Lindsay Pinchbeck, director of Sweet Tree Arts, has long wanted to offer an arts integrated education program, and now she is about to launch one, called Sweetland School.

In fact, she had intended merely to offer a two- or three-day-a week supplementary program for homeschool families, but added a five-day option for students in grades one to three because parents asked for it, she said.

There will be a creative arts program for registered homeschool students in grades one through six from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday and Friday. An arts-integrated academic program called Logic and Literacy will run Tuesday through Thursday; it is open to registered homeschool students in grades one through six. In addition, students in grades one through three may attend five days a week without being registered as homeschool students, because Sweetland School is a state-recognized program, Pinchbeck said.

Sweetland mentors will plan lessons with the Common Core Standards in mind, she said, and will use a variety of assessments to assure that students returning to the public school system will be at least at the right grade level for their age. The program will run 33 weeks, and Pinchbeck hopes to offer kindergarten next year, and add grades to the Logic and Literacy program as needed. “We will grow with the children,” she said.

Another way she will ensure the program is academically rigorous is through the participation of a three-member advisory board made up of seasoned educators with experience in curriculum development and arts integration in the classroom. Pinchbeck herself has a master's degree in education, specifically in integrating the arts across the curriculum.

Besides Pinchbeck, there will be two part-time mentors, and offerings from visiting mentors and other organizations in the area, including Hope Clay and Penobscot School.

Pinchbeck wants to provide families with a more holistic educational alternative that involves parents in their children's learning as much as possible, she said. Using arts integration – teaching traditional academic subjects through arts-related activities – will also allow her to tailor educational experience for different learning styles. A visual learner might be encouraged to draw pictures to help herself understand course content, while a tactile learner might do a hands-on project to master the same material.

Because of the way it fosters self-expression, arts integration also helps teachers understand what students need to learn best, Pinchbeck explained.

The creative arts program will expose children to studio arts, music and movement, and outdoor learning will be incorporated into lessons as well, she said.

One of the challenges for programs like Pinchbeck's is financial accessibility. Sweetland's two-day option will cost $2,500 for the year, the three-day option is $5,500, and five days is $7,500. Homeschool families get no financial help from the state or their local school district, and no aid would be available for students attending the five-day program, either, she said. She acknowledged that it bothered her that only families who could afford the fees would be able to participate, at least for now.

“How could there be available funding for other [educational] options is a really important question that's still on the table,” she said.

Sweet Tree Arts also has a number of after-school arts programs that are low-cost, she noted. And she is now working with Hope Elementary School on a grant for a program that would use arts to encourage children to explore building relationships. If the grant proposal is successful, that program would run on Friday afternoons, when the elementary school will close early, starting in the fall, she said, and it would be free or low-cost.

Sweet Tree Arts will hold an open house Saturday, July 12, from 3 to 5 p.m. to introduce Sweetland School to the community. Families are invited to come learn about the program and meet the mentors. For more informaton, visit Sweet Tree's website at or call 763-2770.