WHAT IS ACTON ACADEMY AND HEROES ACADEMY AND ARE THEY DIFFERENT?
Acton Academy is the original school started in Austin, Texas by Laura and Jeff Sandefer in 2009. Heroes Academy is lead by Jake Thompson, a former student of Jeff's at the Acton School of Business, to bring the Acton Academy model to Idaho. Heroes Academy is therefore a separate entity working in deep collaboration with the Acton Academy. The purpose of this differentiation is to be able to adapt and serve the needs of our parents, students, and the rest of the community here in Idaho.
WHAT IS THE SOCRATIC METHOD AND WHY DO WE USE IT?
In the Socratic method, a teacher serves as a guide, setting up scenarios and asking questions to stimulate critical thinking and independent learning. Heroes Academy uses the Socratic method rather than lectures because through discussions and actively making arguments to support their beliefs, students gain a better understanding of a topic than by passively taking notes during a lecture. It creates critical thinkers, willing to take a stand for something they believe, in a way that promotes deep learning.
WHAT GRADES DO YOU OFFER?
We currently serve grades 1- 6, with a plan to expand every year. Young heroes that start with us will be able to finish through high school with us.
IS THE HEROES ACADEMY A MONTESSORI SCHOOL?
We respect and incorporate Maria Montessori’s philosophy but, we are not a Montessori school. We also use the latest interactive technologies, hands on projects, and the Socratic Method for discussions.
HOW LONG IS HEROES ACADEMY IN SESSION EACH YEAR?
We operate on an eleven month calendar. Our flexible program allows families to travel together during the year, without sacrificing any learning, and is often encouraged.
IS HEROES AN ACCREDITED SCHOOL?
Yes. Heroes Academy is accredited through the International Association of Learner-Driven Schools.
IS HEROES A RELIGIOUS SCHOOL?
While we expose children to the importance of mindful spirituality, listening to a still, small voice, and stress the historical importance of Christianity to the development of Western Civilization, we do not promote any one religion.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY A HERO'S JOURNEY?
We believe that each of us has a special calling in life. Intentional pursuit of this calling inevitably forces us to face a series of trials and tests. When faced with courage, integrity, and purpose we are transformed, becoming the heroes in our own lives and the lives of others. This leads to a satisfying and fulfilled life. Our mission is to prepare your child for his or her special journey.
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 DO YOU MEAN BY "LEARNER-DRIVEN COMMUNITY"?
Acton founder Jeff Sandefer coined the term “learner-driven community,” and we think it captures the two most important aspects of our school. 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.
HOW WILL MY CHILD STAY ON TASK IN A SELF-DIRECTED ENVIRONMENT?
A student’s ability to set and track goals in order to evaluate progress is essential to success in a student-driven, individualized learning program. Students need a lot of practice setting specific, measurable goals that are challenging but realistic.
Our students set weekly and daily goals, track progress, and establish a rhythm of meeting with peers to hold each other accountable. In addition, students 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 skill for the real world. For more on this, see “Creating a Culture of Accountability” by Acton Academy founding teacher Kaylie Reed.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY "EVERY CHILD IS A GENIUS"?
At Heroes, we encourage students to adopt a “growth mindset” rather than a “fixed mindset.” Those with a fixed mindset believe intelligence is an inborn trait. You’re either a “genius” or you’re not. In contrast, those with a growth mindset believe they can develop their intelligence over time. This can lead to profoundly different behaviors. For instance, children who believe intelligence is fixed often value looking smart above all else, avoid taking risks, and fear failure. Children with a growth mindset view challenging work as an opportunity to grow and view failure as a an opportunity to learn. At Heroes, we define “genius” as intelligent behaviors in pursuit of personal goals. Every child can be ingenious in overcoming obstacles and solving problems to pursue his or her own path. For more on the growth mindset, see Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck’s article “Even Geniuses Work Hard” or her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY A "RUNNING PARTNER"?
Running Partners are classmates 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.
WILL CHILDREN BE GROUPED INTO GRADES?
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. This allows children to be both teachers and learners, further developing their learning.
DOES HEROES SERVE SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN?
We are not trained to serve children with serious learning disabilities but have been able to serve young heroes with minor setbacks if they receive special training from outside our program. We also believe that many minor learning disabilities are commonly misdiagnosed and can be remedied by giving children more freedom to choose, engage in projects and hands on learning, and given a voice to be heard.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY "EVERY CHILD CAN CHANGE THE WORLD"?
We believe each of our students have gifts and passions unique to them. By using these gifts and passions to serve others, they can change the world. This may be as simple as becoming a shoe-shiner who tells stories and makes people's day just by doing his job with love and vigor. It 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.
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 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.
HOW DOES HEROES ACADEMY TRACK PROGRESS WITHOUT GRADES?
Heroes Academy tracks progress through student portfolios, learning exhibitions, peer reviews, goal monitoring, online dashboards, learning badges, and a once-a-year standardized test. For more on how we track progress, see “How do I know if my child is growing morally and intellectually?” by Acton founder Laura Sandefer.
WHAT IS MASTERY LEARNING?
In the traditional educational model, a certain amount of class time is devoted to a particular topic or concept; when that time is over, the entire class moves on, despite widely varying degrees of mastery over the material. In contrast, with mastery learning, students proceed at varying rates toward the same level of mastery. The curriculum is not structured in terms of time, but in terms of target levels of comprehension and achievement. We use a mastery learning approach to core subjects such as math, reading, and writing. For more on mastery learning, watch “Sal Khan on Digital and Physical Learning” or read “5 Myths about Mastery-Based Learning.”
HOW DO OUR STUDENTS COMPARE ON STANDARDIZED TESTS?
While we dislike standardized tests, all students take the Stanford Achievement Test Series once each year to benchmark their progress in terms comparable to other schools. Students who have been at Acton Academy in Austin through elementary school (and are now in middle school there) are on average 5.7 grade levels above age in reading and 5.6 grade levels above age in math.
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 the Acton Academy, we celebrate his defense of economic, political and religious freedom.