Frequently Asked Questions

How does having multiple ages/grades in one classroom work?

It works quite well, thank you! Older kids have lots to teach, passively and otherwise, and love to show off what they know. Younger kids have the same freedom to work on their own personal skills, while borrowing wisdom from older classmates when they like.

Art, music, theatre, and especially interdisciplinary subjects all enable kids to thrive when taught in multi-age settings. As education expert Ken Robinson has pointed out, mainstream schools have unnecessarily become obsessed with sorting kids by grade "batch" or "date of manufacture," when the reality is (like everyone else) they live within a world with lots of ages and experience levels.

How long can my child attend TDA?

TDA is designed for participants in the K to 5th grade age range, roughly 6 to 10.5 years old. For those seeking enrichment throughout the grade-school years, we’ve designed the curriculum for the entire elementary time period of K through 4th or 5th grade.

When children transition to a more "middle school" learning style (working and socializing in groups, increased  interest in project-based and experiential learning, and a narrower focus of subjects) we also offer a one day per week program called SPARK. SPARK is for kids who fall roughly within a 10 to 14 year old age range and show readiness for an upper-academy learning approach.

What do you mean by child-centered classroom?

Our classroom and curriculum are designed to encourage inquiry and risk taking. As with Maria Montessori's original experiments, our room is a prepared environment: educationally, the room is loaded with potential lessons and surprises each month. Additionally, the furniture of the room is scaled for elementary children and no part of the room is adult only. For example, there’s no teacher's desk in our room. Socially, the kids use the space to chat, play, work, joke, perform, build their cohort of friends, and learn. We also have access to a safe playground immediately outside.

  • We set few parameters for the kids:
  • They must vote on their own class rules.
  • They must mindfully discuss with one another any conflicts that come up.
  • They must stay in either the room or office during class time.
  • They are encouraged to try everything.

Additionally, the children have ownership over their space: they clean up after themselves, restock snack, sharpen pencils, re-shelve reading area books. In contrast to most educational spaces, adults do not simply walk into TDA. Because this is their space, Three Dragons' kids are in charge of inviting adults into the academy spaces, including the lobby and classroom. The kids are also their own producers and managers for any art gallery, music performances, or theatre performances.

Is TDA affiliated with any school associations, coalitions, or religious organizations?

Three Dragons Academy is proudly independent.

Because TDA is a unique experience and not a school, school associations wouldn't be a match. We are fully funded by fees and are therefore not restricted by Department of Education or grantor requirements. However, as we are artists and educators, we are members of several arts and youth advocacy groups, including the International Thespian Society (theatre education community member), USITT, and Theatre Puget Sound. We also serve other organizations such as Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras, YouthCare, Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society, Youth Theatre Northwest, homeschool/unschool groups like the Homeschool Support Association and Seattle Homeschool Group. And we're members in good standing with the Society of American Fight Directors, as well as current advocate/members of the Performing Arts Alliance.

What kind of school is Three Dragons Academy?

As a matter of fact, we're not a school. Three Dragons Academy is a community made of part-time schoolers who are full-time learners. We consider ourselves an enrichment program for elementary-age children. We facilitate a learning group, very much like a group art lesson, private music classes, or theatre workshops.

TDA is something entirely new: an original arts alternative, revolutionizing the school model and innovating to better provide what kids truly need. Parents have used both "unschool school" and "what school should be" to describe TDA. Quite by accident, we’re discovering that most things that mainstream schools refuse to do are the very features that make our program strong. TDA is teaching fine arts such as music, theatre, and art as a priority, utilizing working professional artists and educators. In contrast to the compulsory education model, our approach empowers kids to opt in to education. TDA is different in the following ways:

  • We put a variety of ages/grades together in one room
  • We let parents decide their schedules/attendance priorities
  • We openly communicate with parents rather waiting for once-yearly conferences
  • We opt out of wasteful, competitive, and sometimes detrimental practices (such as homework, grades, discipline policies, and tests)
  • We integrate rather than section off arts subjects

We encourage kids to make music, talk, ask questions, and move about the room rather than sit still and quiet We chose to call ourselves an academy both to separate ourselves from the mainstream schools model, but also to give a very respectful nod to Plato’s original Academy—an open marketplace of ideas where made thoughtful inquiries, and then guides, with the input of the group, could study, research, and discuss in order to discover answers.