Ep. 6 | The Story of Our Acton School

With Katelyn and Michael

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I'm Katelyn James Alsop, a photographer, educator and momma who believes any photographer can have a profitable AND purposeful business.


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In 2019, we began pursuing what we desired for our kids education.  As entrepreneurs, we have realized the power of curiosity and the power of being able to pursue our passions. We wanted our children to experience this same kind of freedom every day at school.

Ep. 6 | The Story of the School with Katelyn & Michael

We discovered Acton Academy and this is the story of our journey to the decision that we were going to start our own in Richmond, Virginia! It is a micro school that will start in the fall of 2022. We’re launching this with my sister and brother-in-law, Emy & Joe! Their oldest, Micah, and our oldest, Evy, will start there in kindergarten! Twelve other students will also be a part of the first group of learners.

What sets Acton apart is that it’s a departure from traditional ways of education. It’s similar to the concept of unschooling, and that young people can handle large amounts of freedom when they are able to pursue their passions! There are 300 Actons around the world, and it has been around for over a decade.

A lot of learners have gone on to prestigious colleges, started their own businesses, and as entrepreneurs we love this!

How Did We Decide to Open a School?

When Michael left his 9-5 job as a Youth Pastor, this was not the norm! And we have lived our life that way- doing things differently from the way they have always been done. So why has school stayed the same for decades?

We started looking into this after I read a book called ‘Courage to Grow‘ by Laura Sandefer in 2019. She’s a co-founder of Acton, along with her husband Jeff. We just wanted another option between public school, private school, and homeschooling!

Both Michael and I went to public school and we thrived there! Michael would do enough to get by, but he wasn’t challenged often. And at first, Michael pushed back on looking into the options around us. When I first found the concept of micro-schools, it was so exciting to me and I was all in! But it did take Michael longer to get on board.

I loved being creative, I just wanted to get through the assigned work to be able to work on what I was passionate about! When I think back to high school, I loved the freedom of being creative, and the social part as well. I went to private school for 6 months, and I cried every day. I loved the people at public school!

So Michael’s question was, if public school worked for us, why would we do anything differently? I was all in, but Michael can keep us grounded from taking on too much! He was looking for a sign that this was supposed to be what we should do.

There were so many different scenarios that confirmed this is what we were being called to!

I was driving the long way home and saw a commercial building for sale on the side of Main Street. It was cute & quaint, so I grabbed a flier and took it home to Michael. Our realtor is amazing and got us in the next day!

We were able to visit an Acton Academy in Virginia Beach, which was amazing!! It gave us a whole new mindset of how this could change what school meant for our family. We walked away thinking, ‘we want this for our kids.’ It became less about what we didn’t want and more about what we did want. The 4 of us committed that we were going to pursue this and give it our best effort!

We put in an offer on the property and our offer was accepted over a different higher offer! They loved our vision for the property and wanted us to restore these historic buildings.

So we sent our audition into Acton, we sent the investment, and starting moving forward with all of the intricate parts of creating a school!

In September 2021, we announced that we would be starting an Acton Academy and the response has been overwhelming. School does not have to be one way, and it can be done differently! We will be taking applications starting January 1st and we’re so excited!!!

Common FAQ’s

  • Are we hiring teachers or are there any teachers?
    • Head to our website to watch ‘A Day in the Life’ video to see what it looks like! There are no teachers! And yes that sounds ridiculous. But we look for someone who can coach, or answer questions rather than instruct from the front. We want these young people to work through their problems! They’re learning by doing and with hands on activities.
  • Are you going to be the teachers?
    • The Acton version of this would be, ‘Are you going to be the guides?’ Part of Michael’s resistance on this was I kept telling him that he would be a great guide.. But we are going to hire a guide so they can focus on the learners! Our role will focus on the parents and maintenance of the property.
  • Who is in control of the school? How much freedom is handed to the kids?
    • Almost all of it is handed to the kids! We want kids to feel trusted and rise up to that level of trust.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram and you can also get a downloadable info kit to learn more HERE!

We will continue to tell stories through this journey! Thanks for listening!


Thanks for reading!

— Katelyn

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