Smart is not Just being best At spelling bees, A tricky test. Or knowing all the answers ever… Other things are just as clever. Every hour of every day, We’re smart in our own special way. And nobody will ever do… The very same smart thing as you.
You have probably heard of book smarts. Even street smarts and people smarts. But have you heard of nature smart? Or music smart? How about word smart?
At Almond Acres Charter Academy (AACA), we believe that all kids are smart, born with their own unique set of gifts. Our job is to affirm, stretch and celebrate the unique gifts we are all given–from book smart to number smart and everything in between.
At the beginning of each school year, AACA teachers empower our K-8 students to uncover how they are smart. The goal is to help students shift the question away from “am I smart?” to “how am I smart?” We begin this work with self-reflection, a study of the brain and by diving into the Theory of Multiple Intelligences.
Self-Reflection & Self-Awareness
The journey of self-discovery at AACA is focused on a reflection of personal interests, strengths and personality traits. Our students spend time observing their own behavior and answering questions about things they enjoy doing, what comes easy, and what things are challenging. They work with their parents and teachers to identify strengths and struggles in all areas of their lives: heart, mind, body, and soul. In a student-led parent-teacher conference following this self-discovery period, students share what they’ve learned about themselves and challenge themselves to grow – or stretch – their skills. For example, a student may choose to learn to play an instrument, participate in the school play, or improve their reading fluency by learning 100 sight words.
Even in kindergarten, AACA teachers begin to explain how our brains work. We include the biology and mechanics of the brain. Our brains do so much for us – from recognizing objects, to problem-solving, to processing emotions. Understanding this from a young age can help demystify learning and everyday habits we never think about like breathing and digestion. Knowledge is power when it comes to ownership for our bodies, our actions and our lives.
The Theory of Multiple Intelligences
Our work at AACA is deeply based on Harvard professor Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences.
The Theory of Multiple Intelligences explains the different ways we learn and express our innate intelligence. We explore ways that we can learn new concepts, paying attention to which type comes most naturally to us and which types are more challenging. No person has just a single intelligence—we are a beautiful combination of all the different ways to learn.
Here are a couple of examples of the multiple intelligences in action:
Someone who has strong interpersonal skills may learn best when working with a partner or team.
A person with strong linguistic skills may be a word-smith or skilled at picking up new languages.
Someone with strong kinesthetic abilities may learn sight words better if they do jumping jacks while they spell words out loud.
This philosophy is so important to us that we’ve even installed the 8 symbols in the courtyard of our new building. It’s also tied in with our mascot and kite philosophy. Affirming, stretching and celebrating our smarts is a huge part of who we are.
Boosting Knowledge & Confidence
AACA teachers use this new-found knowledge to boost student’s self-worth and confidence. Teachers incorporate the different ways of learning into lessons, being sure to vary the way new information is presented for all types of learners. We look for ways to draw out individual talents and recognize students for their unique contributions, while not ignoring areas that may need more nurturing and stretching.
Understanding ourselves also helps understand others. When our students uncover all the ways they are smart, we notice an increase in empathy toward classmates. Everyone is smart in their own way!
AACA celebrates all the ways we are smart. We believe our individual intelligences are gifts that bring color to our world and teach us that we can accomplish so much together. How are you smart?
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!
At Almond Acres Charter Academy, we believe an education that addresses all aspects of a child’s life creates balanced, happy learners. In fact, our scholastic mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body, and soul. This mission is embedded in our academic DNA and informs how we grow together every school day. It truly sets us apart from other K-8 learning environments.
Our team of credentialed teachers uses the Common Core State Standards to teach English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics while using the State Content Standards for social studies, and the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) for science. Teachers also administer state-mandated testing annually in grades 3-8. We incorporate our additional, beloved (by students and families alike) complementary instruction across all K-8 grade levels because we see how and why this enables high quality, intentional, gratifying educational experiences.
Character Education is a main focus that is promoted through a schoolwide Daily Shared Start Assembly. We practice being good citizens by being trustworthy, respectful, responsible, fair, and caring, which are the core tenets of Character Counts. We promote this through our PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) System.
Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a key component of our instructional program. We integrate PBS across all subject areas and in all grades whenever possible. Our PBL enriches student knowledge by utilizing themes, unit-based queries and a variety of hands-on methods. Our innovative PBL efforts also enhance community connections via field trips, guest speakers, and our highly rewarding service-based projects.
At our K-8 charter school, we focus on being leaders by being good citizens and using the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to develop important life skills. All students have leadership opportunities within their classrooms based on their grade level. Middle School students have the option of participating in a weekly Leadership Class. These students help lead many aspects of school including, Shared Start, recess and lunchtime activities, schoolwide contests, and fundraisers. All middle school students also participate in a pathways course, which helps them further apply the habits, refine their problem-solving and decision-making skills, as well as develop college and career readiness skills.
Almond Acres is located in 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, 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!
Are you looking at school options for your child in California?
Parents often ask what education options are available for their children in grades K-12. It can be hard to know what is the correct choice because there are many options available to parents, their local public schools, public charter schools, private schools, and online schools.
This guide will provide answers to questions like, “What is a tuition-free public school?”, “What tuition-free public school options are available in California?” and “How do I enroll my student in a charter school?”
If you are looking for answers to questions like these, read on!
What is a tuition-free public charter school in California?
A charter school is a public school that provides instruction in any combination of grades, kindergarten through grade twelve. Parents, teachers, or community members may initiate a charter petition, which is typically presented to and approved by a local school district governing board. California Education Code (EC) also allows, under certain circumstances, county boards of education and the State Board of Education to be charter authorizing entities.
Charter schools are public schools that get funding from the state and have greater flexibility in hiring, curriculum, management, and other aspects of their operations. Unlike traditional public schools that are run by school districts with an elected school board and a board-appointed superintendent, most charter schools are run by organizations with their own self-appointed boards.
In general, this independence gives charter schools more room to experiment and to come up with instructional and other innovations.
What tuition-free public charter schools are available for students living in California?
Almond Acres Charter Academy (AACA) is a K-8 charter school where the education of our students is built on having a strong and inspiring support system in place. We deliver our high-quality service and project-based curriculum via our dedicated and experienced teachers and our we-are-a-family, tight-knit AACA community.
What other counties and locations in California are served by tuition-free public charter schools in North County and Paso Robles?
Students enrolling in a charter school are not restricted to a certain county or school district. Parents may choose the school that they feel is most appropriate for their child. Charter schools in California must admit any child residing in the state who is qualified to attend California schools regardless of which school district the child resides in.
How do I enroll my child in a tuition-free public charter school?
Charter schools often require an application. Most applications require specific information, including name, address, birth date, name of last school attended, and ethnic background.
If you are considering enrolling your child in a charter school, you should pay close attention to any deadlines regarding that school’s enrollment policy. Some charter schools, particularly those in high demand, will have a waitlist.
Because enrollment policies and procedures vary from school to school, families should contact individual charter schools to obtain specific enrollment information.
What are the requirements for acceptance into a charter school in California?
By law, charter schools cannot have admission processes that unlawfully discriminate against students. Charter schools accept all students who want to attend. If there are more students who want to attend than there are seats available, a charter school will use a process to randomly select students, oftentimes a lottery system.
How much does it cost to attend a charter school in California?
Public charter schools are public schools and are tuition-free. Funding for the schools comes from the state.
Are public charter schools high quality?
Studies continue to show charter school students make greater academic progress than students in traditional public schools. Sixty-seven (67) percent of California’s charter schools met student achievement targets on state tests in the 2009-10 school year compared to just 57% of non-charter schools.
Among traditionally disadvantaged students, those attending charters make greater academic progress than those in traditional public schools. In 2009-10, 74% of charter schools met student achievement targets for disadvantaged students* compared to 59% of non-charter schools. (*these are calculated by assessing the California Department of Education’s “comparable improvement targets”)
California’s charter middle schools consistently demonstrate higher academic performance than non-charter schools. For the past five years, charter middle schools have had higher API Growth scores than non-charter middle schools. In 2009-10, middle school charters outperformed non-charters across the state and with all subgroups.
News Update: 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 located in Paso Robles at its newly constructed school site. 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!
“We must never become too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw.”
Dr. Stephen R. Covey
We all use tools to help us throughout our day. The condition and quality of those tools are essential to how we perform: a sushi chef requires sharp knives for the perfect slice, a painter washes and dries his brushes so they may be used again, and a potter keeps unused clay moist so it is easy to work with. Caring for our tools makes us better at what we do. In our everyday lives, we also rely on tools to perform at our best: our hearts, minds, and bodies.
Built into our philosophy at Almond Acres’ is the mission to grow children’s hearts, minds, bodies, and souls. Along with that growth, we teach our students that it’s important to balance work with rest and renewal. Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw is all about finding balance.
Sharpen the Saw
You probably know what it feels like to “have a dull saw.” It may show up as exhaustion or disinterest. It may feel like a 3rd cup of coffee to get going for the day. For kids, it may be that feeling right before bedtime, when they’ve hit the wall and even going to bed sounds impossible. It feels like being “hangry” (angry because you are hungry) just before dinner because you missed lunch. In short, it’s no fun.
If we continually seek improvement without caring for ourselves, we will experience burnout—our saws will dull. And without a sharp saw, we can’t continue to grow and be at our best.
How Do We Do It?
Rest and relaxation aren’t all about sitting on the sofa to watch tv (although, if that is rejuvenating to you, do it!). We have to pay attention to our whole selves. Here are some examples of activities that renew us as we seek balance:
Heart: “Carefree timelessness” in meaningful social connections with family, friends, and community members are revitalizing. Laughing with a friend and having fun is a great way to strengthen your heart.
Mind: Reading great books, journaling, and engaging in puzzling activities stimulates your brain and sharpens your focus. Learning is one way to take care of your brain!
Body: A healthy dose of sleep, diet, and exercise. Are you moving your body every day? Have you filled up on nourishing food? Are you getting adequate sleep? No one can keep moving on an empty tank.
Soul: Enter the “classroom of silence”. Expand your spiritual self through prayer, meditation, art, music, or spending time in nature. Any activity that fills your cup is rejuvenating to your soul.
As we renew each part of ourselves, we leave room for growth and change. We increase our capacity, our resilience in the face of challenge, and our ability to give. Self-care is not selfish!
Sharpening the saw for children might look different from an adult. It might mean learning to rest after a busy day at school by relaxing with a good book or painting. Or maybe your child balances a passion for video games with breaks outside to move his body and breathe fresh air. Finding balance is deeply personal and how we do that will change as we grow.
In a world that teaches us that we must constantly be moving and doing, Almond Acres aims to help students seek balance. We model rest and recharging so that we can be at our best, everyday. How do you sharpen your saw? How do you help your children sharpen their saws?
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 from all communities, AACA is located in Paso Robles. 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!
Have you heard teachers or staff refer to PBIS? PBIS stands for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. It’s an evidence-based three-tiered framework we use to establish our school culture and support each other in becoming the best version of ourselves. It works by gathering data and using that information to improve our systems and practices.
Who Participates in PBIS?
PBIS is for everyone, not just students! We established a Tier 1 PBIS team of six staff members with different roles on campus. This team just completed the first year of Tier 1 training which focused on developing the systems we will need to launch PBIS with consistency and fidelity next year. Many of the components of PBIS are already implemented at AACA. However, the team is excited about launching PBIS with renewed enthusiasm in the fall.
Why Are Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports Important?
Positive interventions and supports are essential because they create an environment that fosters growth, learning, and progress. When we encourage people to focus on their strengths and accomplishments rather than their weaknesses, we empower them to reach their full potential and improve their self-confidence. Positive interventions have a ripple effect on improving social, emotional, behavioral, and academic outcomes for all students.
How Is PBIS Implemented at AACA?
At AACA, our behavior expectations are based on five character traits; Trustworthy, Respectful, Responsible, Fair, and Caring. We have defined what it is to be “TeRRiFiC” across all school settings and contexts.
Our goal is to prevent behavior problems rather than react to them. Expectations need to be explicitly taught, modeled, practiced, and reinforced. That means all adults must be familiar with and model the behaviors we want to see in students. All staff uses the same lesson plans to teach behavior in the hallways, playground, quad, etc., not just in the classroom. Expectations are taught creatively using videos of staff doing the wrong thing, then the right thing.
While there is a heavy emphasis on behavior expectations at the beginning of the school year, we regularly re-teach throughout the year, especially when returning from extended breaks. This is important for any students who arrive later in the school year and serves as a reminder for those who may have forgotten.
Reinforcements range from simple, non-specific feedback like a high-five or thumbs up to behavior-specific feedback to tangible rewards. Research indicates that you can improve behavior by 80% just by pointing out what someone is doing correctly. Simply telling a child “No!” doesn’t teach them proper behavior. Giving someone clear expectations in a firm, fair, and friendly way makes a big difference in how they receive and respond. It helps us shift from being reactive to being proactive.
PBIS is a tiered model of support. Most of our students and staff respond well to the Tier 1 efforts we have described in this post. Some need additional Tier 2 support, and a few need more intensive Tier 3 support. Tier 2 and 3 interventions are evidence-based, positive, and restorative. There are many steps to integrate this process entirely, and we are working with the County Office of Education to ensure that we meet each step
How Can Families Support This Effort at Home?
Look for our PBIS launch party (aka Meet-the-Teacher Night) at the beginning of the school year! We plan to teach families about this process, what it looks like, and how they can implement it at home. In the meantime, here are a few things to consider.
Work as a family to define what Trustworthy, Respectful, Responsible, Fair, and Caring look like in your family. Be specific about your common places and activities; the dinner table, the car, public places, chores, AM and PM routines, etc.
Remember, relationships thrive with a 5:1 positivity ratio!
Specific positive feedback does wonders. Recognize the behavior explicitly and connect it to the expectations. “Fred, you brushed your teeth without any reminders tonight. Good job being responsible.” or “It felt great not to be rushed this morning. Thank you for being ready on time.”
It takes a village to raise kids; we will be most successful when we work together to grow great kids!
It just takes an ounce of courage to be a better version of ourselves and live life more fully. Courage is that extra step just outside of comfort that leads us to a more fulfilling life and unexpected victories. Courage builds character, stretches capacity, and changes lives. Expressing confidence in our children and helping them to understand that risk and failure are essential to success motivates personal development and defeats fear.
Look for opportunities to celebrate courage. Spotlight characters from books and movies who act courageously. Most importantly, affirm your child when he/she uses an ounce of courage and chooses to do the next right thing even when it is scary. The American spirit has always relied on courageous thinkers, adventurers, and entrepreneurs. Our children are the next generation of great Americans as long as we encourage them. As the Duke (John Wayne) used to say, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”
Help Your Child Develop Courage
Help your child develop a courageous character by practicing the following ideas:
Heart – respectfully introduce yourself to a new acquaintance.
Mind – attempt a more difficult book or math problem.
Body – try a new sport or hobby.
Soul – discuss dreams and aspirations about the future and what courageous acts it takes to achieve those dreams!
“Trust the still, small voice that says, ‘this might work and I’ll try it.’” – Diane Mariechild
Doing the next right thing is simply an act of courage. One of the most successful parenting questions I have asked my children has been, “What is the next right thing to do?” In almost every case my child knew the answer and acted accordingly. If there was uncertainty, I simply asked another question to guide the child toward actions that promote integrity and citizenship. If discipline is really about learning, then asking meaningful questions is a powerful tactic. The more our children come up with the answers on their own, the greater the thinking power we discipline into them. The next time you want to give your child an answer, stop and ask them the question instead.