Be Courageous: Choose to go Smaller

Bigger isn’t always better.

Frankly, in the world of education, bigger certainly isn’t better.

Time and again we have sacrificed our children on the alter of economics and efficiency.  We don’t have time to know the children; we don’t have time to adapt our teaching to their learning or interests; and we certainly don’t have time to listen to their little kid stories about the frog’s eggs in the pond.

We pay dearly for this inattention and lack of time.  We miss the wonder of a sac of frog’s eggs (“can I raise frogs at home?” asks Everett. “Maybe,” considers Declan. “Let’s teach them to be butlers!”); and we pave over our children’s interests and unique talents with a mass curriculum designed for the non-existent ‘average’ student.

One of our students has been with us for three years.  It was just this year that we started to unravel who he really was as a learner… what it was that brought the very best out of him.  Three years is far too long – and that was within a classroom where he only had 7 other peers.  The chance that he would have been found in a group of 30 students is virtually zero.

I founded Headwaters Academy because I couldn’t accept mediocrity.  Not from my students, and definitely not from myself.  The stakes, as an educator, are too high.  I built a school where we proved that small class sizes matter, that education cannot be one size fits all, and that there is no ‘model’ that works for every child.  However, missing that student’s ‘learning character’ for three years is a failure that I can’t accept.  Good isn’t good enough if better is possible.

For this reason we are transitioning Headwaters Academy to a smaller, more nimble, and even more personal school.  From our new Information Package, which will be available in full shortly (it’s currently in its final phase of writing):

The Micro School Rationale


Upon opening Headwaters Academy in 2017 we spent time researching class size.  Unfortunately, little to no research exists on the benefits of classes less than 15 students.  For this reason we took the rather brave approach of opening with class sizes of 8 students.  Our rationale was simply metaphorical – if you were at a dinner party, what size could it be before you felt that you didn’t get a chance to meet everyone or that you could simply fade and ‘hide’ in the background.  That number, for us, was 8.


After six successful years, with students 2-3 grade levels ahead in language and math, Founder Mark Brown realized that there was still more to be gained by going smaller.  In order to implement a Socratic approach to teaching, where the teacher became a co-partner in the child’s education, smaller class sizes were needed.  For 2023 Headwaters Academy will open with six children.