Friends Academy to open classes to homeschoolers, community

By Angie Hilsman | Aug 11, 2017
Photo by: Angie Hilsman Elizabeth Gouveia is the mastermind behind the Encompass Community for Independent Learning program, unrolling at Friends Academy this fall.

Inspired by her parents' homeschooling friends in Haiti, Elizabeth Gouveia has always been set on homeschooling her own children. But working with Friends Academy faculty, Gouveia found a way to enhance the homeschooling experience.

The Encompass Community for Independent Learning will offer a nature school, early learning program, and weekly science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) classes to homeschooling families this fall.

"We're here to tell families that education is what you make it, and you can really craft it based on your child's interests," said Gouveia, the program's founding director. There are 51 homeschooled students in Dartmouth, according to public school officials.

The "All Weather Friends" Nature School will target children ages seven to 14 with outdoor exploration, adventure, science, and survival. The classes will be held outside for three hours on both Monday and Wednesday mornings, rain or shine, on Friends Academy's 65 acres, Gouveia said.

The $60-70 sessions (price dependent on available discounts) would culminate with picnic lunches, and run through the fall, winter, and spring seasons.

The "Encompass on Campus" Short Courses are $10 classes in drama, music, and STEAM. Geared for students ages seven through 14, the Wednesday afternoon classes focus on project-based learning instead of learning from textbooks, said Gouveia.

The "Early Learning Friends" Play Group provides art, music, and science lessons to kids ages three to six. The free, 45-minute sessions is led by a rotating cast of Friends Academy teachers, and will introduce a new topic to students every Friday over a six-week period.

"We're trying to offer something for the little ones," said Assistant Head of School for Community Engagement Katherine Gaudet.

The combo of homeschool-friendly curriculum both offers support for parents, and ties into the Friends Academy mission, the two explained.

We honor diversity and life-long learners, said Gaudet.

Realizing that the initial homeschooling aid transcends children and families, the Encompass Community program has evolved to include both free community enrichment events, and Saturday workshops that support multiple intelligences.

"Evening events are 100 percent free, and we're really hoping that's going to drive community members," said Gouveia, who already has scheduled monthly community enrichment events through November 2018.

The free events include collaborations with the Dartmouth Council on Aging, South Coast Moms & Babies, and Advocates in Home Education (AHEM). Such events include author discussions, hikes, movie nights, and creative writing workshops.

The Saturday workshops include collaborations with the Zeiterion Theater, Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust, Cape Cod African Dance & Drum, and the Vault Gallery of Fine Arts. The $250 workshops ($1,200 for six workshops) are all-day, provide community members with personal and professional development opportunities, and include breakfast and lunch, said Gouveia.

Topics range from visual and linguistic learning, mathematical learning, and existential learning, to kinesthetic and auditory learning, naturalistic learning, and intra- and interpersonal learning.

Most excited for the drum and dance workshop, Gouveia explained that she's always applied movement in specialized classes that she's run in the past.

"It's a natural progression, and I feel Friends [Academy] has always been ahead of the curve with innovation," she added.

The Center for Education Innovation, which Gaudet is the president of, will provide grants that help the Encompass Community program reach the Greater New Bedford area, Gouveia said.

The Nature School will unroll in late September, while the short courses, enrichment events, and workshops will launch in October.

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