To The Parents Who

Worry About Doing It Differently

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We're Joe, Emily, Katelyn and Michael and we’ve decided to do school “differently” for our children and other children in our community!  



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Do you find yourself questioning doing education differently in a post-pandemic world? We know what this feels like. It’s the beginning of a turning point. You’ll either start researching and pushing yourself to find answers or you’ll discover that you’re okay with the way it is.

There isn’t a right or wrong…. It’s just discovering how much you desire something different and how passionate you are about it. How much do you desire doing education differently in a post-pandemic world?

For a while, we were unsure about dreaming of doing education differently for our kids.

It can be scary to consider what others will think, the risks of trying something new and the unknown of thinking unconventionally.

We knew we didn’t feel like the traditional model was for us but what were our other options? Homeschool seemed like the only option and we knew we weren’t cut out for that. The very reason we wanted something different for our kids was because we are all entrepreneurs ourselves and we love what we’re called to do!

We found ourselves wondering just how committed we really were… and then Covid hit.


The pandemic really helped us decide how serious we were about doing education differently in a post-pandemic world.


We watched how helpless parents of school-aged kids felt, the system scrambled to re-invent itself and make virtual learning effective, and families all around us began to realize that education was possible at home in three hours in the morning vs. full days on zoom calls. We saw how schooling could be DONE DIFFERENTLY and something shifted in us.

All of a sudden we realized that our fears were based in what society would think about our decision and yet here we were watching the majority of society pivoting and reinventing and changing.


It made us realize that pursing innovative education isn’t so scary after all…. Really, the scary thing would be knowing we feel called to something different but not having the courage to try it.


You risk if you do nothing & you risk if you try something new.


It’s what is at stake that drove us to overcome our fears.


We don’t want to risk our kids falling out of love with learning or their school days to be limited by SOL’s & success measured through memorization. We want the bar set incredibly high- Full of responsibility & then full of freedom. Doing education differently in a post-pandemic world is worth it!




If you’re new to the Acton model, welcome! 


Doing education differently in a post-pandemic world | Acton Academy West End


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!!! 

The only problem was….

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!

— The Acton Academy West End Team

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