Real Life Homework

“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Accordingly a genius is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework.”  Thomas Edison

The New Year 2014 has started off well for Stronghold.  In this month’s blog, we want to talk about homework…Stronghold style!!

Statistics are rapidly proving that the hours of busywork sent home with schoolchildren is of little or no value in a student’s learning. Another big problem is the rising number of high school and college graduates who are without jobs due to lack of employable skills.  Stronghold addresses these issues with real-life homework!

Two of our students (10 and 15 years old), were they in public school, would be in elementary and high school. At Stronghold, they spend 4-5 hours every day hitting academic subjects hard across the board, and then it’s out into the world for some real world skills, and the learning and demonstration of a solid work ethic.  Each student is setup in part-time jobs and internships that are suitable for their age and ability.

The 10-year old, in the nine months he has been with us, started out doing part-time work, a few hours a week, for his father’s landscaping company in order to gain a little experience and demonstrate that he could be responsible.  As he has progressed through the program, the old habits of emotional meltdowns, inability to listen, focus or follow directions fell away, and he now has TWO internships.  One is working with Guard Dog Eyewear, a local company that manufactures and sells very cool sunglasses and goggles.  At age 10, he is learning how to work on an assembly line, make sales calls, and do inventory.  His second internship is at a large, local organic farm where he assists with stocking and keeping the farm stand clean.  Yesterday, he was asking for yet a third internship with a local dog training and day care facility to fill the remaining two afternoons of his week!

Got my own desk at Guard Dog!

Got my own desk at Guard Dog!

The 15-year-old, being closer to deciding what he will pursue as a career, did his first internship with an up-and-coming women’s fashion designer in Hollywood.  He demonstrated exactly why starting internships early are so valuable, by realizing it was not what he expected.  He moved on to a screen printing business, and to ACE Hardware, where both owners loved him so much, they offered him paid positions after a few weeks.  While watching him in the classroom, we saw meticulous detail orientation in his work, and arranged for an additional internship with an auto body shop.  Here he is gaining exposure to a craft where he can apply his own inherent skills and learn about running a small business.  After only a few afternoons, the owner of the shop has not only begun teaching him the finer details of the business, but also began paying him for his work!

Acknowledging the owner of a screenprinting business...internship #2 of 5 and counting.

Acknowledging the owner of a screen printing business…internship #2 of 5 and counting.

One of our greatest joys is hearing from our student’s employers’ how good their attitudes and work ethics are, especially compared to other young people they have employed.  It’s not too early in a young person’s life to expose them to the joy of hard work, dedication and a good attitude.

Happy 1-Year Anniversary Stronghold!

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Benjamin Franklin

The joys of teaching and learning are so sweet, when they are couched in strong values, creativity, and relevance. On November 1, Stronghold celebrated our 1-year anniversary. In gratitude for this amazing year, we planted a flowering maple outside our center with a wood sun plaque stating our key theme… “Truth and Love”.

The last couple months at Stronghold have been a great demonstration of what Franklin said about “involvement”.

Stronghold students learn teamwork and other life skills while completing a unit on Ancient Greece and Rome.

Stronghold students learn teamwork and other life skills while completing a unit on Ancient Greece and Rome.

Highlights included a re-enactment of the Greek/Roman Battle of Syracuse at Thornhill Broome Beach…(The Romans won!)

 

"The Kid" helps his platoon clear a path of weed infestation in Ojai.  This is Stronghold's "pet" community service project for November and December.

“The Kid” helps his platoon clear a path of weed infestation in Ojai. This is Stronghold’s “pet” community service project for November and December.

…and the “taking” of Stronghold Beach at the Hillside Conservancy’s Ojai River restoration.  “Lt. Scott, The Old Man, Brooklyn, Lopez, The Kid and G.I. Jane” tackled acres of dense, bamboo-like forest to clear a path through Arunda Donax.

Coupled with jobs, internships, college enrollment, sobriety, laughter and light…we had much to celebrate.  As of today, all of our students are employed, drug-   free, soaring to new heights academically, and daily, discovering the joys of an honest and contributive life.

 STUDENT SUCCESS STORY

A great change that has occurred the last couple months is the transformation of a 20-year-old Stronghold student, who came to us for help getting a job, getting into college and identifying what she wanted to do career-wise.  Two years out of high school (she had been an AP student with a 3.5 GPA) she lacked both employable skills and the ability to qualify for freshman level classes at the local junior college.  She was also painfully quiet, shy and insecure about her ability to effectively communicate with potential employers and find work.

One of her greatest gifts was the willingness to step completely out of her comfort zone and realize how much she had to offer.  Within a few weeks, she had dozens of interviews, and EIGHT job offers!  She accepted three of the offers, enrolled in the Veterinary Tech program at Pierce College and has applied for an externship with a local animal hospital.  She is arranging to volunteer at a local animal rescue, to make sure she likes the industry of animal care and to gain experience.

We delight in watching her emerge into the happy, confident woman she always was, and celebrate her awakening to the same realization.  Each time we see her now, the shy girl has disappeared, her bright smile shines, and she shares how proud her family is and how proud she is of herself.

Stronghold School Systems August Update

August was another great month of progress for Stronghold School Systems.  We continue working toward full prototype implementation of a moral/spiritual-based education system that can replace our nation’s current method of schooling.

Integrating All Ages of Students Benefits Everyone

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Students construct a Chumash village from plaster and cardboard

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Field trip to the Sci-Tech-A-Torium in San Luis Obispo

We added a 5-year-old to our instructional mix of 5-to-15 year-olds, and found that the combination of older and younger students complement each other very well.  It creates a wonderful family atmosphere.  Working in skill instruction groups based on their ability, but coming together as a group to apply these skills in interesting projects, the older students naturally become parent-style, role-model/mentors to the younger students, and the younger students greatly increase their level of maturity, in order to be accepted by the older students.  Everyone wins.

Academic Skills Need Practical Application…AND a Work Ethic 
Stronghold students continued to get valuable practice in applying what they’re learning, via mandatory part-time jobs and career-potential internships.  This month, these activities ranged from childcare, to restaurant work, landscape maintenance, computerized screen printing, and working in Hollywood with an established fashion design company.  Students also learn sound money management, because they’re required to put a minimum of 25% of their gross earnings into a savings account, and keep it there until they leave our program.
Living Clean, Sober Lives:  A Constant Struggle
Stronghold’s practice of drug-testing all students AND staff continues to help its students work toward – and maintain – drug/alcohol free lives.  An average of 1 out of every 3 high school students – nationwide –  is coming to class under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Whether they live in an affluent suburb or an impoverished ghetto – mandatory drug testing is needed in ALL our schools, now more than ever.  A 15-year-old student relapsed on drug use, but honestly admitted it and looks forward to returning to our program when he can produce a clean test.  A former student, 55 years old and homeless, who has struggled much of his life with drug abuse, continues the battle for his sobriety, and contacts us regularly to share his progress and conviction that he can find his permanent freedom by leaning wholeheartedly on God.
How Long Should K-12 Education Really Take?

As part of a unit on Chumash Indians, Students design and create their own tunics, headbands and ceremonial face paint!

As part of a unit on Chumash Indians, Students design and create their own tunics, headbands and ceremonial face paint!

As Stronghold begins its first calendar school year, we expect each student to achieve a minimum of 2-3 years of provable academic growth within the 10 month traditional school calendar, and expect to graduate ALL our students no later than 16.  Working with the same curriculum guidelines used nation-wide, we’ll be able to accurately compare and measure our students’ progress, with student progress in traditional schools.
The Key to Our Success?  A Rock-Solid Moral/Spiritual Foundation
We see more proof each day of the critical importance of anchoring education on the radical, NO exceptions All-ness of God, good, as stated in the Declaration of Independence and echoed in a primary teaching of Christian Science.  Just this month, we’ve seen this “Spiritual Truth First” approach:  relieve a number of symptoms of student illness, radically transform intractable student behavior, improve the teaching skills of brand new teachers to an amazing extent, and bring peace and harmony to our students’ families.

We welcome anyone of any age to our program, whose primary goal is to fulfill their life potential.   We are grateful to offer our nation’s education system a transformational school model that meets every need:

  • Helping the Low Achieving discover their God-given intelligence
  • Helping the High Achieving  find purposeful applications
  • Helping those with Behavior Problems strengthen their self-discipline
  • Helping the Drug/Alcohol involved learn the joy of clean, sober living
  • Helping those entangled in Gang/Crime Issues awaken to their moral courage and purity
  • Helping those with employment and economic issues find a way to enforce today! -  God’s Law of abundance in their lives
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Stronghold’s Girl Scout Troop demonstrate receptiveness!

To this end, all of us connected with Stronghold dedicate our greatest effort to offering this help to every receptive heart.

 

Stronghold School Systems July 2013 update

STUDENT  HAIKUS

Stronghold School Systems

A school of learning and joy

Stronghold:  A school to love. (Angel -15)

 

I like working out

Sprinting is my favorite

I’m getting better. (Christopher-11)

 

I like what we do:

My favorites? Math and Landscaping

I learn good things here. (Emilia – 8)

 

Our project was fun.

Rocks, rivers, and Indians.

We learned how things work (Ivan and Steffanie – 7)

 

STUDENT  LETTERS

“We do a lot of fun things at Stronghold, but my favorite thing is that I’m learning more math, because I didn’t know a lot of it before.  I learn more at Stronghold in one day, than I learned in a whole year at my other high school.”(Jason – 15)

“I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve been at Stronghold.  I’ve lost a lot of weight, my typing is getting better, and I’m doing better at reading and math.”  (Anthony – 11)

“I liked cleaning the bike track for community service.  I can sit still longer now in class.  My brother and I are not fighting as much at home.”  (Ivan)

“I came really close to passing the state CHSPE exam for my diploma.  I plan to pass it in October. I really love this school.  It has turned my life around.” (Angel)

“One of my favorite activities this month was making dioramas out of plaster of paris for our science and social studies project.  I really love doing community service.  Some of our activities were: planting flowers at the library, cleaning a park, fixing up a community garden, and clearing trails at a Girl Scout camp.  I also like working out.  We ran 2.5 miles.  I had never done that before.  The cool thing is that I could do it.” (Christopher)

 

July was a great month for Stronghold! 

Our student population rose to 8, spanning ages from 7 – 28!  We are here to help anyone who wants to transform their life:

Students get job experience and a solid work ethic

Students get job experience and a solid work ethic

• We’re helping two high school students who were years behind, awaken to their God-given potential and work ethic, which will enable them to be able to graduate from high school 2+ years early.

• We’re helping two primary students catch-up, who were unhappy in school and far behind their peers,  because they couldn’t/wouldn’t discipline themselves.

• We’re helping an upper-elementary student overcome long-time depression from the passing-on of a parent, a problem with excessive weight, and a breathing problem that restricted his activity.

• Our drug testing/prevention program is successfully helping two students stay clean and sober, who had previous problems with drugs and alcohol.

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Community Service at E.P. Foster Library

• Our students improved their work ethic and unselfishness this month, by performing weekly community service projects for a variety of groups, including:  the City of Ventura, the Girl Scouts, and Food Share,

• We’re helping ALL our students really love coming to school, by providing a high-interest, project-based, academically challenging approach to teaching, that has a global perspective, a moral/spiritual foundation, and a genuine love for each student.

Stronghold's Girl Scout Troop

Stronghold’s Girl Scout Troop

• We finished piloting a new, 8-week program for the Girl Scouts, that teaches girls to be morally strong and effective decision-makers.  The Scouts were so pleased with our work that they plan to use our instructional approach as a model for this program.

• We helped a recent prison parolee find immediate employment after returning to his home, get a drivers license, establish a savings account, and purchase his first car with his own earnings.

 

We are grateful for the growing number of opportunities we have to help, heal, and bless students of all ages, and their families.