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I Didn’t Know What I Didn’t Know - The Intangibles

“I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I didn’t realize this is what a school could be like.”

Surprise gift

One of the hardest things for us to communicate to prospective parents is what it is like for their child to attend Arches Academy. In this post, we’ll try to share the intangibles, as shared with us by current parents.

Until parents experience Arches, they may think:

  • all kids hate school

  • some kids just don’t get math, spelling, science, etc

  • hopefully my child gets the “good” teacher this year

  • my child may just have to catch up later

  • if public school was good enough for me, it’s good enough for them

After joining our school, one of the most common comments we hear is that parents didn’t know that education could be like this.

What do they mean by that? What is it that they learn after starting their child at Arches that they didn’t know before?

We recently surveyed our parents and asked them in what ways their child has improved since starting at Arches Academy. The responses are often issues of huge importance in child development that you can’t quantify in a number. Here are some of the topics that came up again and again in parent responses:


Parents tell us their children improve academically. But more than that, they tell us that their children aren’t held back from their natural pace. Often parents are surprised at the subjects being covered that aren’t even a consideration at other schools. (This post focuses on the non-academics; see our other blog posts for specifics about academics, leveled learning, Singapore math, Gifted & Talented learning, real reading assessments, etc.)

Leadership - Executive Function Skills - The Leader in Me

The Leader in Me

Arches Academy implements the school wide Leader in Me program by FranklinCovey which is based on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

Many parents reported different aspects of their child’s improvement that are attributable to this program:

  • increased self confidence was the number one survey response we received.

  • being proactive and self motivated in doing their homework.

  • increased leadership skills, and opportunities in their class/school.

  • better self-discipline.

  • more patient.

  • shared 7-Habits vocabulary between home and school gets child to respond to parent requests.

  • attitude improvement.

One parent stated, “My 6th grader is much more confident. He has become a completely different person in a positive way and enjoys school!”


School play

Given our smaller class sizes and our smaller school, our students have more opportunities. All students participate in the school plays and many choose to audition for specific roles in the play. One of our parents commented that he was amazed his child tried out for the play. If a child wants to be on the volleyball team or the basketball team, they have that opportunity in the middle school.

Academically, there are more opportunities as well. The school has more focused field trips that reinforce learning that happens in the classroom. It may be local field trips, overnight field trips, or week long trips (Catalina, Boston, D.C., NY, etc).

At Arches Academy, there is a wider breadth of learning subjects as well. Our “Mini-Courses” provide rotating topics every 4-6 weeks, created from students’ expressed interests. We also offer yoga, foreign language, science, technology, Drama, and more; classes that are disappearing from public and charter schools.


Corn maze

Parents report that their children become more social. Our class sizes are smaller which provides children more opportunities to participate, to speak up, share ideas, and for the teacher to solicit their input. One parent was surprised to hear that his “quiet child” is an avid participator in class. Children can work in teams together or on projects together, furthering their social experiences.

Parents reported that their child speaks more clearly and interacts with others, including adults, in more mature ways. Students also engage in friendships across grades, since many of their classes are mixed-age classes. A higher level of social well-being is a direct result of students attending multi-age classes.

Child Happiness and Well-being

What else did our parents learn that they didn’t know until they became an Arches’ parent? They learned their child wasn’t happy before.

While all children are different, in our survey many parents responded that their child is now happy. Their child has less anxiety, less worry, and their child is happy to go to school. Their child is actually disappointed when it isn’t a school day, or when they have to go home due to being sick. They report that the other children at Arches show more empathy and kindness to each other than children at other schools. They report their child has made friends at Arches.

Arches Classroom

One parent responded, “She looks forward to going to school. When I pick her up from after school care, she is not wanting to go home yet. She loves her teachers and her classmates. I absolutely LOVE this school. I feel at peace every day that she attends. I know she is safe and learning from teachers that genuinely care about the children.”

The staff at Arches Academy care about the whole child and not just a class subject or a score on a test - it is much more of a holistic approach to child education. It is common for one teacher to request input from other teachers regarding a specific student’s situation. At public schools, typically the only communication between teachers and parents happens at the parent-teacher conference. At Arches, parents have as much communication with teachers as they would like.

Final Thoughts

There are countless intangibles that we see in the Arches students; things that are hard to notice in a tour of the school. Hopefully this post, based on real feedback from current parents, helps to explain the intangible benefits of an Arches Academy education for your child.