The following policy applies when a registration is cancelled:

  • 100% of credit minus a $50 fee until 12 day(s) before the beginning of the activity.
  • Prorated credit minus a $150 fee, after the start of the activity, based on the number of meetings remaining at the time of cancellation.

Packing lists for all programs are here.

We schedule visits for new families outside of regularly scheduled programming. We receive requests often to visit or drop in and our current structure cannot support new participants or visitors joining on a regular basis. We allow participants to join the semester after it has begun when spaces are available, and mentors give extra attention to helping any late additions learn the norms and agreements of our programs. If you are interested in viewing one of our Monroe locations, fill out this contact form to schedule.

We occasionally allow enrolled participants to drop in on a day they are not normally scheduled if there is space open. Winter camp and summer sessions are a great way to try out programming without any long term commitment. We also host weekend workshops that are open to all. Let us know if you’d like to be added to the newsletter.

Yes. Especially now, many schools have even more flexibility with schooling options. We currently have participants that come one, two, three, four, and five days per week.

The Semester program incorporates outdoor learning spaces and a self directed pedagogy. We are in a wilderness setting and focus on expanding our level of comfort outside while engaging with crafts, games, adventures, and learning activities based on natural materials and the wild surrounding us. We approach literacy, math, Spanish, science, and additional subjects by offering related projects and activities in a self directed environment. We think that learning how to be in deeper relationship with the wild around us and our wild selves is essential and we value the learning opportunities that are present in more mainstream education settings. We feel that a mix of these two environments maximizes opportunities for resiliency, creativity, and increased autonomy for young people as they grow. Mondays in Hampden are an add on to the regular semester and focus on wilderness skills. Tuesdays through Thursdays also utilize the White Ash Learning Library at the Teaching Grove.

The picture of a group of children all nearly the same age playing in a school yard may seem familiar to modern eyes, but it is an odd image from the long perspective of human cultural and evolutionary history. As anthropologist Melvin Konner pointed out more than thirty-five years ago, play among children close in age (same-age play) is largely an artifact of modern times. Same-age play became common only with the rise of age-graded schooling and, still more recently, with the proliferation of age-graded, adult-organized activities for children outside schools. Over the history of our species, as natural selection shaped the brain mechanisms of play, children’s social play usually occurred among individuals of different ages, often widely different ages. To learn more read The Special Value of Children’s Age-Mixed Play in the American Journal of Play or find a summary of the article here. A more concise article that speaks to these benefits across all age ranges here.

Peter Grey, a research professor of psychology at Boston College has influenced many aspects of White Ash Learning’s educational philosophy. His research supports the theory that a major cause of the continuous rise in teen suicides from 1950 to 1990 is a continuous decline over this period in opportunities for kids to engage in the sorts of independent activities that are essential both for immediate happiness and development of the courage, confidence, and sense of agency required to meet life’s challenges with equanimity. current research and writing focuses on children’s natural ways of learning and the life-long value of play.

Check out this article for more information. In addition to authoring college textbooks in Psychology, he is also the author of the book Free to Learn and maintains a blog about the roles of play and curiosity as foundations for learning: Freedom to Learn.

Children today seldom play and explore without adult supervision, and are afforded few opportunities to control their own lives. The result: anxious, unfocused children who see schooling—and life—as a series of hoops to struggle through. In Free to Learn, developmental psychologist Peter Gray argues that our children, if free to pursue their own interests through play, will not only learn all they need to know but will do so with energy and passion. Children come into this world burning to learn, equipped with the curiosity, playfulness, and sociability to direct their own education. Yet we have squelched such instincts in a school model originally developed to indoctrinate, not to promote intellectual growth. To foster children who will thrive in today’s constantly changing world, we must entrust them to steer their own learning and development. Drawing on evidence from anthropology, psychology, and history, Gray demonstrates that free play is the primary means by which children learn to control their lives, solve problems, get along with peers, and become emotionally resilient. This capacity to learn through play evolved long ago, in hunter-gatherer bands where children acquired the skills of the culture through their own initiatives. And these instincts still operate remarkably well today, as studies at alternative, democratically administered schools show. When children are in charge of their own education, they learn better—and at lower cost than the traditional model of coercive schooling. Free to Learn suggests that it’s time to stop asking what’s wrong with our children, and start asking what’s wrong with the system. It shows how we can act—both as parents and as members of society—to improve children’s lives and promote their happiness and learning.

We like to check in with parents of two and three years olds to ensure the program will be a good fit. Some questions to consider about your child:

  • Are they comfortable being away from home for the day?
  • Have they spent full days outside in year-round, varied weather conditions?
  • Are they seeking social or learning experiences that aren’t currently available in their day to day life?
  • Are they working on going to the bathroom independently? We accept participants in diapers if the program is otherwise a good fit.

There will be a minimum of one staff for every six participants. Often our staff to student ratio is lower, and we regularly have guest mentors attending who share specific skills. This low staff to participant ratio allows us to offer one on one and small group instruction and have a high level of supervision in the field.

Most programs, including the Semester Program, Winter Camp, and Summer Day Sessions have 20-30 participants per day. Mondays and Fridays are currently smaller groups of 12-15 participants, and overnight programs are usually 15-18 participants per session.

Lead mentors are active Wilderness First Responders, meaning they complete up to 10 days of intensive training in backcountry emergency medicine at least once every three years. Assistant mentors who are not Wilderness First Responders have completed Wilderness First Aid, a two day comprehensive training in emergency wilderness medicine. Mentors in Training have a minimum of basic first aid and CPR training.

All locations in Monroe and Swanville have outhouses with composting systems. Mentors support participants of all ages in building confidence going to the bathroom in a wilderness setting.

The compulsory age of attendance for Maine children is 6 years old. If your child turns 6 between September 1st and July 31st of the following year, you are required to file a Notice of Intent (NOI) to homeschool. The statute states that the NOI should be filed within 10 days of the child turning 6. We do not suggest filing before they turn 6. Filing early can result in the state expecting an early compulsory age and eventually requiring it. The compulsory age in 2018-2019 was 7. It was just lowered to 6 for the 2019-2020 school year.

All homeschooling families are required to submit an annual assessment, which includes a portfolio. Since the state of Maine does not have a specific requirement for the content of the student portfolio, it is up to you what to include in your portfolio. White Ash Learning can provide documentation of your child’s attendance in programs and a summary of the curriculum for this purpose. Learn more about the process of registering as a homeschooling family here.

No, but we recommend Dawn M. Nguyen, Maine certified teacher, who will review the academic progress in state mandated subject areas through a written portfolio review and/or oral narrative of the academic school year via Zoom for $25.

Since the state of Maine does not have a specific requirement for the content of the student portfolio, it is up to you what to include in your portfolio. White Ash Learning can provide documentation of your child’s attendance in programs and a summary of the curriculum for this purpose. Learn more about the process of registering as a homeschooling family here.

100% of our day is focused and engaged, we do not do any busy work . Participants need time to absorb and integrate all that they have learned and experienced throughout the day. There may be invitations to engage with at home such as noticing what birds have returned or continuing a project we’ve started on program for example. If evenings are left free of homework, this also leaves the opportunity for family learning time through things like cooking or crafting together or taking a walk outside.

If your child has an IEP, or undergoes educational testing while enrolled in the program we would love to receive a copy of the report so we can best support their learning journey. We would be happy to evaluate on a case by case basis and discuss how much individualized support we can offer in advance of enrollment.

In general, our focus is serving young people under 25. We occasionally host all ages events, especially when the focus is relevant to youth. Forest Therapy is offered for all ages, for more information about hosting a walk click here. We are also in relationship with and encourage you to explore the following organizations offering programming related to nature connection for adults:

Still have questions?

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