Sandra and Justin Collins’ son Shawn started Junior Kindergarten shortly after the family moved to Highlands East, but they found the public school system wasn’t a good fit.

“I think some kids are able to thrive in that system, but I don’t think there’s one system that’s good for every kid or personality type,” said Sandra. “They don’t all learn the same way.”

That’s why the couple has developed Creative Minds Learning Centre, based out of their Tory Hill property.

Under the instruction of early childhood educator Amy Strathy, Shawn and his brother Josh’s education will focus on self-guided learning and hands-on experiences, with lots of time outside.

The learning centre is accepting new learners this fall and is hosting an open house Sept. 10.

“We’re excited to have people here to see that there are alternatives in Haliburton County,” said Justin.

He’s an English teacher, who’ll be consulting on the curriculum while Sandra is director of operations.

The learning centre is housed in a building adjacent to their home, equipped with kitchen facilities, whiteboards, chairs and tables. Outside, a play structure on a hillside sits in front of meadows and a sprawling forest. Nearby is a garden, along with a chicken coop.

The learning centre’s core focuses are literacy development, real-life numeracy, student-drive learning, hands-on learning, free discovery time and an outdoor focus.

“You flip over a rock and you see the bugs that crawl out,” Justin said, mentioning his family did just that recently.

“You can learn that in a classroom, but Josh got to hold a salamander this morning. That’s a pretty cool experience you might not normally get.”

Sandra added, “I think you retain the information better when you’re hands-on and engaged.”

Creative Minds Learning Centre offers three-day-a-week schooling for students in Junior Kindergarten through to Grade 3 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The first is due to begin Oct. 3.

Sandra said the learning centre is aimed at inspiring her kids and others to learn.

“I want their personalities and creativity to come out and explore what comes naturally to them”, she said.

To find out more about the learning centre, visit or on Facebook at @CreativeMindsL.C.