our big idea

What if schools could be communities of vibrant intellectualism? What if they could take seriously our knowledge of what humans really are, and our best understandings of what skills and dispositions the world will need in the future?

What if a new kind of school could unveil the fascination of the world to students, help them grow expertise, and construct purposeful lives?

We're a group of educators working to forge this new vision of education. We're making schools that cultivate Renaissance people: men and women who find the world interestingdevelop mastery in diverse fields, and build lives of meaning

We're proud to report that our first affiliated school, the Island Academy of Hilton Head, has just launched, off the coast of South Carolina!

Whilst we're working with Island Academy, we're also planning to launch our second school — tentatively titled Da Vinci — in the Seattle area in Fall 2017. It will start with grades K–2, and gradually grow to K–12.

A little about our approach

Our vision is centered on the values of love, mastery, and meaning. You may be interested in watching a quick YouTube video we've made to explain what, precisely, we mean by these — and how they can form the foundation of a new vision of education.

If it's our specific curriculum you're interested in, you'll want to take a look at the following pages. A word of warning: our curriculum strikes some as weird! This is probably a good sign.

Arts

Our arts curriculum attempts to immerse students in wonderful works of artistic genius — and from there helps guide students to create such works themselves. You may be interested in our approach to how we plan to engage kids in paintings and sculpturefilmdancemusic. You also may be interested to hear how we'll help them master drawingmusic, and film themselves.

Reading

Our reading curriculum is at the center of our school — if we don't help students fall in love with reading, we'll have failed in everything! You may be interested in our post about how to begin to help students love to read. More posts on this are on the way.

Science

We idolize the Romantic Movement's moment in science — the mid-1800s, when "natural philosophers" (the term "scientists" came later) saw their study as an adventure for all people, filled with excitement and beauty. As such, we don't have much of a pre-planned science curriculum, but work hard to help kids get deep into the science all around them. See our practices of cooking lunchdissecting toasters (and other man-made objects), observing animals,

Math

We believe that math should be made much easier than it is — and also much harder! We use JUMP, a guided math curricula that helps all students gain a profound understanding of K-12 math. We also use a tool that Brandon invented — Deep Practice Books — to guide students into wrestling with math puzzles far beyond their current level of expertise.

Related, we also engage kids in coding!

Social studies

The world is made up of stories. Traditional schooling de-emphasizes this, and presents social studies as a mess of terms and facts to be learned.

Big ideas definitely have their place, but the core of history is stories. We're devising "Big Spiral History" — which began as Brandon's master's project — as a K-12 curriculum that engages the whole of the universe's history, starting with stories — first told by teachers, and then retold by students.

We also think it's helpful for kids to expand their view of the world by meeting people in their neighborhood and regularly drawing maps.

Writing

All students can become wonderful writers. We're working on shaping our writing curriculum right now (feel free to poke us to prod us along in posting about it!), but one of the underpinnings of helping kids become good writers is to give them regular experience in being good speakers.

Thinking

Philosophy for Children informs the way we approach everything — and we're making question-posing and answer-hunting part of the daily curriculum.

Thinking is helped along by deep, interconnected knowledge: something that modern schools don't much help to grow. Like a growing number of schools, we'll be using Learning in Depth.

Knowledge is grounded in feeling — which is why we'll use Leitner boxes to allow kids to treasure the greatest things they've learned.

Physical education

Brains are parts of bodies; we think better when our bodies have been moving. Thus, we get kids to movea lot!

The opposite is also useful: we often think better when we can slow ourselves down. Thus, we train kids in meditation, and set policies that help them get a sensible amount of sleep.

Autonomy / community

We're not ants — humans need independence (and more than most schools provide) to flourish. Yet students also need group community, and adult guidance.

To encourage autonomy, we use a Montessori-inspired practice of independent work time. We also help kids take on independent (anchor) projects, and Learning in Depth projects.

Physical design

Churchill once quipped, "We shape our buildings; thereafter our buildings shape us." How classrooms are designed matters much — they can help us feel, and even help us be more creative. Our classrooms are covered in useful knowledge, including our walls of talking dead people.

Grades

Letter grades (as they're traditionally used) don't work so well. Here are some of our thoughts on how to make a better feedback system for rich learning.

Foreign language

Nature has equipped us with a few ways to learn foreign languages, but schools don't use them. Here are our plans on how to help all students learn languages.

And a few other things.

We're lovers of Imaginative Education — the educational approach devised by Kieran Egan (and the good folks at IERG). IE holds that humans are built to learn those things that they find interesting — and that virtually everything in the world is interesting! The secret is breaking through the outer layer of boredom. Human cultures, over the millennia, have devised practices for doing just that — schools can use those practices. Brandon is preparing to explain this in a TEDx talk — for an in-depth version of IE (and how IE can be understood as brain science, or as an application of human nature), take a look at this four-part YouTube video.

We think that the burgeoning academic study of human nature has much to offer a new vision of education. We can move beyond the well-worn Traditionalist/Progressivist wars by understanding that learning can be both natural and unnatural, in complex ways.

Ultimate goals

Look: we're crazy dreamers. We're ultimately in this to help mend the world. If you come away from this blog with the idea that we're making schools for the sake of making schools, well, the blog has failed!

If you're interested in learning more about our new kind of school, please don't hesitate to write us! Shoot me (Brandon, the main writer of this blog) an e-mail at brandon.hendrickson@gmail.com.