Did you know that HEROES Academy also has a microschool for gifted and talented students? We’ve been running our accelerated weekend classes for 13 years, but for those students that find that school just “isn’t working,” our microschool might be the perfect fit.
A Little History
We founded HEROESgifted in 2007, primarily to find a friend for my profoundly gifted younger brother. When he was nine years old, he decided that he wanted to go to college. To him, going to college was the “answer” to all of his frustrations. He was chronically bored in school, didn’t relate to his peers, and quite frankly, had no interest in “playing the game of school” to please others. He was actually failing school because he absolutely refused to do the work presented to him.
Our mom, Ms. Rita Voit, told him that if he wanted to go to college, had to get in like everyone else. She was half-joking at the time. We’d never known a child to actually do this. He studied for the SAT on his own, and just barely missed a perfect score. He took three SAT IIs to submit in place of a high school diploma. A promise is a promise. At eleven years old, he took his first college class. He completed 6 college credits at Rutgers University during their winter session and earned A’s in both classes.
Going to college at such a young age worked for him. At the time, it was the best option for him. Like many gifted students, homeschooling wasn’t a good fit for him, and he made it clear that no one could force him to go to school. He was skipping school and eloping from school once there.
But, going to college at such a young age isn’t a great option. College isn’t designed for small children. There had to be a better option.
As HEROES grew, we met thousands of other parents and kids like my brother, and we realized that there really wasn’t a “better” option. There wasn’t even really a different option. At the time, there wasn’t a single school for gifted and talented students in the state of NJ. Grade skipping is hard to come by, and it’s only a temporary solution. Gifted kids learn differently and at a faster pace than their peers, so grade skipping might put them in a better placement for now, but eventually, grade skipped gifted children end up experiencing the same frustrations they faced before the grade skip. Homeschooling isn’t a good fit for all families; taking on a child’s entire education is a big commitment, children may not respond well to the complexities of relating to mom as mother, teacher, and principal, and it’s hard (and expensive) to study some subjects (like lab science) at home.
We opened HEROES Academy in 2012 to provide gifted and talented students with a different option. At the time, we were not ready to provide a comprehensive school for gifted students, so we started with weekend classes. This provided us with the opportunity to write, revise, and test our curriculum. We opened in New Brunswick because many of our original students were dual enrolled at the University, but we also knew this wasn’t our forever home. We needed our own space — and land — to have kids all day.
We moved to Monroe Twp in 2021. We did construction on the building amidst COVID shutdown. We opted to postpone opening our micoschool when we first moved, sticking with the weekend classes, as we felt that COVID was not the right time. We wanted a student body that truly needs this program — not applicants looking for a small group alternative amidst a health crisis. It’s been a long journey to get to where we are today, but we’re excited to begin our microschool this Fall. At this point, we’ve been planning for this day for more than twenty years. (Slow and steady wins the race?)
About Our Curriculum
We’ve written, revised, and tested our curriculum over the last 13 years, and we’re thrilled with it. We’ve written our curriculum specifically for gifted students. It’s rigorous, but it’s also exciting and engaging. Through our curriculum, our students become excited about learning again, develop grit, critical thinking skills, logic, and reasoning skills. We’ve created our own games, puzzles, and other hands-on activities to bring the concepts to life.
Our classes allow students the opportunity to accelerate, but we also dive deeper into the topics at hand and branch out to standards not normally seen in a public school curriculum. For example, our language arts classes place a heavy emphasis on grammar, introducing topics in third and fourth grade not normally seen until high school. I like to think of acceleration as a “side effect;” our students learn faster, and they’re eager to learn, so they move faster through the material, but our primary goal is to nurture our students’ passion for learning, develop a strong work ethic, and build a strong foundation for future studies and careers.
About the School Day
Our microschool meets three days per week on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9 AM to 3 PM.
At the beginning of each day, students set short term and long term goals and evaluate their progress on those long term goals. While I have goals in mind for each student, I believe that the goals each student has for him/herself are just as (if not more) important.
Throughout the day, students complete lessons and course work through a combination of independent instruction, small group instruction, and independent work. The small groups or pairs that students are divided into vary based on the specific learning standards students are ready to learn.
The whole school studies the same history and science unit together; however, the actual coursework differs based on their math and reading skills. For history, we’re starting with a study of the Native Americans. For example, students reading at a middle school level will receive reading material related to this area of study at that level. By studying the same unit, all students are able to converse and engage with each other on the material, bringing them all together!
Students will have minimal homework to complete on their days off. Students have a lot of “power” to choose how much homework they have. Students who do not finish their daily goals will be asked to complete that work for homework, but ideally, students shouldn’t have to spend much time doing homework on their days off. We do expect students to read on a daily basis.
The Long Term
We are taking students between the ages of 6 and 10 for the upcoming academic year; however, the program will grow with the students. Students that are 10 this year will be able to (and encouraged to) continue with us the following year and so on and so forth. We’re limiting the age range because it’s such a small class, and we want to ensure a strong cohort.
When students have finished high-school equivalent, they begin the next leg of their journey with us. When a child is ready-for-college academically, but they aren’t ready for other reasons, our role in their education changes, but it doesn’t end! For our radically accelerated students, we help bridge the gap between “ready for college” academically and “ready for college” all around. We’ve helped students get access to laboratories to do research, self-publish their own books, prototype robots, dive deeply into computer programming, and more.
At this level, we help students find mentors, provide them with instruction and resources to build the foundational knowledge and skills they need at this high level (such as how to read an analyze journal research, how to write a research paper for a specific field, how to prepare a manuscript to send to a publisher, etc.), help them manage their time and set goals, and more. And we can also help students dual enroll at a college or University to start earning college credit part-time if that’s something that interests the child and family.