Homegrown Lessons
by Annelise Hanshaw
December 15, 2020

Santa Barbara mom Tracy Thomas wanted a better educational experience for her 6-year-old daughter when the COVID-19 pandemic closed school campuses. So she, along with her friend and her mother, created a learning platform to coax kids away from screens and help parents connect with their children.

They called the company Enriched at Home because it supplements school curriculum and allows parents to lead meaningful lessons in their backyard.

“The vision here is to really bridge that gap between the school subjects and this at-home, family component that allows the kids’ hearts to feel fulfilled and joyful and completely satisfied in that need for connection,” she told the News-Press.

She is a nutritionist and takes that expertise to create recipes for families and teach kids about healthy eating.

Co-founder Julie Otero is the nature guru and creates opportunities for students to enjoy natural beauty and learn from it, too.

“This stuff is writing itself because Tracy and I love this stuff,” she said during the News-Press interviews. “We live the nature; we live the nutrition, the healthy lifestyle, and we’re very aware of talking to our kids about the types of personality traits that we want them to engage in.”

Ms. Thomas’s mother, Candace Poindexter, oversees the lessons to make sure they align with California’s core curriculum. She is a professor emeritus at Loyola Marymount University’s School of Education and a member of the California State Board of institutional reviewers.

“I wish I had some of this stuff when I was teaching because I think it’s even great for teachers,” she said. “There’s such rich activities and thought provoking activities that it’s amazing.”

Each month, subscribers get a digital packet of lessons. It opens with discussions that spur emotional intelligence, walks kids through outdoor adventures and ends with nutrition.

“There’s so many things that I’ve learned as an adult, that I feel like if I had those tools as a child, it could have saved a lot of headaches along the way. And we all know that our kids are the future,” Ms. Otero said. “And so if we can give them the tools when they’re young, then we don’t have to fix the problems when they’re older.”

January’s packet starts by teaching kids about personal initiative and provides examples on how to practice it.

Parents are encouraged to spend at least 45 minutes each month on the lessons, but the content can be expanded into much longer activities.

“We wrote it for a kindergartener to be able to grasp and a sixth-grader to be able to run with,” Ms. Thomas said.

Her daughter tests out each module before it’s published. Earlier this year, they took her and a friend on a field trip and were amazed at their connection to nature.

“Normally when you take kids out to a park or something, they’d run around and be crazy, and they wouldn’t even notice where they were or their surroundings,” Ms. Poindexter said. “These two little girls were just, they were interested.

“I thought how refreshing that is to see kids actually enjoying nature, as opposed to looking at their screens.”

The curriculum is inspired by Charlotte Mason and Montessori school philosophies, which encourages kids to connect with the world around them and use tools like nature journals to make strong observations.

“There’s so much to truly experience in nature. And it’s that sort of experiential piece, pulling off the screens and realizing that there’s a whole world out there ready to engage with you,” Ms. Thomas said. “And all we needed was some of the tools to do it. 

“Because we, as a society and as a population, we’ve kind of forgotten how. So we’re hoping that this gives people permission to go and be kids again.”

Enriched at Home launched with an initial client base of her nutrition clients. The group is hoping to expand but is currently focusing efforts on Santa Barbara.

“This is our homegrown, homegrown community. And we really want this to get out to the families in the community here and kind of use Santa Barbara as a test case to see if we can help to bring about a larger movement of making kids more more thoughtful,” she said.

While the pandemic gave the initial push to start the company, they plan to continue Enriched at Home well into the future.