When we worked with high school students, we watched them drop out of youth group because they had 4.5 GPA’s and that wasn’t good enough to get into a state school so they had to spend their free time taking SAT prep courses.
They stressed and prepped and prepared just to get into college. Then they went to college and within the first 12-18 months, they had to know what they want to declare as a major and pursue as a career.
The crazy part is that a lot of students go through this stressful process and then STRUGGLE to get a job after college…. And some that DO get a job in their field of study often find that they actually don’t really love it! What if, instead of repeating this cycle, we empowered kids to spend their 6-7 hours/ 5 days a week discovering what they are passionate about.
They would try new things, fail at things, fall in love with things and grow curious about things! Constantly! Imagine spending your childhood and entire school experience constantly being introduced to new parts of life. Then imagine once you find something that you love, getting to dive into it further and pursue it as a passion. If this passion is going to require a college degree, the learner would have a head start on knowing which school will offer them the best education in that field and they already know their major.
If their passion isn’t leading them to college, they save tens of thousands of dollars and get to enter adulthood with a career to pursue or a business to launch (if they haven’t already launched it!). As entrepreneurs, this is what sold us. Our kids were made to be passionate about different things… we want to create an environment where they can find it!
We’re Katelyn & Michael Alsop and Joe & Emily Malizia and we’re excited that you found this blog post! In 2020, we started dreaming about what education could look like for our children. It was right in the midst of the pandemic and we saw the turmoil in the midst of the traditional public school system. We knew there were good people in the public school system and alternative options for school in the private sector but the more that we did research, the more we realized that even a private school experience isn’t what we desired for our families.
We are entrepreneurs. I (Katelyn), started a business at 20 years old from my college dorm room and then grew it to a place where it supports my entire immediate family. Michael and Emily both work for our business in different roles and together we scaled a simple photography company to a global educational brand with over 25,000 online students. After years of being in the corporate world, Joe started his own transformational life coaching business and now uses his relational gifts to change people’s lives while also living with the freedom to design his days the way he wants.
Our jobs have changed us. We are living our daily lives experiencing the joy of using our gifts to fulfill our purpose and also bring in profit. We believe that every single person has unique passions and abilities that are purposeful. It’s through these gifts that an individual finds fulfillment and their life’s purpose.
So, what do our stories have to do with the traditional school system?
Our experience in business and our own personal life stories have made us aware of a few things when it comes to the educational model we’re choosing for our children:
1. We don’t want our kids to miss out on finding their passion in life. We want to do everything we can to give them a fair shot at discovering their passion.
2. We don’t believe the “normal” approach to education is actually the best way to learn and just like we’ve found freedom in doing our “work and careers” differently, we think education can be done differently too.
3. To truly thrive in business and in the job market, you need skills that aren’t taught in traditional education. We want our kids to learn how to read people, to practice respectful socratic discourse daily, to understand character flaws and personal responsibility. It is our desire for them to learn what it means to show up for people, keep commitments to themselves and others, and learn to govern their time and then feel the pain of failure if they don’t do it well.
4. We want our kids to fail often and cheaply. We want them to learn early that failure is a part of life and they have a choice to show up with a growing mindset or a victim mindset.
5. We value our children to stay active and spend time outside and not behind desk for hours and hours of their childhood.
6. We desire for their gifts and passions to be celebrated and not minimized. We also want them to be encouraged to figure out how to use their passions to contribute to society and make a living. This means being aware of opportunities and encouraged to try new things!
Last but not least, we realize that we love our passions and we love our jobs. We knew that we couldn’t homeschool our kids and still maintain our roles in our businesses. We also knew that we desired to be in community with other families that shared a similar mindset.
In 2020, we found Acton Academy and realized that literally everything we longed for was possible and already happening around the world. Acton Academy is a micro-school concept that is built upon the belief that young people are capable of being responsible for their own learning. These multi-age studios use socratic learning styles, have guides instead of teachers, are strategically smaller in size, celebrate being active and hands-on while learning and require a learner to have personal responsibility to fully access the freedom of this school concept.
It’s exactly what we want and more. The play-based learning, the daily socratic discussions, the character building, the quests, the use of technology in a mindful and intentional way… is a dream come true!!!
While there are close to 400 Acton’s around the work, there wasn’t one close to us. After almost 9 months of praying and seeking wisdom about this decision, the four of us decided to launch our own! We haven’t looked back since! We’re thrilled to bring Acton Academy to Richmond, Va!