Application Step 2


Complete your research by reading the questions and answers below. Then, begin work on your formal entry via the link at the bottom.


how is the acton model different from traditional school, and what is a micro-school?

The Acton Academy model is based on the micro-school concept and is a learner driven community. A micro-school is a modernized version of the one-room school house with mixed-age level groupings, personalized education, a small student population, and lower overhead in operating structure. We want to grow organically and have like-minded families involved with The Forest School. Starting small allows us to get to know each child while building from the ground up.

In addition to the micro-school structure, here are other characteristics that differentiate our model from traditional school:

  1. Student-driven, self-paced learning

  2. Real-world projects and apprenticeships

  3. Student self-governance

  4. Mixed-age classes

  5. Guides rather than teachers

  6. Socratic discussions rather than lectures

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

  8. Mastery learning and student portfolios of achievements rather than grades

  9. No homework

  10. No teaching to the test

what is a "learner-driven community"?


Acton Academy founder Jeff Sandefer often uses the term “learner-driven community,” and we think it captures the two most important aspects of our program. First, we are self-directed, meaning that kids are in charge of their own learning. Second, we are a community of learners in which students are bound together by their pledge to hold themselves and each other to high standards. We believe self-directed learners with strong character will be the leaders of the next generation.

what grades do you offer? 


While we won't have traditional grade levels, we serve children ages 6-18. We are now accepting applications for children who will be 6-17 years old by Fall 2019. We started very small in Fall 2018 with like-minded families to build a strong community and solid foundation. We will be enrolling a maximum of 62 children for Fall 2019.

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

Our Studios—long-term groupings will look something like this:

Ages 6-10 Elementary Studio

The Elementary Studio is where children become fully immersed in the Acton Academy model. They will more fully and independently set out on their Hero's Journey to explore, create, and discover their unique abilities.

Ages 11-13/14 Middle School Studio

Ages 13/14-17 Launchpad (High School Studio)


our language and philosophy

  • Students are Learners or Heroes.

  • We have Guides not Teachers.

  • We have Studios not Classrooms.

  • We have Portfolios and Exhibitions not Grades.

  • We have Contracts not arbitrary Rules.

  • Our learners find their own Apprenticeships.

  • We are Socratic and do not lecture.

  • We build our curriculum around the Hero’s Journey.

Our Philosophy

  • Clear thinking leads to good decisions.

  • Good decisions lead to the right habits.

  • The right habits lead to character.

  • Character becomes destiny.

what do you mean by a 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.

why do you put so much emphasis on character and 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.

how will my child stay on task in a self-directed environment?

  • A child's ability to set and track goals in order to evaluate progress is essential to success in a learner-driven, individualized program. Children need a lot of practice setting specific, measurable goals that are challenging but realistic.

  • In the Elementary and Middle Studios, children set weekly and daily goals, track progress, and establish a rhythm of meeting with peers to hold each other accountable. In addition, they will develop an agreement with the Guides to set boundaries for acceptable behavior and rules for engagement in the classroom.

  • We believe that learning to set goals and challenging yourself are critical skills for the real world.

how much homework will there be?

We believe that children need time to play, relax, and be with family and friends. There will not be any homework assigned. We find that children educated in this way become passionate about learning and have no trouble keeping themselves busy.

how do students compare on standardized tests? 

On average, Acton Academies throughout the country are finding that Acton students are progressing 2-4 grade levels above students their age.

how much screen time will kids have?

Technology is a useful tool and we are excited for our students to learn how to responsibly use computers to access information, communicate effectively, and learn independently. In our Studios, learners will learn about the responsible use of technology, which will be used primarily for research and core skills. In addition to plenty of tech-free, hands-on learning opportunities, children will spend an ample amount of free time outdoors each day.

how do you prepare kids for college or if they decide to transition to a traditional school?

  • Our heroes learn problem-solving, resilience, empathy, listening skills, and personal organization. These skills are transferable to every area of life, including more traditional schooling. Children with experience setting their own learning goals and managing their time will thrive in a college setting.

  • Although we don’t issue grades to students, all core work is tracked, managed, and saved by our Guides. We are able to provide records upon request.

what kind of parent commitment is involved?

One of our main purposes in creating The Forest School is to bring together a community of like-minded families. In addition to parent/Guide conferences, we hope families will engage in our welcome and closing parties, the public exhibitions of our learners, and our regular feedback surveys. To keep track of their child's learning, as a minimum we encourage parents to ask their children about their goal setting at the beginning of the week, and to follow up at the end of the week.

will kids have time for unstructured play outdoors?

Absolutely. Unstructured, outdoor play will be built into the daily schedule as well as opportunities for children to take their work outdoors and take short breaks to mentally reset throughout their school day.

school calendar and hours

  • The Acton model is based on an eleven-month calendar. We believe that children learn best when they have time to rest between educational units (Sessions), and when they experience a shorter summer break that allows them to maintain their subject interest, passion for learning and academic progress from the previous year. The sessions will last around four to seven weeks with a one (or sometimes two) week break in between. We will be closed in the summer for approximately half of June, the full month of July, and the beginning of August.

  • Learners will arrive between 8:00-8:30am, and the school day will begin promptly at 8:30am. Pick up will be between 3:00-3:15pm.

  • If there is significant demand, we will consider offering daily enrichment activities during after school hours which will be open to the surrounding community.

what is the attendance policy?

We value freedom and flexibility. Families will not be penalized for travel or days off to pursue family and personal endeavors. However, if attendance is extremely low, we may need to reevaluate if our program is right for the family and free up the spot for someone on our waiting list.

location of The Forest School

The Forest School is located in Pinewood Forest—1065 Hood Road, Fayetteville, Georgia 30214. As part of our inquiry process, we are exploring multiple long term sites in Pinewood Forest to set the best location. We will announce long term plans as soon as details are finalized.

next steps to apply

To finish your research, please make sure you have thoroughly reviewed our website and especially our blog, which provides weekly updates.

If you want to learn more from a parent's perspective, check out Acton Academy cofounder Laura Sandefer’s blog for Acton Academy parents. 

If you want to explore deeply the principles of The Forest School, please read Unschooling Rules by Clark Aldrich and/or Courage to Grow by Acton Acadmey co-founder, Laura Sandefer, for the story of Acton Academy.

We will add you to our email list and notify you with important updates.

Liking our Facebook page and/or following us on Instagram or Twitter is another way to stay informed.

Formal Application 

If you feel like The Forest School is the right fit for your family, after you have done your research—thoroughly reviewed our website and FAQ, read The Forest School blog, read "Unschooling Rules" or "Courage to Grow," and viewed all recommended articles and videos from our Resources page—then we invite you to complete the online application and submit a short video introducing us to your family: Why do you want to be part of The Forest School? What do you enjoy doing together? Or whatever you would like to share with us so that we can get to know you.