FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

HOW IS ACTON ACADEMY JACKSONVILLE DIFFERENT?

The heart of Acton Academy Jacksonville is its respect of the child. We believe all children are born to be great thinkers. Creative growth is encouraged by designing a curriculum that allows each child to contribute in his or her unique way. Children, parents, teachers, and the environment form a complete circle.

Acton Academy Jacksonville is fundamentally different from traditional schools. No bells ring, and there are no lectures. Students are in control of their own learning.
How Acton Academy Jacksonville is different:

  • Student-driven, self-paced learning
  • Real-world projects and apprenticeships
  • Multi-age/grade classes
  • Student self-governance
  • Exploration and assessment of skill levels, learning styles, aptitudes, personality traits, and interests
  • Guides rather than teachers
  • Socratic discussions rather than lectures
  • Mastery learning and student portfolios of achievements rather than grades
  • No homework
  • No teaching to the test

WHY DO WE PUT SO MUCH EMPHASIS ON CHARACTER AND ENCOURAGE A GROWTH MINDSET?

When you look at the world as a hero, you welcome challenges, embrace responsibility, and act kindly towards others, all while being grateful for the opportunities that have come your way. We treat each child who enters our doors as a Hero on a Hero’s Journey. Our goal is to equip and inspire these young heroes with the mindset, skills, and courage to change the world, all the while realizing that perseverance, character and grit are far more important than raw talent.

WHAT GRADES DO YOU OFFER?

While we don’t have traditional K-12 grade levels, we serve learners ages 4 through 11.
Each year we will add one grade level so the oldest children can remain with us.

We believe that children learn best when working with children younger and older than themselves rather than split up into groups based solely on age. In addition to individualized curriculum, students of all ages work together in groups.

WHO WAS LORD ACTON?

Lord John Emerich Edward Dahlberg Acton (1834-1902) was a Victorian scholar of Freedom who saw liberty not as a license, but as the freedom to do what was right. He was suspicious of power for the sake of power, which led to his most famous quote: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” At Acton Academy Jacksonville, we celebrate his defense of economic, political and religious freedom.

WHY IS ACTON ACADEMY JACKSONVILLE A MICROSCHOOL?

We want to grow organically and have like-minded families involved with Acton Academy Jacksonville. Starting small allows us to get to know each child while building from the ground up. We would like to keep the  number of students to guide ratio low, as it allows children an opportunity to flourish in a smaller class setting. Each Studio will have no more than 10 children.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY A HERO’S JOURNEY?

We believe that each of us has a special calling in life, and a series of trials and tests that must be faced with integrity and purpose, in order to live a satisfying and fulfilled life. Our mission is to prepare your child for his or her special journey.

WHERE DID THE TERM HERO’S JOURNEY COME FROM?

These values are rooted in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey, which has inspired the development of Acton’s curriculum. Students not only embark and reflect on their own journey filled with tests, allies, and enemies, but also examine how famous scientists, scholars, and historical figures heeded their own calls to adventure and roadblocks along the way.

WHAT IS AN “INDEPENDENT LEARNER”?

Someone who can research questions, follow instructions, solve problems—admit that they don’t know something and figure out a solution when they hit a roadblock without asking an adult for help — participate in discussions, and strive for mastery.

WHAT IS MASTERY LEARNING?

Mastery Learning is ensuring that a student has a complete understanding of a concept before they move on. An incomplete understanding early on can have devastating results later, especially in math. Using the latest adaptive learning tools for core skills, our young learners progress at their own pace as they master each concept, moving quickly through topics they grasp easily and spending more time on those they find challenging. Children who comprehend a concept quickly can move on or deepen their understanding by helping those who are struggling. No one is just a learner, everyone is also a mentor, motivating each other to take ownership of their education.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY A “RUNNING PARTNER”?

How will you ensure that no student slips through the cracks?

What system will you have in place for students to affirm and hold one another accountable?

Running Partners are fellow students, assigned or chosen, who meet together regularly to set goals and hold each other accountable for meeting those goals. Running Partners encourage and inspire each other by asking good questions, listening and providing affirmation.

We’ve found that a learner will work far more diligently for a fellow student and the community than for a guide.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY “EVERY CHILD CAN CHANGE THE WORLD”?

We believe each of our students will find a passion — something they love and have a gift to do. They will use this gift to serve others and fulfill a need they are passionate about in the world. This may be by becoming a shoe-shiner who tells stories and makes people’s day just by doing his/her job with love and vigor; it may be by becoming a coach who sees the light in a child’s eyes and guides him/her to pursue a dream; it may be by becoming a father or mother who leads a family on a Hero’s Journey; it may be becoming an entrepreneur or business leader guided by compassion and integrity; or it may be by becoming an artist or writer who brings beauty to people’s lives.

WHY DO YOU FOCUS ON TEACHING THE “AMERICAN EXPERIMENT”?

We believe in liberty and justice and the ideals of the American revolution as the cornerstones of civilization. In addition to experiential learning, we will study the American documents and the true meaning behind them, as we examine other cultures and forms of government.

HOW DO YOU MEASURE A LEARNER’S PROGRESS AT ACTON ACADEMY JACKSONVILLE?

We measure student progress in several different ways:

We set Daily, Weekly, and Session goals between the students and the Guides.
We utilize robust real-time data for each of our online learning tools. At any given time both parents and Guides can find out exactly what the learner is learning. It easily allows us to track progress, identify areas of struggle and close any learning gaps. Having a small class size, we are able to work one on one with the student to make sure that we can close gaps and help them master the skill. The web-based programs don’t allow the student to move on to the next skill until it has been mastered.
We utilize individual paper portfolios where each student showcases and adds their best work. We can measure their growth in things such as History, Writer’s Workshops, and Quest projects we have.
Though we never “teach to the test”, standardized tests are given once a year to ensure comprehensive progress.
RESULTS: On average, Acton students are progressing 3-5 grade levels above students their age.

IS ACTON ACADEMY JACKSONVILLE ACCREDITED?

We are accredited by the International Association of Learner-Driven Schools.

IS ACTON ACADEMY JACKSONVILLE A MONTESSORI OR A REGGIO INSPIRED SCHOOL?

We respect and incorporate Maria Montessori’s philosophy and have an AMI-certified guide for our younger studio but we are not a Montessori school. We have applied the best of Montessori methods: mixed-age classrooms, student choice within limits, large blocks of work time, learning through “discovery,” and freedom of movement in the classroom. We have surpassed it by two important steps further by using the best 21st century eLearning tools and adhering to the Socratic method of instruction which emphasizes asking and answering the right questions to stimulate critical thinking. Our learners don’t just memorize facts, they learn how to learn, learn how to do, and learn how to be.
We are a Reggio-inspired school. The philosophy is based on the principles of respect, responsibility, and community through exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment based on the interests of the children through a self-guided curriculum. Our Explorer guide and Director participated in numerous Reggio-related events including NAREA’s winter conference 2017 and the 2017 International Summer School for educators in Reggio Emilia, famous for its world-renowned approach inspiring the education of young children and teachers around the globe. This deepens our understanding of the principles of this approach and draw inspiration from its schools and researchers. To learn more about the Reggio approach click here.

DOES ACTON ACADEMY JACKSONVILLE SERVE SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN?

We are not trained to serve children with serious learning disabilities but have been able to serve young heroes with dyslexia if they receive special training and believe that many minor learning disabilities are commonly misdiagnosed.

WHAT IS THE STRUCTURE OF YOUR SCHOOL?

• We have Guides not Teachers.
• We have Studios not Classrooms.
• We have Portfolios,Badges and Exhibitions not Grades.
• We have Contracts and Covenants.
• Our students find their own Apprenticeships, they learn to do and to be in real life.
• We are Socratic and do not lecture.
• We build our curriculum around the Hero’s Journey.

WHAT IS A TYPICAL SCHOOL YEAR LIKE AT ACTON ACADEMY JACKSONVILLE?

VIVA ATELIER STUDIO

We believe that learning through play is how children can learn to make sense of the world around them. 

  • In addition to setting up the environment (the 3rd teacher), open-ended questions help us and the children make sense of the world.   When children engage in real-life and imaginary activities, play can be challenging.
  • As educators, we can enhance and scaffold their learning and development through their play. When we see an opportunity present itself to extend a child’s play, we along with our colleagues and community provide the tools/experiences to provoke the child to continue to be engaged. (Scaffolding is where the teacher/guide pays attention on specific elements of the play activity and provides encouragement and feedback on children’s learning.)
  • In order for children to learn, we very carefully observe them which is why we felt the need to keep the number of children in the studio low. We follow their lead. If we set up the environment based on what we know interests them, they will come and play rather than go and play.
  • Play is mostly a self-chosen activity by the child, rather than prescribed by a teacher/guide; it is a process, rather than a predicted outcome or product. 

The environment encircles the child with three “teachers”:

  1. Parent, takes on the role of active partner and guide in the education of the child.
  2. The guide assumes the role of researcher or facilitator  and intentionally engages children in meaningful work and conversation. Often times, other children may also serve as a teacher as that is the outcome in a blended learning community.
  3. The third teacher is the environment, a setting designed to be not only functional but also beautiful and reflective of the child’s learning.

It is the child’s relationship with parent, teacher, other children and environment that ignites learning.

What makes our younger studio different from other schools?

  • Mixed-age groups which not only offer a wide range of activities to spark children’s interest but also enable children to learn from others  and learn by helping others.
  • Freedom for children to work at their own pace, without interruption, choosing from a wide range of activities that are developmentally  challenging and appropriate.
  • Exploration is encouraged so that children find things out for themselves, make mistakes and correct them independently.
  • Respect for each child as an individual personality with unique talents.
  • Respect for others, the community and the environment.

We make use of  cross-curricular nature-based environment and activities designed to harness young children’s natural sense of wonder and curiosity for their world, giving an endless supply of provocations, intentionally put together based on their interests, and encourage imaginative, playful interactions  to help them develop a true love and appreciation for our Mother Earth.
These consist of comprehensive and exciting activities designed for open-ended exploration, creativity, and high-quality learning, every child can do at their own pace, to encourage the most individualized learning environment.
Cross-Curricular: STEM & More
Activities that span the content areas – Math, Reading, Science, Nature, Sensory Play, Art, Cooking, and more. We offer a comprehensive literature list to enhance and encourage an early love of reading and foster early literacy skills.

“What children learn does not follow as an automatic result from what is taught, rather, it is in large part due to the children’s own doing, as a consequence of their activities and our resources.”

Loris Malaguzzi, The Hundred Languages of Children

EXPLORER STUDIO

The school year is organized into seven “sprints,” with each sprint lasting five to six weeks. During each sprint, heroes undertake a Quest: a series of challenges, connected by a narrative, leading up to an exhibition of the completed work. Each sprint also focuses on a specific character trait, which is tied into the Quests and daily Socratic discussions.

Work is focused on the core skills of math, reading, communication, and civilization. These form the basic toolkit that the young heroes need to master in order to become lifelong learners. Other subjects are taught during the sprints via the Quests or specific learning sessions.

Math
DEVELOPING MATH PROFICIENCY

Basic math skills can be delivered by any one of a number of game-based adaptive programs like Dreambox or Khan Academy. Because parents (and Guides) can find it overwhelming to keep track of individual, self-paced progress, students may learn on any program, but must prove their proficiency on Khan Academy.

Reading
ENCOURAGING THE ENJOYMENT OF READING

Our goal is to have young heroes who love to read. We do not assign books or readings, but instead allow the heroes to start by reading anything they enjoy. Over time, the heroes naturally begin to read more and more challenging books – if they care about the subject. We encourage the heroes to keep track of what they have read and reward them when they “pitch” a book that another hero decides to read.

At least twice a week we have D.E.A.R. sessions – Drop Everything And Read!

Communications
EXPERIMENTING WITH COMMUNICATION FORMS

Our primary communication focus is on writing, but the heroes will experiment with film, photography, speech making, sales pitches and many other forms of communication. On most days, the heroes will journal at least a page, which they will share periodically in a journal contest. The journal question of the day often is chosen by the heroes, and will have some tie to a core skill goal, a quest or an issue involving the learning community.

Civilization
LEARNING FROM THE PAST TO CREATE THE FUTURE

Civilization encompasses history, geography, social studies, and economics. The overarching question for Civilization is: “How can the lessons of the past help us make decisions for the future?” Heroes explore why some civilizations rise and others fall, investigate the reasons behind turning points in history, and study the men and women who made difficult decisions.

Art
OPPORTUNITIES FOR CREATIVE ENERGY

Art is incorporated into every Quest (designing art for a game or website) and at times is scheduled separately for explorations of music, the visual arts, and theater.

Quests (Project-based Learning)
INTERACTIVE GROUP CHALLENGES

Quests are a five to six-week-long series of socially interactive group challenges, connected by a narrative and leading to an exhibition of the completed work. Quests are designed to deliver 21st century skills, including learning how to apply Core Skills to develop something useful to an individual hero, a community or civil society.

An important part of Quests is that almost all have some way to measure and track outcomes in a way that mirrors as closely as possible the real world. For example, if building a bridge, the costs are calculated based on the time and materials required to build the bridge; the benefits are calculated based on the span of the bridge, how much weight it will bear and for how long; and the aesthetics can be based on feedback from citizens or a panel of experts.

Goal Setting
SETTING TARGETS & ENSURING PROGRESS

Heroes set daily S.M.A.R.T. Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Tough) for what they would like to accomplish each day. As heroes decide upon their goals, they think through whether or not they meet these criteria. Students make session-long goals as well as daily goals to ensure progress towards their long-term targets.

WHAT IS THE SCHEDULE FOR THE SCHOOL YEAR LIKE?

AAJ 2016-calendar

Daily Schedule 9:00am – 2:30pm
Our learning day is broken into individual core skills work,

• COLLABORATIVE QUEST/PROJECT WORK    • SOCRATIC DISCUSSIONS

After Hours 3PM Onwards
Families may choose to enroll learners in extra curricular classes in:

  • STEM-related  Lego League • ART     • THEATRE   • MUSIC     • TBD ( according to students’ interests)

Acton Academy Jacksonville is committed to creating a peaceful learning environment designed to promote ongoing student growth. We follow an eleven month calendar, which allows for our students to have extended rests throughout the year while maintaining their interests, retention, and love of learning.

While there is ample time for holidays during the schedule, we understand that families may want to travel at times outside of this. With our flexible program, students will be able to do so without sacrificing learning. It is the school’s philosophy that traveling with family and engaging in experiences with family is fruitful and educational.

• Rolling Drop-Off between 8:30 and 9 AM
• School begins at 9 AM and finishes at 2:30 PM.
• Extracurriculars between 3:00 and 5:00 pm
• You are invited to pick up your child at 2:30 pm or have him or her stay for extracurriculars available as needed.
Please speak with us about your needs and the associated costs.

WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE AT ACTON ACADEMY JACKSONVILLE?

8:30-9:00     Drop Off
9:00-9:30     Launch  (day starts with an inspiring or enlightening Socratic discussion)
9:30-10:00   Individual Work (core skills)
10:00-10:15  Break/free time
10:15-11:00   Individual Work (core skills/ DEAR)
11:00-11:45   Break/ free time
11:45-12:45   Group Project/Quests
12:45-1:00    Break/free time
1:00 -1:30     continue  Group Project/Quests
1:30-2:15       Atelier session MWF / Writing Workshop T TH
2:15-2:30      Closing/Studio Maintenance 

Learners have flexibility to move about the studio and learn wherever they are most comfortable.

Learners are encouraged to offer assistance to or seek assistance from their fellow learners and guides.

They may take breaks as needed and will govern their time to best support their personal learning.

A typical school day revolves around three blocks of time:
• In the mornings, learners work towards their self-generated goals. They utilize the latest in educational technology and support each other to master the foundational reading, writing, arithmetic and foreign language skills.
• The afternoons are reserved for working on real-world group and individual projects. Project-based experiences to expand upon and give context to the foundational lessons. Students will be starting businesses, producing plays, publishing books, developing video games, and so on. Individually, they will work with the guides to discover and develop their unique talents and passions.
• Each day, time is also provided for either art, music or participating in Socratic dialogues.
By the time they reach middle school and high school age, our students will be spending a portion of their time off campus doing internships, volunteering, starting their own business and chasing their dreams.