NASHVILLE’S FUTURE CLASSROOMS: Many kids will not thrive in a traditional classroom so I wanted to highlight some alternative classrooms available to families in Nashville.
It is so exciting to know that these options exist because of passionate women that saw a need and met a need [insert all the heart emojiis].
Carrie Kinsley is the founder of Acton Academy Nashville. Acton Academy is a hybrid educational concept for kids ages 5-11 years old, located on Franklin Pike. Acton Academy Nashville blends Acton Academy principles, Growth Mindset, Montessori and other hands-on, self-directed models.
1. How did you learn about the Acton model? What made you fall in love with the model?
I came across Acton in 2015 when I was considering kindergarten options for my oldest daughter and did not feel Nashville had exactly what we were looking for. I was searching for something that incorporated a Montessori-like foundation but with a more modern approach. I also liked the idea of a homeschool hybrid for our family since we are self-employed, value spending as much time together as possible, and love the idea of utilizing the world as our classroom. The Acton approach works well for a five-day model as well as a three-day hybrid which is the option we decided to open.
2. What ‘hole’ do you think Acton Academy Nashville fills in Nashville’s education landscape?
I think our niche is we offer an empowering method of 21st-century education that prepares children for life much more than most typical schools but is tailored for families who also want to hybrid homeschool. The children come together three days a week for an incredible program that is self-directed but also built upon a strong sense of community with the flexibility of using the rest of the week to pursue personal passions, homeschooling in whatever method they prefer, extra family time, and travel.
3. I love the idea of the Hero’s Journey, and how it gives students control of how they see themselves and how their community sees them. Is there a story you can share that captures how the “Hero’s Journey” has worked for one of your students?
I reached out to our founding Guide, Lisa Florence, on this one. She shared, “We see this in all the Eagles (what we call students), every day. I think the way we most often see this come through is that they’ll recognize their challenges and successes as part of their story. They know failure or success isn’t a moment that determines who they are, but rather a moment in their story and they choose how they walk through. This is seen in moments like Core Skills, Team Building, Quest, or even learning how to be a good friend or leader.
We have one student who came into our program speaking in a very direct and sometimes judgmental way toward himself and others. It is through his awareness of his Hero’s Journey that he began to see that the challenges he runs into with communication are opportunities to learn about himself. It’s a way that allows children to step back from the emotion of a situation and see challenges and success as opportunities and growth. They become aware of their part and ask themselves questions to move forward. Life switches from ‘What makes a person right or wrong?’ to ‘What kind of person do you want to be and what does that look like?’ They know they are the creator of their story.”
4. Straying from the traditional model of education is scary because we wonder if alternative methods will properly prepare our kids for the future. How does Acton prepare kids for adulthood?
I think Acton Nashville provides a great balance. We incorporate Socratic discussions, self-directed Core Skills (reading, writing, and math), rotating Quests (hands-on, real-world projects), apprenticeships, and Exhibitions of Learning. Growth mindset and mindfulness activities are woven throughout the day and are the defining feature of Acton Nashville. Having a solid foundation in who you are, how to interact and participate in a genuine community, and practicing daily skills of mindfulness, growth mindset, and goal setting starting at age five is an incredible way to prepare for adulthood. We believe the combination of all these things along with what each individual family values in their homelife prepares children for adulthood in a much broader and balanced sense than most methods of education.
5. What kind of kids thrive at Acton?
We find that Acton works for most (but not all) children. Although we offer structure within our freedoms, some children may need more structure or the help of a learning specialist. Also, parents must be fully onboard. If you are concerned about test scores and traditional achievement, you will not thrive here. If you do not believe failure and mistakes are opportunities for growth, we are not the right fit. Our parents sign a contract with us and the Heroes sign a contract that they create with each other.
We opened in September and have been amazed by how much each child has grown socially, emotionally, and academically as well as a community who truly respects, honors, and loves one another. It has been a beautiful first year to witness and I look forward to what our second year brings as we double in size!