A new private school is coming to Sussex County in the fall.
Dustin Yoder said he started Headwaters Acton to serve people who have a deep dissatisfaction with traditional education.
He and his wife Stefanie Yoder live in Sussex County and wanted their four young children to have a different path of education than they experienced.
After sending three of their children to their local Montessori school, they decided to opt for homeschooling because of “the constraints of the government on the public school system.”
They found Acton Academy, a national network of private schools with 270 locations across the world.
Yoder said the model blends the freedom, cooperation and academic rigor that he wants Delaware’s young learners to experience as they mature.
Although the Yoders haven’t settled on a location, they’re hoping to secure a building in Milton.
“That’s kind of close to where we live, and we figured Milton was really central so we could pull from Lewes, Milford and even Georgetown,” Yoder said. “It’s sort of a nice triangle there in the western part of the county.”
If they can’t find a place in Milton, they’ll likely locate in Milford.
Yoder works in his family business, Dover Windows and Doors, and his wife homeschools two of their four kids.
Planning the private school
He expects the doors to open this fall for the 2023-2024 school year with about a dozen students. According to Stefanie Yoder, tuition will be $7,400 per student, but will decrease by $1,000 for each extra student in a family.
There will initially be an elementary school studio for ages 6 to 11. Yoder hopes to expand after that, adding a spark studio for ages 3 to 5 next year.
Students will not be in grades, an FAQ says. “We believe that children learn best when working with those younger and older than themselves rather than split up into groups based solely on age.”
Headwaters Acton will add a middle school and a “launchpad” – Acton’s terminology for high school – once the inaugural class of students reach those grade levels.
Once it’s fully built out, Yoder is hoping for an enrollment of around 100 students.
“But that’s going to take several years,” he said.
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The school’s mission statement is that it believes every child who enters the studio is a genius and they are on a hero’s mission to find their calling to change the world.
“That sounds disingenuous since obviously, every child does not have a 150 IQ,” he said, “but genius in the sense of them being able to operate independently, identifying a problem and applying whatever imagination and skills they have to solve that problem. That’s how we view genius.”
He said the model for an Acton Academy allows students’ skillsets to shine much more than traditional schools.
“They’re going to identify the problems that they see in the world and they’re going to have the competence and the tool set to be able to address those problems and change the world,” he said.
Here’s what the school website claims is unique about their model: The overarching theme of the school is freedom, Yoder said.
“They’re going to learn to appreciate educational freedom, religious freedom, economic freedom,” he said. “We’re going to work that into everything but the key is it’s learner-driven so we seek to remove adult responsibility and hand off everything to them as quickly as possible.”
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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