I’m still digesting the concept, but in three weeks I’ll be sending my oldest off to kindergarten. Since we moved back to my hometown last spring, I have thought ahead to kindergarten, wondering where we will be when it’s time for him to start school and what school would be best.

Our plans have changed time and time again during the past 15 months we’ve been in Gainesville, Georgia. We’ve gone from grand plans of being mobile for a year to the reality of being stationary as we experience the exciting yet exhausting throes of a start-up business.

A year ago, I began researching kindergarten options in an attempt to get ahead of the curve when registration time rolled around. We still weren’t sure where we’d be living when school began, so I had to plan for our current living situation and familiarized myself with the surrounding schools and attendance regulations. I toured schools before Thanksgiving last year, spoke with principals and vice principals and communicated with the school district headquarters for both the county and city schools near us. I read countless blogs about homeschooling as well as part-time homeschooling, which is an option given by a local public school as well as a couple private Christian schools. I’ve looked into bus routes and carpool locations and car rider options. I’ve accosted many moms at church, the YMCA, local parks and online (and possibly left a few frantic voicemails) asking about their familiarity with local schools. I did my due diligence for months, and yet never felt fully at ease about kindergarten.

Maybe it’s because this is my firstborn and kindergarten marks a huge change. Maybe it’s because there are so many schooling options nowadays with school of choice in my area. Maybe it’s because our family is still in transition and though we’ve settled on a city, we haven’t settled into permanent housing yet.

Though private school was not in the cards for us financially, I was aware of a new local private school that offered scholarships for summer camps. So on a whim, I reached out to ask if the private K1 program had any available scholarships. Lo and behold, it did–and within a month we found out that my oldest was not only accepted to the K1 program, but also received a substantial scholarship that made attendance possible.

Elachee Nature Academy

We could not be more excited for James Michael to attend Elachee Nature Academy next year as his first forray into formalized schooling. I grew up visiting Elachee for field trips, birthday parties and just to explore the science center and hiking trails. I know it is a place where James Michael will thrive and be eager to go to school every day.

Elachee Nature Academy is a fully-accredited and licensed school offering Preschool and Kindergarten-1st grade programs, managed and operated by Elachee Nature Science Center. Students spend roughly 50 percent of their day outside year round–despite the sun, rain or snow. Elachee is situated on the 1,440-acre Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve, which includes 12 miles of hiking trails and Chicopee Lake.

Elachee playscape

When I went on a tour, the students had crafted their own wooden abacuses that they used to practice counting outdoors. Besides embracing the outdoors, I love that the student teacher ration is 10:1, and when school starts there will actually only be nine kids in James Michael’s class, with one open spot.

Elachee preschool classroom

Last week, James Michael attended his first week of summer camp at Elachee and loved every minute. He spent the week outside learning about different creatures and playing in the creek with one of his best friends. But it was definitely a long week for my little five-and-a-half year old who still naps, and we will spend the next three weeks transitioning out of nap time and attempting to slow down our afternoons and evenings a bit to accommodate him.

elachee garden

James Michael loved giving us a tour of the Elachee campus after his last day of camp (apparently now he’s an expert). We went on a short trail hike, gently observed the kid-managed gardens, longingly gazed at his future rustic outdoor playscape and surprised his new teacher by stopping by his classroom and meeting the three-legged pet turtle.

elachee garden

I have no doubt that James Michael would have adapted well to any school he attends for Kindergarten. He loves people and loves learning–it’s that simple. I have no idea what next year holds–for schooling or permanent housing or small business ownership. We plan to take life one year at a time as we work toward our family goals. For now, we are excited for this incredible opportunity that James Michael will have to experience hands-on learning in an environment that is perfect for a Rowdy boy.

Ready or not, here he comes Elachee!

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