Ivy House Advanced Learning Center.... A Utopia of a Learning Environment.
Kingston, MA. Accepting new Strudents.

A burst of cheer and children’s laughter erupts as  six year old Avery's voice rings out, “Ah ha! A new Master has been made! Bella is the Connect 4 Master! She beat Margo!” Giggles, applause and a spontaneous happy dance break out in the classroom at the news of a student winning the game of strategy played against the teacher.  “Great job, Bella,” says teacher Margo LaPointe, as she high-fives the new Connect 4 Master before cheerfully announcing to the class, “Okay, friends, free-play period is over. It’s time for work from home!”

The children, who range in ages from 5 to 10, immediately stop their games of Uno, team Lego challenges and designing electric circuits. Retrieving their backpacks, some of the kids pull up seats, side by side, to the round tables, opening up their academic assignments. Some snuggle up on couches, shoes off, earphones on, earnestly working on the learning programs parents have sent in for them that day on their computer tablets.  Others cozy up in recliners with their reading assignments. Still others take out worksheets as everyone gets down to business. All take out the lists their parents sent them with their daily assignments and they dig in, independently working on their personalized learning plan, based on their individual curriculum. 

“Margo, can you help me with this word problem?” asks 8 year old Henry. LaPointe circulates around the room, helping here and there as needed on subjects ranging from Math to Language Arts and more. “Margo! When I’m done with my assignment, I’m going to do some extra work and really surprise my mom!” RJ loudly whispers to his teacher. As the first work-from-home period draws to an end, the children silently pack up their work and slip into the library where they read or draw as they wait for their classmates to finish up.

Margo is the lead teacher of the Homeschool Community class at Trellis Community Learning Center, where she has been working with 25 families this year.  She is part of a unique team of certified teachers, hand-picked by Trellis founder Jessie Slade to work in this utopia of a learning environment.  The instructors on this team have extensive educational backgrounds, which include Montessori schools and private schools where families have paid top-dollar tuition for their children to learn from these professionals. Here, children have access to learn from them for what breaks down to $7 an hour, in order to make this level of education accessible to the families seeking an alternative to traditional education. As Trellis closes its doors in June with the Class of 2016, Margo and the majority of the Trellis instructors are continuing to grow on this culture, opening Ivy House Advanced Learning Center in September 2016.

A light snow begins to fall as Margo announces it’s time to get ready for outside play. “It’s snowing!” the whole class of children cheer in unison. The kids are excited as they pull on their snow pants, boots, mittens, hats and parkas. They line up and march outside to the playground, where they build snow forts together, making snow angels, roll giant snowballs so large it takes other friends to help, and flying high on the swings as the snow swirls. They have one hour of outside play every single day in all types of weather. Whether it’s snow forts, mud pies or sunshine, it’s the favorite part of their day, and they know to dress for the weather.

“Time in nature, recreation, exercise, and relationships are four of the eight scientifically proven ways to well-being. Habits become lifestyle, and our goals are more concerned with preparing children with tools to navigate the world they will soon be inheriting, as opposed to a score on a test.” LaPointe

In fact, the only one of its kind in the state, Ivy House Advanced Learning Center works exclusively with families who file as homeschoolers, empowering families to make their own choices for what curriculum works best for their child. Serving children ages 5-10, goals are not based on numbers, quotas, exams or even grade levels.  These things do not exist inside Ivy House classrooms.

What you will find in Ivy House classrooms are children growing at their own developmental levels, developing confidence, presentation skills, collaborative work with peers, project-based learning and students who are soaking up knowledge.  Individual advancement on their personalized academic curriculum, which their parents send in for them, marries group learning in the arts (art history and drama), in nature, science labs, cooking around the world, foreign language (Spanish), geography and more.

“Ivy House Advanced Learning Center is a hybrid, a solution for families with children who may be failing to thrive in traditional schools, while also serving families already thriving with homeschooling but looking to enhance their child’s education experience,” LaPointe explains. “For many families taking the leap to homeschooling, it is intimidating for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the reality that parents still need to work or have their own time a few days a week. For many, the culture of ‘back to school’ and giving their child a place of their own to learn with peers, while being taught by certified teachers with experience in the specialty of instructing homeschooling families, is a treasured resource.”

Set back from a winding road in the quintessential New England town of Kingston, quietly nestled on a vast grassy carpet and surrounded by forest sits the Ivy House Advanced Learning Center schoolhouse. Complete with five classrooms, an expansive performance hall with a stage for their drama lessons, a spacious kitchen where hands-on learning from cooking to science labs bubble, a fenced playground together with blacktop for basketball, street hockey, bike riding with friends and foursquare, edged with gardens blooming…and  it doesn’t stop there. A hiking trail out back leads to a clearing in the forest for their outdoor classroom.

Ivy House is a throwback to a simple schoolhouse where children are given the opportunity to grow with peers while advancing on their customized academic curriculum. “We bring opportunities to our families,” LaPointe says. “Our partnerships include a science program brought to our classrooms by the South Shore Science Center, customized for our learners; a mentor program with the Chapman Farm School; a maker workshop with leaders in the maker movement; Barnes & Noble; and a project-based community service learning lesson partnering with Southwick’s Zoo for Earth Day. After-school programs include archery, a hiking club, photography, sewing, fishing, ice skating, golf, skiing and so many others. We also have a weekly ‘World As Our Classroom’ day where we create opportunity for the children to learn together with peers beyond our classrooms and exploring their world. Learn and hike, apple picking followed by cooking with their apples in our kitchen, museums, lessons – this is how we engage today’s children as they grow into the world they are inheriting.”

Whole child education is a core value at Ivy House, empowering children as creative and engaged citizens who can strengthen the well-being of a whole society. Nurturing creative abilities can help them express themselves, understand others, and navigate complex amounts of information so that they can confidently solve the problems of a world that’s changing faster than ever. Developing coping skills, conflict resolution, and creative problem solving are essential in serving the whole child as they grow.

“Serving the whole child is a fundamental core value at Ivy House,” LaPointe says, and the reasons children find their way to her classrooms are as unique as each child themselves. Whether traditional school culture wasn’t a good fit with standardized testing or curriculum, whether they learn at a different pace than their peers, whether they are simply second generation homeschoolers, or for the far too many that have been victims of bullying and social harassment or stress, each journey is their own and has led them here.  “Our classrooms are sacred ground for our children, a place where they feel safe, where they grow confident to be themselves, develop a foundation of a love for learning, and learn they have a role in their community.”

LaPointe adds, “The children develop their own Class Constitution of how they want their space to look, sound and feel. A sign, stating ‘Free To Be Me,’ hangs throughout the year on the wall. Our class culture incudes the theory that every person in the world carries an invisible bucket with them. How you interact with people – your words, your actions, your body language – has the power to be a bucket dipper or a bucket filler. Each day classmates write a note and drop it in a peer’s bucket, which they read at the end of the day. It can be as simple as ‘Thank you for asking me to play today,’ ‘You made me smile today,’ ‘I saw you be a good friend’ or ‘Great job on your work today.’” 

Ivy House Advanced Learning Center is a learning environment where parents choose their child’s academic curriculum and children grow with peers, where goals are not focused on numbers but on developing cultured, educated and responsible adults who have understood from a young age that they are empowered and responsible to navigate the community they are inheriting.

“Our focus is on quality over quantity, so we are keeping our numbers low in order to give Ivy House learners the highest quality learning experience,” LaPointe says. “We do have a few spots available for the September 2016-June 2017 year, but spots are filling up quickly due to the pure demand for this type of learning environment and the tuition that breaks down to $7 per hour.”

Ivy House Advanced Learning Center offers four-day (Tuesday through Friday) or two-day (Tuesday and Thursday, with options of Friday) programs. Instructors are certified teachers with experience working with homeschool families. Space is limited. Email to apply.

Margo LaPointe, Homeschool Teacher
A certified teacher with experience as the lead teacher of over 25 homeschooling families in the Trellis Community Learning Center Homeschooling Community class, Margo sees education as the gateway to opportunity.  A homeschooling mother of two who champions home schooling and Montessori philosophy, Margo believes in responsive education rather than prescriptive learning. Using the world as a classroom and tapping into experts as teachers, Margo fosters growth of the whole child and integrates the strengths of community with a culture of shared respect for others.
LaPointe has built a professional career providing solutions to the antiquated ideology of a one size fits all education.  Margo has over a decade of experience in the non-profit sector workingwith large organizations with a mission to create opportunities for youth throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.  Margo holds two college degrees and is certified in Non-Profit Management by the Massachusetts Council of Human Service Providers and Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School.


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About Candita Mamet

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Marshfield, MA, United States
Candita Mamet; a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Ann Maria MBA Graduate, Springfield College MSW Graduate and founder of Healthy Living Magazine and Events a unique regional-oriented publication and event planning featuring the most respected Health, fitness and wellness practitioners, is dedicated to providing the region with the most current and relevant health information available.