The What

How is Acton Academy Northwest Austin different?

Acton Academy NWA is fundamentally different from traditional schools. No bells ring, and there are no lectures. Students are in control of their own learning.

Key Ways We Are Different:

  • Student-driven, self-paced learning

  • Real-world projects and apprenticeships

  • Multi-age/grade classes

  • Student self-governance

  • Exploration and assessment of skill levels, learning styles, aptitudes, personality traits, and interests

  • Guides rather than teachers

  • Socratic discussions rather than lectures

  • Mastery learning and student portfolios of achievements rather than grades

  • No homework. No teaching to the test​

Is Acton Academy NWA a Montessori School?

We respect and incorporate Maria Montessori’s philosophy for our younger studio but we are not a Montessori school. We have applied the best of Montessori methods: mixed-age classrooms, student-directed meaningful work, large blocks of work time, learning through “discovery,” and freedom of movement in the classroom. We believe it is possible to surpass this method by adding the following components:  project-based learning, the Socratic Method of discussion and the latest in educational game-based software.

Is Acton Academy NWA a religious school?

While we expose learners to the importance of mindfulness, Acton Academy NWA is a non-sectarian learning environment.  We value and respect each person’s beliefs. We explore the importance various religions have played throughout history but we do not promote any one religion.

Does Acton Academy NWA serve special needs learners?

AANWA's flexible approach to learning is a great fit for many kids who need something different than the traditional school environment. Students who have trouble sitting still through a standard school day can sometimes flourish in our classroom, which provides space for breaks, comfortable and flexible seating, and room for individual self-regulation.

However, schools that have adopted this learning model have noticed areas that provide challenges for the special needs student.  Because this educational model is designed with curriculum that relies on independent learning and dynamic group projects along with an environment that can be very stimulating, students that struggle with cooperation, self-regulation, and sensory issues may have special challenges in our classroom. We are simply not equipped to serve children with some learning disabilities in Studio.

Are you accredited?

Yes.  The Texas Education Agency recognizes two private school accreditation organizations - TEPSAC and IALDS.  We are accredited through the IALDS.

What is the vision for the school in the future?

At this time, we are in the process of finalizing our middle school (ages 11-14) and high school (ages 14-18) options, as our older students progress through the program. Our own children are ages eleven and eight, and we are committed to ensuring that they and our community will have access to this type of schooling for their entire educational journey!

What can I do at home to get my child ready for Acton Academy NWA? Do you have a Pre-K option?

Everyone develops at their own pace, so fostering a sense of curiosity and wonder in the world around them, making a habit of working letters and numbers into everyday conversation, and reading with them daily is often all they need...the rest is just, well...time and patience!

Learn more, reach out, or begin your audition today!

The How

When did you launch and where are you located?

Launched in Fall 2020, our Spark (Lower Elementary, ages 5-7) and Discovery (Upper Elementary, ages 7-11) Studios are located in northwest Austin off of Old Spicewood Springs and 360 on 1 acre of wooded property.

We are currently in the process of finalizing our Middle School (ages 11-14) and High School (ages 14-18) options as our learners begin to level up out of our Discovery Studio.  More to come soon!

What grades do you offer? Will the learners be grouped together in grades?

We serve both Lower Elementary (Spark Studio, ages 5-7) and Upper Elementary (Discovery Studio, ages 7-11) learners and will soon have a Middle School and High School offering for our older learners.

​We believe that children learn best when working with children younger and older than themselves rather than split up into groups based solely on age.  In addition to individualized curriculum, all ages of students will work together in groups.​

How long is Acton Academy NWA in session each year?

We operate on an eleven month calendar, but our flexible program allows families to travel together during the year, without sacrificing any learning.

When is your enrollment period? Do you have a waitlist?

Our year-round school schedule enables us to consider applications submitted at any time of the year.  Our "rolling" enrollment process means once accepted, your learner can start at the beginning of any 6-week Session scheduled throughout the year.

Check out our simple, 3-Part Audition process for more on how to apply and/or get on the Waitlist.
How do you measure a learner's progress at Acton Academy NWA?

We measure student progress in several different ways:

  • We set Daily, Weekly, and Session goals between the students and the Guides.

  • We utilize robust real-time data for each of our online learning tools. At any given time both parents and Guides can find out exactly what your child is learning. It easily allows us to track progress, identify areas of struggle and close any learning gaps. Having a small class size, we are able to support each student to make sure that they can close learning gaps and master the skills they need to master.

  • The web-based programs don’t allow the student to move on to the next skill until it has been mastered.

  • We utilize individual portfolios where each student showcases and adds their best work. We can measure their growth in things such as Writer’s Workshops, and Quest projects, etc.

  • Though we never “teach to the test”, standardized tests are given once a year to ensure comprehensive progress.

RESULTS: Though ever learner is different, it is not uncommon for students attending Acton schools to eventually progress 2-3 grade levels above students their age.

With an emphasis on technology in this educational model, how much “screen time” do students have every day?

Discovery (Elementary) Studio:

Technology is a useful tool and we are excited for our students to learn how to use computers to access information, communicate effectively, and learn independently. Our students use their personal Chromebooks during some of their morning Core Skills time and for portions of their afternoon projects, which can typically add up to anywhere from 1.5 - 3 hours per day. A student-created Internet Use Policy ensures technology tools are used appropriately.

That said, you and your Eagle are empowered to plan non-tech alternatives for Core Skills work with the only requirement being that mastery checks are done via the online platform.  Feel free to talk with us about it, if it’s a major concern.

Spark (Pre-K) Studio:

Our Spark studio will be (almost) entirely tech free.  We will be utilizing a Montessori approach along with incorporating the latest play-based, outdoor approaches like Anji Play, Tinkergarten and more!

What is the transition like for learners going from a 21st century format back to a traditional format?

The students and families who have moved from schools with our format back to a traditional one have reported a relatively seamless transition.

Our students learn problem solving skills, respect for their peers, the how & why of rule formulation, perseverance, resilience and empathy. This is in addition to honing their skills of: focusing, listening, personal organization, setting their own goals, and management of their own time — all of which are a recipe for a good transition into any new environment.​

Will Acton Academy NWA help my child get into a post-secondary school?

Our promise at Acton Academy NWA is to have our students well prepared for any selective university or college. Universities are changing so rapidly that it’s difficult to imagine what admission requirements will look like in ten years. Our Acton Eagles leave with a rich portfolio of work. For some elite schools, home school, and alternative school applicants with portfolios have far higher acceptance rates than traditional schools.

​More importantly, with multiple apprenticeships, real-world experience, and excellent interpersonal skills, our Eagles will stand out from the traditional college prep crowd. We are aware of the use of standardized testing (like the SAT) and will ensure our heroes are well prepared for any exam taken.

Our students will be equipped to shine in the real world, whether they choose to go to college full-time, part-time or not at all.

Foundations + Philosophy

Who was Lord Acton?

Lord John Emerich Edward Dahlberg Acton (1834-1902) was a Victorian scholar of Freedom who saw liberty not as a license, but as the freedom to do what was right. He was suspicious of power for the sake of power, which led to his most famous quote: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." At the Acton Academy, we celebrate his defense of economic, political and religious freedom.

What do you mean by “Hero’s Journey”?
We believe that each of us has a special calling in life, and a series of trials and tests that must be faced with integrity and purpose, in order to live a satisfying and fulfilled life. Our mission is to prepare your child for his or her special journey.
Where did the term "Hero's Journey" come from?

These values are rooted in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey, which has inspired the development of Acton’s curriculum. Students not only embark and reflect on their own journey filled with tests, allies, and enemies, but also examine how famous scientists, scholars, and historical figures heeded their own calls to adventure and roadblocks along the way.

Why do we put so much emphasis on character and encourage a Growth Mindset?

When you look at the world as a hero, you welcome challenges, embrace responsibility, and act kindly towards others, all while being grateful for the opportunities that have come your way.

We treat each child who enters our doors as a Hero on a Hero’s Journey. Our goal is to equip and inspire these young heroes with the mindset, skills, and courage to change the world, all the while realizing that perseverance, character and grit are far more important than raw talent.
What is an “Independent Learner”?
Someone who can research questions, follow instructions, solve problems—admit that they don’t know something and figure out a solution when they hit a roadblock without asking an adult for help — participate in discussions, and strive for mastery.
What is “Mastery Learning”?

Mastery Learning is ensuring that a student has a complete understanding of a concept before they move on. An incomplete understanding early on can have devastating results later, especially in math.

Using the latest adaptive learning tools for core skills, our young learners progress at their own pace as they master each concept, moving quickly through topics they grasp easily and spending more time on those they find challenging. Children who comprehend a concept quickly can move on or deepen their understanding by helping those who are struggling. No one is just a learner, everyone is also a mentor, motivating each other to take ownership of their education.

What do you mean by “Running Partner” or “Running Squad”?
How will you ensure that no student slips through the cracks?  What system will you have in place for students to affirm and hold one another accountable? Running Partners are fellow students, assigned or chosen, who meet together regularly to set goals and hold each other accountable for meeting those goals. Running Partners encourage and inspire each other by asking good questions, listening and providing affirmation.
What do you mean by “every child can change the world”?

We believe each of our students will find a passion — something they love and have a gift to do. They will use this gift to serve others and fulfill a need they are passionate about in the world.

This may be by becoming a father or mother who leads a family on a Hero’s Journey;it may be by becoming a coach who sees the light in a child’s eyes and guides him/her to pursue a dream; it may be by becoming a shoe-shiner who tells stories and makes people’s day just by doing his/her job with love and vigor; it may be by becoming an artist or writer who brings beauty to people’s lives; or it may be becoming an entrepreneur or business leader guided by compassion and integrity.

Why do you focus on teaching the “American Experiment”?
We believe in liberty and justice and the ideals of the American revolution as the cornerstones of civilization. In addition to experiential learning, we will study the American documents and the true meaning behind them, as we examine other cultures and forms of government.

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