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Kids in Art Class


Now Enrolling for Fall 2024 Ages 5-18

Do you believe that every child is a genius
with the potential to change the world?

A Hero's Journey for the

21st Century

Acton Academy offers a truly different approach to school- one that turns traditional education upside down and puts young people in the driver's seat of their own learning.  There are no lectures, homework, or tests at Acton Academy.  Instead, our unique approach gives each learner agency over their own goals, and challenges each student through real-world, collaborative, hands-on projects and experiences, combined with the latest in educational technology.


Acton Academy empowers students on their own unique Hero's Journey to discover their gifts, become the best version of themselves, to learn how to think, not what to think, to explore what they are passionate about, and to learn to use their gifts and talents to change the world for the better!  


It's Learner Driven

Our collaborative, mixed-age studios allow learners to work together on meaningful, hands-on projects incorporating science, technology, social studies, art, and entrepreneurship. 

For core subjects like math, phonics, spelling and grammar, we use the latest in adaptive technology, and hands on manipulatives and materials, which allow students to learn at the level that is exactly right for them.

 We empower young people to take charge of their learning by helping them set and achieve goals, manage their time, and work at their own pace.

Being learner-driven, our Heroes are given the opportunity to make important leadership decisions regarding the operation and environment of their studio.



It's purposful

There are no grades, homework, or tests.  Instead we are focused on authentic learning...learning by doing.  Our students complete real world, hands-on projects, quests, and apprenticeships to make learning meaningful, purposeful, and engaging.  Learners demonstrate knowledge and growth through community learning exhibitions and demonstrations.   

We promote an entrepreneurial mindset that encourages our young people to develop their business ideas, creations and inventions, and bring them to fruition in the real world.

it's socratic

Instead of teachers who lecture, we have Socratic Guides who inspire, equip, and connect. Our Guides use the Socratic Method to help learners discover answers for themselves, instead of telling them what and how to think. 

Our Heroes also participate in daily Socratic discussions to help foster critical thinking, perspective taking, and self-awareness.

Our Socratic learning environment helps nurture  independent thinkers, who look beyond surface level to come to a deep understanding of the people and world around them.

It's character focused

In addition to working with  minds and hands, our Heroes also practice strengthening their character.  Accountability, integrity, compassion, teamwork, grit, and perseverance are all honored and encouraged here.  We want young people to understand that failure is a necessary part of the learning process, and is where true learning lies- learning from our mistakes.

We want our students to care deeply about their world and the issues of our time, and understand they have the ability play an active role in making their community and their world a better place.


We offer a variety of program options to meet the varying needs of families



We will encourage each member of our community to:

  • Begin a Hero's Journey

  • Learn to be a curious, independent, lifelong learner

  • Discover their most precious gifts, and learn to use them to solve difficult problems

  • Develop a deep respect for religious, political, personal health, and economic freedom, and understand the responsibility that comes with it

  • Understand the importance of strong character

  • Cherish the arts, wonders of the natural world, and the mysteries of life on Earth

  • Have precious time to spend with family, friends, and passions outside of the studio, as there is no required homework at Acton Academy.  We also have additional breaks throughout the year so families can travel and spend quality time together.


A look inside the studios of Acton Academy Main Campus in Austin, Texas


Click the above link to read Laura Sandefer's blog for parents, and listen to podcasts featuring Acton Academy

If you’d like to learn more about The Acton Academy story, order the book Courage to Grow.

"Acton Academy is one of the most important education developments in the world. The story behind the ideas, the school, and the movement is a must read.”

Tom Van der Ark, CEO of Getting Smart



Carol Bowles, M.A.


Head of Program

Discovery Guide

Welcome to Acton Academy Santa Cruz!  I'm Carol, and I'm the mom of three amazing children, an educator, the director of a private school satellite program for home-schoolers, and a homeschool parent myself.  I hold a master's degree in education from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and have been a teacher (in various forms and formats) for the past 20 years.  I have always been passionate about alternative education, and have spent my years as a teacher and parent trying to shake up the system from within and from without- striving to bring more child-centered ways of learning, doing, and being to my classrooms and to my own family.


After seeing the effects of traditional education on my children (loss of curiosity, lack of engagement, loss for a love of learning) I began homeschooling them, and through that amazing process it became my dream to one day open my own learner-driven program: a place where all students' gifts and passions could shine, where they had agency over their own time and learning goals, where they could work on real-world skills and delve deeply into topics they cared about, and ultimately where they could thrive and lead a joy-filled, purposeful life. 

When I serendipitously learned about the Acton Academy model from my dear friends (and Co-Founders), Annabelle and Eric Drake, and realized families could start their own unique affiliates, I knew I found what I had been dreaming of!  

The Drakes and I are so excited to bring Acton Academy Santa Cruz to our families and to yours, and we invite you to join us on the Hero's Journey of a lifetime!


Carol Bowles

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Hello! What more do we want for our children than for them to grow into wonder-filled humans that love learning, conquer challenges, and search for a calling that will change the world? 


I’m Annabelle Drake and I live with my family in the Santa Cruz mountains on a small homestead with dairy goats, rabbits, poultry, dogs, cats, and other redwood forest critters. My journey has taken me to many awesome places throughout the world and every time I come home,  I am stoked to have deep roots in the Monterey Bay. 


What has brought me to embrace Acton Academy and a different way of approaching education, was our oldest son’s experience at a traditional public school from kinder through 2nd grade. It was “normal” and  seemed fine on the surface, but it really wasn’t nourishing growth. At the beginning of his 3rd grade year, I was looking at the school for our 4 year old and  I noticed that our very well known and respected public school was in a time of transition and change. It just didn’t seem like it was working for our family.


I began looking at the school environment through a different lens and I realized that every day my sweet, sensitive little 8 year old went to school, he came home less creative and less confident. We visited a hybrid homeschool program on a Tuesday and said goodbye to traditional school that Friday! We found a supportive homeschool community and our family flourished. 


When the schools were shut down in 2020, we were primarily focused on experiential and nature-based learning, but the lack of school days (social activities with our community) led us to find our new tribe that was very much focused on freedom and personal choice. We built an incredible community that valued in-person learning. 


In 2021, we were looking to acquire form samples for our homeschool resource center when my husband came across an awesome Acton Academy website. He shared the site with our group and my dear friend Carol said, “Yes, the form is great, but have you seen this school model!?!”  She became consumed with learning more about Acton and applied to open one in Santa Cruz within a week. I was honored when Carol asked me to join her on the journey of a lifetime!


Considering Acton’s “3 BIG QUESTIONS at the End of a Life Well Lived,” I knew that I was in the right place… Did I contribute something meaningful? Was I a good person? Whom did I love and who loved me? There are no "teachers" at Acton, merely guides helping our Heroes set goals, reach higher, and strive for excellence. The end goal of learning isn't to get a good score on a test or an "A" from a teacher, it is to learn for the sake of learning, to solve real problems, and to make difficult but responsible decisions. 


We invite young learners to explore the essential questions of: "Who am I becoming? Where am I going? What do I need to do to get there? How can I improve the world?  


Join us!

Annabelle Drake

Annabelle Drake, B.F.A.


Head of Operations

High School Guide


Eric Drake, M.B.A.


Head of Innovation and Experience

Finance Director

Hello Acton Academy families, learners, and those interested in the Acton model! I look at the intentional and deliberate migration that Acton Academy has moved away from, which is the notion of “traditional education practices" and the idea of having young learners sitting at desks for hours on end, listening to indoctrination teachings from what I see as a strangely warped, tunnel-visioned, monolithic structure.  This simply doesn't work for many individuals. My son faced this very problem in 2nd and 3rd grade. His self esteem was tanking, his ability to focus was disintegrating, and socially, he was quickly rising to a status of “the weird kid” because he wasn't getting the recognition for his innate genius; he was getting pounded into conformity!


Enough! We pulled him out of that grist mill because we couldn't stand the thought of squelching his creative and free ability to critically think about what is important to him in his life. Fortunately, we did it in time to now enjoy a thoughtful, super smart, committed and passionate young man who cares about his friends, his family, his community and who deeply loves the ocean. (He's a Pisces.) He is also a person that has developed very strong opinions and perspectives, and frankly, he can hold a position in an argument when he believes in himself. He is truly a manifestation of someone that has been offered freedom of expression and self – realization through art, academics, physical ability, and spiritual exploration. I could not have hoped for more, or expected anything less!


Thankfully, my younger son never had to endure much of the dynamic of an educational experience like my older son because my wife and I had already embraced homeschooling. This budding young man has one of the biggest hearts I've ever been held by and is simply a wonderfully warm and engaging person. It's our goal to try and not worry too much about this silliness of “wondering if he's keeping up academically” or, “where are we going to get socialization time?” None of that.


We have an amazing community in Santa Cruz and beyond, and it's building all the time. And each person, each learner can, and should, be challenged to stretch their academic and cognitive capabilities, but regurgitating statistics, memorizing lines of text and formulas isn't learning. Well, it's learning to be a conformist, but it's not learning to be creative, thoughtful, critical and exploratory. It's certainly not what makes great people that add to culture, find their calling, and improve the human community through their actions, which ultimately changes the world, for good. This is what Acton Academy Santa Cruz, and all the Acton Academies strive for: finding each person's unique genius and their calling that will change the world. We want that for you, and we want that for your loved ones, especially the young people.


I’m super excited to take this journey with my wife, Annabelle, Carol Bowles, and the Acton Academy community. I bring a fairly wide artist’s-view of the world, a few degrees in business administration, literature, and architecture, which have served my interests well, but are not the drive or the inspiration for why I love learning. I love learning because it provides me with a wider sense of wonder as I move through the world.


I want to live a creative life, and want to share that joy with my community and our Acton Academy Santa Cruz learners and families!

Eric Drake

Important Dates 2023/2024

Session 1 

Sept 5 - Oct 6 (5 weeks)

Fall Break: Oct. 9-13


Session 2 

Oct 16 - Nov 17 (5 weeks) 

Thanksgiving Break: Nov 20-24


Session 3 

Nov 27 - Dec 15 (3 weeks) 

Winter Holiday Break: Dec 18 - Jan 5


Session 4 

Jan 8 - Feb 9 (5 weeks) 

Winter Break #2: Feb 12-19 *Monday off for President’s Day


Session 5 

Feb 20 - Mar 29 (6 weeks) 

Spring Break #1 : Apr 1-5


Session 6 

Apr 8 - May 17 (6 weeks) 

Spring Break #2 (w/ Memorial Day) May 20 - 27


Session 7 

May 28 - June 14 (3 weeks) 

Summer Break! See you September 3rd, 2024!

            No class on the following holidays:

Friday, November 10 (Veteran’s Day)

Monday, Jan 15 (Martin Luther King Jr.)

Monday, Feb 19 (President’s Day)

Monday, May 27 (Memorial Day)

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