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Starts Oct. 7

Arts, nature to be themes of new homeschool program

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Jul 29, 2020
Courtesy of: Belfast Adventure Education Belfast resident Chelsea Cartwright, right, plays outdoors with her son, Sylvan, for whom she developed Belfast Adventure Education.

Belfast — The most important reason Chelsea Cartwright spent more than a year developing Belfast Adventure Education, a new three-day-a-week homeschool enrichment program, was the desire to have such a program for her son, Sylvan, almost 8. Cartwright has photosensitive epilepsy, and is therefore unable to drive her son to any of the existing enrichment programs.

The program, which begins Oct. 7, will run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, with breaks for a morning snack and lunch. It will enroll eight to 12 children between 7 and 11 years old. Each week's sessions will follow an arc, which Cartwright described as preparation and skill-building Wednesday, adventure in the community or a program with a guest mentor Thursday, and integration of what students have learned through art and/or science projects Friday. The final step allows youngsters to synthesize their experience so that they remember what they have learned, and will, in turn, lead to followup projects, Cartwright said.

She and longtime friend Leah Trommer have been joined by Coral Breuer. The three women, who prefer to call themselves guides rather than teachers, will also have assistance from Chelsea's mother, Kathy Cartwright, and Andrea Dole, as well as guest mentors.

Cartwright said she has learned from other small homeschool programs such as Inside, Outside, Juniper Hill School and Sweetland School. "Belfast has become known as kind of like a homeschool hub." Being able to turn to others with experience in the field has made it easier to figure out how to do it safely in the midst of the pandemic, she said.

She and her fellow guides are developing a protocol to make sure that both students and staff are safe. It will include taking children's temperatures and having them wash their hands at the beginning of the day, staggered drop-offs and pickups, having adults stay with one group of children at all times, using hand-sanitizer or washing hands regularly during the day, sanitizing any shared materials and wearing masks indoors, depending on the recommendations of the state Center for Disease Control and Prevention at the time.

The program held a fundraiser in February, Cartwright said, which will enable it to offer some tuition assistance to families who need it. She has not yet decided on a home base for the program, though much of the time with students will be spent outside or in the community. For the long term, Cartwright said, she would like the program to have its own land to offer classes to a wider range of people, possibly a teaching farm.

Following is some background information on the program's three guides:

Cartwright spent some time after high school volunteering in orphanages in Vietnam, and has a background in early childhood education and massage. According to the biography in Belfast Adventure Education's information packet, she has an affinity for art, cooking and the outdoors. When her brother died in 2008, she founded the Flannel Shirt Fund in his honor, which to date has given out 55 grants for farm-to-school programs in Maine.

Like Cartwright, Trommer grew up in Maine and lives in Belfast. She has a degree in outdoor education from Northland College in Wisconsin, and has worked in a variety of nature education programs in Maine. She has also taught in a Montessori school and in other homeschool programs.

Breuer grew up on a farm in Wisconsin and earned her bachelor's degree in educational studies and English from Dennison University in Ohio, according to the information packet. She moved to Maine in 2011 to take a job as an AmeriCorps VISTA, where she hosted trainings and developed resources focused on youth mentoring programs with Maine Campus Compact. For the past four farm seasons, she has worked at New Beat Farm in Knox and helped at several other farms in the county. She has also taught in several homeschool programs in the area. She lives in Swanville.

For more information about the program or to register, contact her at belfastadventureeducation@gmail.com or phone 504-0813.

Belfast Adventure Education guides Coral Breuer, left, and Chelsea Cartwright have fun making chocolate. (Courtesy of: Belfast Adventure Education)
Leah Trommer is the third Belfast Adventure Education guide. (Courtesy of: Belfast Adventure Education)
Environmental education will be one focus of Belfast Adventure Education, a new homeschool enrichment program starting in October. (Courtesy of: Belfast Adventure Education)
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