Fall 2016 GHF Ambassador Update

GHF ambassador

AmbassadorGwyn Ridenhour: Our Hybrid Education and STEAM Advocate

GHF Ambassador Gwyn Ridenhour is a former children’s librarian, a home educator, and the founder and author of STEAM-Powered Classroom, where you can find creative, student-centered education ideas along with a children’s non-fiction resource review vlog. She has two profoundly gifted kids, who have been in and out of public school, radically accelerated, and actively supported as they pursue their careers in music and language.

Gwyn has worked for many years to support students both in and out of the classroom. A former fundraiser and grant-writer, she founded and ran the Arlis Saxon Eco-Kids Project for four years, teaching elementary students how to identify and address environmental facility needs by designing fundable projects. In 2012, she worked as a consultant for the Bismarck Public School District, facilitating a series of education reform visioning sessions with students, teachers, and principals. She has also taught a Doctor Who-themed course through GHF Online, entitled the “Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Wimey Project-Based Learning Course.”

In 2015, she gave a TEDx talk entitled “Shaping a Creative Education.” Her son also performed at that event, which you can view at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjw64wokhCU. In 2016, he gave his own TEDx talk on education, which should be available online soon.

Gwyn’s daughter is now enrolled in a local charter high school that focuses on innovation and project-based learning. Her son, who graduated high school at 14, is in the midst of his second gap year in which he is pursuing a career in music.

Gwyn gets most excited about watching kids realize their amazing potential. At STEAM-Powered Classroom, she honors the parts of education that work, tinkers with them, and makes them more funky, relevant, and beautiful.

You can find Gwyn and the STEAM-Powered Classroom on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.

AmbassadorJade Rivera: Our Chemistry teacher and In-House Expert on Micro-Schools

This semester, Jade is teaching Intro to Chem and Chem II through GHF Online. She has also started a #VOMath challenge this month! The first math challenge was released on September 9 on her Facebook page. Be sure to “like” Jade Rivera’s page, and watch out for new, easy, free hands-on math projects to do with kids. Share pictures of your kids’ creations online using the #VOMath hashtag.

In other news, Jade has started teaching via Outschool in Berkeley. Her first class is called Dream It to Be It: An Imaginative Exploration of Storytelling, Science, and Engineering. Though she would love for more Bay Area kids to join, it’s already filled up! The good news is that she plans to teach more courses like this, so keep your eyes peeled for more information.

And lastly, Jade is offering a new email course for new subscribers to her newsletter. Sign up for her latest newsletter. Spread the word by sharing with your friends and colleagues on Facebook and on Twitter.

AmbassadorJen Merrill: Laugh Out Loud with Jen as She Explores Sensitive Issues in Gifted/2E Homeschooling and Self Care

Jen has had a great few months. In July, she was at the SENG conference, not only representing GHF at the exhibitor booth, but presenting as well. Her session, “Lessons From the Practice Room: Problem-Solving Your Own Self-Care,” drew from her decades of experience as a flutist and teacher. She figured if she could step back and figure what was wrong with her flute playing (and then fix it), then she could do the same with her self-care. Add in her years of teaching and her passion for the gifted community and she was thrilled to present what she’d learned. Her friend Lisa Conrad, moderator of #gtchat, did a live Facebook recording of the presentation, which you can watch now!

In May, Jen  presented at a local library about homeschooling gifted kids. The library has an active homeschooling component, with a librarian on staff who homeschooled her four kids and now plans homeschool events at the library. This was the first time anyone had presented on homeschooling gifted kids, and hopefully it won’t be the last.

This spring also found Jen on the board of her local gifted homeschoolers parent group, helping plan events and meetings for parents in the Chicago metro area. This organization has a homeschooling co-op as an offshoot, so if you’re looking for such a group for you/coop for your kid, drop her a note (see below)!

On top of all of this Jen still writes and blogs and performs and teaches the flute and parents and wifis and juggles the minutiae of life. She has some exciting opportunities coming up this fall and winter, and can’t wait to share those in the next update. As always, if you have questions or need a listening ear, you can find Jen on Facebook, Twitter, and at her website.

AmbassadorRebecca McMillan: Our GHF Online Founder Fosters Academic Discussions on Giftedness, Homeschooling, and Education

Summer featured a family move from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to Chicago, where Rebecca looks forward to making contacts and becoming acquainted with the homeschooling and gifted communities.  In the meantime, she continues her research into identity development in twice-exceptional teens and young adults, while working to develop tools to assess passion, lifelong learning, acceptance, creativity, and engagement in homeschooling students in collaboration with Dimensions Family School in Durham, North Carolina.

As always, Rebecca continues to feature posts and encourage discussion related to giftedness, homeschooling, and education in The Brain Café.

AmbassadorStephanie Hood: Our Advocate for Homeschooling in California

As a volunteer with the Homeschool Association of California, this summer Stephanie compiled a list of public homeschool charter schools by county and updated the list of California homeschool support groups by county. The resulting compilation will allow families to find a homeschool community near them. For the pdf, email a request to peach.blossom.psp@gmail.com

In July, Stephanie volunteered at the Valley Home Educators Conference (Modesto) and HomeSchool Association of California  Conference (Redwood City). Each conference had a different focus, appealing to families who, though they may have a differing reasons for homeschooling, were looking for information, connection, and support.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, Stephanie has hosted several Homeschool Information events in a local Starbucks,  two libraries, a tutoring center, a church, a park, and a private home. These casual meetings allowed several dozen parents to learn about their homeschool options and the support groups and learning communities near them. The San Jose Homeschool Facebook group is nearing 800 members after just two years in existence. Everyone is welcome!

As Director of Peach Blossom School, a private school that supports homeschoolers, Stephanie has been privileged to mentor students who choose alternate paths.

For example, her student, “Will,” never fit well into the traditional classroom, and enrolled in Peach Blossom School at the beginning of ninth grade. He passed the California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE) three years later, and began taking computer-aided drafting classes at community college. Will recently completed a paid internship at a green engineering firm, which led to an offer of a full-time job, as a BIM Specialist with benefits!

Another student, “Carl,” enrolled in Peach Blossom School during tenth grade in order to concentrate on his passions of music and computers. After earning a High School Proficiency Certificate in 2012, he achieved the rank of  Eagle Scout, and worked for a web development company while attending community college. Carl is currently finishing his undergrad degree at UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering and working at designing hardware and writing software code for education websites. He has a patent pending!

AmbassadorWes Beach: Our Teen-to-College Expert

In July, Wes gave two talks at the 2016 HomeSchool Association of California’s Conference near San Francisco. In August, he spoke at the Third Annual Santa Cruz Homeschool Conference, organized by the Discovery Learning Center.

Recently, an e-mail conversation with a former student who has become a close friend prompted him to get out and reread a lot of angry stuff he wrote more than two decades ago to the public high school principal and district administrators he was then working underand “under” is exactly the right word. This stuff actually made him smile. The issues he wrote about were hard to deal with at the time, but the effort now seems very much worth it, as it marked a turning point that pushed him toward the work he now does. He doesn’t smile, however, when he hears a current student’s story that shows him, yet again, how unable many high schools and school officials are to understand and act on an understanding that their rigid, narrow, imposed view of how teens should live four years of their lives is so often limiting, dispiriting, and potentially damaging.


Learn more about the GHF Ambassadors program!

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