Frequently Asked Questions
What makes Acton Academy unique?
Focus on discovering a calling
21st century learning
Self-paced, mastery-based learning
Deep respect for the child
Guides rather than teachers
Socratic discussions rather than lectures
Portfolios rather than grades
Is Acton a Montessori school?
Acton provides an authentic Montessori primary program for ages 3 to 6 (through Kindergarten). Acton Elementary, for grades 1 to 6, incorporates many Montessori materials and principles—such as mixed-age classes, freedom within limits, large blocks of uninterrupted work time, learning through “discovery,” and freedom of movement—and combines them with the best 21st century learning tools, real-world projects, and the Socratic method, which emphasizes asking and answering questions to cultivate critical thinking.
What is a typical day at Acton Montessori?
At Acton Montessori, the day begins with a morning work period. During this time, children work independently and receive individual and small-group lessons. A nutritious snack is available for children to have at any point during the morning. Following the morning work period, the children go outside to play. After outdoor play, the children come inside to prepare for lunch. They work together to set the tables. During lunch, children share quiet conversation as they eat. When the meal is complete, they clean up. Following lunch, children have the opportunity to nap or rest if they wish. The afternoons include another work period for the older children who don’t nap, followed by a second nutritious snack for all the children, and more time to play outdoors. In the afternoons there is also time for activities such as gardening, baking, music, movement, and more.
What is a typical day at Acton Elementary?
Each morning is launched with a Socratic discussion to highlight the focus of the day and build energy, bring up a community need, or just inspire and encourage learners. The morning launch is followed by independent and small-group work on core skills (reading, writing, and math) using state-of-the-art learning software and hands-on materials. The learners then engage in art or movement. After lunch and free time, the elementary children gather again for a Socratic discussion to reflect on and prepare for their afternoon work on civilization or quests.
Quests are real-world adventures that make learning fun and challenging. Lasting anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks, quests put learners in the shoes of someone who has to solve an important problem. Learners must use 21-century skills in areas such as chemistry, physics, robotics, math, public speaking, art, marketing (and more!) to complete a series of challenges that culminate in an exhibition.
In the Bridge Building Quest, for example, learners are challenged to construct bridges that are structurally sound and also fit within the budget allocated for the project by their city. As bridge engineers, learners explore physics concepts like tension and compression, friction and elasticity. But physics isn’t the only consideration. As project managers, the learners must also figure out how to build a strong bridge within a limited budget.
Why are Acton Montessori and Elementary all-day programs?
We created the all-day Acton Montessori and Acton Elementary programs to offer children who need all-day care a consistent and comfortable home-away-from-home environment. Families may drop off their children anytime between 8 and 8:45am. Montessori parents may pick up anytime between 3:30 and 6pm and elementary parents may pick up anytime between 3:15 and 6pm.
What do you mean by “hero’s journey”?
Acton has found the “hero’s journey” to be a powerful metaphor for children to think about their educational adventure. It is a lifelong orientation toward themselves and the world, a way of discovering their unique gifts, talents, and passions and then developing the habits of mind, character, and behavior that allow them to chase down their dreams with energy and joy. Who am I and where am I going? What makes me special? What gifts do I have? How can I use these gifts to do something great, even change the world? Every journey has twists and turns and requires hard work, even heroic effort, to overcome challenges along the way. Our mission is to help your child discover his or her own unique path. The hero’s journey begins with Acton Montessori, as children as young as 3 years old are encouraged to follow their interests, ask questions, and discover what excites them.
What does it mean for children to be in charge of their own learning?
At Acton, we cultivate self-directed learners. A self-directed learner is guided by his or her interests and is able to set and achieve learning goals, research questions, solve problems, participate in discussions, and strive for mastery.
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.
In Acton Montessori, young children hone their ability to choose and engage in independent work. As the children get older, our guides help with the development of time management and goal setting skills until older Montessori students are able to make and follow their own simple work plans.
In Acton Elementary, students set weekly and daily goals, track progress, and establish a rhythm of meeting with peers to hold each other accountable.
How does Acton track progress without grades?
Acton Montessori tracks student progress through Transparent Classroom, software that allows parents to see the lessons children have had and the progress they have made in language, math, practical life, sensorial work, geography, art, and more. Acton Elementary tracks student progress through Journey Tracker, software that allows parents to see the work their children have done. Acton Elementary also uses student portfolios, learning exhibitions, peer reviews, goal monitoring, and a once-a-year standardized test.
How do Acton Elementary students compare on standardized tests?
While we dislike standardized tests, all students take the Iowa Tests 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 3.6 grades above age in reading, and 4.6 grade levels above age in math (as of 2016).
What is the Socratic method and why does Acton use it?
In the Socratic method, a guide sets up scenarios and asks questions to stimulate critical thinking and independent learning. Acton uses the Socratic method rather than lectures because through discussions and actively making arguments to support their beliefs, students hone their critical thinking and speaking abilities and gain a better understanding of a topic than by passively taking notes during a lecture. Outside of discussions, guides employ the Socratic method with students throughout the day in order to build and reinforce independent learners who are able to answer their own questions.
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.
Does Acton serve special needs children?
We are not trained or staffed to serve children who need specialized attention because of serious learning or behavioral challenges. We treat each and every situation individually, so if you are interested in Acton and believe it is a great fit for your family, please inquire and we will personally assess your unique situation and the fit of your young learner.
What is Acton's tuition?
What ages does Acton serve?
We believe that children learn best when working alongside children younger and older than themselves. Acton Montessori is a mixed-age class of children ages 3-6 (through kindergarten). Acton Elementary is a mixed-age class of children in grades 1-6. As the students age up, Acton Elementary will be followed by the creation of Acton Middle and High School. Acton will serve families from pre-K through high school.
Is Acton a year-round school?
Acton Academy is in session 10 months each year, with time off for holidays and winter and spring breaks. Families may choose to take a summer break or participate in our summer session.
Is Acton accredited?
Yes. We are accredited by the International Association of Learner-Driven Schools.
Is Acton a franchise?
Acton Academy is an independent affiliate of the Acton Academy network of schools. Acton affiliates share a mission, set of beliefs, and promises to families. Individual affiliates adapt Acton’s model for the unique communities they serve. The Acton network supports affiliates with curriculum materials, learning tools, custom software, best practices, and more. Each year, Acton affiliates from around the world gather in Austin, Texas, to share knowledge, collaborate, and help the network grow.
What other resources will help me understand Acton and Montessori?
Check out the Acton Children's Business Fair of Washington, DC. It’s a simple idea. We invite children to start a business, make something they’re passionate about, sell to real customers, and decide for themselves what to do with the profits. Along the way, they learn something about entrepreneurship. More importantly, they learn something about themselves.
The Acton Children’s Business Fair is a one-day example of the ingredients of Acton Academy:
The belief that children are more powerful than we ever imagined.
Respect for the power of independent learning.
A vision of what education is really all about. It’s not just about getting a job, or starting a career. More deeply, it’s about finding a calling.