Q & A

Q: What is Arbor Vitae Academy?

Arbor Vitae (VEE-tie) Academy (or “Arbor V” for short) is a K-8 private school in Frankfort, Kentucky that emphasizes the infusion of art, science, and social outreach within a multi-age learning environment.  Community involvement is an undercurrent that shapes everything we do, from curricula to classroom management.  Arbor V is also Kentucky’s first learning institution that is 100% teacher-governed.  This design is different from a parent-teacher cooperative in that our students’ families are not required to work a certain number of hours each week in our classrooms.  (We find that parents naturally enjoy investing in their children’s education; our Arbor V families freely donate their positive energy out of love, not obligation.)

Arbor V instructors share a vision of what the education experience can (and should) be.  Our staff members are well-versed in their content areas and have professional experience in both public and private school settings.  As lifelong residents of Frankfort, we are deeply committed to the continued growth of our community and promote social involvement both personally and academically.

When eligible in Fall 2017, Arbor V plans to pursue accreditation through the National Independent Private Schools Association (NIPSA), which was selected due to its support for teacher-governed schools.  As is common with many agencies, NIPSA requires a school to be in operation for a minimum of two years before beginning the accreditation process.

Q: Is Arbor V a Montessori school?

This is a frequent question we receive and a common misperception of our educational design.  The term ‘Montessori’ is in the public domain, meaning that any school can (and often does) designate itself as “Montessori” regardless of whether the institution and/or its teachers hold Montessori accreditation.  A true Montessori teacher, however, is one who has attended a MACTE– or AMI-accredited training program with an in-person residency component, the nearest of which is over 75 miles from Frankfort.  Even if Arbor V was 100% aligned with Montessori principles (which it isn’t), we would not choose to call it a Montessori school simply because we have not undergone Montessori training.  To do so would grossly devalue the rigorous training process completed by these educators, as well as offer a disservice to families who are seeking an authentic Montessori education for their children.

That being said, there are concepts of Montessori that we like.  We like hands-on, experiential learning.  We like multi-age groups (assuming they’re planned and executed thoughtfully and not out of convenience).  We like the decision-making freedom it offers to students.  That topic, though, is where our beliefs deviate from traditional Montessori design.

Structured freedom is good.  Education that is primarily dependent on the whims of students is not.  Even if “every choice available is a ‘good’ choice” (a common Montessori-ism), we don’t think a child will learn everything they need to know without face-to-face, personalized instruction.  We disagree with the notion that if a child doesn’t want to complete a certain activity, then that must mean they’re not developmentally “ready” for it.  Our role as teachers is not to supply students with activities that don’t challenge them to their fullest potential.  Our job is to present information in the most innovative, effective manner possible.  This includes finding creative ways to motivate students, even if they’re not particularly enthused about learning a specific subject.  Would our bosses let us neglect certain tasks because we don’t ‘feel’ like doing them?  Then how are we, as educators, doing right by our students if we allow them the same indulgence?

Our goal is for students to go home each day:
– knowing more than when they came to school,
– feeling proud of their contributions to their community, and

– viewing learning as a “want-to,” not a “have-to.”

This is the Arbor V philosophy.  Montessori-inspired?  Absolutely.  But not Montessori.

Q: Where is Arbor V located?

Arbor V is located at 13 Fido Court in Prevention Park.  Get directions by clicking here.

Q: How old does my child have to be to attend Arbor V?

Arbor V students must be between the ages of 5 and 14 as of August 1st of the upcoming school year.  The grade level equivalent to this is kindergarten through 8th grades.

Q: Does Arbor V require parents to buy a long list of supplies at the beginning of each year?

Arbor V keeps its supplies list as short as possible for two reasons.  One, as you can tell by our name (“Arbor Vitae” = “tree of life” in Latin), we like trees.  Typical supplies lists are filled with items made from paper (i.e. wood; i.e. trees).  We don’t like that.  Though it would be difficult to function as an entirely paper-free school, we like to do our part by limiting the amount of consumables our students are required to have.

Two, we’re conscious of the fact that many families make financial sacrifices so their children can attend Arbor V.  We respect (and are immensely grateful for) this.  Therefore, we make every effort to limit the total cost of consumable back-to-school supplies to $50.

The 2017-18 supplies list will be released in Summer 2017.  You may view our 2016-17 supplies list here:  Arbor V Supplies List 2016-17

Q: Why is chalk listed on the supplies list?  Don’t most schools use dry-erase markers now?

From a pedagogical standpoint, we believe chalk enhances learning in ways that markers cannot.  Veteran teachers who straddle the divide between the pre- and post-chalkboard days report feeling that students master concepts better when chalk is part of the equation.  Maybe it’s the tactile experience that contributes to multisensory learning.  Maybe it’s the fact that we write slower with chalk than with markers, creating extra time to process new information.  Either way, we want our students to reap the benefits.

Q:  What if my child is the only kid in his/her grade or age group?

Arbor V curricula are personalized to the individual needs of each child, not just to the grade level in which he/she belongs.  Theoretically, an 8-year-old Arbor V student could perform on a 2nd grade math level, but an 8th grade reading level.  To what “grade,” then, does this student really belong?  When instruction aligns with abilities, traditional forms of grouping become unnecessary.

Arbor V students learn as members of multi-age classrooms.  A “multi-age” classroom is not the same thing as a “multi-grade” classroom.  Marion Leier from Choosing Multiage provides the perfect description of this distinction:

“The differences between [multi-age and multi-grade/”split”] classes have to do with the pedagogical approach of the teacher. In a multiage class, the students are taught and assessed according to developmental stages, rather than grade designation. A split class maintains distinctive graded groups within the class where students are expected to cover their grade-level curriculum. Teachers in a split class attempt to juggle multiple curriculum requirements in one year; whereas a multiage teacher develops integrated, in-depth, multi-disciplinary class projects over two or three years. Multiage students remain with the same teacher for more than a year. Each year, they experience a new class position as they transition from a ‘novice’ to a ‘mentor’” (Leier, n.d.).

Q: How will my child be screened during the admissions process?

An ideal school/home relationship is one that is mutually beneficial to both parties.  We’re proud of the perks Arbor V offers, but are very upfront about the fact that a small faculty can’t possibly serve every learning and/or behavioral need on the educational spectrum.  There may be instances in which a prospective student’s needs do not align with our skill set.  In these cases – regardless of how smart/kind/creative/etc. the student may be – we will recommend that the family seek a better educational fit elsewhere.  Your child deserves to learn in his/her ideal environment, be it Arbor V or another school.

Student screening is a three-part process.  First, we seek to learn more about the child’s comprehensive school experience.  This may be done via conferences and/or contacting current and past classroom teachers.  We also verify that the child meets our basic admissions criteria, including age, grade(s) completed, and ability to provide standard enrollment paperwork (birth certificate, immunization record, etc.) if he/she is accepted.

Next, we determine the child’s current academic level during a personalized screening in which he/she may be asked to read aloud, solve a math/logic puzzle, participate in a comprehension/memory exercise, and/or complete a written- or computer-based activity.  This will provide us with the baseline information necessary to begin developing a customized curriculum based on the child’s interests and needs.

The third part of the process is what sets Arbor V apart from typical public and private school practices.  Our creativity screening was designed exclusively for Arbor V use and is an adaptation of the Wallach & Kogan Creativity Task (WKCT), one of the most statistically reliable assessments in use since its introduction in 1965.  Arguing that children’s creativity is stifled by timed, test-like conditions, Dr. Michael Wallach (professor emeritus at Duke University) and his colleague, Dr. Nathan Kogan, developed a new screening – the first of its kind in the 1960s – that used a relaxed, game-like setting to measure creative thinking. Dr. Wallach graciously approved Arbor V co-founder Heather Betsworth’s request to modify the WKCT for use in her doctoral studies.  The adapted version is what we now use to “play” with our prospective students as we get to know each other.

Q: Is the academic calendar similar to that of the public school district?

Arbor V’s calendar does not follow the FCPS or FIS calendar.  Our school year begins at the end of August, and breaks occur every 6/7 weeks (as opposed to the traditional 9-week calendar).  With the exception of snow days (see below), our schedule is not intended to align with local school districts’ calendars.

Q: What about snow days?

Kentucky law requires all schools to have a minimum of 170 student attendance days and 1,062 hours of instruction (KRS 158.070).  Up to ten (10) of these days may be designated as “e-learning days” in the event that inclement weather closes school (14RS HB 211).  On an e-learning day, students will have special projects/assignments to complete independently at home.  This is a great way to avoid having to make up snow days in the summer.

We will abide by the snow day decisions made by Franklin County Public Schools (FCPS).  When FCPS calls a snow day, Arbor V will have an e-learning day.  Specific details, including how to access and complete assignments, are sent home with our full-time students in December/January.

Q: How much does it cost to enroll at Arbor V?

We like simplicity.  Arbor V’s tuition is one flat-rate amount that covers everything: instructional costs, technology fees, and select educational supplementary offerings (such as art and fitness lessons).

Visit our Admissions page for 2017-18 tuition information.  A $150 deposit is due when submitting your completed contract; this will be credited towards your first month’s tuition payment.  Payment options include paying in full (5% discount if paid by March 1st), a 10-month payment cycle (August-May), and a 12-month payment cycle (June-May).

Q: How do I apply?

Complete our online Application for Enrollment, and an Arbor V teacher will contact you to set up a combination parent conference/student screening.  If you have questions you’d like to ask before beginning the enrollment process, please contact Arbor V.  We look forward to hearing from you!