How does a Hero use their voice? Session 2: Week 4

Our overarching question of the year is “How does a hero use their voice?” In the spirit of entrepreneurship, the focus question for this session is “Does risk change how I use my voice?”

Though we haven’t talked about it explicitly, the Heroes have been answering this question all session. They explore this question every day in every area (even baseball!) but especially in this Build a Business Quest where cooperation and collaboration are trademarks. 

Team Snap Crackle Popado making tough business decisions

Every afternoon post-Quest, we talk about went well and what could be improved. Here are some reflections heard in Quest Debrief this week:

“I think we did great today.”

“There was some confusion but we figured it out.”

“I think we could have gotten more work done if we weren’t arguing.” Followed up with group discussion and then a suggestion from a Fellow Traveler, “Maybe you could make a list of what is and is not distracting?”

“We got to Challenge 2!”

Team Remercy selling in the First Hot Chocolate Stand-off

The spoken word can be so powerful as we discussed in Thursday’s launch. I asked a Hero to act out scenarios with me and in each scenario, the Heroes evaluated if I was following the contract. Did I treat the other person how they wanted to be treated? Were the words spoken with kindness? Among many things, the Heroes brought up tone and using “please”. Even if a Fellow Traveler isn’t treating you the way that you want to be treated, you can give feedback while still treating them kindly.

Lunchtime giggles

Town Hall Meeting is an important part of our week: it gives the Heroes to speak up and solve challenges they see in the studio. This week, a Hero brought up participation in PE. There was a group discussion and then the Hero led a vote. The problem was solved and the community moved on.

Our Community is flexible

Whether Heroes are vocal in Town Hall Meeting or quietly set the example during Core Skills, every Hero has the power to assert that their needs are important and valued in this community. That is a special thing. Though it seems scary to give children the freedom to support one another and hold each other accountable, as always, I’m reassured by the Heroes.

This Hero explains it best, “Tell our parents, don’t worry! I’m happy here. I’m learning.”

Onward to more adventure and learning!

Real-World Learning: Session 2 Week 3

We started with a bang this week with our Tuesday Field Trip.

Heroes on the move!

Maria started our day by sharing her hero’s journey. She is a start-up entrepreneur and founder of Nook. Her story of success and learning from failure resonated with our Heroes. They asked her big questions like, “What was your greatest challenge? What about your greatest success?” and specific details, “How do you advertise?” and “Would you rather cater to new customers or your existing customers?”

Hero Talk: a story of a Hero’s Journey

Then the Heroes had the opportunity to ask questions about their own start-up. Each company picked 2 types of hot chocolate and 1 topping to test. Does a customer like plain or peppermint hot chocolate? Are they willing to pay more for the peppermint? If so, how much? The results helped them make tough business decisions.

Surveying potential customers with courage and friendliness
Taste-testing: Heroes ran into obstacles and used perseverance

The next stop on our tour was lunch. It is always inspiring to eat and play tag beneath the Washington Memorial. Especially with such nice weather!

Sandwiches + Friends + Tree = Picture-perfect Lunch

Post-lunch, the Heroes explored exhibits in the National Museum of American History. Their goal was to discover the best exhibit and provide supporting evidence. In reality, everyone always takes away something different from a trip to a museum: learning the specifics of a pacemaker, finding compromises within a group, or maybe even playing an old-fashioned PacMan game.

At The Village School, we strive for real experiences. Chances to sell product to customers or build a museum exhibit. Collaborate with a team and find compromises. The authenticity in each experience means that there is a real opportunity for success, and failure.

We don’t want the Heroes to fail. It is hard to step back and let the natural consequences play out. But often, early and cheap failures lead to a deeper, richer success. And that is the most important goal: nurturing resilient, gritty Heroes who will change the world.

Joy: Session 2 Week 2

It has been a busy week in Elementary Studio! With two birthday celebrations and Halloween of course, the mood in the studio was celebratory. Here is the week in review:


In Civilization, we transitioned from the fall of Rome to the rise of the Byzantine Empire. Along the journey, the Heroes have stepped into the shoes of great leaders and made tough decisions about governance.

Creativity abounds during Passion Project

The Heroes drafted their first memoirs in Writer’s Workshop this week. The prompt “A time that I was Stuck at Home on a Rainy Day” inspired scenes of trash cans rolling down the street and a spooky time when the power went out. Their second prompt was “An Unusual Food” and Heroes wrote about everything from sickening seafood to odd combinations like apples and ketchup.

Supporting Fellow Travelers during Squad Meetings

In Quest, companies spent the week developing their brand through the Image Challenge. They examined popular brands and explored their effective marketing strategies. Then they created their own neat logos and crisp slogans. Each completed challenge brings them closer to launching their own business. During our field trip next week, the teams will do market research: surveying potential customers about product refinement and pricing.

A little teamwork on the swings

An important event that took place this week was Leadership Elections. The Leadership Council includes Studio Maintenance Champions for each studio and a Town Hall Meeting Leader. 

The voting process is more complicated than just submitting a vote. First, the group determined the responsibilities of each job as well as the most important character trait. Next the Heroes took turns trying out the roles. When it finally came time to vote, they cast their votes based on how often each leader fulfilled the responsibilities of the job and how strongly they exemplified the most important character trait. We applaud the courage of all the Heroes who chose to run and congratulate our Leadership Council for Session 2!

We hope that you had a lot to celebrate too!

Welcome to Session 2!

Session 2: Week 1

Imagine it is the year 2200. A new Century has begun! It is very different in the future. People transport instantly to any location. They live in floating house pods above the Earth. No one uses money any more: it’s all attached to your virtual account on the internet. And children don’t even go to school! Any knowledge that they need is instantly downloaded into their minds. 

But some curious humans still want to know about the past. They venture down to Earth and explore the ruins. They crawl over abandoned buildings covered in plants. One curious human still uses an old-fashioned metal detector and scans the ground for bits of metal. One day, the metal detector goes crazy. The human starts to dig and unearths a huge metal box. Inscribed on the top is The Village School 2019-2020. 

Filled with curiosity, the human pries open the box and pulls out artifact after artifact. Things that no longer exist! Things that are still used in 2200! But most importantly, the box tells the story of a unique microschool in Annandale, Virginia.

This session, the Heroes will create a Time Capsule for The Village School. Before they bury their Time Capsule, they will display all the objects in a museum exhibit for Exhibition. (Because aren’t museums really time capsules on a grand scale?)

The Time Capsule will include 3 important parts of The Village School story: the past, the present, and hopes for the future.

The Heroes will tell stories about their past in Writer’s Workshop. They will write memoirs that answer questions like how did you come here? Who are you as a person? Each Hero will write 4 concise stories, focusing on the writing skill of idea development.

Heroes will need to go through each step in the Writing Process to earn a Badge

The Heroes will also explore the ancient past. Twice a week in Civilization, we will read The Story of the World and have a Socratic Discussion. The Heroes can choose to earn a Civilization Badge by completing the weekly challenges: these challenges go above and beyond the weekly story, and include creating maps, researching important figures, and analyzing historical sources.

These are highlighted topics from each Chapter

The Heroes will tell stories of the present: collecting important moments from Core Skills, Art, and Passion Project. Specifically in Art, the Heroes will be challenged to create a work that tells a story of place. This art work will be shared in the Global Art Exchange where art is shared between classrooms around the world.

And they will share hopes for the future. In this Entrepreneurship Quest, the Heroes will create a Hot Chocolate Business. They will compete against other teams to design a successful business and ultimately, sell the most hot chocolate. The winning team will be able to choose how to use the funds for the school!

Each Challenge explores a topic in entrepreneurship

The Heroes are excited for this session, and we hope that you are too!

Journey Tracker

Session 1 Week 5

What is Journey Tracker?

Journey Tracker is the mother of all systems. It is the brain of the octopus: it pulls together the arms of a self-directed learning environment. Journey Tracker is literal in its naming: it tracks a Hero’s Journey over the year.

What can I see on Journey Tracker?

  1. SMART Goals: Heroes set SMART goals each day of the week. At the end of the day, they record their work. You can see the set goal and work accomplished.
  2. Points: For every Core Skill, a Hero earns points for work. Points are used to standardize the different programs: 30 points roughly translates to 60 minutes of work.
  3. Badges: Each Hero has access to the studio badge plan. The Badge Plan lays out the badges needed to reach the next level. Clicking on the badge, you can see the requirements and approval process to earn the badge.
  4. Challenges: There are weekly challenges for Writer’s Workshop. Explore Heroes post their work on the challenge and most challenges require peer approval. (Civilization Challenges in Session 2 will also be here!)
  5. Mission Control: Here you can see an overview of each week in the session. 

What should I do with this mother of all systems brain of the octopus program?

The answer to this question depends on you and your child.

Good starting points: Do you want me to just listen, give advice, or help?

With the freedom to design their own learning for a whole year, some Heroes can jump right in and others can feel overwhelmed. By asking this simple question, you’ll empower your Hero.

Follow-up questions: 

What is your goal? How could you take one step toward your goal? 

I notice that you earned a lot of points in Week ___ and a few points in Week ___. What do you think made the difference?

You have this big goal- what is a reasonable amount that you could do each day?

The Big Picture: At The Village School, your Hero drives his/her own education and you can choose your involvement in that journey. Journey Tracker simply gives you the tools to guide them along!

Freedom to Learn

Session 1: Week 4

Heroes at The Village School have great freedoms. They set their own academic goals. They eat when they are hungry and take brain breaks as needed. At Free Time, they can run around outside or stay inside and read a book. 

“With great freedom comes great responsibility.” Trust is built on this foundation.

Exploring Trial and Error vs. Question Funnel Strategies during Quest

In Session 2, we begin Freedom Levels. This system is designed to give greater freedom to the Heroes who are ready for greater responsibility. There are 3 Freedom levels: Nesting, Flying, and Soaring.

For example, Heroes in Soaring can work in the studio or courtyard, listen to classical music or white noise to focus, and earn 15 minutes of extra free time on Fridays. 

Freedom and fun

The process to earn this Freedom Level starts now. The Heroes have already been working on Core Skills: their Core Skills work equates to points that they track in Journey Tracker. Last week, Heroes gave and received their first 360 Feedback. They heard feedback from their peers on how well they focus, clean up, and demonstrate honesty and grit. Then they set a Personal Growth Goal based on the feedback and will track their progress throughout the session. At the end of the Session, they’ll give and receive 360 Feedback again.

Working together on a Squad Challenge

To earn Soaring, a Hero must receive a high average (4.0-5.0) on the Full Circle Feedback and show a record of 3+ times that he/she worked on the Personal Growth Goal over the session. Next, Heroes will rate themselves honestly and must earn 4.0-5.0 average on the self-rating as well. Finally, a Hero must demonstrate that he/she is consistently working hard by earning an average of 150 points a week. These are not easy things to achieve; it is a great responsibility.

Creating a Squad Flag

Every Hero is up to the task. Some may struggle initially and that is okay. The three tiers of Freedom Levels support each Hero where they are in their journey. The process is a journey to accepting greater freedom and responsibility for their education and themselves.

Week in Review

Session 1: Week 3

The Heroes have been hard at work this week. They have been learning in Core Skills, earning and recording points on Journey Tracker. They wrote Free Verse and Odes in Writer’s Workshop. Here’s one such poem:

Dear Village School,

I like that we teach ourselves

I also like that there are a lot of children to make friends with

Thank you for a great place to learn

Clean, sometimes it’s very quiet, and I feel like I’m very lucky

Limits, Freedom Levels, Learning a lot

And I hope that more people enroll and sign the contract!

True, it is sometimes very quiet (and other times not so much!) Quest is particularly full of collaboration. Squads explored the Hero’s Journey and tie-dying t-shirts was a particularly fun activity this week.

The Classic Hula-Hoop Challenge

I leave you with one reflection. This week, one Hero said, “I think every time that you go on a Hero’s Journey you change as a person. The circle gets bigger and bigger and you get bigger as a person but it also gets more complicated because you learn more about the world.”

Mind the Gap: Week 2

Elementary Studio Spotlight

Recently, I’ve been thinking about this famous London tube reminder because it is relevant to these first weeks of building a strong community.

I know that the Heroes are capable of fantastic things. Directing their own learning, upholding community covenants, finding passions, and ultimately changing the world- to name a few. However, at the beginning of the year, the Heroes tend to underestimate their own potential: hence “the gap”.

They have their doubts and that is perfectly normal. For anything new, it takes experience to test your mettle and as a result, build up trust… in yourself.

Untangling knots in a Squad Challenge

Already in Week 2, there are moments that map the road ahead. The quiet Hero who embraced the leadership of a Squad. The Hero who finished a badge that was previously thought to be impossible, demonstrating to himself that hard work pays. The Hero who showed ultimate focus during Core Skills and has already earned a reading badge. The multiple Heroes holding hands and watching out for their buddies during our trip to the pond. 

First Passion Project in our new Maker’s Space

We know that our Heroes are more than capable of great challenges.  And by building on each of these moments, our Heroes believe it more and live it each day.

Climbing to new heights

Starting the Journey: Week 1

Elementary Studio Spotlight

What would you do with a chance? The first week was exciting at The Village School: new Heroes were bursting with energy (a joyful mixture of nerves and anticipation) and returning Heroes made a graceful transition from comfortable norms to embracing change. 

Opening Launch

The Lip Dub Challenge is always a big hit with the Heroes. The published version will be available in the Parent Drive soon! In addition to being a lot of fun, the Heroes practiced collaboration as they negotiated lyrics and dance moves. They gave each other specific feedback and improved the video over 5 drafts! Both of these skills will be essential at The Village School.

The Heroes started their first quest, The Prediction Tools Quest, which explores the question, “Can you determine your future? What actions will increase your success?” This Quest introduces the Heroes to the many tools available to them in their self-directed learning environment, including Freedom Levels, safe usage of Technology, and Town Meeting for community problem-solving.

Session 1 Quest Board

Part of this Quest includes Core Skills. Core Skills are the foundation that every Hero will need for their calling (think math, reading, writing, etc.) This week, the Heroes reviewed math material and started reading. Lots of reading!

A seat with a view of the garden
Story time in Wonder Studio!

A time for community gathering- we have been eating lunch together each day.

We will end our week with Character Call-outs, a time for Heroes to celebrate outstanding character traits. I’ll share some of my own CCs- I saw a Hero put away several stools after discussion showing care for the studio. Another Hero offered encouragement and advice when a fellow traveler was upset- I’d call that empathy. There are so many instances to share, but I’ll end with one last snippet: on the very first part of the Lip Dub Challenge, the Heroes were asked to memorize the song lyrics. I saw a Hero struggle at first, overwhelmed by the newness of the studio and the great task ahead. The Hero started with the first line and after a couple of fits and starts, had memorized most of the song. The Hero demonstrated courage to begin and perseverance to see the task through to the end. It reminded me that you never know how far you’ll get until you start. Or in other words…

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

A Day in the Life: Session 7 Week 4

8:30 Each Hero is greeted at the door during arrival.

Good morning!

9:00 Gather for Mindfulness. A Hero leads a series of partner exercises.

World-Class Example
Almost there!

9:15 Writer’s Workshop is off and running. Today, some Heroes are finishing up their first drafts of a story while others are ready for peer critique.

Warm Cool Warm Feedback

10:45 After a quick brain break, “class” begins! 2 Heroes are reading- one with an audio book and another with a chapter book. Another Hero looks at his work plan and decides what to work on next. Below, 3 different lessons are happening- Level 1 Spelling, Level 2 Spelling, and Level 1 Math. This is an example of our individualized learning in action!

12:00 CSA lunch: connecting our healthy lifestyle program with yummy local food.

Menu: German Potato Salad, Lemon Sausage, and Crunchy Greens

1:00 Quest Launch. This week is Spy Training 101. The Heroes will have to break one code each day, culminating in a final team challenge.

Cracking the Caesar Cipher

2:25 After another good brain break, it’s the start of Math Power ½ Hour. This is a time for everyone to work on math together. It starts with math facts games and then Heroes switch to Khan, Aleks, or Dreambox.

2:55 Heroes clean the studio because taking care of your space is important.

3:15 After a busy day together, we close with an inspiration, connection, or get equipped for tomorrow.