Category Archives: Nashville Alternative Schools

Nashville’s Future Classroom: A New Leaf of Nashville

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 eye emojiis].

Elle Harvey is the founder and director of A New Leaf of Nashville. A New Leaf offers a variety of Reggio inspired programs including a preschool (2-5 years old), Triangle Play (1-5 years old), and summer camps (3-10 years old) at their location on Charlotte Pike.

 

1. How did you learn about the Reggio model? What made you fall in love with the model?

At the All Austin Cooperative Nursery School in Austin TX when we moved there with our 2.5 year old. Parents had to spend a day a month as a teacher and I was there every day. The image of the child is very strong and the project approach is the best way for humans to learn.

2.  What ‘hole’ do you think A New Leaf fills in Nashville’s childcare and educational landscape?

We support families as they become new parents and scaffold social-emotional learning as we interact as a community during Triangle Play. We empower children to explore and learn from “100 languages” in the environment around them. We provided a much needed education during a very formative time for children’s development. There is a shortage in Nashville of preschools and child care centers, parents are desperate to have a place for their children to spend the day, let alone be meaningfully engaged and happy. We are the only ones to offer an education based on nature and only a handful of us apply the Reggio philosophy.

3. I love the idea of nature being one of the teachers at A New Leaf. How much time do kids spend outdoors at A New Leaf? What kind of difference do you think this makes for the kids?

We spend more than half of our time outdoors in clement temperatures and up to 100% of our time.  In cold weather we spend 1/2 to 1/4 of our time outside. We help parents find the best clothing. “There isn’t bad weather, only improper clothing” we often say. It makes a huge difference as they become part of the environment. They are nature too, animals are not just cute, they have life cycles, growth, needs, and fears. The plants and animals are respected for their own life and rights as well as all the gifts that they provide us.

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 A New Leaf prepare kids to become life long learners?

Research on development and neuroscience points to our approach as best practice. We aren’t so much alternative since constructivist theory of education is about 100 years old and  education for all is a fairly young concept as well. I believe we will converge towards best practices for respectful upbringing together as a world in the next 100 years.

5. What kinds of kids thrive at A New Leaf?

All of them!  If we have difficult cases, as long as the parents are engaged with us to assess problems and that we work together for individual solutions, everyone is successful.

 

Love what you read? Learn about Nashville’s other alternative school options: Simply Sudbury Microschool and Acton Academy Nashville.

Nashville’s Future Classroom: Acton Academy Nashville

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.

We fell in love with the idea that education centers around the Hero’s Journey. The idea that we are all heroes and that life is an adventure in which you will encounter trials and tribulations, mentors, people who will challenge us, and a variety of learning experiences that shape our lives and that our response to these things and what we create for ourselves ultimately determines who we are. It is an empowering way of living and learning and an incredible foundation for success in all areas of life.

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!

Love what you read? Learn about Nashville’s other alternative school options: A New Leaf Nashville and Simply Sudbury Microschool.

Nashville’s Future Classroom: Simply Sudbury Microschool

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 eye emojiis].

Marie McKinney Oates is one of the founders of Simply Sudbury Microschool. Simply Sudbury is located on Haywood Lane and is based on the Sudbury-model of education. Learners, ages 5-18 years old, have the freedom to spend their time as they would like and the responsibility to govern their community via a school meeting and judicial committee.

1. How did you learn about the Sudbury model? What made you fall in love with the model?

I learned about Sudbury after reading Peter Gray’s book, Free to Learn. I was already sold on the idea of unschooling, where kids learn via life instead of formal curriculum, and his book introduced me to the Sudbury Valley School where kids essentially run their school community via a school meeting and judicial committee. I really clicked with the idea that the Sudbury-model lets kids practice being a free, voting member of a democratic community long before they are an actual voting member of their community. Everything about it made sense to me.

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2. What ‘hole’ do you think Simply Sudbury fills in Nashville’s educational landscape?

I think there’s a lot of unnecessary fear and focus about test scores and evaluation in education so we took all of that away and let our kids focus on simply learning. There are few places for kids to just be themselves and explore their unique strengths and weaknesses. Simply Sudbury really is a place for kids and teenagers that are ‘too much’ or ‘not enough’ for traditional schools. We really believe this freedom is great for their mental health, and it gives them the opportunity to see where their gifts can serve the community at large.

3. I love the idea of kids ‘running the school’ and making the rules. Have any stories to share about what it looks like for kids to run the school?

Our school is small and new so we don’t have tons of stories yet. But here’s a neat example. One of the rules at the school, for right now, is that we can’t go down to the big playground because the structures aren’t particularly safe and there was some kind of wasp nest. Everyone agreed in school meeting to just stay away until we made repairs. Well, one of the staff members didn’t remember this rule and headed down to the playground with a couple of the kids. Another kid saw this and immediately wrote the staff member and her entourage up for breaking the big playground rule. The staff member ended up getting the most severe punishment because ‘she should have known better.’ It was beautiful to see kids empowered to ‘write up’ a grown up and to see them enforce rules they created.
Also, I think all of the staff was impressed with how seriously each of the kids took running the school. At the last school meeting they all agreed that the work they did, coming up with rules and enforcing them, was really hard.

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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 Simply Sudbury prepare kids for adulthood?

I think Simply Sudbury’s entire mission is to prepare kids to be adults. Without anyone standing above them telling them what to do or what is important to learn, they start wrestling with some really deep and important questions almost immediately: What matters to me? What am I interested in? What am I good at? What do I want to get better at?

And I think the school meeting and judicial committee prepares them for being a good citizen. They have to regularly ask themselves and each other if the rules they are creating are good for everyone, are they fair? They have to come up with systems that create order and protect communal property. They have to manage the school’s budget and make hard decisions about what’s best for the community, not just what’s best for them as individuals.

It really is a small community that they are given the freedom and responsibility to manage. I think this level of responsibility is grounding and build confidence for many of our learners (and staff!).

5. What kinds of kids thrive at Simply Sudbury Microschool?

It takes time to thrive, but I think all kids can and do thrive in the Sudbury-model. There is no mandatory curriculum or adult-driven agenda, so kids and teens really are free to listen to their own unique needs and then act on respecting those needs. However, you do need to have parents that trust the model and trust their kid. None of this works if the parent is unable to trust that curiosity is sufficient fuel for learning. But if a parent is either filled with trust or simply exhausted from trying to make their kid fit into a mold, the Sudbury-model could be a great fit!

Love what you read? Learn about Nashville’s other alternative school options: A New Leaf Nashville and Acton Academy Nashville.