A homeschool enrichment program
focussed on nature connection and
social skills with individualized
instruction in language and math.
Willow Creek Learning Pod is an enrichment program which provides an alternative to school for children aged 6-12. A maximum of 12 students are mentored by two full-time teachers with a background in teaching, permaculture farming, and nature connection. Part of each day is one-on-one instruction in reading, writing, and math in a program tailor-made for each student. The rest of the day is a mix of games, arts education, forest hikes, and seasonal outdoor activities at Willow Creek Farm. Our approach is largely child-led where children have freedom to play by their own set of rules rather than those dictated by school systems and adults.
What Makes Willow Creek Learning Pod different?
Our Learning Pod follows the same school year calendar as the local public school board. We observe the same holiday schedule for winter break and march break.
The class meets three days a week:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday from 9:00am – 3:30pm
Our flexible program can accept new students any time.
Geared towards children aged 6-12 (grades 1-6).
Please inquire about children whose ages are outside this range.
Maximum class size is 12 students.
(Maximum student to teacher ratio is 6:1)
31018 Chalmers Line, Dutton ON
Our location is close to the 401 and about 30 minutes from London, St. Thomas, Port Stanley, Strathroy, Newbury.
Price per student:
We ask that students register for a full term but encourage a trial period.
Sound like a great fit?
Willow Creek Learning Pod empowers individuals to reach their full potential by developing skills that support them as life-long learners. Through time spent in community with their peers, mentors, and nature, they learn how to contribute to the world, and know themselves, so they can live fulfilling and rewarding lives. We strive to uphold the values of respect, compassion, reciprocity, kindness, and inclusivity through application of critical thinking, creativity, problem solving skills, and perseverance.
We will create a safe and supportive community, through a combination of child-led learning, and concise student-centred lessons in the core subjects: reading, writing, and math. Our mentors nurture individuals socially, emotionally, and academically through experiential learning. We explore topics and projects based on student interest, through structured and unstructured outdoor activities, reading, and the arts. We also cultivate nature connection through observing and participating in natural cycles, mindfulness practices, and learning how to be stewards of the land through reciprocal relationships. Students are encouraged to grow local and global perspectives, and to ask questions about our world.
A Day at Willow Creek Learning Pod
Each day begins in circle, as we join in community to set the tone and agenda for the day we will create together.
Following our checkin and circle time, we play a couple community building games together, then head out onto the land for a sit-spot to connect…with nature and ourselves.
Academic learning takes place in the latter part of the morning, when minds are still fresh. Formalized instruction takes a total of 40 minutes or less. The point of the academically focussed time is to give students direct instruction in the areas of reading, writing and math skills that can be applied to self-directed activities.
Academic instruction happens within small groupings and each child receives individualized instruction. Instruction is focussed on the development of skills rather than the acquisition of knowledge, since our modern world allows us plentiful access to information. It is most important to know how to find relevant information and what to do with it. When learning activities are concise and tailored to a child’s learning needs, it takes far less time for them to acquire new skills.
The remaining time before lunch is generally spent on arts activities, including visual art, drama, and sometimes music.
The balance of the day is spent engaging with child-led nature activities and outdoor learning like hikes to the forest, learning about permaculture farming, games, sports, arts and crafts activities, observation, and group play.
Parents are welcome to join us for our closing gratitude circle at 3:20 each day.
This video will give you a sense of Pod life looks like...
Through self-compassion, we can begin to recognize each member of society as whole and perfect just the way they are! When we can view people as ‘doing the best they can’ it becomes clear that children’s behaviours are not the problem. Behaviours are a symptom…a (difficult to accept) form of communication. Without behaviours to blame, we realize that it is our ways of connecting (to ourselves, each other and nature) that need attention.
Now more than ever the world is asking us to show up as our authentic selves. In our families, we work hard to live in line with our values, which are often in contrast to those of the larger systems of capitalism.
At Willow Creek Learning Pod, we prioritize the principles of earth care, people care and fair share, the core ethics of permaculture.
Life yields many opportunities to live with paradox. We enjoy exploring the spaces in between, since we observe nature consistently operating beyond the confines of binaries. One of our favourite ways to learn is by observing nature, learning from it, and applying its principles to life.
We are creative visionaries and problem solvers. We feel this is a necessary approach in order to support the ‘unlearning’ required to create an authentic and supportive vision of the future.
We know that there are many things our children need to know to prepare them for an uncertain future that no curriculum can teach. We believe that our children need strong leadership in their formative years to follow their values rather than those imposed by culture at large. Learning is more meaningful when it happens in context and with interest and motivation to drive it. Children benefit from individualized academic and social-emotional activities.
When children (and all people) are appreciated for who they are, they have a much greater chance to thrive. Our educational philosophy is based on the permaculture principle of valuing the edges. Our edges are where the greatest amount of diversity and growth appear in natural systems, and we believe humans are no different. Learning is about how to consistently expand our edges.
It is our deepest desire for everyone to feel seen and validated as who they are, and for the unique gifts they bring to the world.
Health and Safety
We believe in medical freedom, and do not require medical interventions or masks for students or staff. A hand-washing station with soap is available, but hand sanitizer will not be provided.
About Willow Creek Permaculture Farm
Willow Creek Permaculture Farm is a 50 acre farm on a low-traffic road near Dutton, Ontario. We raise a lot of our own food, in the form of free-range and rotationally-grazed livestock, extensive no-till organic vegetable gardens, and hundreds of fruit and nut trees established along forest gardening principles.
We have a 7 acre field planted with hay, hazelnuts, and numerous fruit trees. In 2021-22, we have planted a traditional hedgerow with over 1500 trees, along the edge of that field. We also have a 25 acre field of switchgrass, a native perennial crop used mostly for animal bedding. Other than those larger fields, most work on the farm happens at the human-scale with hand tools.
Much of the farm is a beautiful creek valley with trails, and a magical forest. There are so many places to explore and play games!
Our built facilities include a composting toilet outhouse, and an outbuilding converted into a rustic but cozy classroom space.
We also have an ever-growing menagerie of poultry, including chickens, ducks, turkeys, and peacocks. Our Shetland sheep are watched over by our livestock guardian dog, Sofie. Two of the ewes are particularly friendly, because they were bottle-fed when young, and just love people.
As a certified teacher with years of experience in the classroom, a degree in find arts, and long-time homeschooler, Julie brings a wealth of experience to the learning pod. She has taught students from Kindergarten to Grade 10, including roles as School Librarian and Special Education Resource Teacher. She also has taken on specialized roles such as teaching at an arts school, technology lab instructor at a provincial demonstration school for students with severe learning disabilities, teaching a forest school pilot program, and her most recent role teaching Gifted Education. She combines what she has learned in classrooms, and more importantly through homeschooling, to this small community of children.
Julie also has an online presence as “Family Yields” where she inspires and coaches parents and homeschoolers on how to create more integrated and sustainable family lives. She is also the host of “The Family Yields Podcast.”
Besides his background in outdoor schools for children, Rob Read also brings over a decade in administrative and business experience. Rob guides students through nature connection and farm connection experiences, while also caring for classroom infrastructure, and is business manager for the learning pod.
For over a decade Rob has been growing a reciprocal relationship with the land. He enjoys raising domestic animals, and growing food, from vegetables to fruit and nut trees and also foraging food from the wild. Rob has a love for connection with nature, and a passion to share that love with others.
Rob also writes poetry (mostly adapted from spam email) and is working on a young adult novel.
Number of School Days
(3 Days per Week, no tax)
Tues, September 6, 2022
Thurs, December 22, 2022
Tues, January 10, 2023
Thurs, June 29, 2023
Payments can be made monthly at a rate of $600. Tuition is to be paid one month in advance at the first of each month (for example you would pay for November’s tuition at the start of October).
Our program is not a drop in program, and commitment is required for the remainder of the year. This is to ensure the integrity of our community.
- For students who are joining the pod mid-term, please confirm a total with us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.