Lockey and Chris Coughlin chose to move to Sherman, CT because they loved the artsy, close-knit community they found there. It was a perfect fit for their growing family. Lockey, originally from Kent, CT, loved her experience growing up in a small town with a K-8 school, which was one of the many reasons the Coughlins chose Sherman - it had an excellent K-8 school.
What they found was that, while The Sherman School was one of the best in Connecticut, it was still part of the public school system, one which had changed a great deal in the last two decades. When their oldest daughter, Shea, who was in first grade at the time, began getting stomach aches and headaches daily from anxiety, the family felt a change was necessary.
Private schools felt out of reach financially but after a chance conversation with a close friend and their neighbor, homeschooling began to look like an option. Thank you, Sandra Stetson and Allison Brion! Lockey was all for it from the start; Chris was adamantly opposed. Eventually, they came to an agreement to at least try it and see how it went.
The kids were pulled out of school that November, when Shea was in first grade, Campbell, their middle child, was in kindergarten, and Tucker was just 3 years old. Today, all three of their children are in college and are thriving. They never did go back to a traditional school.
Chris worked full-time and took on another part-time job to help support the family. Lockey took on the challenge of educating their children with gusto.
All three kids were in outdoor education programs at Great Hollow in New Fairfield, alternating two days a week each. This gave Lockey more 1:1 time with each child while the others learned in these one-of-a-kind programs. Their mentors at Great Hollow influenced them in a can-do, positive way, teaching them self-reliance and instilling a love of the natural world. Thank you Ethan Elgersman, Eva Rupert, Ananda Wilson, Justin Pegnataro, and Dave Schneiderbeck! The young family also joined homeschool cooperatives, went to museums and zoos often, and spent almost no time at all at home.
The bulk of their afternoons and weekends were spent at Fineline Theater Arts dancing, acting, and singing. It was at Fineline where the kids found a home away from home and several phenomenal mentors and teachers. Thank you, Arlene Begelman, Leland Williams, Scott Wise, and Liz Parkinson! Visual art was another passion that was indulged fully with skillful teachers and mentors found here in New Milford. Thank you, Sharon Kaufman and Julie Czerenda!
Eventually, Lockey began her own homeschool cooperative and the seeds of Education without Walls were sewn. Lockey chose New Milford for her cooperative because of Fineline Theater Arts, but also because it was part of her family's heritage.
Lockey's father, Beau White, had lived in New Milford during his young life, herding cows across the historic Boardman Bridge, hunting, fishing, flying planes, and taking odd jobs to make ends meet. Lockey's mother owned property on Paper Mill Road which is where Lockey, herself, spent her high school years when not away at boarding school. She attended The Gunnery in Washington, CT for four years.
Education without Walls (or EWoW) began as a one-day-a-week program, borrowing space from area businesses and from the beautiful New Milford Public Library. Eventually, Lockey decided to rent her own space but quickly outgrew it, having to add more spaces in pieces here and there around town.
When the cost of renting so many spaces became prohibitive, Chris and Lockey decided to jump in with both feet and buy a building of their own. This was a true leap of faith, investing in the town of New Milford and hoping that others would continue to appreciate the amazing results that happen when a community comes together, giving children the support and freedom they need to truly thrive.
Today, EWoW has grown into a full resource sharing and tutoring center that has outlived the Coughlin children's high school careers and has truly taken on a life of its own. EWoW supports over 20 families in their educational efforts, has helped to graduate 19 high school students (including all three Coughlins) and 11 middle school students.
Shea, the oldest, has just earned a BFA, graduating Magna Cum Laude from the highly competitive WCSU Musical Theater program in May 2020. Having won a Presidential Scholarship, her tuition was covered for all four of her years of study. Shea is 22 years old, has been in several professional theater productions, and is spending her time during quarantine sewing masks for ACT in Ridgefield, working as a TA with the incomparable Mary Ann Lamb, sending in video audition tapes, and teaching summer classes at EWoW.
Before jumping into college, Campbell took a year off to dive into dance at Peridance in NYC where she completed a 6-month Intensive Program of study with distinction. Today, Campbell has just completed her second year of study at prestigious Connecticut College, majoring in Asian Studies with a double minor in Computer Science and Dance. She also won a substantial four-year scholarship from the college which covers the bulk of her tuition and has achieved high honors all four semesters there. Campbell is 20. She cannot wait to get back to school!
Tucker, their youngest, has just completed his freshman year at Marymount Manhattan, also with high honors. He was awarded a Presidential Scholarship, as well, and his tuition is also covered for four years, although living in Manhattan is not inexpensive. ;) Tucker is majoring in Neuropsychology and has interned at an app start-up company near his school. Tucker is 18 and is itching to get back to city life.
Even before having children, Lockey dreamed of running a small private school for underserved populations of children. When her children graduated from high school and went on to college, Lockey decided to grow EWoW into the educational program she had always imagined, evolving her vision to include all she had learned through her homeschooling experiences and bringing a life-long goal to fruition.
Having worked with so many amazing individuals to educate her children has made it much easier to recruit some truly outstanding professionals, teachers, and mentors from the area to help make this vision a reality. Community, inclusion, and flexibility are the touchstones for every piece of the EWoW program content.
The kids still help out at EWoW when they are home on vacation (or quarantine) and Chris and Lockey still spend many nights and weekends updating their new building, moving furniture and painting to make the most of the space and working to make it as welcoming a place as possible for their students.