We are a nuclear family: I’m Matthew, my wife is Maria, and our three children are Malachi (8), Max (5) and Xavier (<1). Maria is an epidemiologist for the CDC and I own and manage a software consulting company. We are a very academically focused family. We typically read 30-90 minutes a day to the children and have been providing them with considerable educational resources (toys, games, books) since we started our family. Maria earned multiple advanced degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill and I have a master's in chemistry from UNC-Greensboro and we were both National Merit Scholars.
We chose our current home of 8 years based on school district (we are slated for Creekside), but as Malachi reached school age we had an educational soul searching. I wanted our children to attend public school and wanted our family to participate with the school. I felt it was our civic duty to contribute our children and resources to our local public school. Maria wanted to send Malachi to the best school possible. Having learned the meaning of the phrase, 'If mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one going to be happy,' from one of my first mentors, Malachi was destined for private school.
We researched quite a few schools including Durham Academy, the Carolina Friends School, and Duke School. We chose Duke School based on their project-based learning.
When Malachi started kindergarten at Duke School, he could read at the second grade level, write, knew all of his math addition facts, and could even recite the first two rows of the periodic table. I was relieved to turn over his education to professionals and had high hopes. Duke School has its merits, but we believe that focusing on the academically gifted is not one of them. After fully participating and completing the first year of kindergarten, Malachi had not learned anything new. His reading had improved ever so slightly – but I imagine it would have grown even more if we had continued directly managing his education. The Duke School kindergarten focuses on socialization, but Malachi already had exemplary behavior and lots of friends. On the bright side, we did meet a few fantastic families and Malachi made some great new friends who he continues to play with.
Since Duke School was not a great fit for our family, we decided to try Creekside for Malachi’s year of first grade. We have a few friends who work in the school systems and were a bit apprehensive based on their input, but again hoped for the best. Malachi complained about collective punishment and misbehaved children in his class and I thought it was simply because he is inclined to follow rules – even annoyingly so. But then I went to observe and discovered the truth. The teacher had anachronistic notions about discipline. For example, she thought it was a good idea to regularly withhold snacks and recess from all the children for the misbehavior of a few, not recognizing that hunger and pent up energy might be creating a misbehavior feedback loop. Malachi did grow academically at Creekside, but I could not in good conscience send him back to that school.
We were at a loss of what to do for Malachi’s second grade and Max’s kindergarten. We were reviewing schools again and were hopeful that Malachi might skip a grade and be in the gifted program. We happened to find Camelot Academy on a random web search for gifted programs and set up an appointment to meet with the administration. I was apprehensive about the school building – being a very large house – and the mixing of high school kids with primary school children. After meeting with Scott, Thelma and the kindergarten and second grade teachers, we were reassured and very hopeful. The academic focus of the school was exactly what I was looking for. The mastery focused learning is exactly how I think all education should be based.
The Camelot Academy experience is the first time in my life where my expectations were resoundingly exceeded. The first week of school is spent familiarizing the children with the school, the policies and the expectations. The next two weeks of school were individual assessments of each child’s current understanding of each academic topic. At the culmination, there is a one-on-one parent-teacher meeting to discuss the child’s academic plan for the year. I’ve seen assessments before - what we received from Camelot was more like a CIA briefing on our child’s level of understanding of academic topics. The teachers take the time to assess a comprehensive list of skills.
They don’t say, "Your kid is good or bad at math." They report that your child has mastered addition facts, subtraction facts and problem solving, but needs to work on telling time, mastering multiples of six and understanding fractions.
They don’t say, "Your kid can read at an age-appropriate level." They report that your child reads at a fourth grade, second semester level but needs to work on abstract reading comprehension – and his pronunciation of "v" is slightly off. From the assessments, each child received a personal academic plan. Our 5-year-old was working on second grade spelling, third grade math and remedial drawing. Our 8-year-old was gradually transitioned from second grade to third grade over the course of three months. Their academic growth over the course of a year was well beyond my expectations. Camelot Academy teaches to mastery and updates each child’s academic plan based on their progress. The most amazing thing was that the children came home happy every day and were eager to go to return to school. I think that beyond the academics, that Camelot Academy understands children and lets them work at their own pace and comfort level – hence the happiness.
The atmosphere of the school is incredibly nurturing and encouraging. I initially found the mandatory parent attendance at various events like Thanksgiving Dinner, Evening of the Arts, Pie Supper and Graduation a bit odd and cumbersome. What I discovered is that these events and participation in these events is part of the education, culture, tradition and values that Camelot Academy teaches. The children – from kindergarten through 12th grade - all make presentations, perform talents and demonstrate their learning to the literally captive parent audience through these events. The confidence and eloquence of the children who had attended Camelot for many years bespoke the effectiveness of these methods. The quality of the performances and presentations are quite remarkable. The encouragement and genuine enthusiastic support from fellow students were touching. I’ve never witnessed anything like the heartfelt gratitude of the graduating seniors had for the school. I’m actually looking forward to attending these events again.
I have a very critical eye and I cannot find any shortcomings in the education Camelot Academy is providing to my children. We’re extremely pleased with Camelot Academy and the experience our children are receiving.