- What ages does Just Right Academy serve?
- How many students will JRA accept?
- How can you work with so many students on different levels?
- What kind of student will do best at JRA?
- How are students assessed at JRA?
- How much homework is expected each night?
- But isn’t homework an important part of a child’s education?
- Will the students help come up with the rules?
- What do you mean when you speak of frustration “inoculation”?
- Why are ceremony and ritual important at JRA?
- Why are mission and service so important?
- Why does Dr. Hobbs think joy is so important?
- Can parents and others volunteer at JRA?
- How is JRA governed?
- What should I do if I want to apply and know I cannot afford to pay?
- What is the place of technology at JRA?
- Does JRA follow North Carolina’s Standard Course of Study?
What ages does Just Right Academy serve? JRA accepts children from rising kindergarten through twelfth grade.
How many students will JRA accept? We are limited to 60 students by Durham under our present special use permit.
How can you work with so many students on different levels? Great question! JRA has a low student/teacher ratio. Students are grouped by age into six classes with two or three teachers. For reading, language arts and math, each student has an individualized curriculum that will include one-on-one time with the teacher, small group work, whole class time, computer time and individualized work. In science and social studies, there are whole class themes, with students working at their appropriate level and using a variety of learning styles. We often utilize stations, with students moving around the room, learning the same material in a variety of ways.
What kind of student will do best at JRA? JRA is designed for students who need a structured environment, clear expectations, consistency, lowered stress, more movement, multi-sensory learning and both remediation and challenge. Our ideal student will be able to function within a group without danger to himself or others. She may need direct teaching in social skills, and that will be provided. Within those limits, JRA actively seeks children diverse in race, color, nationality, religion, family structure, and socioeconomic background.
How are students assessed at JRA? High stakes testing and grades are not part of our curriculum. However, students do need to be assessed in order to best meet their needs and to provide accountability. Students are given an individual math and reading assessment to find out where they are and what they need to learn. This assessment is repeated at the end of the year to document progress, both to the student, his or her parents, and (anonymously) to those who provide grants for our work. Teachers practice diagnostic teaching and are constantly tweaking and adjusting a student’s program. Yearly evaluations also measure progress. Students complete self-evaluations to help them assess their strengths, weaknesses, and progress. An end-of-the-year standardized test, Hewitt’s PASS test, is given to gather information and to satisfy state regulations. High School students take the Woodcock-Johnson, given by an outside tester.
How much homework is expected each night? JRA does not assign homework to students below high school. There may be occasions when a child will choose to continue working at home on a project that excites her. Students may need to practice math facts and we hope every child will read or be read to every night. We hope that our students will use their afternoon time to play and to participate in activities that build competency and allow the child to explore their passions in music, art, and sports. High school students will have a limited amount of homework.
But isn’t homework an important part of a child’s education? There is no research that supports giving homework in elementary or middle schools. For some children, homework is an added stressor that can cause turmoil within the family. And the time not spent in preparing for high-stakes tests and taking those tests can be used for classroom learning so that your child can participate in your family’s life each evening.
Will the students help come up with the rules? No, as adults and authority figures we present the rules and expectations to them. There are only three rules:
- Be kind.
- Follow directions.
- Do your best and be your best.
Everything else is just detail.
What do you mean when you speak of frustration “inoculation”? While we do what we can to remove pointless and unnecessary stress, we do recognize that the world will not always do this for us. School may be the most difficult time in an intense child’s life and we do all possible to make this time go more smoothly. But students need to face and learn to deal with frustration and disappointment. At JRA, we let students experience these emotions in small, manageable doses so they can learn how to cope with larger experiences when they come along. Delayed gratification must be learned, and we build in opportunities for this to happen. By playing board games, children learn about winning and losing gracefully and keeping both events in perspective. Some things must be earned, and sometimes children fall short. Helping children see they have choices and control over their own lives can help them become more resilient and even-tempered. Students may make poor choices, and the JRA community is available to help them understand the consequences of those choices, while they are reminded that they are still loved and valued.
Why are ceremony and ritual important at JRA? All humans find comfort in ritual and ceremony. Sometimes the ritual is harmful, as in tantrums when asked to do chores or follow directions. Anticipating difficult times and replacing negative rituals with more positive ones helps every student become more predictable and productive. Transitions are psychologically difficult times. Many religious faiths have rituals around birth, puberty, marriage, and death. Smaller transitions, such as leaving home in the morning, are also difficult and deserve their own rituals. Students are helped to recognize these anxiety-producing times and are given help to design transitional rituals. The day’s schedule is a ritual in itself; it is always clearly displayed and any changes are anticipated and prepared for. The day moves smoothly and predictably, without rush and drama. Expectations are made clear before every activity.
In every child’s life, there are days that are holy-days, and they should be treated as such. These might include birthdays, “gotcha days” for the adopted, ethnic and religious holidays, scout and athletic awards, learning to ride a bike and many others. Celebrations are regularly held to recognize and honor the good and affirming things students do. JRA is not affiliated with any church or religion, and students’ religious affiliations are celebrated equally.
Our students come to us with a long history of negative feedback. Our goal is to give at least ten positive comments for every negative one they hear. Teachers make a point of catching children being good and telling them their good behavior is noticed. Each week an award is given to a student who has earned staff respect that week. We have an end-of-the-year awards ceremony where each student is recognized for what they did best.
Why are mission and service so important? Finding one’s mission can be a turning point in any life. Intense children need to know that they are part of a larger community and that they can have a positive impact on the world. Within JRA, students hold rotating jobs such as librarian, table wiper, sanitation engineer, recycler, composter, sweeper, tour guide, game master, battery changer, art assistant, and office assistant. Real life counterparts are invited to speak about their jobs and tell why it is important to do them well. Coaching and praise help the children learn to do their jobs well, take pride in the quality of their work, and see how their job contributes to the JRA community.
Older students mentor and coach younger students within controlled situations. Cooperation rather than competition is important within multi-aged groups and especially with children who may be intensely competitive anyhow. There is a difference in “beating someone” and doing one’s best, and working with younger students can help children make that differentiation.
Inspirational people, local and far away, living and dead, will be held up as guides and models. Every child is encouraged to do and be his or her best through motivation, praise and reward. As students come to feel the positive feelings that go along with positive interactions, negative behavior begins to fade.
Why does Dr. Hobbs think joy is so important? C.S. Lewis asked, “I sometimes wonder whether all pleasures are not substitutes for joy.” To know real joy means that one cannot be satisfied with cheap pleasures. Nicholas Hobbs said, “Every child deserves joy every day,” and we provide opportunities for that to happen. Children who have not experienced much joy in school situations can find it here. Teachers are so attuned to the students that they can usually pinpoint the moment during the day this occurs for a student. Perhaps it comes when swinging or when finally learning to tie one’s shoelaces. It may be the thrill that comes from seeing the seed planted break through the earth or sounding out an unfamiliar word for the first time. It’s important to learn that fun and joy are not synonymous; one is fleeting and skims the surface, while joy is sharp and memorable.
Regular opportunities for joy exist. Almost every day is some kind of a holiday, and we celebrate those days regularly The possibilities for enjoyable education that exist when one celebrates Red Planet Day (11/28), Squirrel Appreciation Day (1/23), Johnny Appleseed Day (3/11), or Pi Day (3/14 at 1:59) are extensive. Opportunities to work with animals, teen tutors, or guest artists occur regularly. Music and movement are often joyous occasions. But it’s important for children to understand that joy comes in quieter, smaller moments as well and that one must be open and prepared for those moments to happen.
Can parents and others volunteer at JRA? We welcome volunteers within set times and with prior arrangements. Because we are so highly structured, we ask that parent don’t just drop in but allow us to prepare the students for visitors and volunteers.
How is JRA governed? A director, who is supported by and accountable to a Board of Directors, runs the program. As a nonprofit corporation, JRA is governed by a set of by-laws.
What should I do if I want to apply and know I cannot afford to pay? Call or email the director. If your student seems like a good fit, apply! We will work together to find the resources for your child if at all possible. We are not eligible for Medicaid or insurance. Some suggestions:
- adoption assistance if your child is a special needs adoption
- contact relatives and/or friends to see if any might be able to help
- help us with our fundraising efforts.
- check to see if you are eligible for the NC special needs tax credit.
- NC offers two grant programs, one to low-income families and the other to those leaving public school with an IEP.
What is the place of technology at JRA? Technology has an important place at JRA. Ipads are used almost daily. Computers are a wonderful tool for research, learning games, and composition. Keyboarding will be taught, especially for students who have trouble with the physical part of composition. Students will be monitored when they are on the computer. Computers and Ipads may be used for reward times as well, but sites such as Facebook will remain off limits. Neos and Franklin Spellers will be an important learning tool for some students. Some students work better to music, and Ipods may be used at some times with permission. We count on parents to monitor the music their student has on his Ipod. Cell phones should be left in the student’s cubby or with a teacher.
Does JRA follow North Carolina’s Standard Course of Study? Only in our high school program. For our younger students, we have observed that most of our students come to us needing something quite different. Students are assessed to find their areas of strength and weakness. Strengths are encouraged and built upon, while weaknesses are remediated. Each student who needs it receives one-on-one tutoring in reading. Math and language arts are also individualized to help students reach their potential. Social studies and science are designed around unit studies that are interesting and help students learn how to learn. Each student will receive direct teaching in needed social skills areas. We hope that time spent at JRA will help our students became proficient in both academic and social skills areas and will open up additional educational options. We will also offer parent seminars on a variety of parenting topics.