OUR SCHOOL FAQ.
This FAQ page is specific to the logistics, administration, and policies at Acton Academy Waterloo, as well as including answers to some general questions you may have. Please see our APPROACH FAQ page for all questions and answers related to our approach to learning.
+ When will Acton Academy Waterloo open?
We are thrilled to be opening our doors in September 2021!
We are currently accepting waitlist submissions from potential founding families that trust in our approach and want to be the pioneers of our innovative alternative schooling model in Waterloo Region. We only have 12 spaces available in our Montessori Studio and 16 spaces in our Elementary Studio. We encourage parents who are interested in Acton Academy Waterloo to add their name to our waitlist as soon as possible to have the best chance of securing one of our limited spaces once we start accepting applications!
We are accepting applications for our two founding Guide positions as we begin to plan for our first year of operation.
+ Where is Acton Academy Waterloo located?
We are currently searching within Waterloo Region for the perfect bright and clean space to rent for our founding year. We will likely choose a church, community centre, commercially zoned house, or other building that will be our home for 1-3 years - until we have grown large enough to move into a permanent location.
Our goal is to find a space that:
- Is conveniently located near a highway
- Is close to a large playground, within walking distance of a library, and is near a skating rink or other sports facilities
- Has a fenced in outdoor space
- Provides us with access to a large indoor space (gym) to ensure physical movement even on rainy or extremely hot/cold days
- Offers access to a full kitchen for cooking adventures
- Allows us to keep all doors locked throughout the day (accessed with a buzzer) and lets us set up security cameras to ensure the safety of all children and staff
- Is bright, clean, welcoming, and safe
Our studios will be professionally designed and decorated to offer the most inviting, inspiring, and comfortable spaces for our Eagles to enjoy and for learning to flourish. Spaces will be tastefully appointed with modern furniture and flexible seating options with inspiring quotes lining our hallways and chalkboard walls to encourage brain-storming and free thought.
The way out studios look and feel is very important to us and we are confident you will be impressed with how they turn out!
+ What ages does Acton Academy Waterloo serve?
Our Montessori Studio generally serves children between the ages of 4-7 and our Elementary Studio generally serves children between the ages of 8-11. As each individual child learns and works at their own pace, some may move up to the next studio before they reach the general age bracket provided above, and some may move up a bit slower. Learners earn badges after reaching a certain level of skill and when a certain set of badges have been earned by the child, they are ready to move ahead.
We have plans to grow organically, opening a Middle School Studio and Launchpad Studio (high school) in the near future.
+ What is the student to teacher ratio at Acton Academy Waterloo?
Currently, our learner to guide ratios are as follows, however, these ratios are likely to change as our school and campus grows.
Montessori Studio - 12 Eagles to one guide
Elementary Studio - 16 Eagles to one guide
+ How much is tuition at Acton Academy Waterloo?
Tuition fees fund the latest in technology, skilled guides, exceptional hands on materials, and a beautiful facility. We have made a conscious decision to charge only as much as we require to successfully operate the school and will be applying for charitable non-profit status as soon as we are eligible to.
The Standard Annual Tuition Fee is $11,995. Early bird and sibling discounts will be available.
As a thank you to our founding families (those who register for September 2020) for trusting us and being the first to join our tribe of heroes, we are offering a $2000 (per child) discount on their first year enrolled.
You can find out more about tuition at Acton Academy Waterloo here.
+ How long is Acton Academy Waterloo in session each year?
Acton Academy Waterloo operate on an eleven month calendar, not on the traditional ten month calendar followed by the public school system. The Summer Learning Loss is a very well researched issue and studies continue to show that when children take very long breaks off learning in the summer, many of them lose a portion of what they learned during the "school year". In order to combat this issue, our school takes only 5 weeks off in the summer (and we provide Eagles and their parents ideas on how to keep the learning going during these 5 weeks!). During the warmer months that school is in session, we spend a lot more time outdoors (some days we spend the whole day outside!) and ensure quests are planned accordingly, so Eagles can get the most out of the beautiful summer weather.
Throughout the year, Eagles have one week off school after every 5-6 week work cycle, in order to provide them with well-deserved rest periods before the next quest-based project is introduced. Our alternative calendar also allows families to travel together during "off-peak" times, without sacrificing any learning!
*Camps are available (at an additional fee) during school breaks for families that do not have childcare options available to them.
+ What time does school start and end each day?
We start our daily programming at 8:30am but Eagles can arrive any time as of 8:00am. Dismissal is at 3:30pm. We do have plans to make an after school program available, but do not yet have details about the hours or fees.
+ Does Acton Academy Waterloo cater to a specific type of student (ex. gifted, behind, average)?
Because learning at Acton Academy Waterloo is individualized, self-paced, self-selected, and self-directed, we are able to serve children at all levels of academic skill! Children that need more time on specific subjects are free to spend as much time as they need to master it, and children who breeze through a subject are free to advance as quickly as they are able to. When it comes to project work, Eagles collaborate and pull on each other’s greatest strengths so Eagles of all ages and academic levels are able to work together - just like in the real world.
We love that our approach can be a good fit for any child, but we have found that the Acton Academy model tends to attract parents of children who:
- are considered "gifted" and thus they are bored in a traditional classroom and are being held back by the system
- are falling behind in the traditional classroom and need the time and flexibility to focus on certain core skills they struggle with
- Are doing fine in the traditional classroom (or would likely do fine), but the parents want "something different" for their child
- Are being bullied or are struggling to “fit in” with the kids at their school
- Have been homeschooled or unschooled, whose parents can no longer be at home with them
- Graduated from a Casa program at a Montessori school that does not offer an elementary program for them to move up to
- Are independent, curious, and work best when they are given choice, provided with freedom of movement, and given plenty of opportunity for hands on learning
+ Does Acton Academy Waterloo serve special needs children?
Unfortunately, we are not trained to serve children with serious learning disabilities but have been able to serve young heroes with minor setbacks if they receive special training from outside our program. We also believe that many minor learning disabilities are commonly misdiagnosed and can be remedied by giving children more freedom to choose, opportunities to engage in projects and hands on learning, and by allowing their voices to be heard.
+ Does Acton Academy Waterloo serve children with behavioural challenges?
Unfortunately, we are not trained to serve children with serious behavioural challenges. Children with behavioural challenges often require support from specially trained individuals like social workers, child and youth workers, and specifically trained teacher's assistants.
It's very important to us that our studios are considered safe spaces where all our Eagles can feel comfortable and can focus on learning. For this reason, we have a strict policy on unacceptable behaviour in our studios. Eagles that demonstrate disruptive or disrespectful behaviour are provided with warnings and problem solving sessions to help improve behaviour, however, if the said behaviour persists, parents will be brought in to discuss whether Acton Academy is a good fit for the child. Parents will be informed about our strike system and how it works once they come onboard.
+ What is the transition like for a child going from an Acton Academy to the traditional school system?
Acton Eagles and their families within our affiliate network who have moved from an Acton Academy to a traditional style school have reported a relatively seamless transition.
Acton Eagles learn problem solving skills, respect for their peers, the how & why of rule formulation, perseverance, resilience, and empathy. They learn to focus, listen, be organized, work hard, set their own goals, and manage of their own time. All of these skills allow them to be highly adaptable and flexible to any environment they may transition to. In saying this, Eagles are use to having a lot of freedom in terms of their education at Acton Academy and it would take some time for them to settle into to the more structured setting.
+ What is the transition like for a child going from the traditional school system to an Acton Academy?
With support from their parents and Acton Academy guides, most children at the Montessori and Elementary level are able to quickly adapt to the Montessori or Acton model after transitioning from a traditional school environment. Joining Acton Academy Waterloo would be a brand new and exciting change for any child and it would take some time for them to get use to the idea of being in charge of their own learning. We provide resources to new parents to help them learn what to expect and what they can do to make the transition as smooth as possible for their child.
It becomes much more difficult to transition as a child at the middle and high school level, and for this reason we will require auditions for children looking to join our Middle School Studio or Launchpad, once they open.
+ Does Acton Academy Waterloo prepare children for a post-secondary education?
Our promise at Acton Academy Waterloo is to have our Eagles well prepared for any university or college they may choose to apply to. Metrics derived from software programs combined with badges and portfolio work can be condensed into transcripts for our Eagles. Today, the majority of post-secondary institutions accept applicants that do not have a traditional high school diploma and this list is sure to grow over the coming years. With advanced academics, multiple apprenticeships, real-world experience, and excellent interpersonal skills, our Eagles will stand out from the crowd.
We are aware of the use of standardized testing for entry into some post-secondary schools and will ensure our Eagles are well prepared for any exam they may wish to take.
We are pleased to see an increased acceptance of portfolios in college admissions as many schools are recognizing the failure of the GPA system to accurately depict student ability. For many elite universities like Harvard and Stanford, homeschooled and alternatively schooled applicants with portfolios (similar to those of graduating Eagles) have far higher acceptance rates than students from traditional schools. We believe that all universities and colleges will be moving in this direction within the next number of years, giving our Eagles even higher chances of getting into the school of their choice.
Most importantly, graduating Eagles will be equipped to shine in the real world, whether they choose to move on to post-secondary studies or decide to pursue their dreams of becoming entrepreneurs.
+ What makes a child or parent a "good fit" for Acton Academy Waterloo?
We believe almost any child can succeed within the Acton model, but Eagles and both parents must be fully committed to a Hero’s Journey and must have the courage and conviction to set and hold high standards.
In order to ensure a positive experience for themselves and their child, parents considering an Acton Academy education for their child must be fully on board with our unique approach to learning. Specifically, parents must:
- Be comfortable with the idea that their child won't be given grades, tests, or homework
- Trust in the Acton Academy or Montessori approach to learning
- Believe that their child is capable and able to learn without being "taught"
- Accept the struggles, failures, and lessons needed to prepare their child for a fulfilling life in the real world
- Be willing to hold the line when their child refuses to work or acts disrespectfully at school
With support from their parents and Acton Academy guides, most children are able to quickly adapt to the Acton or Montessori model after transitioning from a traditional school environment. Children that are curious, independent, and require minimal structure/direction tend to have the most seamless transitions.
+ What kind of parent commitment is required?
One of our main purposes in opening Acton Academy Waterloo is to bring together a community of like-minded families who are passionate about the Acton method of education. In addition to Acton initiated parent meetings (three times per year), conferences, and family events, we hope that parents will engage in community activities such as meet-ups outside of school, book discussions, and other social and educational opportunities to gather as a community.
Parents are required to sign our Parent Contract upon enrolling and honouring the contract will be considered each year when it is time to send out invitations to re-enrol.
We encourage our Elementary Studio parents to be involved in their child's education and to regularly check-in to the online tracking software to see how their child is doing and what they are learning. Parents have many tools available to them and documentation of the weekly assessment of goal achievement is available for Eagles to share with their parents at any time. We also recommend parents become familiar with their child's online learning sites by asking their child to teach them how to log in and to give them a tour! At a minimum, we encourage parents to ask their child about their goal setting at the beginning of the week and follow up at the end of the week.
We trust parents to take the initiative to understand and support their child's weekly goals and badge plans. This is an important part of an Acton parent's journey and takes an intentional effort. Most importantly, we encourage parents to communicate with their child about school, ask them how they are feeling about it, and celebrate their effort (not accomplishments).
The Acton Academy parenting blog is full of helpful information about what it's like being an Acton parent. If you are considering enrolling your child in to Acton Academy Waterloo, we encourage you to spend some time reading through it!
This article from the Infinity School (an Acton Academy) in London, Ontario, may also be helpful in understanding what it's like to parent an Acton Eagle.
+ Does Acton Academy Waterloo encourage feedback from parents and Eagles?
Deep at the core of Acton Academy is our commitment to serving customers and receiving transparent feedback. Because of this, we ask families to participate in a bi-weekly Customer Satisfaction Survey. The results are shared and discussed with the community and suggested improvements to our program are made whenever possible.
+ How does Acton Academy Waterloo ensure an emotionally safe environment for the children?
The Acton Academy model is designed to create an emotionally safe and respectful environment that allows Eagles to 'explode into learning'. We are deeply committed to ensuring that all our Eagles feel valued, safe, respected, and comfortable while at school.
We adhere to the definition of bullying identified by the Government of Canada as "wilful, repeated aggressive behaviour with negative intent used by a child to maintain power over another child." The result is "a victimized child caught in an abusive relationship." Naturally, we expect there will be conflict between Eagles and we believe that learning and practicing conflict resolution skills is an important part of a child's education. Bullying however, as per the definition above, will not be tolerated.
The following is a list of practices and processes we implement to help us create an emotionally safe and respectful space.
- At the beginning of every year, Eagles go through an extensive process where they create their own contract and covenants to each other - a list of "rules" they choose to abide by in order to protect their learning environment. They include actions such as kindness, perseverance, responsibility, curiosity, and how they will care for one another. They vote on it and sign it ceremoniously together. Because they have written it themselves, Acton Eagles bravely defend their promises and hold each other accountable. This means if one Eagle is acting in ways that are not in line with the Studio contract, other Eagles will stand up and take action to bring peace back into the studio.
- The first quest each year is called "Building the Tribe". During this community quest, Eagles focus not only on what makes a community successful as a whole, but also what their individual role is within the group. They learn what it means to be a responsible citizen online, in groups of people, and alone. In pairs, small groups, and in large groups, Eagles challenge themselves, they discover their learning style and how to work with people who have different learning styles, they explore their love languages and different ways of thinking. Many team building exercises take place and, as mentioned above, the studio contract and covenants are discussed and decided on. This process creates a bond between Eagles and helps them discover the beauty in each other, increasing their respect for one another and reducing the likelihood of issues, such as bullying, arising. When Eagles realize they have like minded people and a supportive community around them, there to help them find their calling, there is a release of the anxiety and stress of trying to survive alone. Trust issues fade, Eagles stop worrying about being taken advantage of, and they feel safe and in control of their environment.
- Every morning at Acton Academy Waterloo starts with a "Morning Refresh" where Eagles spend around 20 minutes doing a physical activity such as running or yoga, releasing any pent-up energy they may have, reducing stress, and producing those wonderful chemicals called endorphins that have been known to create a positive and energizing outlook on life. Following the physical activity, we spend some time focusing on mindfulness. The positive effects of mindfulness on the mood and behaviour of children are vast and well documented. We believe that a combination of exercise and mindfulness first thing in the morning, helps create a more peaceful and respectful environment in the studio throughout the day.
- Eagles hold weekly town hall meetings where they discuss problems occurring in the studio and utilize a problem-solving approach to finding solutions. Any Eagle experiencing difficulties in the Studio is encouraged to bring up their concerns at the town hall meeting.
- At Acton Academy Waterloo, we put a great deal of emphasis on character building ("Learning to be"), including learning about personality traits and "soft skills" such as kindness, empathy, collaboration, and inclusiveness. Throughout the year, Eagles learn about what each personality trait or "soft skill" means, how it impacts the individual and those around them, and how to embody them in their every day lives. We look at historic and current heroes and whether they carry these traits, Eagles journal about them, and socratic discussions allow Eagles to think deeply about them. These exercises help build these traits within each Eagle by bringing attention to them and by emphasizing their importance.
- We believe our Eagles need two critical qualities to soar: warm-heartedness and tough-mindedness. These are the traits of heroes, not victims, and must be demonstrate by our Eagles in real life to earn the required Character Badges. Peer-to-peer feedback on their heart and mind is shared during our 360 Feedback exercises. Eagles are provided with constructive feedback that helps them continuously build these qualities. Warm-heartedness includes the ability to build strong relationships with others, compassion, respect for others, generosity, and willingness to helps others.
- It is very important to us that our studios are considered safe spaces where all our Eagles can feel comfortable and can focus on learning. For this reason, we have a strict policy on unacceptable behaviour in our studios. Eagles that demonstrate disruptive or disrespectful behaviour are provided with warnings and problem solving sessions to help improve behaviour, however, if the said behaviour persists, parents will be brought in to discuss whether Acton Academy is a good fit for the child. Parents will be informed about our strike system and how it works once they come onboard.
+ How does Acton Academy Waterloo ensure a physically safe environment for the children?
In terms of physical safety, Acton Academy Waterloo has a number of mechanisms in place.
- Doors into the building will be locked at all times and unlocked by one of our staff upon request by buzzer or with an access card only staff will have access to
- Staff will all complete vulnerable sector police screenings and will only be hired if they have a clear record
- A NEST camera security system will be operating 24/7 within both studios
+ Does Acton Academy Waterloo provide catered lunch?
We do not offer catered lunch at this time. Eagles are asked to bring healthy snacks and a healthy lunch for themselves every day. Catered lunch is an option for the future, depending on parent preferences and would require additional fees.
+ Does Acton Academy Waterloo provide transportation options?
We expect that Eagles will be coming to Acton Academy Waterloo from all across Waterloo Region as well as from Guelph and would be open to discussing transportation options with interested families. We encourage car pooling and, by request, will connect parents that live close to one another so they may discuss possible car pooling arrangements.
+ Does Acton Academy Waterloo provide before-school and after-school care?
Our doors open at 8am, so "before school" care from 8:00-8:30am is included in the tuition fee. Unfortunately, we do not offer additional morning care prior to 8:00 am. After school care options will be available at an additional fee. The fee and structure of after school care will be determined prior to the school opening in September 2020.
+ Do children at Acton Academy wear school uniforms?
We believe that clothing can be a form of self-expression and personal identity for many children and we want them to have the freedom to choose what they wear to school, so our Eagles are not required to wear school mandated uniforms.
In addition, school uniforms can often be uncomfortable. As we have flexible seating in our studios and Eagles can choose how and where they do their work, they would benefit from wearing clothes that allow them to move and sit comfortably in various positions. We also have a 30 minute morning refresh every morning which includes physical activity and Eagles would generally be expected to wear whatever they wore to school that day - another reason for them to wear clothes they can comfortably move in.
+ Is Acton Academy Waterloo an accredited and registered school?
Yes. Acton Academy is accredited through the International Association of Learner-Driven Schools and is a member of both the Alliance for Self-Directed Education and the Alternative Education Resource Association. We are in the process of being registered as a private school with the Ontario Board of Education.
+ Is Acton Academy Waterloo a religious school?
While we expose children to the importance of mindful spirituality, we do not promote any one religion. We value and respect each individual’s beliefs.
+ Is Acton Academy Waterloo a private school?
Yes, Acton Academy Waterloo is a private school. We do not receive any government funding nor are we subject to mandated standardized testing or curricula.
+ Is Acton Academy Waterloo a for-profit or a non-profit school?
We are currently working towards becoming a charitable non-profit organization. It is a lengthy and detailed process than can take more than a year to complete.
+ Is Acton Academy Waterloo a franchise?
We are not a franchise or chain. Acton Academy Waterloo is an independent school, part of an affiliate network that finds its inspiration and receives mentorship from the founding Acton Academy in Austin, Texas. Our network of affiliates are passionate about revolutionizing education, pursuing best practices, and have agreed to protect a learner-driven environment. Each affiliate follows their own methods in keeping with these commitments and vary based on the leadership at each school and community they serve.
+ How many more Acton Academy's are there?
There are over 100 Acton Academy's around the globe (with 50 more scheduled to open in the next 18 months), including two in Ontario that are already successfully in operation - Infinity School in London and Revel Academy in Ottawa. One is also set to open in Mississauga in September 2019.
+ What is the vision for Acton Academy Waterloo in the future?
Our vision is to slowly grow Acton Academy Waterloo over the next 5-10 years into a fully established micro-school serving approximately 100 children between the ages of 4-17. We plan to find a permanent campus in the near future within Waterloo Region where we can create an inspiring space for our Eagles to soar. We will continue to improve our program, working closely with the children and families we serve and are confident we will become one of the most sought after private schools in the region. Our goal is to support as many children as possible to find thier calling and help them grow into adults that will, one day, change the world.