten days of expert interviews, from the likes of Sir Ken Robinson, Pat Farenga, Peggy Webb, Lainie Liberti, Melissa Church and many more! With hundreds of millions of kids around the world learning at home for the first time ever due to Coronavirus, this knowledge is needed by parents more than ever.

We will be interviewing some of our currently enrolled families, as well as West River Academy graduates. Learn how self-directed learning can be an advantage to navigating this rapidly-changing world.

Event Calendar:

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As this is the second annual event, anyone who is interested in watching the 40+ hours of footage from the 2019 Homeschooling Global Summit is now able to do so for free!

Visit https://hgsummit.com/ to get your FREE premium pass.

We are so grateful to all of our families and graduates who are participating in this event with us this year. We hope you register for it and share it with your loved ones!
~ The West River Academy Team

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.”

A Diverse and Accomplished Teenager

A Diverse and Accomplished Teenager

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Our students have a wide variety of interests, and the freedom to pursue them to mastery. Below is a an excerpt from one of our family’s year-end report, focusing on the accomplishments and life-learning of 16 year old Kitt.

Kitt has had an amazing year for prizes. First, he completed his eagle scout rank, after going to the board of review (interview). Soon afterwards, he attended a week-long National Youth Leadership Training for scouts, where he was selected as one of the excellent scouts who were requested to serve as future staff. His eagle court of honor ceremony was held, after a bit of planning, too. Kitt has also been on 4-5 campouts this year, including rock climbing at Joshua Tree National Park. Doing most of the work himself, he has built a trebuchet and a teepee out of a tarp.

Next, he competed for his 7 year in 4H shooting sports. Although he didn’t achieve his best score in archery, he aced the shotgun with a record 5 out of 5 score. He even hit all 3 practice shots, to bring it to 8 out of 8 shots. That got him the Grand Champion in Shotgun award, as well as winning the high point shooter for the entire club for the season. Kitt has his own bow and target and practices at home as often as he can (when there are no neighbors in residence). He is extremely conscientious about safety rules and proper technique. He even gave a few tips to the adult archery instructor at 4H.

At county fair, Kitt won 4 Grand Champion prizes. His oil painting of a farmhouse won him Grand Champion in Fine Arts, while his Turkish ebru painting of a tulip garnered Reserve Grand Champion. His copper twisted necklace with blue beads won Grand Champion in Arts & Crafts, and his larger leather Viking belt bag (made without a kit or pattern) won Grand Champion in Leathercraft (other projects). On top of all that, Kitt won Grand Champion for Home Economics, sweeping the prize for the while building for his senior age class. Wow! All total, Kitt got $120 in prize money. He had entered one painting in Fine Arts open class, but that only received a blue ribbon and outstanding. As for the interview section of the fair, Kitt got purple ribbons (outstanding) for all three interviews. They noted how knowledgeable he seemed and confident. His appearance had improved over last year, but the only negative room for improvement was noted that he needs to iron his white dress shirt. Kitt put a lot of time and effort into all the pieces that he made for Fair, including meeting with a special mentor in Leathercraft. He was amazed at the skill of his new mentor and learned a lot from him. Also, his Leathercraft leader was very encouraging and always ready to lend Kitt tools. Kitt put most of his prize money into his savings account, and I treated him to a few new Leathercraft tools as a reward for his hard work. He is already thinking of what he wants to make for next year.

Kitt has also earned his Congressional Award Bronze medal, which will be handed to him at a ceremony in October, when our Congressman will be in our city. For this award, Kitt counts his fitness hours, personal development and volunteer hours. Besides volunteering with scouts (about 15 hours) and the Jr. Optimist club (about 35 hours), Kitt has a regular volunteer service that he does about once a week at the local historic park. He serves as the historic blacksmith there, making items out of metal and explaining both the process and history to park visitors. This year he has logged about 50 hours, including the Civil War reenactment event and the Gathering of the Gunfighters event at the Yuma Territorial Prison historic park. He absolutely loved the Civil War event and got “drafted” to serve with the artillery during a battle reenactment. He was initiated into the group and hopes to serve with them again next year for the reenactment here in Yuma. In the meantime, he has acquired a pattern for Union Army pants which he wants to make with my help. All of his volunteering as the historical blacksmith is done in his historic clothing portraying the 1870’s in Yuma. Kitt was also invited to and attended the Civil War costume ball held by invitation only after the reenactment in the evening. He learned several historic dances while attending. He also listened to Abraham Lincoln (reenactor) give a talk and later had President Lincoln talk to him individually when he visited the forge. As a volunteer at the park, Kitt was given free tickets and attended a historic talk by a President Teddy Roosevelt reenactor, which he enjoyed a lot.

Kitt has earned a few more scout merit badges and enjoys going to workshops for those. Many of the workshops are STEM related, and I count them as science for Kitt. Among others, he earned this year Nuclear Science (visiting a power plant visitor center), Space Exploration, and Engineering.  He also likes to experiment himself and to take things apart at home to see what is inside them. Kitt was also invited to go for a free private flying lesson with an EAA pilot. He learned a lot from that and hopes to do it again in the Fall. He even wants to learn about building an EAA plane.

As for English, Kitt is still working on Spelling and Composition, but this is never his highest priority. He does vocabulary building without even noticing it and has a rich and varied vocabulary. We have several workshops/ programs that he uses but this is an area he needs to improve.

As founder and president of the college tabletop game club, Kitt hosts game day once a week for 2 hours. That means he has put in over 60 hours in games of strategy and logic. This includes reading complicated instructions and teaching others how to play the games. This is one of his great interests, and he hopes to host even more game clubs next year. He has already spoken to the teen librarian to start there in the Fall as a volunteer hosting a weekly 2-hour game day. Kitt also tried out new games with other people and chooses new ones to buy for himself and the game club.

Kitt also loves to travel and enjoys historical places. He often visits Viking villages and museums in Sweden. Last year he even volunteered at a Viking village for a couple of days. I believe he may do that again this summer. He gave an hour long presentation for a college class about Vikings this year.

If Kitt had to choose a subject to study in college, he would probably choose archeology or history. He likes the experiential archeology that they employ in Sweden. Last summer Kitt visited Istanbul, Turkey and Helsinki, Finland, besides our home in Sweden and neighboring Denmark. We also geocache when we travel or go for a walk.

~LOB

Life-learning While Being an “au-pair” in Australia

Life-learning While Being an “au-pair” in Australia

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This blog post features a student who is doing an “au-pair” program in Australia, where she is assisting a home-schooling family with their children in exchange for room and board. Her report illustrates how she weaves online courses, literature, botany and traveling together for extraordinary educational experiences. The pictures are the ones she took of the Blue Mountains in Australia.

This month I started and completed another course called “Biology meets programming: Bioinformatics for beginners”. It was on applying computer programming to analyse DNA and try and figure out various things such as where the replication point is located. It was a really tough course as I haven’t done much biology and have never tried computer programming before. I did ok on the quizzes however the interactive components of the textbook left me very confused as they required a lot of programming and I had trouble understanding how the functions operated and how to create my own. I also didn’t have much time during the week to do the work, and was a little behind from the start. In the end I had to let go of the hope to do well on the course and decided just to try my best to understand what I could. I did learn some interesting things about how the DNA replicates in a certain direction and how certain algorithms work. I found randomized algorithms to be quite interesting even though I didn’t fully understand how they function. Due to the program I ended up making an account for python and doing many of the exercises they offer. Programing is definitely interesting, I think I just need more practice memorizing the language used. I find I have a little difficulty when it comes to understanding more abstract ideas in math, which is a skill I hope to work on.

I also started to read a German book called Drachenreiter, which means Dragonrider. It has an English translation that I read many years ago but as I like the author I always wanted to read the original German version. It’s a little difficult as I haven’t read German in a while and occasionally I will need a little extra time to remember a word. It’s a strange sensation to have my reading pace change slightly, but I am enjoying the story. It’s about how mythical creatures exist hidden away from humans and the last group of dragons home is about to be destroyed by humans, so one of the dragons heads off with his kobold friend to find the dragons’ ancestral home. On the way they pick up a homeless human boy who helped them out and he goes on the journey with them.

I did more volunteering at the botanical garden, and it was quite enjoyable. I learned how to take clippings and plant them. The idea is that you peel of the leaves along 1/3 of the stalk and the nip off the top. You also need to scrape away a strip along the bottom with your nail to promote the growth of roots. Before we plant them we also dipped the ends in a compound called clonex, which seals the cut ends and supplies hormones needed for the growth of roots. It’s interesting learning a little bit about the more scientific side of gardening. On the surface it seems so straight forward, you just plant and water them, but there are many aspects to growing a strong plant, and sometimes no matter what you do they can still die.

For a weekend I went to the Blue Mountains with family I’m staying with for the weekend. It’s an extremely stunning area and we did a lot of hiking along the cliffs. I read that the reason they seem to be blue is because of the way the light refracts through all the dust particles floating around. So the further something is the more dust is in your line of sight and the bluer it seems. We also went on the cable cars and on one we were told the aboriginal story of the three sisters, which are three giant rocks sticking up from a cliff. The legend apparently goes there were three beautiful sisters from one tribe and three brothers from another tribe who fell in love with them. The brothers wanted to take the sisters for themselves but the shaman of their tribe turned them into rocks to protect them. However the shaman then died in a battle between the tribes and no one else was able to break the spell over them again.

On our way back from the Blue Mountains we stopped at a high ropes course. It was my first time visiting one so I was pretty excited. We were given a little safety run-through and then left to go wild. I mostly stayed with the ten year old I look after, and on the most difficult course she was allowed to do she got stuck on the end as you have to jump of a ledge with only a pulley to slow your fall. I had a little time to consider what the repercussions of giving her a push would be, mainly losing her trust in me for a couple days or so, before a worker came and dropped her over the edge. It was extremely physically tiring but very exciting.

I was invited to go on a distant relative’s sailboat and had an amazing time. I had no knowledge about sailing before but I learned quite a bit just watching and was even allowed to help, and steered the boat a little on the way back, although with engine going and the sails tucked away. It seems the boat has to travel in a zigzag sort of way, where it follows the wind one way for a bit then they pull the sail to the other side and turn to travel the other way. The trick is to keep the wind at your back, which sounds pretty obvious but seems easier said than done. They used instruments and little ribbons attached to the sail called tell-tales to let them know which way the wind was blowing.

 

Life learning

~ Rowena, 2016 High School Senior

WRA Graduate Reflects on His Life as a Homeschooler

WRA Graduate Reflects on His Life as a Homeschooler

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Eagle McMahon is a Senior at West River Academy. Here he shares his experience homeschooling: how he learned to read, his “Notebook” method of planning his studies, and becoming a professional disc golfer.

Homeschooling has been the greatest gift of my life. Many kids dream of being homeschooled and I have been able to pursue this lifestyle my entire life. It has given me so many opportunities that I would not have had if I had sat in a classroom all day. I have gotten to spend a lot of time with my family, giving me special relationships with my father and grandparents. My father and grandparents are my homeschool teachers. This opportunity has given special perks over the years. For example, this past year I traveled across the USA and competed against the world’s best professional disc golfers.

Homeschooling is based around me being able to structure my studies around my interests and create my own schedule. The main lesson it has taught me is that you do not just learn from school, you learn from everything.

My learning process has always been relaxed and fun. I have never felt pressured or stressed about learning. Because of this, I am calm and confident when I have to take on tasks. I attribute this to my loved ones for being positive and supportive of this lifestyle.

Going way back in my memory as far as I remember, when I first started off as a pre-homeschooler, I had many interests that jump started my education. I was into Legos, Transformers, and trains. I always dove deep into my hobbies and fully engrossed myself in my interests. I would collect every Transformer, know all of their names, and transform them in a flash. A fond memory I have of these early days is when my dad and I built a landscape for my toy trains. It had tunnels, elevation, and bridges for me to put toy train tracks on. One day we spent all day making a train track that went throughout the entire house. I learned to take things to a different level while having fun! My family was always there to help me learn about my interests and support me in any way they could.

During my early years of academics, I remember going to bookstores and picking out school workbooks. Every time I finished a workbook, which was about every six months, we would go back to the bookstore and get the next grade. My father used a method called the “Notebook.” It was a composition book that he used to schedule my school day. My schedule usually included things like; two pages of math, two pages of science, two pages of reading/writing, exercise, goal setting, and organizing. I looked forward to my new tasks every day. Completing these tasks gave me a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence. We still use the “Notebook” method to this day, and it is still effective as ever. I plan on using this technique for the rest of my life as my daily to-do lists.

My greatest homeschool experience is when my father took me on a trip to Hawaii. I was nine years old and it was after my mother passed. He claims he used this time for bonding and setting our new life and education in motion. We spent eight weeks of the winter from January through February to get out of the cold winter. We spent five of the eight weeks on Maui and the other three weeks on the Main Island. At the time, I barely knew how to read. One of my father’s main intentions of the trip was to teach me how to read. I spent a lot of time reading and being read to. I remember the first book I read, “Fantastic Mister Fox” by Roald Dahl. It was a perfect first book to read for a nine year old, because it was fun and captivating. We made learning to read fun by reading on beautiful beaches under the sun. Once I got a hang of reading, I read one book after the other, completing four Roald Dahl novels in the next eight weeks.

After the Hawaii experience, I realized how special homeschooling was. My education from ages ten years old to present has been unconventional and different than most others. For one, I have been able to pursue my love for cooking and nutrition. My mother and father have raised me a vegetarian, so food has always been a big thing in my life. My grandmother has always made delicious food and I saw her as an inspiration to cook food myself. Since I was at my grandparent’s house a lot for school, I had the opportunity to cook almost every day. I was a natural in the kitchen, had a knack for spices, and knew how to season food. My grandfather was so impressed with my cooking skills, that he started to ask me to cook instead of my grandmother.

Another passion of mine is buying and selling. At the time, I was really into mountain biking. It was a great way to get out in nature and exercise. However, I enjoyed buying bikes and re-selling them so I could upgrade to a better bike. In the course of one year, I bought and sold nine bikes. The first bike I bought was $200. The first premium bike I bought was $1100 and the last one I bought was a $5000 bike I got for $2500. I used the bike for a year and then re-sold it for more money.

The way I earned the money was by working with my father and buying and selling these bikes on craigslist. I was obsessed with selling items (I still am). I also sold random house hold items and valuable frisbees I collected from playing disc golf. I got very good at dealing with people and negotiating because I was doing it on a daily basis. I have learned through this to buy, sell, trade, and use craigslist which are all valuable things that I will use the rest of my life. These experiences have inspired me so much that I want to pursue a business career.

I am most proud of what I have done in disc golf. Disc golf is like standard golf, except instead of hitting a ball into a hole,you are throwing a frisbee into a suspended metal basket. When I was 9 years old, my father’s friend introduced us to the sport. At first we liked it, but just thought of it as a simple game. The more we played, the more we got involved. We played almost everyday. It was a passion we both shared and I learned a lot on the courses. I learned discipline, focus, patience, and how to control my emotions. This sport is still teaching and helping me grow to this day.

From the time I started playing disc golf up until now, it is still very much a part of my life. I have reached professional status, make money doing it, am ranked one of the top players in the world, and have five sponsors that support my game and my travels. I have traveled all around the United States to compete against the best players. This next year will be bigger and better than ever. I will be going to Sweden and Finland to compete. Disc golf is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and I am fortunate to be in on the ground level. The growth of the sport is creating more opportunities to make money. I won $1545 for winning a state tournament!

I plan to keep pursuing this and possibly get involved with the business and marketing side of the sport. This passion of mine has brought out my adventurous side and has taught me some valuable life skills. I have learned to book my own flights, plan out my finances, and be resourceful without parents around. Now that I am recognized as one of the top players, I have my own YouTube channel and I do my own video blogs of my travel experiences. As a result, I have become interested with film production and photo editing and it is one of my senior courses.In reviewing all these years, I have realized how proud I am of my alternative education. It is a unique way of life that most people do not understand. I have never been in a traditional school setting or classroom. The benefits of being a homeschool student are outstanding. I have learned many important life lessons through every day tasks and living life. My closest friends are my family and they have all taught me so much; from my father exercising with me, my Grandfather teaching me science, my uncle giving computer tips, and my grandmother with everything. I would not change the way I have done anything. My classroom is life, everyday, all the time. Only a homeschooler would know how great it is.

I believe the freedoms that come with Homeschooling have helped me experience more than your traditional student. My classroom one day is in a coffee shop, the next day the library, the next day a hiking trail, the next day a museum, the next day the disc golf course, and the next day Hawaii. School is living my life and pursuing my interest and goals with all my heart. The enjoyment of learning and growing does not have to be a task.

Homeschooling has enabled me to live in a way that allows me to be myself. Although traditional schooling may be good for others, I do not believe it would have been for me. I am forever grateful to my parents for choosing this lifestyle for my education.

The whole homeschooling lifestyle has been the greatest gift my parents have given to me. Now that I am almost ready to graduate and move onto college to start pursuing a career, I believe I have some ideas about what I want to pursue in the future. I am planning on studying business and marketing because of my resourcefulness and talent in dealing deal with people. I would eventually like to own my own business. I have taken inspiration from others who have created that for themselves. It seems like owning your own business closely relates to homeschooling in so many ways. If you are a business owner, you can shape your own schedule, be the boss of yourself, and create what you want.

I am already set up for that lifestyle because of homeschooling. All my experiences over the years from collecting, buying, selling, traveling, being creative, and developing a disc golf following has set me up for something big in the future. If I were to create a business involving disc golf, I feel as if I would already have a mass amount of support and many options. Homeschooling has taught me to set goals and go get what you want and what you need. If I need to learn something or get something done, I know how to go about doing it.

I have many goals I want to achieve this year and beyond. As a homeschooler, I have been taught that there are no boundaries and that you are allowed to think outside the box. 

Humans are capable of great things and all it takes is persistence and the ability to follow your dreams. I want to live a very prosperous life full of happiness and confidence. I expect to achieve that because of who I am as a person. Everything that I have learned and my experiences have taught me that with passion and hard work anything can be done. If I have the right mindset, I believe I can do anything.” 

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Homeschooling Teen Shares His Story

Homeschooling Teen Shares His Story

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This essay was written by a high school senior who was homeschooled for his whole life. Homeschooling gave him the opportunity to pursue several interests and volunteer within his community. Here are excerpts from his essay.

Hi, my name is Connor Maricle. I have been homeschooled all my life for which I am grateful. While it is not perfect, homeschooling has helped me with time-management, allowed me to study at my own pace, and has given me time for other activities such as martial arts, archery, 4-H, volunteering, and working. Through these activities I have learned various skills which cannot easily be acquired in a classroom. Although I have not had as many teachers as other students in public school, there have been people who have helped me to learn through active involvement in community organizations. Some examples of people who have contributed to my education are my martial arts instructors, archery instructors, 4-H leaders, food bank employees, and work supervisor.

Homeschooling has been a positive experience allowing me the flexibility to meet my personal goals, learn interesting subjects at my own pace, and contribute to our community. As a young child I remember doing various games, projects, experiments, and activities that provided a solid foundation in the basics of reading, writing, history, math, and science in interesting and fun ways. I had time for reading and playing every day which I believe helped contribute to my imagination and creativity today.

As the years have gone by I have had the opportunity to study quite a variety of interesting subjects. While some subjects have been more enjoyable than others I have still learned an extensive amount through being homeschooled. I have not gone to a public school, but I have talked to others who have attended, and there seems to be more pressure there than being homeschooled. Homeschooling has allowed me to have plenty of time for independent studyI learn faster by doing rather than by reading, writing, or memorizing. If I am enjoying a topic I learn even faster. As such, I tend to learn more through independent study than from learning through a textbook.

Connor Martialarts 150x150Martial arts has helped me learn many things as well: from balance and a bit of Korean, to morals such as honesty and integrity. The martial art I am learning is Tang Soo Do. The people at the studio are all really nice and excellent instructors willing to help someone who wants to learn. Tang Soo Do is an important part of my life, and I plan on continuing it as long as possible. The atmosphere of encouragement and support from those at the studio is unique in the Tang Soo Do community, and is something I carry inside of me even when I am not there. I hope to some day pass on the traditions of Tan Soo Do. Through Tang Soo Do I have been able to improve my leadership skills by leading the students in various warm-up exercises and by helping some of the lower-ranked students improve their forms and techniques. This has also helped me to gain more confidence in myself.

While Tang Soo Do is important to me it was not my first extra-curricular activity. I was about ten years old when I started archery which taught me more than just how to shoot an arrow. From my instructor I learned the importance of cross-training, the responsibility that comes with a weapon, that a person needs to take everything into account when shooting at a target, and that bows and arrows are not toys. Archery was one of the first incredibly difficult things I tried to learn.

From this experience I learned firsthand that it takes time and diligence to get good at something. Many of my classmates dropped out, and once in a while I thought about dropping out as well. I decided to continue and challenge myself to improve. Eventually the school I went to closed, and I took a break before I started lessons again at a new place. I was very rusty at first because even though I had taken archery lessons for four years, my one-year break had dulled my skills. Once I got back in the swing of things I became the best in my class. It was at that point I saw the pay-off from all the effort I had put into archery. While I did feel extremely proud, I believe some of my classmates may have felt discouraged by my “unusual improvement  rate”. Overall, archery was an enjoyable sport for me. I’m glad I did it even though I don’t plan on using it in daily life.

Connor 4HI was eleven when I started 4-H. At first I wasn’t sure whether I would like it or not because it seemed more like an activity my sister would enjoy. After the first few years, though, I started to really enjoy 4-H. Although our club wasn’t very big I still met quite a few people and had numerous opportunities to participate in community events. During my time in 4-H, I learned a great deal about animals (that was my club’s specialty), volunteer work, and how to work with groups of people. I even got some awards in the process. One of the more difficult things I did in 4-H was volunteer at the fair’s Petting Zoo. While it was frustrating at the time because of the high number of young kids, looking back on it I felt it was enjoyable and quite a learning experience in crowd-control and keeping the cavies (guinea pigs) safe. The animals I raised were cavies. Many people in the club had rabbits, cavies, and poultry (chickens, ducks, and turkeys). I had two cavies. Though other people in the club had more animals, I still learned the responsibility of animal ownership. I was also able to participate in fun community service projects through our club, such as: making no-sew fleece blankets for a children’s shelter, designing cards for soldiers, making holiday cookies for the fire department, and sharing my cavies with children at petting zoos.

I also learned more about responsibility and leadership skills by being an officer in our club for several years. Our club members were talented people, so I was able to learn important information about a variety of topics. Even though our club was small our district was large, so I had various opportunities to learn from and interact with several knowledgeable and energetic leaders from other clubs.

Shortly after joining 4-H I started volunteering at the Fairbanks Community Food Bank which was my first “real” job. I have done a variety of tasks at the food bank, such as: sorted canned goods, sorted bread, prepared food boxes, boxed produce and meat, and packaged butter, flour, rice, and sugar. It was tedious at times, but also fun. It was also a good learning experience for me. I learned about defects in canned goods, various types of meat, how to set up and manage a short-term or long-term project, and that no matter how damaged something looks in the store it is much better than what may be available at the food bank

I am glad that I was homeschooled as it has given me many opportunities for growth and development while still having time for other things that I enjoy. Because of homeschooling I was able to do activities I wouldn’t normally have had time to do. As a result, I met many great people who helped me become who I am today. While I don’t know what the future holds, I feel that I am prepared to start the next part of my life. I am looking forward to future opportunities to make positive contributions to my community.

Reflections on the 10th Grade: Mom’s Point of View

Reflections on the 10th Grade: Mom’s Point of View

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It’s so rewarding for us to hear the stories of our families who have gained freedom and joy in their lives by getting free of the school system. Read on for a moving story from this mother about how her son went from being an angry teenager to an engaged, alive person pursuing several passions. In a separate post, we have shared the son’s reflections of his experience in school, and the difference since he has started homeschooling. ~ Peggy & Karen

Deciding to homeschool/unschool has been an incredible decision for our whole family. After a very rocky 9th grade year, we went into the 10th grade year with an agreement (from all of us) that we would not have a repeat of the 9th grade. We briefly discussed homeschooling, but my son made a decision that he wanted to try school again for the 10th grade. I think he wanted to be with his friends, and I think there was some hope that things would be better. By mid-year of the 10th grade in public school, though, my son was a shell of his former self. Moody, angry, irritable, reactive… those are words that could be used to describe all of us! We were all exhausted and traumatized by the constant battle to get school work done. As parents, we were getting scary e-mails and phone calls from the school, and the expectation was that we better do something about our kid – and fast! The threat was that if we didn’t, we risked letting our son fall through the cracks, only to become a teenaged failure. This was horrifying to us, and we didn’t understand what was happening with our son. I am sure the pressure was even worse for our him! Our bright, observant, thoughtful kid was miserable, and every time we talked to him about school, he became deeply defensive and angry. We couldn’t figure out what was wrong, and neither could he. Ultimately, my husband and I decided that our relationship with our son was more important than his grades.

Even though we were getting a lot of scary stuff from the schools, we made a difficult decision to let him succeed or fail on his own terms. This was really hard, but ultimately, it helped us to make choices that would lead us home.

Even though we had decided to back off and not take on so much of the pressure we were getting from the e-mails, robo-calls, and messages from school counselors, we all still struggled. It was painful to watch my beloved son struggling every day with going to this place that obviously made him feel terrible! I tried enlisting help from all of our son’s teachers, and only got a response from 3 of them. I think his teachers cared, but I also think they had a huge amount of work in front of them, and our quietly failing boy in the back row (who they barely remembered) was not high on their list. This was very stressful, and we were not perfect in our resolve to let our son fail. We struggled with our own fear and panic. Would our son be OK? Would he ever have the chance for a full life? Was he throwing away his opportunities for success in the world? And, even more importantly, why wasn’t he happy? Why was he struggling so much? He couldn’t articulate this, and the more we asked, the more frustrated he became with us. We had to really work to back off. It took us a long time to let go, but when we finally did, it was a watershed moment.

p.txtI picked my son up from rock climbing on a Wednesday just before he finished out the fall semester. “Vinnie,” I said, “It looks like you are going to fail some of your classes. Dad can probably help you figure out how to pass them, if you want. But, more importantly, I want you to know that there are other ways to become an educated person. Maybe this way isn’t working for you. There are other options for you. I don’t know what is happening for you at school, but we can do things differently. If you want to talk with me about options, we can get some dinner and talk.” To my complete surprise, my son started talking. He admitted that he was about to fail, and talked about how even though he was interested in the subject matter, he just couldn’t bring himself to comply with the assigned work. He described how the work felt arbitrary, and how he felt insulted by the “busywork” of school. He didn’t want to do the things they wanted him to do. I told him that we could consider a variety of options, and that we as a family would take the winter break to decide what would be the best option for our son.

From that moment forward, I finally felt like the mother I have always been. I remembered that my son’s life is HIS life. He doesn’t belong to the schools, and neither do we as his parents. His school’s structure is set up to warehouse hundreds of kids and make sure they all meet big external standards as a group. This has never been what education has meant to us as a family. What we value is freedom and joy in learning. We believe that learning is and should be fun, and that  becoming educated means you have your head on your shoulders and can examine the world and your life consciously and critically. Being educated means you know how to get the information you want and need when you want and need it. It is about being able to take in information, process that information thoughtfully, and communicate about it effectively. It is about being able to deepen as a human being, from a well-informed place, so that you can live a full, exciting, passionate life of your own creation.

By the end of the winter break, my son informed me that he had decided to homeschool. This was the day before school was supposed to start for the spring semester. Vinnie told me that he was concerned about losing touch with his friends, so we decided that he would go to school, get as many numbers as possible, and make sure he felt good about this decision to homeschool. When I talked to him after school the next day, my son had cleaned out his locker and made his final decision. The relief was absolutely palpable.

Over these last few months, my son has gone from an angry, unreachable teen to an engaged, alive person. He is reading again, with as much voraciousness as he did when he was younger. He has rested and recovered. He has sought out the things he wants to learn. He started taking online computer programming courses and has found a college degree program he’d like to get into some day. He traveled across the US for a month with my Mom and sister. He got to drive a tractor and feed the goats and donkeys and chickens on their farm property in Texas. He learned to scuba dive, and he is learning to drive. He joined the varsity rock climbing team and is able to climb three days a week. He got interested in social justice and race relations, so we watched movies about civil rights leaders, read news articles, and had discussions about Ferguson and the Black Lives Matter movement. He spent time snowboarding in the mountains, and skateboarding to Dairy Queen. He is exploring what it means to be a friend, and what it means to say no to people who drag him down. He is owning who he is, and taking responsibility for being an educated person in his own, shining, unique way. He is becoming himself, in the best way possible.

Of course, we are not without struggles now. We still have to work on letting go, and he still has to work on taking responsibility for himself. But this is now in the spirit of joy and freedom and growth, rather than pressure and threat and fear. This is healthy and challenging, rather than traumatizing and terrifying. I am so grateful every day that we made this decision to take back the power in our lives. I am grateful that we could let go enough to see that there really are options and possibilities in this life. We are not at the mercy of the system, even though it can feel like it when you’re in the middle of it.

Pursuing a Passion-driven Life

Pursuing a Passion-driven Life

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2015 West River Academy High School Graduate, Chris Bones, exemplifies a life of pursuing passion.

In an interview with Entertainment Scoop’s Vivian Adaobi, he answers her question on what drives him with one word: Passion.

“Without passion, I would have quit a long time ago” he says.  “I wake up early, I go to sleep late, I work and I have fun while I do it! Because, that’s passion.” (Ent Scoop, 4/16/2015; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XN5G_8LzkeM

He’s been pursuing that passion since he was young. His first experience was acting in a musical theater show at 6 years old. Ignited by the passion of acting, at age 9 he moved from Tulsa, Oklahoma to New York City to pursue a professional career in acting. While there, he played a role on Emmy Award winning daytime television show “One Life to Live”.

A few years later, in 2009, he followed his love of music to Los Angeles to launch his career as a recording artist. In April 2015 he did his first tour, touring with High School Nation. To see him in action on stage, doing what he loves best, check out his YouTube video “Chris Bones – Live on Tour!” here; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQ5ZOpOjMHY.

To get a taste of his musical talent, watch his covers of Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXfDxQNytUM and Jealous by Nick Jonas at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kILsV96_WY

He is currently working on his first original album, due out this summer. Watch for its release by following his Twitter channel (@thechrisbones) and Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/chrisbonesmusic?_rdr

Congratulations to Chris on graduating from West River Academy! We look forward to seeing where his passion leads him to next!