+ How is the Acton model different from traditional school and what is a micro-school?

The Acton Academy model is based on the micro-school concept and is a learner driven community. A micro-school is a modernized version of the one-room school house with mixed-age level groupings, personalized education, a small student population, and lower overhead in operating structure. We want to grow organically and have like-minded families involved with Acton Academy Nashville. Starting small allows us to get to know each child while building from the ground up.

In addition to the micro-school structure, here are other characteristics that differentiate our model from traditional school:

  1. Student-driven, self-paced learning
  2. Real-world projects and apprenticeships
  3. Student self-governance
  4. Mixed-age classes
  5. Guides rather than teachers
  6. Socratic discussions rather than lectures
  7. Exploration and assessment of skill levels, learning styles, aptitudes, personality traits, and interests
  8. Mastery learning and student portfolios of achievements rather than grades
  9. No homework
  10. No teaching to the test

+ What is a "learner driven community?"

Acton Academy founder Jeff Sandefer coined the term “learner-driven community,” and we think it captures the two most important aspects of our program. First, we are self-directed, meaning that kids are in charge of their own learning. Second, we are a community of learners in which students are bound together by their pledge to hold themselves and each other to high standards.

+ What grades will you offer?

While we won't have traditional grade levels, we plan to eventually serve children ages 5-18 (and possibly younger). We will begin by accepting applications for children who will be 5-9 years old by fall 2018 and grow organically adding one age level each year. Our goal is to start very small with like-minded families to build a strong community and solid foundation.

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

Our Studios - longterm groupings will look something like this:

Ages 5-7 Spark Studio (Early Learners Studio)

This is where the foundation is set for the learner-driven community. The studio guide will observe the children and help them focus on the core skills necessary to be a truly independent learner. Individual exploration, collaborative, real-world projects, goal setting, Socratic discussions, and the foundation of the Hero's Journey will help prepare the children for the Explorer Studio.

Ages 7-11 Explorer Studio (Elementary Studio) The Explorer Studio is where children take the solid foundation set in the Spark Studio to become fully immersed in the Acton Academy model. They will more fully and independently set out on their Hero's Journey to explore, create, and discover their unique abilities.

Ages 12-14 (Middle School Studio)

Ages 15-18 Launchpad (High School Studio)

+ But what about Monday and Friday?

The flexibility of a Tuesday through Thursday hybrid program allows families to choose how to use their Mondays and Fridays. Unlike the traditional model where there is a lot of wasted time in the school day, these days can be used for true learning where children are fully engaged and in a state of "flow."

Contrary to what many believe, homeschool is not literally "school at home." It does not need to replicate a seven hour school day where you alternate between multiple subjects. Families can choose the homeschooling style that fits them best and will have support from their child's guide if desired. Families can spend these days as a family unit or partner with other families for their own cooperative experiences and shared responsibilities among parents.

We are fortunate in the Nashville area to have a variety of resources available to homeschoolers. There are many homeschool programs (and more popping up all the time) specifically for homeschoolers through places such as Nashville Zoo, Belle Meade Plantation, Nashville Gymastics Training Center, and Green Elephant Art Studio. More infomration can be found on the Homeschool Calendar.

Use these days for your child to pursue personal talents and interests instead of cramming it into the limited after school day hours.

+ Our Language and Philosophy

  • Students are Learners or Heroes.
  • We have Guides not Teachers.
  • We have Studios not Classrooms.
  • We have Portfolios and Exhibitions not Grades.
  • We have Contracts not arbitrary Rules.
  • Our students find their own Apprenticeships.
  • We are Socratic and do not lecture.
  • We build our curriculum around the Hero’s Journey.

Our Philosophy

  • Clear thinking leads to good decisions,
  • Good decisions lead to the right habits,
  • The right habits lead to character, and
  • Character becomes destiny.

+ Who was Lord Acton?

Lord John Emerich Edward Dahlberg Acton (1834-1902) was an English scholar of freedom, a politician, and writer 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, we celebrate his defense of economic, political and religious freedom.

+ 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.

+ What do you mean by "every child can change the world?"

We believe each of our heroes 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 coach who sees the light in a child’s eyes and guides 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 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 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.

+ How will my child stay on task in a self-directed environment?

  • In the Spark Studio, children will have freedom to explore while their guide helps provide boundaries and helps them manage the incorporation of core skills into their day.
  • A child's ability to set and track goals in order to evaluate progress is essential to success in a learner-driven, individualized program. Children need a lot of practice setting specific, measurable goals that are challenging but realistic.
  • In the Explorer Studio, children set weekly and daily goals, track progress, and establish a rhythm of meeting with peers to hold each other accountable. In addition, they will develop an agreement with the guides to set boundaries for acceptable behavior and rules for engagement in the classroom.
  • We believe that learning to set goals and challenging yourself are critical skills for the real world.

+ Is Acton a Montessori school?

We respect and incorporate Dr. Maria Montessori’s philosophy but, we are not a 100% Montessori school. We follow Montessori fundamentals such as mixed-age classrooms, student choice within limits, large blocks of work time, learning through “discovery,” and freedom of movement in the classroom. We will use Montessori materials for some of our hands-on, core skills work and our guides may be trained in Montessori but we also use other materials, the Socratic Method for discussions, and the Hero's Journey within our method.

+ Is Acton a religious school?

No. We value and respect each person’s beliefs. We explore the importance various religions have played throughout history but we do not offer religious education. Children will be exposed to a variety of religions through our study of civilization.

+ Does Acton serve special needs children?

We are a micro-school concept and will have a low adult to child ratio. Therefore, we will not be equipped with specialists or extra adults that would be required in helping some children with special needs who may need specialized attention because of learning or behavioral challenges.

+ How much homework will there be?

We believe that children need time to play, relax, and be with family and friends. There will not be any homework assigned. We find that children educated in this way become passionate about learning and have no trouble keeping themselves busy.

+ How do students compare on standardized tests?

On average, Acton Academies throughout the country are finding that Acton students are progressing 3-5 grade levels above students their age.

+ How much screen time will the children have?

Technology is a useful tool and we are excited for our students to learn how to responsibly use computers to access information, communicate effectively, and learn independently. Our Discovery Studio will use very little technology but will begin to learn about the responsible use of technology in preparation for the Explorer Studio where technology will be used for more of their research and core skills. In addition to plenty of tech-free, hands-on learning opportunities, children will spend an ample amount of free time outdoors each day.

+ How do you prepare children for college or if they decide to transition to traditional schools?

  • Our heroes learn problem-solving, resilience, empathy, listening skills, and personal organization. These skills are transferable to every area of life, including more traditional schooling. Children with experience setting their own learning goals and managing their time will thrive in a college setting.
  • Although we don’t issue grades to students, all core work is tracked, managed, and saved by our guides. We are able to provide records upon request.

+ What kind of parent commitment is required?

One of our main purposes in creating Acton Academy is to bring together a community of like-minded families. In addition to parent/guide conferences, we hope that parents will engage in community activities such as meet-ups outside of school, book discussions, and other social and educational opportunities to gather as a community.

+ Will the children have time for unstructured play outdoors?

Absolutely. Unstructured as well as team building opportunities for outdoor play will be built into the daily schedule as well as the freedom for children to take their work outdoors and take short breaks to mentally reset throughout their school day.

+ School Calendar and Hours

  • The Acton model is based on an eleven-month calendar. We believe that children learn best when they have time to rest between educational units (sessions), and when they experience a shorter summer break that allows them to maintain their subject interest, passion for learning and academic progress from the previous year. The sessions will last around five to six weeks with a one (or sometimes two) week break in between. We will be closed in the summer for approximately half of July and the month of August with the new school year commencing after Labor Day.
  • Children will arrive between 8:30-8:50am and the school day will begin promptly at 9:00am. We estimate pick up will be around 3:30pm. We hope to eventually offer daily enrichment activities during after school hours which will be open to the Nashville community.
  • Click here to view our calendar for the 2018-2019 school year.

+ Attendance policy

We value freedom and flexibility. Families will not be penalized for travel or days off to pursue family and personal endeavors. However, if attendance is extremely low, we may need to reevaluate if our program is right for the family and free up the spot for someone on our waiting list.

+ Location

For our first year of operation, we will be located at 5125 Franklin Pike, Nashville, TN 37220 (in a cottage behind Unity of Nashville) while we search for a site to construct our permanent campus.

+ Tuition

For 2019-2020, tuition will be $7,725. Tuition can be paid in full (due August 1st) or in monthly payments (ACH draft). For the 2019-2020 program, we will offer a $250 sibling discount. A $350 non-refundable deposit will be due upon enrollment (March 2018). This deposit will be applied toward tuition. A 5% late fee is applied to monthly payments not received by the 5th of each month and the sibling discount will not apply.

+ How does a Hybrid Homeschool work legally?

In order to be in compliance with TN Compulsory Attendance laws, all homeschool students must either be: 1) registered as independent with the local school district, 2) enrolled in an umbrella school, 3) enrolled in an accredited online school.

More details can be found on these links:

Tennessee Department of Education Homeschool Registration

Middle Tennessee Home Education Association

The Acton guides will be keeping detailed records of your child's time at school so this information will be helpful when it comes time for any reporting. We will also be compiling a portfolio for each child which will be helpful not only for record keeping but also for applying for internships, apprenticeships, college applications, or if a family transfers to another school.

As part of the enrollment process at Acton Academy Nashville, we require proof of registration through the method of your choice, as listed above.

+ What is the application process?

Step 1: Research

  • First, please thoroughly review our website and FAQ. If you want to learn more from a parent's perspective, check out Acton Academy cofounder Laura Sandefer’s blog for Acton Academy parents. Feel free to email us with any questions.
  • We will add you to our email list and notify you with important updates.
  • Liking our Facebook page is another way to stay informed.

Step 2: Apply

  1. Contact Us Email us to let us know you would like to begin the application process (info@actonnashville.org).
  2. Research
    • Read "Unschooling Rules" by Clark Aldrich. Please read thoroughly as it covers many of the key principles that comprise an Acton education. The book is a quick and easy read and is a necessary part of the Acton application process. It will give you a better understanding of whether or not an Acton education is a good fit for your child and family. Review all videos on our website and review Acton parent blog. We also recommend reading "Courage to Grow" by Acton Academy co-founder, Laura Sandefer for the story of Acton Academy.
  3. Application If you feel like Acton is the right fit for your family, after you have done your research (thoroughly reviewed our website and FAQ, read "Unschooling Rules," watched all recommended videos, and asked any questions you may still have), please complete the online application and submit a short video introducing us to your family. Why do you want to be part of Acton Academy Nashville? What do you enjoy doing together? Or whatever you would like to share with us so that we can get to know you. A teacher questionnaire is also required if your child currently attends a traditional school or homeschool tutorial.

**We have reached full enrollment for Fall 2018 and are currently accepting applictions for Fall 2019. Enrollment letters for Fall 2019 will be sent in March 2019. Applications will be considered in the order they are received, so we encourage you to apply early.