By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL – The Homeschool Cottage in Slidell, along with Acorns to Oaks, has moved along for over 15 years much like the “Little Train that Could.”
Just as in the storybook where a small train overcomes the odds to get over a mountain, the Homeschool Cottage and Acorns to Oaks—two businesses that sprung out of the homeschool movement in Slidell—have quietly succeeded and grown with their businesses next to Hobby Lobby on Gause Boulevard.
While most attention is focused on the tutoring aspect of Acorns to Oaks, which offers a wide array of classes with certified teachers, the Homeschool Cottage provides the support system with thousands of books for homeschool families, or the Acorn classes.
Pamela Deese founded Acorns to Oaks in 1999, quickly followed by the Homeschool Cottage in 2000, all with an intent to assist homeschoolers. The tutoring classes have steadily grown for over 15 years and now offer 45 classes and clubs for students who are in schools, or those who are homeschooled.
While the Cottage is not immediately thought of as a place to shop for Christmas presents, Deese said that those who want educationally relevant presents should give them a look.
“We probably have over 5,000 books here—everything from readers to books that help students with specific classes,” she said. “We have new books and used books, specific curriculum, and educational books for every age group.”
Melissa and Doug is a well-known publication brand among the homeschool crowd and the Homeschool Cottage is stocked with many of them, one of the favorites for Deese.
“If a student is struggling with a specific class these books can positively help,” she said. “We want the community to understand that we are more than a tutoring business and service, but we also want people to know that these books have proven to be a big help to kids needing extra help with certain classes.”
Deese is somewhat of a history buff who loves items from decades gone by and admits to stocking the Cottage with some items that are “actually more for fun, even though they do have an educational aspect to them.”
One wall of the Cottage is loaded with what she calls “American Folk Toys,” that include things like a gift that shows kids how to spin wool into yarn, and many of the older toys kids living on a farm might have had.
“We have some fun things like finger cymbals, string games and other authentic toys that kids had a hundred years ago,” she added.
Meanwhile, Acorns to Oaks has grown by leaps and bounds since starting as a very small tutoring service in 1999. In the years since then it has added more classes and higher certified instructors, including some college professors who teach some of the courses. The school now teaches in the range of 85 students from area public and private schools, and homeschool students, as an added tutoring class to improve their school work.
Acorns to Oaks has added additional programs to what they offer, including the latest class that is certifying parents in wildlife and fisheries, all to re-teach young kids how to fish.
“We have the class on Tuesday and Thursday,” Deese explained. “It was started by Wanda Stewart and it’s reminding kids about the outdoors. We are teaching them how to fish, how to clean fish, and a lot of lessons about the outdoors.”
The school recently completed its first play with the new drama program, actually setting up a “dinner theater” behind the building where the kids wrote and performed a play called “The Will.”
Acorns to Oaks also has an Underwater Robotics Team that competed with 15 students in Houston, Tex. recently. They held fundraisers to raise the money to build their own robots, Deese said.
Overall, Acorns to Oaks offers 48 different junior high and high school classes, including daytime lessons, nighttime lessons and public or private lessons through all its tutors.
But for this time of year, Deese likes to remind the public about their Homeschool Cottage.
“We have a lot of fun toys there so we try to remind the public that you might be surprised what neat things you find in our store that make great Christmas presents,” she said.
The Homeschool Cottage and Acorns to Oaks are located at 1380 Corporate Square Dr. in Slidell, to the right of Hobby Lobby in the Midtown Square Shopping Center.
For more information about classes, call 985-718-0953 or go online to a2oslidell.com.