Traditional schools weren’t providing what our children needed for today’s world, so we started one that did.
Our Personal Story of Why We Decided to Start an Alternative School
In 2018, with Lisa’s eldest son entering Grade 2 at their local public school, she and her husband, Paul, were at the end of their rope. Since the end of Senior Kindergarten, they’d been repeatedly told that their son was falling behind, and that they needed to work harder at home.
The reality was, they couldn’t work themselves or their son any harder. They engaged in tearful homework battles night after night that left the whole family exhausted.
Lisa, a self-proclaimed learning junky, did not understand why her boys, especially the youngest in Senior Kindergarten at the time, seemed to hate school. It broke her heart, and this heart-break kicked off an epic journey to learn about learning itself and find solutions to these problems.
There’s a world of difference between insisting on someone’s doing something and establishing an atmosphere in which that person can grow into wanting to do it.
Lisa and Paul both worked as senior executives and business leaders with many years of managing successful teams under their belts. Lisa, in particular, had studied the art and science of leadership, learning and development, and high-performance coaching. She knew without a shadow of a doubt that people performed at their best when they were appreciated, supported, and encouraged to grow their own unique strengths and passions. It made for happier people, more effective teams, and powerful results.
Interestingly Lisa observed that although high-performing businesses recognized this truth, the school system did not. She noted that the school system, whose original purpose was to train factory workers in the industrial revolution, forced students to learn all the same things, and all in the same way. In many cases they were fighting the natural instincts of kids, making them sit still, memorize information that didn’t seem relevant to the children, and judging them based on superficial criteria.
No wonder kids hated going to school! Of course they couldn’t wait for summer vacation, and yearned for the days when they’d be adults and could be free from school forever.
Schools were not inspiring!
A Calling to Do Something About It…
Lisa began to recognize that her son had set her on a path that she couldn’t turn away from. This was something that needed a solution and she began talking to anyone and everyone who’d listen to these insights. She felt a calling to do something about it.
And then, during one of these conversations, a friend mentioned that what Lisa yearned for sounded a lot like a school they’d visited in Ottawa, Ontario – Revel Academy. Revel was a part of the Acton Academy network of schools.
Acton started in Austin, Texas in 2012 to address these very same concerns.
Lisa and her family devoured the book written by founder Laura Sandefer that told the origin story of Acton Academy: Courage to Grow: How Acton Academy Turns Learning Upside Down. Reading this book, a lightbulb turned on, illuminating the path that Lisa and her family had been looking for.
The founders of the original Austin campus had thrown out the old model of education and begun again, with a blank slate, to create the most innovative, engaging, 21st century focused school they could imagine. They talked to education innovators and researchers and began filling in that blank slate with ideas.
All the ideas centred around the core beliefs that:
every child is a genius,
children are much more capable than they’re given credit for, and
every child, if empowered to do so, can find a calling that will change the world.
The only problem for Lisa’s family was that there were only two of these schools in Ontario: one was in Ottawa, and one was in London. Both of them were too far for a daily commute!
In Lisa’s mind this school was needed, and that left only one option on the table. Not just for her family, but for many more families in Canada that were seeking a more inspiring, modern solution to their family’s education.
It was time to take a big leap and open a school themselves. With that leap forward, the planning for IGNITE: An Acton Academy based in the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge area, began.
In the meantime, while a foundation was being set for the KWC location, Lisa and Paul enrolled their two boys at the Infinity School, an Acton Academy in London, Ontario. Yes, the drive is an hour each way – but for one year it’d be worth the investment. They were surprised to learn that, out of all the Infinity parents, theirs was not the longest commute!
The lead up to September 2022, when IGNITE will open its doors and welcome in its first learners, is an exciting adventure. But we know that it’s just the beginning of so many adventures that will be newly born on that day.
We can’t wait to see what adventures our learners will embark upon, where their hero’s journey will take them, and the ripples that’ll no doubt make a great impact on our world as a result.