3 Things to Know about Habits of Mind

By teaching kids how they’re smart, we teach them to develop their thinking skills. We call them habits of mind. What are my habits?  What are the things I’m going to get good at because I’m going to practice? These personal and intellectual character traits are what makes us smart, happy, and successful. They are the mental frameworks which all of our knowledge and skills sit upon. 

One of our primary focuses at Almond Acres Charter Academy (AACA) is teaching kids to think about what’s important, so they’ll act on it. When we act on things that are important, we create habits. When we create habits, it becomes our character. Our character becomes our destiny. For us, it’s all about developing thought processes; developing smart, intelligent, thinking. Thinking triggers action and the cycle begins again —  habits, character, and destiny.

How we teach Habits of Mind at Almond Acres

  1. We use a variety of tools — thinking tools — to help us teach our kids how to think and develop their thinking skills. The first is terrific. It’s an acronym TRRFC that includes these citizenship traits: Trustworthy, Respectful, Responsible, Fair, and Caring. These citizenship traits involve key principles that grow strong citizens. By thinking in these terms and modeling these behaviors — you are terrific. You’re being a better version of yourself. 
  1. We encourage and ascribe to The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. This is a very well-researched and proven approach to help people become better versions of themselves. The Seven Habits are shared, encouraged, and expected in our school on a daily basis.  

Our kids grow to know each of the seven habits that also develop into an Almond Acres leadership system. It’s our way for kids to be leaders in their classroom, the school, our community, or at home. 

An Almond Acres alum shared this feedback about their time at our middle school, 

“ I enjoyed the amount of one-on-one attention and education I received since the classes were so small. I felt like I could create deeper connections with my peers and teachers. I found it beneficial in my older years to have thoroughly learned the Habits of Mind and the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

  1. Leadership gives every human confidence. We expect all of our kids to experience leadership roles whether they stem from an official leadership group or they are a leader in their classroom. Our students glean leadership opportunities every day by being the light monitor, or the person who opens the door when somebody knocks. Our student leaders might direct a guest or act as an ambassador to the school and give tours to prospective families. 

There are tons of different jobs to promote leadership in every classroom, and we believe there’s a leader in every student. We try to provide every one of our K-8 students with opportunities to be empowered. 

Students who are confident citizens is another way to describe what’s at the core of our school mission — to grow great kids! We holistically celebrate each unique learner  — heart, mind, body, and soul. Get to know Almond Acres. We’re enrolling tuition-free K-8 today! 

About Almond Acres

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. The school is located in Paso Robles and is open to all students in all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body, and soul. We grow great kids!

Problem Solving 101

One thing is certain in our future: we will always face problems. While not always easy, we do have options when we face a problem: give in or find a solution. At Almond Acres, we obviously believe that finding a solution is the best way to approach a problem. We know that successfully overcoming struggles and obstacles is what sets highly effective people apart from the crowd.

Three students in red and blue Almond Acres polo uniform shirts work together to solve a STEM challenge involving marshmallows, popsicle sticks and plastic spoons. They are sitting at a group of desks.

At Almond Acres, we teach students how to flexibly approach problems from an early age, whether it be a tiff between friends on the playground or a challenge of litter on our campus. Problem solving requires critical thinking, planning, reflection and taking action, all essential 21st century skills that, when cultivated from an early age, can have far-reaching positive effects in all aspects of our lives. 

Mr. Bourgault, our Founding Executive Director (Retired), created a simple 5 step model for solving problems with both peace and patience that we use with students from Kindergarten to 8th grade. The model asks us to scale out our perspective by looking at the big picture and is highly integrative with our study of the Habits of Mind. It encourages us to think win-win, seek first to understand and synergize

Here’s Mr. B’s 5 Step System that we affectionately call PGOSE It! 

Step 1. Problem

What is the problem? Describe clearly and specifically what the problem is. 

Step 2. Goal

What do you wish would be or happen? Begin with the End in Mind!

Step 3. Obstacles

What is getting in the way of achieving the goal? Be specific about the feelings, actions, and ideas that are interfering with reaching the goal. Make a list!

Step 4. Strategies

What might you do to get around the obstacles that would result in achieving your goal? Identify 2-3 specific things you can do to eliminate or maneuver around the obstacles. 

Step 5. Evaluate

When should we check back in to see if our strategies worked? Do this soon after the strategies are practiced. 

When we take the time to go through these steps, we are using our minds and hearts in a nimble and creative way–just as they were intended to be used! It takes a bit of stretching, and a bit of practice, but the model truly makes seeking a win-win solution possible.

Three Almond Acres charter students sit on the floor together and work on a STEM challenge involving marshmallows and popsicle sticks. They are wearing Almond Acres uniforms.

Practicing this model also gives us a chance to reframe struggle into a positive opportunity for growth. It’s another chance for our students to model just how TeRRiFiC (Trustworthy, Respectful, Responsible, Fair and Caring) they are! 

We can’t anticipate the struggles and obstacles of the future, nor can we pave a smooth path to success for our kids, but we can teach the skills that will prepare children to address the problems of tomorrow head on. It’s just another way we Grow Great Kids.

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!

Check Ins. Check Outs: A Fresh Approach to Supporting Kids

At Almond Acres we love our kids. We hold dearly to the reality that every child is unique and we nourish them as a whole child. This includes heart, mind, body and soul. Sometimes our great kids need a little bit extra and that’s why we created our check ins, check outs initiative. 

The purpose of check-ins/check outs (CICO)  is to engage our students who need extra attention or a little added support. If any of our students are struggling, they can have access to engaged, available adults at the start and end of each day, ready to offer guidance, encouragement and so much more. 

children standing against a wall

The CICO process embraces kids who may be experiencing behavioral incidents, social interaction challenges, work completion irregularity, attendance variability, and other obstacles to optimal and open-hearted learning.  These kids get positive interactions with caring AACA staff multiple times throughout the day. And it works! 

Our CICO kids have a 1:1 morning meeting each school day. We send them off from that meeting everyday with the same message, “Have the best day ever!”  

We then augment our support, praise and enthusiasm for their growth with reminders like:

  • Be the boss of your body!
  • Be a first time listener!
  • Be trustworthy, respectful, responsible, fair, and caring (TRRFC)! 

Our CICO students also get visual and motivational rewards for their efforts, too. These AACA kids check in at the office in the morning and collect their point sheet. The points sheets contain a scoring system that ranks their TRRFC traits.  Throughout the day, teachers score the kiddo. At the end of the day, the CICO kids come back to the office and evaluate their wins. If  they meet their goal they get a star and for every five stars, they get a prize.  

Students who regularly meet their goal ‘graduate’ from CICO. The amount of CICO time is different for each child, much like the uniqueness that is innate to all of us. Any child who is not getting there, earns additional modifications that are even more individually curated. 

Positive affirmations and consistent, reliable adult support while at school. It may seem small — or obvious even — but it’s truly a game changer for a kid. We are so proud to be able to prioritize and carve out time for our students during the school day, in this way. CICO creates space to embrace and develop our kids  – with loving interactions from even more staff than they normally encounter each day. Stretching and celebrating every AACA K-8 student as they learn and grow is a gift.  We are honored to help them discover their whole self.  

There’s still time to join us for the 20-21 school year. We welcome and champion new students in our small, close-knit public school. Enroll with us today!  

About Almond Acres

News Update: Almond Acres is moving to Paso Robles. Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Open to all students in all communities, the school is currently located in San Miguel and moving to Paso Robles for the 2021-22 school year. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!


Can anyone be a leader? Is the title reserved for the famous or is there a leader within everyone of us? It can be said that extroverts tend to take the lead when it comes to group projects or those with interpersonal intelligence are able to stir up a crowd or team and lead them to victory. It takes the Martin Luther King Jr.’s and John Wooden’s of the world to rally the people and lead us toward greatness. But there is also a leader within every person. We are each gifted with particular talents that only we can give to the communities in which we live. Our personal journey toward the best versions of ourselves is the quest to discover the leader within. There is only one you who is on a journey to find that best version of yourself. Children will believe this if we point it out to them and help them to recognize how they are talented, capable, and uniquely gifted. Give your child opportunities to lead with their interests and abilities. Whatever our brain does a lot of, is what it gets good at. Therefore, providing opportunities to lead will create leaders.

Leadership is an accumulation of other strong habits. When we practice positive and productive intellectual and personal habits of mind, we grow the fruits of a healthy well being. I strongly believe that every child has leadership capacity in his/her own right. The unique gifts and talents brewing within can lead an industry, a sport, a mission, and a household. To educate (educe) or parent (bring forth), is to draw out those qualities and watch a child lead in his/her family, school, and community. When we discover our purpose and develop the skills and confidence to be really good at that purpose, we lead. Our nurturing and encouragement supports this quest and is alive in every child.
The primary habits that make up leadership include two sets that we promote at AACA (TRRFC & 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). Speak, write, and practice these with your children and we’ll watch them grow into great kids and great leaders!

TeRRiFiC Citizens are Trustworthy – Respectful – Responsible – Fair  and Caring people who practice the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

  1. Be Proactive
  2. Begin with the End in Mind.
  3. Put First things First.
  4. Think Win Win
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
  6. Synergy
  7. Sharpen the Saw; Heart, Mind, Body, & Soul

Learning Links

“You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. Together we can do great things.”- Mother Teresa