It may seem odd, perhaps even awkward, to name a learning community via a verb. After all, contemporary conventional wisdom holds that students learn best when they are taught (“given instruction” and “imparted knowledge”) in schools (“institutions for educating children”). It seems just as apparent to many that some schools, by their very nature, are clearly better than others at doing this. National rankings, test scores, prestigious school branding, historical legacies and word on the street all function to establish school quality in this sense. Very few, if any, of these sources of information, however, adequately account for the critical factors involved in learning. Who is the learner? What is the student interested in and capable of doing? What is the student’s life purpose and how will learning serve it?
We agree that environment influences learning and that place (nouns) matters, but we believe that “action, state and relation between things” (verbs) matter even more so. As Neil Postman and others have eloquently argued, learning is ultimately a verb, not a noun. My grandfather was known for providing a similar, albeit more provincial, take when periodically reminding us, “wherever you go, there you are.” Learning has never been confined to schools and i has never been easier, or more necessary, to learn any where at any time. It is what you do that matters most. We named our learning community with a verb to emphasize this point. We want our learners to understand their strengths, pursue their passions, develop mastery and positively impact the world. In addition to proficiency in core academic skills, our process is designed to promote problem solving, curiosity, creativity, initiative, leadership, resilience and interpersonal skills. In short, we expect our learners to thrive.
In this same vein, our physical location is most aptly characterized as an “academy,” in the Platonic sense of the term, rather than a “school,” which is defined as “an institution where instruction is given.” As John Patrick Lynch (1972) explains, Plato designed his Academy “as a complex and diverse community rather than as a simple group consisting of a master and his pupils.”
We will inspire and enable every learner who joins our community to find a calling that will change the world.
Each child has a gift that can change the world in a profound way
In a closely connected family of lifelong learners
In learning to learn, learning to do, and learning to be
Learning should be relevant and strengths and interest-based
We believe children are far more capable than most imagine
In economic, political, and religious freedom
Project Based Quests
Adaptive Learning Technology
Individualized Goal Setting
Physical education, exercise, free movement
Social and emotional development
There are no grades or report cards at Acton Academy. Badges are used to establish which goals learners have achieved and the content they have mastered. Portfolios are also used to demonstrate a learner’s growth and showcase his or her most important accomplishments. Public exhibitions conclude each Quest and provide an opportunity for learners to receive feedback from an authentic audience, which often may include experts in the field of study. Self-assessment and peer-feedback are also used to measure the quality of learners’ work and actions. Parents may track their Hero’s academic progress by reviewing his or her badge-related activity and online core skill course work.
While we do not believe that standardized tests are an overly accurate gauge of who learners are and what they know and are capable of, we do conduct standardized testing twice a year to ensure that our Heroes are learning the basics. These tests are not mandatory and we do not teach to the test. Nevertheless, Acton Academies have found that their Heroes tend to do extremely well on such tests and advance at rates that significantly exceed the norm.
Finally, we believe that transparency is key to building and sustaining our closely connected community of lifelong learners and that customer feedback is critical to our continued improvement. Therefore, we administer a weekly survey that is sent to each family within our community. This brief survey invites parents and children to evaluate the past week at the Academy and, if they would like, provide suggestions for improvement. We discuss the results at weekly staff meetings and decide what changes, if any, need to be made. The survey results are publicized and all related changes are immediately communicated to parents and implemented as soon as possible.
What Makes Us Different?
Acton is certainly not for everyone. After all, one of our core beliefs is that learning should be highly personalized and education should address individual interests and strengths. We remain convinced, however, that the impact and outcomes of our model will be extraordinary for any one who hears the call to adventure.
1. We are student-led, not adult driven.
2. We have Socratic Guides, not teachers.
3. We use adaptive technology, not textbooks,
4. We strive for autonomy and responsibility, not compliance and control.
5. Our focus is self-knowledge + life preparation, rather than vocational education or college preparation.
6. Learning occurs in real world contexts, not a well-managed classroom.
7. Learners progress at their own pace, not a bell schedule’s.
8. Failure is welcome, not stigmatized.
9. We have portfolios, exhibitions, exemplary models and feedback, not grades.
10. We focus on relevant challenges, not standardized tests.
Who is Thrive Academy For?
People who believe the traditional school system no longer works to prepare children for the modern world
Creators and creatives
Trailblazers and trendsetters
Families who value their freedom and want their children to develop a love of learning
Families who are convinced who you are and what you do are more important than what you know
Families who believe learning should be first and foremost about life prep, rather than college prep.
People who want the benefits of child-directed learning without having to make a full-time commitment to homeschooling
People who need flexible attendance for travel and family obligations. (We will operate on an 11-month calendar with 4-7 week sessions and breaks in between)
Children who want additional time to pursue their passions beyond traditional school hours