fire: a reflection on 2020-2021

[Heroes heading to the future]


Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. (Exodus 3:2)

In our final week of the Outdoor Survival Quest, the heroes learned about fire and how to build one.  To begin the week, we reflected on Moses’ encounter with the burning bush.  The heroes noticed that they can understand things like fire yet recognize that presence of God goes beyond our understanding.  In ways, we’ve understood what’s happened this year.  Yet we’ve encountered God through finances, through recruiting, through hero achievement and through school growth in ways that we can’t fully explain, especially in a year like this one.  And our only response is to testify to God’s goodness and to look expectantly to next year.

Financially, we are thankful to be positioned with the revenue necessary to gracefully traverse the lean summer months into fall.  Coupled with our lean model, fundraising efforts have kept us on solid footing throughout the year as we raised $66,000 for Journey Academy.  There is even more hope as we consider our enrollment.  We ended the year with 23 heroes for 2019-2020.  We are ending the 2020-2021 year with 32 heroes ready to start in August and with 3 more heroes slated to join us in January 2022.  Starting the year, enrollment numbers will be up 40% and by January we will be up to a 50% increase in our heroes.

[Nora displaying the badges she’s earned]

These metrics are important to keep the doors open at Journey.  But what’s happening inside is even more exciting.  This year, the Elementary Studio piloted iReady, an adaptive on-line platform for reading and math.  It gave Miss Cheryl the ability to more deeply personalize learning as she tracked data, offered support and stretch goals, and rewarded heroes with the chance to engage in learning games.  

As we looked at the growth in reading and math in the Elementary Studio, we bless God for the effort the heroes put forth as well as the growth that came from this effort.  Typical Growth is the average annual growth for a student at their grade and baseline placement level.  ES Heroes made 135% Progress to Annual Typical Growth in Math.  This means as a whole, they experienced a year and one third’s growth.  Certainly this doesn’t mean everyone.  This is the studio average with some having even more growth and others having less growth. Importantly, this is a wonderful example of heroes learning at their own pace and we celebrate the progress of each hero!

Even more exciting news awaits in Reading. ES Heroes made 190% Progress to Annual Typical Growth in Reading this past year. This means as a whole, they experienced almost two years growth this year.  Certainly this doesn’t mean everyone.  This is the studio average with some having even more growth and others having less growth. What joy to see our heroes on their journey, taking charge of their learning, and advancing at a pace that is right for them.

[the heroes portfolios show their construction process much like this shelter]

Looking through portfolios offers another glimpse of what God is doing in our midst as our heroes learn.  Here is a clip from an ELS portfolio.  

The step in the hero’s journey that I feel like I am at is:  I’m having some tough times on reading. It may be in the middle of great and terrible.  I’m getting better. Some of the things that I get stuck with is how do you spell this word but sometimes I just say hey I can do this and I get it. So I’m still having a little bit of a hard time and reading and I think I can get better and better as I get older 

These are some of the friends who have walked beside me this year: Elias has been helping me a lot. I like that. Also Jaina helps me with doing reading and I said reading is hard for me, they don’t just tell it to me but they give me clues to figure it out I like that instead of just telling you. Jacob is very pretty good at reading and he knows a lot of words. There’s one more person that’s been good to reading to me. His name is Asa. He’s been very nice to me and he told me some things.

And this ES Portfolio displays a passion for reading. 

The Deep Books I have read this year:

  • One and Only Ivan

  • Love Does for Kids

  • Jim Elliot

  • Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie

  • Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry

  • The Journal of Douglas Allen Deeds

  • (And am about halfway through) Do Hard Things

Deep Book Reviews:

  • Slideshow (One and Only Ivan)

  • Letter to the Author (Love Does for Kids)

  • Mobile (Jim Elliot)

  • Diorama (Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie)

  • Venn Diagram (Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry)

  • Newspaper (The Journal of Douglas Allen Deeds) 

[after a slow start, growth is sprouting in every corner]

Finances, recruiting and hero achievement are all encouraging.  One other hopeful metric is our expansion from two studios to three studios.  Our growth is leading us to launch our Intermediate Studio and hire Mr. Ian Grell.   He specializes in reading, writing, social studies, drama and is a design thinking consultant. Innovating and disrupting throughout his career, Ian promises to bring fresh creativity to Journey.

Every day we stepped into studio gave me this confirmation that this is the work that I want to be around.  Looking around outside the studio, there was certainly cause for discouragement.  But when you encounter God in the midst like that bush, tell the story.  I look forward to telling more stories this fall.

//Dr. T//

To subscribe to Dr. T’s blog, please signup here.

you will find


Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:11-12)

The angel offers guidance.

And the shepherds were the ones who were sent on the journey.  “You will find.”  Each one of us is sent to find.  Some of us get there right away. Some of us wander following another star.

A foundational part of Journey’s approach is to support each hero find the calling to the journey. This personalized distinction uses the latest technology in a self-paced learning environment to fosters responsibility, goal-setting, and teamwork. Guides are then freed up to come alongside heroes and their challenges as well as to exhort them to even greater discoveries.

As each hero in the Early Learning studio works on math at their own pace, Elias discovers patterns. Here he shares some of his discoveries enabled by a technology supported individualized learning environment.  (note: volume is loud)

As an emerging reader during distance learning last year, Lola worked hard with her parents. As Lola developed literacy skills on her journey into the fall, she would ask once she met her goals if she could read a book to me.  And just last week, Lola led read-aloud for the Early Learning Studio.

She was confident and excited by this new step of leading.  With the mix of  a “gamified” platform focused on phonemic awareness, decoding and comprehension, a rich and diverse classroom library of books, regular, deep and engaging read-alouds as well as on-time coaching from Ms. Sarah, Lola leveraged the tools and companions she needed for this next step of her literacy Journey.

Jonathan is our oldest hero and during his portfolio review he reflected that writing has been his  greatest developed skill. During our Writer’s Workshop focused on narrative he developed You Are Under A Rest.

As each hero learned common guiding points about the genre of narrative writing, they would implement these into their own narratives that they were developing on their writer’s journey.  Additionally, they would study mentor texts of experienced writers adapting moves from reading as a writer.  Jonathan paid attention to leads and worked them into his fictional narrative.

Each hero during independent reading (also known as D.E.A.R) chooses the books, they want to read.  As they complete their books, Miss Cheryl invites them to create a Deep Books Project.  Clara created a mobile to represent her reading of the biography George Mueller: The Guardian of Bristol’s Orphans. 

While others were selecting reading fiction or non-fiction close to their experience, Clara chose to dive into the life of this 19th century missionary and prayer mobilizer.  Mueller wanted to follow God’s will and he started an orphanage because his reading of the Bible told him to take care of orphans.  His faith then led him to ask God to provide for his following of God’s will.  He proceeded to only ask in prayer for provision and throughout his life the orphanage was provided for, right on time.  One hero reading about another hero about taking the journey.

Reading, Writing and Math.  At Journey, we call these Core Skills. In turn, we develop interdisciplinary skills, social-emotional skills as well as Kingdom skills.  But those are other stories for another time. Today, we are grateful for how God is developing the skills these heroes need.

We believe it when we tell the heroes, “you will find. . . ” They are building capacities. They are going to find treasure.  They are going to change the world.  Let’s join them.

//Dr. T//


To subscribe to Dr. T’s blog, please signup here.