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 make us smart, happy, and successful. They are the mental frameworks that all of our knowledge and skill 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.

Almond Acres Charter Academy students sitting on the floor in a circle

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 develops 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 that 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 inSan Miguel 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!

STRETCH! 5 Key Things We Believe About Stretching

A good stretch feels great. It’s important for our muscles, too  — to keep them limber, pliable and firing at their best. At Almond Acres Charter Academy (AACA), we embrace recreation, the use of our bodies, and exercise as vitally important to our whole selves.  We also stretch our kids into their education! In this case, we do not mean helping them touch their toes. Here’s five things we do mean and believe about stretching our kids at school: 

  1. Stretching is as important for minds as it is for muscles. For our K-8 students, we encourage stretching as it enables our kids to overcome academic obstacles, recognize areas of personal growth and pursue meaningful goals. 
  1. By using strengths to stretch into struggling areas, we help our kids learn the things they need to learn, and to be better versions of themselves. It’s part of a simple three-tiered approach we use to think about educating children and even parenting them; affirm first, then stretch, then celebrate!   
Almond Acres Charter Academy student dressed as astrophysicist
  1. To affirm — we ask questions like what are their strengths?  And what are their struggles? We give our AACA kids a sense of confidence that they can learn  —  with their strengths AND with their struggles.  Once we affirm this — we can stretch them. Stretching every AACA K-8 student so they learn and grow is a gift. We are honored to help them discover their whole self

Our students are big fans of stretching, too. Here’s what an AACA middle schooler has to say, 

“I think AACA has such a unique middle school environment. Not only are students taught to be considerate leaders, but students are given many opportunities to show their initiative skills. Leadership and citizenship is exceedingly highlighted. And most of all Almond Acres stretches and educates students as a whole child: heart, mind, body, and soul. Growing great kids day-after-day!”

  1. And after this all important stretching; we celebrate. We give our students a high five. We eat cake. We announce our celebrations in our school wide morning meeting. We celebrate the awakening of creativity and of their holistic success. 
  1. When we affirm, stretch and celebrate  — we create kids  that are intelligent, confident, successful, creative, happy, and caring. They become leaders in our community.  

About Almond Acres

Almond Acres is relocating 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!

3 Steps to Rest: Metacognition and More

We’re all enjoying a two week spring break this year. No time like the present to slow down, review and reflect on all that has transpired in our lives in the four months of 2021. Metacognition is our habit of the week sometimes, because it is just this. It’s the idea of thinking about what we’re thinking about.  We’re assessing what’s important and what we do everyday. 

At Almond Acres Charter Academy (AACA) we take it a bit further for our students. We help our students and families to think about what they’re thinking about. Our kids are capable of metacognition, too and reflecting on what they are and like to think about. 

Thoughts to Destiny 

Attributed to multiple authors is the idea that thoughts become our destiny. Here’s the idea: 

Sow an act, reap a habit;
sow a habit, reap a character;
sow a character, reap a destiny.

First and foremost, kids and adults alike — do the things we want to do. This influences what we think about — or ‘sows’ our thoughts. Our thoughts become actions, and these actions become habits. Our habits inform our character — which ultimately drives our destiny. Destiny is key to who we are. In order to be and become the best versions of ourselves, we should slow down and reflect. What are we thinking about? Is this important to me? 

As AACA faculty, staff and administrators and as parents, we can model a thoughtful process for our kids. By detailing how we own our thoughts and ultimately our destiny, we take back some control of our lives. This can be very powerful for kids. 

Sharpen the Saw

Metacognition also bleeds into our ‘sharpen the saw’ learning.  We encourage our kids to sharpen their saw — in all ways that include their heart, mind, body, & soul. In order to stay sharp — we will all inevitably encounter obstacles.  When we use self-discipline to make it through these decisive and sharp moments, we reap great rewards. These difficult, pivotal moments include such everyday things as:

  • Getting up on time (“mind over mattress”)
  • Controlling our tempers and not saying the unkind thing
  • Disciplining ourselves to eat healthy foods
  • Sticking to our reading regimen when we are busy

Ways to Practice

Heart – Spend some carefree timelessness with family and friends.

Mind – Tell your brain what you want to do. Skip the “try” word. Use “will”!

Body – Say yes to a good walk, meal, and night sleep.

Soul – Enter the classroom of silence and have a nice chat with yourself.

Did you know our middle schoolers have a 1:28 student to teacher ratio? Every great kid is known for who they are in grades six to eight. Join our small, caring school and enroll 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 inSan Miguel 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!

Technology: Love it or Leave It?

Feelings about technology are complex right now. 2020 changed our perspectives and our reality in so many ways. Technology is one such reality shift. As it pertains to our Almond Acres K-8 students, we use technology as a means for exploration, for research, and for responsibility. 

All AACA middle school students, grades 6-8, enjoy their own personal laptop, or school provided Chromebook, and the responsibility that comes along with it. Our youngest K-5 students enjoy iPads or Chromebooks and are experienced using them in class and with online learning. Some Almond Acres students are members of our AHA! — Almond Acres At-Home Academy. They’re using technology in many ways, everyday. Chromebooks are used across all curriculum areas. We, as a faculty team, use Google Classroom to manage school work.

women with three children wearing unmatched socks

We want to minimize the use of technology, because we heartily desire kids talking to each other…and to us, their adults.  We want our K-8 students reading books. We like to see our kids working and playing outside. We also enjoy our students building things with their hands.  We hope our students carve out time and employ space for creativity, for recreation, for thinking. Our students deserve unstructured downtime, as an end result in and of itself.  

So we’ll use technology as is appropriate and effective for teaching and learning, and we’re champions of getting kids doing things outside and off of screens, too. Our digital mission statement sums up and truly captures our thinking: 

Almond Acres Charter Academy will promote and model positive uses of digital spaces in every classroom. We will build a culture of digital health across our school by incorporating character building into our digital citizenship instruction.  

We realize that our children will be shaping the world of tomorrow through their online identity and digital footprint. It is our job as educators and parents to make sure they are prepared to share their voice with confidence and without regrets. 

We will ensure this happens by demonstrating the value of technology in enhancing achievement, improving students’ attitudes about themselves, and promoting the value of citizenship in the 21st century digital world.

boy working on laptop

We’re a Common Sense School

From the Common Sense Schools website, “Earning the Common Sense School badge is a symbol of a school’s dedication to helping students think critically and use technology responsibly to learn, create, and participate.”

Cory Houdyshell, Second Grade Teacher at Almond Acres, spearheads our Common Sense School initiative. He says:

“Being a digital citizen starts in kindergarten here at AACA. It is all about using technology responsibly and respectfully. This is especially important in the younger grades as our students begin to be exposed to different types of media and start to explore the world wide web. 

The earlier students can be taught about their “digital footprint” the safer they will be as they create their online identity. Common Sense Media’s “citizenship” lessons scaffold up each year with repetition of key concepts and core ideas. The grade level appropriate structure to these “digital citizenship” lessons will lead to lifelong habits by the time our students reach 8th grade.” 

About Almond Acres

Almond Acres is relocating 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!

We Love Recreation!

Almond Acres Charter Academy is built on the philosophy that each child is unique, and that by teaching to the individual — every student achieves optimal levels of success and becomes a great citizen. The four pillars of our school mission to ‘grow great kids’ are heart, mind, body and soul. The body aspect of this quadrumvirate includes recreation — play, exercise, and movement. Plus nutrition, sleep, and healthy physical habits.  Our PE program is better known as our Recreation program because we want all of our Almond Acres Charter Academy (AACA) students to learn how to have fun and recreate.  

All AACA students have weekly recreation classes with our credentialed Physical Education Teacher, Sean Sommerville. Our recreation ethos focuses on grade-level state standards, as well as building stamina. By having ongoing walking/running challenges, we elevate collaboration and cooperation. Our students work together, set goals and practice recreational habits that can last a lifetime. 

Almond Acres middle school volleyball team

We offer elementary and middle school competitive sports, too, including cross country, volleyball, basketball, football, ultimate frisbee, and track & field. In addition, every year our school comes together for our much-loved Read and Run Relay and fundraiser. 

In a typical year, our collective K-8 school’s goal would be to: 

  • Read 100,000 minutes
  • Run 250 miles
  • Raise at least $30,000

This year, with the pandemic,  our Read and Run Relay goes virtual. On April 1st, students will be challenged to a 1-hour read-a-thon AND a 1-hour jog-a-thon. Every student will get to participate by reading and running on their own, but stay connected to each other through Zoom. Plus each year an Almond Acres student designs our tee-shirts for the event via a competition during our art classes. Monies raised go towards the purchase of books, digital reading apps, and equipment to enhance our Recreation program at Almond Acres. 

This event is wonderful because it is inclusive. Academics, athletics, and art are all brought together for families and the community to celebrate and support our students.” Erin Colegrove, the AACA Read and Run Relay event coordinator 

“By allowing students to show off their skills, whether they love reading, running, or a combination of both, we are honoring the whole student: heart, mind, body, and soul. By celebrating each child’s unique makeup, we get tremendous buy-in from the students, and that is how we are able to set and achieve such big goals.”

Bob Bourgault, Executive Director,  Almond Acres 

Every student has innate skills and talents, and it is incredibly rewarding for us to watch each child learn about, and become, the best version of themselves: heart, mind, body, and soul. At Almond Acres, it’s not just about physical education. It’s about learning how to recreate. 

Donations to the 2021 Read and Run Relay can be made using this link.

About Almond Acres 

Every child is unique. At Almond Acres tuition-free public charter school, we serve grades K-8 and we educate the whole child: heart, mind, body, and soul.  Our focus on meaningful educational experiences within our community embraces service and project-based learning.  We also emphasize character development and strong citizenship standards alongside our robust curriculum. We are enrolling now. We grow great kids!