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February 2023 News

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Redemptive Education FAQ

By Amy E. Imbody
President, Center for Redemptive Education
What is Boots & Roots?

Boots & Roots is a primarily outdoor education program for children ages 4-6. Neither a preschool nor a co-op, it is a robust support program for home schooling families offered by the Center for Redemptive Education (CRE,, an educational non-profit featuring an approach that is Biblical, Relational, Integral and Experiential.

Play-based? Yes! Discovery based? Yes! Rich in academic content? Yes! Literacy, numeracy, science, the arts, bible – all of these are present in B & R, but are not delivered “traditionally” or “formally.” Delight-driven? Absolutely.

We embrace the “emergent curriculum” that our children so naturally pursue: Where do the worms go? Who is making that cooing sound? What is this sparkly rock?

Redemptive Educators invite children into joyful exploration of God’s word and His world, using a unique curriculum developed by the Center for Redemptive Education that honors and celebrates young image-bearers.

Class size averages eight students.

What is the Scent of Water Learning Community?

Scent of Water is a primarily outdoor education program for children in grades K-8th. Neither a school nor a co-op, it is a robust support program for home schooling families offered by the Center for Redemptive Education, an educational non-profit featuring an approach that is Biblical, Relational, Integral and Experiential.

Scent of Water serves students from K-8th grade. Redemptive Educators invite children into joyful exploration of God’s Word and His world, using a unique curriculum developed by the Center for Redemptive Education that honors and celebrates young image-bearers.  

We invite all Scent of Water students into God’s “story” and into His work.

How does Boots & Roots differ from K/1st in Scent of Water?

Both Scent of Water and Boots & Roots are outdoor educational programs rich with learning of all kinds.

There is a purposeful overlap in the ages for Boots & Roots (4-6) and those of typical K/1st (5-7). Some children within these age ranges will continue to thrive with a shorter school day (Boots & Roots is from 9-noon) and time to mature. Other children within these age ranges are ready to tackle the full day (9-3) and incorporate slightly more structure and academic content into their day.

Often our boys benefit from a bit more Boots & Roots before launching into K/1st, and sometimes our young ladies might, as well. Parents can explore the options with us to determine best placement.

Additionally, we consider the first weeks of our program to be a time when we can confirm with parents and teachers whether or not a child is ready for Boots & Roots or for K/1st.

What qualities does a child need to demonstrate in order to participate in either Boots & Roots or Scent of Water?

Children need to be able to be independent with self-care such as use of the bathroom, and basic self-regulation of their bodies, emotions, and communication. In order for all of the children to thrive, each child needs to have had adequate practice with following adult leadership, receiving guidance from a teacher, staying with a group, and being a participant in the regular activities.

While we expect young children to have a learning curve in these departments, with the support of our teachers, it is necessary that a child arrive to our campus programs with a basic ability to function within the dynamics and parameters of the group and not require intensive individual support or intervention.

What do students study?

Students immerse in literature, history, science, math, the arts, writing, speaking, bible study. All school subjects are omnipresent in the Scent of Water curriculum, but most do not show up in a packaged curriculum, nor in an easily identified mode, nor as a complete program. They are incorporated in, and/or emerge from everything being studied.

Our integral curriculum makes it such that it is not always readily apparent when a “science” vs a “writing” vs a “math vs an “art” vs a “reading” lesson are happening! Sometimes they are all happening at once, sometimes one or two of these are being focused on, and sometimes a teacher will be maximizing the academic content that is hidden in the emergent curriculum flowing from the students, from current events, from children’s questions or observations, from the Lord bringing a certain thing to light.

We do use two published curricula – see below.

Math? Writing? Grammar?

Math is everywhere: therefore, our students do encounter it and will engage with it in their integral studies. However, a full math program must be provided at home.

At Scent of Water, K-3rd grades use the Logic of English phonics and reading program, while the 4th/8th grades use Writing & Rhetoric books from Classical Academic Press. Both of these published curricula incorporate language arts skills including grammar, writing, speaking, reading, and with Logic of English, spelling, as well.

How can I, as a home schooling parent, partner with teachers in my child’s learning?

At the end of each program week, teachers email parents with a summary of the key topics/skills/focus of the week. They provide a sneak peek into the coming week’s key topic/skills/focus points.

Most importantly, teachers share a list of “extension activities”: continuations of study done at Scent of Water, suggested additional books or projects or websites or related study. Parents determine whether, and to what extent, they assign these to their home schooled children.

As students progress into the older grades, they are asked to take more responsibility for completing tasks such as the reading of certain chapters in the historical novel the class is studying, or to write the final two paragraphs of an essay begun in class, or similar. Parents are encouraged to partner with their child’s teacher to determine best approach to assignments on the extension activities list.

The goal is to equip parents at home to effectively engage with their child’s ongoing studies to the extent they desire.

How are classes organized?

Classes are grouped as follows: K/1st, 2nd/3rd, 4th/5th, 6th/7th/8th.

How many students are in a class?

This ranges from approximately eight in a Boots & Roots class, to an upper limit of approximately 16 in a middle school class.

What does my child need to wear?

SO IMPORTANT: Dress for the weather. Seriously. Rainsuit. Rain boots. Layers for warmth. Snow gear. Gloves. Shoes for field-tromping and log-climbing. Sunscreen and bug spray when the season requires. Sun hat. Change of clothes.

Everything should have your child’s name written clearly on it in waterproof ink (like a sharpie).

What will my child DO?

Plant the garden (and harvest it, too). Eat what they grow (and do all the prep!)  Read high-quality literature (and tell their own tales). Survey the forest (and graph the species!) Sing heritage hymns of the faith (and make their own “joyful noise” unto the Lord!)  Listen to God’s Word, and memorize it, recite it, comprehend it (and give Him thanks). Study the continents, cultures, and biomes of our planet. Dig into the history of our nation and of our world. Ask questions. Pose hypotheses. Calculate with and without a calculator. Experiment. Explore. Share. Sketch. Dig. Draw. Design. Read. Write. Laugh. Hug friends (human and “other”).  Climb. Create. Collaborate. Compose. Choreograph. Work hard. Learn a lot of things. Apply that learning. Make a lot of things. Discover a lot of things. Do real work that forms self and shapes the world.

What’s this about a musical?

Every year, the students plan and perform an end-of-year musical.

Two of the years feature original songs, from which students create characters, plot, setting, script, and production. Every third year the students will engage with a Shakespeare play.

They will write original music, choreograph dance, create sets, write adaptations, and tackle production in teams led by our middle school students.

What about dangerous weather?

While most of our time is spent in the great outdoors, we do have dedicated classrooms and gathering spaces in the church building. We have use of the sanctuary/auditorium as well as the kitchen, and the workroom with copy machine and similar.

We will always go indoors in dangerous weather such as thunderstorms or heavy hail or dangerously extreme temperatures.

We DO play and learn outdoors in rain, snow, wind, sunshine, and all other weather. 😊

Is Redemptive Education affiliated with a particular religion or denomination?

All programs offered by the Center for Redemptive Education are taught from the historic Christian faith, described by C. S. Lewis as “Mere Christianity.” In other words, our teachers teach from a biblical worldview but do not represent or affiliate with any specific denomination or church.

We are tenants and happy partners with our landlord, the Calvary Church of the Nazarene.

Our families come from evangelical, or Catholic, or Protestant, or non-faith backgrounds. Families are not required to affirm or agree with our statement of faith.

However, the Center for Redemptive Education does have a statement of faith, and families are required to sign that they understand that we teach from that viewpoint. All faculty do affirm their agreement with our statement of faith.

How does that work out practically?

Our “mere Christianity” approach means that in matters where people with a high view of Scripture honestly differ (i.e. infant baptism or “believers’ baptism” - Young earth/old earth/theistic evolution – Hallowe’en or All Saints Day or Reformation Sunday – wine or grape juice) the Center for Redemptive Education programs do not have a position nor promote a position. We do, however, maintain fidelity to matters that are clear in Scripture such as the sanctity of human life, and God’s good design of male and female.

Bible – Our entire program reflects deep engagement with God’s Word, and with the world He spoke into being. Students learn, memorize, sing, illustrate, apply, act out, and honor Scripture. Our daily “Welcoming” time first thing in the morning is an invitation to worship; consideration of God’s Word; consideration of His Truth, Beauty and Goodness; and a celebration of the privilege we have in learning from the Living Word, Jesus Christ Himself. As such, our approach to Scripture is a devotional approach, rather than an academic approach. We do not offer a “Bible class,” or use a published Bible curriculum. The music we sing daily primarily features heritage hymns, which are at present a somewhat neglected treasure trove of the faith, and also original songs and hymns, generated by the worshipping minds, hearts, voices and instruments of our learning community.

Discipline – Scent of Water Learning Community embraces and employs the Redemptive Discipline principles in which our teachers are equipped. We will joyfully offer support to our parent community in Redemptive Discipline as well.

Redemptive Discipline is highly relational, rather than reliant only on external punishments or rewards, although we recognize the blessings of putting parameters in place, modeling for progress, and identifying growth goals as individuals and as a class or whole community.

We do celebrate goals achieved! We believe in the blessing of adult authority, lived out with humility and confidence, for the peaceful shepherding of children and young people.

Children are supported and guided in honoring God, one another, and the adults who lead them. We believe in discipleship. And we do desire our learning community to be a venue of both God’s Truth and His Grace in order to nurture a culture of honor and shalom – flourishing! – for all.

Are parents required to volunteer?

Our program cannot function unless many parents schedule themselves to man the office, to supervise lunch/recess along with teachers, to greet children at carpool, to help at bathroom break for Boots and Roots students (think: boots, mittens, snowsuits off; boots, mittens, snowsuits on x 8) and to serve as substitute teachers.

However, no parent is required to volunteer. Most are delighted for opportunities to be “in the mix,” even if only on an occasional basis.

Community is important at Boots & Roots and Scent of Water – parent volunteers love making meaningful connections with kids, teachers, and one another as they serve on our campus! Other parents love to host our monthly Dessert & Discussion Nights, where we adults gather in someone’s home to get to know one another, to engage with thought-provoking dialogue, to share informative readings both academic and literary, to tackle parenting challenges, and to eat delectables while forging friendships.

President's Message

Scent of Water

Parents Share Experiences

Learning about the Creator and creation

We love Scent of Water! I am SO thankful my daughter gets to learn about the Creator in His creation. I love that she is given the opportunity to explore, play, read good, rich books, sing, and consider God's world and her role in it! I appreciate the Unit Studies, the community of classmates, teachers, and parents, and the foundation of a biblical worldview.

--Emily Basham

Learning is happening naturally

For the first time in his life, my child is enjoying school, especially all the outdoor time. Learning appears to be happening naturally for him. I think he is learning the most about Christianity/Bible memorization. He has also learned a lot of geography so far. My son loves the creek and woods. I talk about the Center for Redemptive Education all the time to friends!

--Lauren Russo

Seeing growth in phonic and letter skills

In the seven weeks that my son has been attending boots and roots I have seen already a lot of growth in his phonic/letter skills, memorization of songs and Bible verses, throwing/catching skills, and overall confidence. I am amazed at all of the songs and verses he has memorized. I think it is great the content that he is encouraged to memorize at Boots and Roots. I like all the open spaces on the campus.

--Candace Steele

       Read more parent testimonials
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Scent of Water

Boots & Roots


Weekly report by Janine Buser

This week we began studying how humans sleep and comparing our habits to the plethora of animal sleeping habits we've already learned. The trio of lessons fully embodied the four distinctives of a Redemptive Education: biblical, relational, integral, and experiential as we added a Bible verse, studied classical art, made beds for our stuffed critters, and listened to lullabies while snuggling ourselves among lavender- and rose-scented fallen leaves.

Tuesday began with adding a second sleep-focused Bible verse, Psalm 127:2b, "God provides for those He loves even while they sleep."  Your littles sweetly pondered how Our Lord cares for us even while we sleep.  They understand that He always protects us and designed our bodies to keep breathing and pumping blood so that we can rest.  That Bible verse prompted a second reading of God Knows Me, based on Psalm 139.

Bedtime! provided a review of sleep habits across cultures and eras, followed by an intriguing art study comparing Vincent Van Gogh's Bedroom at Arles with Andrew Wyeth's Master Bedroom.  There were the expected comparisons of use of color and content but I was delighted by their deeper observations when they were prompted with "Which bedroom would you want to sleep in?"  One lad, recalling Psalm 4:8, noted that he preferred Van Gogh's because the corner placement of the bed would make him feel safer.

Now is not too soon to start taking advantage of DC's free museums, especially with the lighter winter crowds.  Go for a short time, take along a sketch pad and colored pencils, and let them enjoy sitting in a gallery interpreting what they see.  Join them for maximum impact!  While you're there, consider letting them pick out some postcards or prints of favorite works of art.  We used to have a few easy-to-replace picture frames near the children's bedrooms and each week they'd swap out the prints and review the titles, artists' names, and make a few observations.  While it's amazing how quickly these artworks will become embedded in their memory, you may also have to endure visitors' questions of why Napoleon's portrait is outside the bunk room!
We closed Tuesday with our favorite bucket of hammers, golf tees and safety gear as we practiced eye-hand coordination in the woods, then nestled under some pine boughs to review our day.

Wednesday's beautiful sunshine was the backdrop for learning from How Do You Go to Sleep? and the Practical Tips pages of The Magic of Sleep.  We played charades to act out some of our own bedtime routines and I learned that there's a new-fangled invention that I wish was around when my children were young - the green/red alarm clock, "When it's red, I stay in bed."  Alas, for those of you who have kiddos who still crawl into your bed, I can assure you that they do one day go off to college - enjoy the snuggles!  We enjoyed reading from the practical tips list:  Time in nature? Check.  Exposure to sunshine? Check.  We passed around bottles of essential oil for some of the sleep-enhancing recommended scents, sprinkled some on the leaves, then listened to Brahms' Lullaby while laying down among the leaves.  No, they did not nap, but there were plenty of sleepover giggles!

That unseasonably warm day was a perfect opportunity to head to the creek.  A bucket of water toys provided an opportunity to strengthen executive function skills.  We first took inventory and made a checklist to ensure that we came out of the creek with everything.  There's a photo of our simple list that can be a prompt for their next suitcase-packing opportunity.  (Here's another opportunity to learn from the Buser experience - check behind to ensure that their definition of "dress shirt" is yours.) As we counted each object, I smiled as they initiated observations of which items would have to be shared.  As they used each item, I smiled as they found creative interpretations:  a pipette looks like a dental tool and water scoops allow one to become a "sand monster."  Parents of the child who went home with a pocket of rocks, I know that you are not surprised at your kiddo's thrill at using those water scoops to hunt for treasure!  A note on those water scoops - they are a perfect alternative tool to lock in scissor grip if your child is still learning.  

We also had a risk assessment lesson as we reviewed the reasons for our stick-play rules: sticks hit sticks, why a partner should have a similarly sized stick, and how to create a safety circle if playing alone.  No need for a classmate to be bonked on the head while you're fly fishing!

Jingle bells have helped us mark the syllables of Frère Jacques and today we introduced hand bells to our morning song.  We have a ways to go before a public concert but we started learning how to identify higher and lower pitches as we placed them in scale order.  

What joy to recognize an author name as we read Snug as a Bug!, written by our very own Amy Imbody!  This delightful book beautifully meshed together our last six weeks of lessons as a mom offers for her son to sleep like a variety of animals.  A second read provided a host of other learning opportunities:  Can we find the rhyming words?  How many sets of two are on a page?  Can we identify a rainbow of colors on another page?

At snack time, we practiced making good choices as we read What Should Danny Do? an interactive book with nine possible outcomes.  I'm happy to report that your children also have the "Good Choice Superpower," allowing Danny to have a delightful day.

After a round of Gaga ball for those wishing to enter the octagon of fast-paced action, we spent the last hour in the woods with multiple choices of activities.  Some chose to nature journal, some dug in the leaves with shovels, some explored with magnifying glasses and rulers, and a cadre of them were transfixed by a long length of narrow PVC pipe that could reach the creek below.  It was a ramp, it was a stirrer, it was an exploration stick, and for the last chap to take the turn, a giant straw with which to blow bubbles.

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Boots & Roots

Outdoor education benefits children

Studies finally confirm what children, parents and teachers have long known


Guest commentary by Jonathan Imbody

Note: The views expressed in this article may but do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Redemptive Education.

Researchers finally appear to be catching up to what children, parents and educators have known for eons: learning outdoors benefits children.

A recent article in the International Journal of Early Childhood Environmental Education, for example, highlights the fact that "a substantial body of research indicates that an outdoor learning and play environment with diverse natural elements advances and enriches all of the domains relevant to the development, health, and wellbeing of young children."

Policymakers, however, often remain mired in the mediocrity of outdated, institutionalized approaches to education that do not match the natural design of children.

As the article's author, Allen Cooper of the National Wildlife Federation, points out, "Despite these findings, the outdoor learning environment goes virtually unmentioned in national and state level standards, guidelines, and regulations, and has been largely overlooked in the considerable efforts to enhance the quality of early childhood education."

The Center for Redemptive Education educates and advocates for educating children outdoors because as children experience the natural creation, they not only learn about our world but also about their Creator:

"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made…." --Romans 1:20, NASB

Any parent who has watched a child revel in the rain, scan the clouds for imaginary forms or examine the intricate design and transformation of a caterpillar-turned-butterfly can readily apprehend and appreciate this truth.

Any educator who has led children on a woodsy and fragrant path to adventure, or coached young horticulturists in the rudiments of gardening or witnessed the outdoor play of children who pretend and create their own games can readily apprehend and appreciate this truth.

For researchers and policymakers, however, apprehending and appreciating such truths often seems to take much longer.

Sometimes that's simply because experimenting, analyzing data and designing and replicating sound and reliable studies is a tedious process. Increasingly, however, the biases of researchers—including an anti-religious bias--seem to retard the recognition and admission of reality

Compounding this challenge, some policymakers remain beholden to forces who hold a vested interest in preserving ineffective indoor institutionalism. The result is the delay or prevention of proven, commonsense educational reforms.

Meanwhile, the children engaged in Redemptive Education programs remain free to explore, to learn, to imagine and to revel in the wonders of God's creation, and for that we are thankful.

Research - Commentary

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