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Meet the masterminds behind the Apple Tree

A new chapter is being written for children in Elliot Springs, as the Apple Tree branches out to the young minds in our community, creating alternative educational pathways.

Meet the masterminds of the Apple Tree, Erin, Raz and Amy, who are creating new educational opportunities for children in Elliot Springs and the wider community.

With more than 50 years’ teaching experience between them, the passionate educators are encouraging the younger generation to learn, play, explore and grow in their natural environment – right here at Wadda Mooli Park.

Where did the idea of Apple Tree come from?

The concept of the Apple Tree came about during Covid. After each lock down we were noticing a lot of comments from parents about their frustrations with mainstream education. Lockdowns gave families a chance to reconnect and explore options they thought were not possible. It was apparent to all of us that the homeschooling community was beginning to take off and we knew we wanted to be a part of it. One of the biggest hurdles for families we could see was ‘how can I work and homeschool at the same time’? A lot of our families are small business owners and still need time to run their businesses. We knew with a drop off service we could support families to find the balance.

Why is it important to offer alternative learning models?

Like many teachers, we were frustrated with the system. We knew there was too much content being pushed every day. Content that children were not engaged in. Teaching is a tireless profession and teachers do their absolute best to provide learning experiences for students, however they are measured and confined to expectations, benchmarks and grading. We knew that the ‘tick and flick’ model was outdated and certainly did not cater to allowing children to discover their own strengths and interests or foster a natural curiosity of learning. The Apple Tree Learning Hub provides an environment that encourages choice, freedom of expression, free thinking, fun and most important of all, allows kids to be kids.

How has the Apple Tree grown in the last year?

We always laugh when we reflect on our journey. A week before we were to open, we had seven children on our books. We were actually unsure we could even open. Today we have 40 children attending over the two days. In 2023 we will be offering three days a week with our numbers forecasted around 50-60 children attending over the three days. We have grown from three staff members, plus a casual and we will be looking to hire a fourth member next year. The biggest growth has been within The Apple Tree community. The support given from our experienced homeschoolers to our new families is so heartwarming. The children have grown beautiful friendships, but so have the parents. Parents new to homeschooling come to us so lost on the first day and within a week or two they are scooped up and supported with social events, food co-ops, carpooling and emotional support. It is beyond what any of us expected The Apple Tree could be.

Can you explain the curriculum for the Apple Tree?

We decided from the start this was a partnership with parents. Too often parents undervalue themselves, when in reality they are a child’s greatest teacher of life. So, we had several meetings with different parents, and we posed the question. What do you want to see in the curriculum? The overwhelming feedback we got back was ‘for my child to be happy and to be taught practical life skills’. From these conversations we developed ‘Express Yourself’, an arts program that gives children the opportunity to engage in different mediums. Life Skills Program- The practical day to day activities, like cooking, sewing, gardening and our Tuition Program offered each day. We have a strong focus on emotional intelligence and teach the children to be able to use language to communicate their feelings and moods as well as providing strategies to cope with their emotions.

Why did you move to Elliot Springs?

Elliot Springs gave us the space and freedom we needed to continue growing. The facilities here are amazing and the children are very happy. It is a wonderful space we get to work in each day and the transition has been really smooth.

Established in April 2022, The Apple Tree Learning Hub was originally operating from a private property in Mount Low but with a surge in enrolments, we needed to find a larger space for the children.  

The Hub at Elliot Springs was the perfect fit. The Apple Tree children are thoroughly enjoying their new playground and the open spaces. 

To learn more about The Apple Tree Learning Hub visit their Facebook here.