An alternative education program
covering reading, writing, and math,
nature connection and social skills.

Willow Creek Learning Pod is an alternative to school for children aged 6-12. A maximum of 16 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 to 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 a homeschool enrichment program and activities are largely child-led.    

 Children have the freedom to play by their own set of rules, rather those dictated by school systems.


What Makes Willow Creek Learning Pod different?

Term Dates

Winter 2022: January 3-June 30, 2022
Fall/Winter 2022/23: September 2022 – June 2023

The class meets three days a week:

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday from 9:00am – 3:30pm

Our flexible program can accept new students any time.


Class Overview

Geared towards children aged 6-12 (grades 1-6). 
Please inquire about children whose ages are outside this range.

Maximum class size is 16 students.

(Maximum student to teacher ratio is 8:1)


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?

The next step is to get in touch with us to answer any questions you may have about the program

Email Julie and Rob at  

Or read on for more information.

Our Vision

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.

Our Mission

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 that can be applied to self-directed activities.

Academic learning is done 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.

Our Approach

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 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.

Our Team

Julie Walter

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.”

Rob Read

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.

Fees, Payments, and Refunds

What's included in your fee?


The fee per student is $50/day, with a minimum one term commitment. There is no tax.

Please confirm all totals with us at
An invoice for your payment will be forwarded to you upon payment.


Start Date

End Date

Days in Term 


(3 Days Weekly)

Fall 2021

November 1st

December 17



Winter/Spring 2022

January 3rd

June 30



Fall Term Payment:

Full fee due before the first day attended.
Inquire about rate reduction for those joining after November 1st.  

75% refund available until November 15th

50% refund available November 16th – December 1st

No refunds for Fall Term after December 1st.


Winter/Spring Term Payment:


Full Fee paid by December 1st, 2021: 3.3% discount applies

1st Half Fee paid by December 1st, 2021: mandatory (no discount)

2nd Half Fee paid by January 15th, 2022: mandatory (no discount)

75% refund (of full amount) available until January 15th, 2022

50% refund (of full amount) available between January 16th – February 15th, 2022

No refunds for Winter/Spring Term after February 15th, 2022. 


Payment Flexibility: 

We are open to exploring other payment options on a case by case basis. Please contact  

Sound like a great fit?

The next step is to get in touch with us to answer any questions you may have about the program

Email Julie and Rob at  

Limited spaces available!

Are you a parent or homeschooling family interested in inner work?

Check out what else Julie is up to at:

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