Jessie Brewer, educational therapist and private school teacher, is the founder/director, counselor, and primary instructor of most subjects at Alkavain Academy, as well as the outdoors program coordinator. Numerous talented individuals within our local and extended community instruct our students in several subjects including technology, theatre/drama, music, art, health, and ice skating.
We are an organic school, built on an ever-changing educational family of individuals, each with a unique learning style that enriches both the group and the communities we interact with. Alkavain Academy is an inclusive learning environment that does not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual preference, or physical or intellectual ability.
The private school program is a full-time group of up to 14 students, grades 4-12. Our current enrollment is 12 students. Upper class men play a special role in our school in that they choose the current school colors (red, purple, and cream), as well as the current school mascot (Possum). Even the school name was derived by two of our original students, Levi and Alana. We follow a 180-day schedule during the normal school year. Start time is typically 8:30 am M-F, but students may be dropped off early most days. Pickup is usually 3:00 pm, but late pickup is also an option. On days when we have special activities or field trips, drop-off and/or pickup times and locations may vary accordingly. The holiday and break schedule follows that of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, for the most part, but we do not have the “teacher work-day” days off, nor do we have minimum days. In place of those, we have four floating holidays/vacation days that your family may choose throughout the school year.
Field trips and the outdoors program are optional but highly recommended. They are limited to the attendance of the students, although siblings and/or friends may be invited when space and circumstances allow. The overnighters are scheduled approximately one per month on a weekend with Saturday morning drop-off and Sunday evening pickup. The activities on these trips include, bike packing, kayaking, horse packing, snowshoeing, and our famous 5-day backpacking-in-the-wilderness experience. Students also attend a full-day certification course in wilderness first aid and CPR, with recertification courses every other year (provided by Sierra Rescue).
We take annual school pictures in a unique setting/ costume each year. I provide lots of photos of students and their activities throughout the year. There is also an annual slideshow of these pictures at the theatre/drama performance. A hard-bound class yearbook is produced during years when one or more students graduate high school. Although each student partakes in the production of the yearbooks, and each book is unique with family customization pages, seniors receive an especially unique yearbook with all the memories of their years in Alkavain and personalized messages from instructors, students, family members, and other individuals with whom they shared experiences over the years. (Other senior activities include Grad Night at Disneyland and a graduation, dance, and celebration. The entire class is invited to attend all senior activities except for Grad Night, which is restricted by Disneyland to graduating seniors.)
Academics are rigorous but well-supported, and instruction is delivered on an individual-need basis. I hand-pick or make the materials and adjust the scope, sequence, and scaffolding of each student’s coursework as needed. Students work individually, in pairs, small groups, and whole-group. Individual and group presentations are a frequent part of their education and evaluation. Students always have straight A’s because all classwork, homework, and quizzes are required to be 100% correct. Tests and finals may be 85% or above. Additional instruction and review precedes any retesting (if needed). Full test preparation and mastery-level learning is provided throughout the years. This means that when it comes time for college preparation, I handle all of the test prep, scheduling of exams, and drop off/ pickup on test dates. As the counselor, I also assist with the college application process.
For small-private-school students, colleges like to see proof of competence in the high school courses taken by the student. I keep a very detailed digital record of schoolwork and exams. I also prepare the students to take SAT subject tests in all high school courses available within the College Board program. AP courses are optional (Honors “with AP exam”), but if students choose to take an AP-level course with me, we use recent editions of AP textbooks listed on the websites of College Board and AP Central, and the student takes the AP exam in place of a final. I teach most of the subjects, so almost any course is possible. The main foreign language we do is Spanish, but beginning levels of other languages are also an option. We use all levels of Rosetta Stone software, which I supplement with writing practice that incorporates other skills including grammar, vocabulary, reading, speaking, and listening.
Extracurriculars include horseback riding, 1.5 hours of art class on Thursdays, taught by our AP art student, Alana, 30 minutes of lessons and 30 minutes of practice ice skating at Iceland in Dublin on Wednesdays, and coding class for one hour on Fridays. We also have our own music room, where students take weekly private lessons on instruments such as piano, guitar, clarinet, drums, and violin, or they may take voice lessons. The drama program is also a huge hit with the students. We study two Shakespeare plays each year and attend live performances at the Cal Shakes Theater. This year the students thrived under the expert instruction of Cal Shakes director Dave Maiers, who directed a student version of Romeo and Juliet, which they recently performed and recorded for distribution to the families. We look forward to performing The Taming of the Shrew this spring (hopefully live and outdoors).
Other extracurriculars spread out in projects throughout the year include culinary arts, sewing, candle-making, pottery, woodwork, gardening, etc.
Cost of the Program and What’s Included
All materials, fees, and transportation for the above-mentioned activities and programs are included in the cost of the program, which is a ten-month billing cycle of $1675 per month. Unlike the billing for educational therapy at Centerpoint Learning, this billing comes out prior to the start of each month, beginning August 1.
I also provide students with an i-Pad Pro, Apple Pencil, and apps, which are essential for our program since the bulk of their work is done on the iPad. Seniors receive a gift of the newest edition of the iPad Pro with a two-year data plan to last them through their first year of college. Upon completion of Algebra I, I also provide students with a TI-nspire CX CAS calculator for studies in upper level math and science courses. All textbooks and classroom supplies are provided. The only things a student needs to bring from home each day are a backpack and a lunch. I provide a healthy snack during morning break (around 10 am) each day.
Some expenses that are not included are the fees for the optional 8th G WA DC field trip and the “senior” trip to Spain or another Spanish-speaking country. The next WA DC trip scheduled is for June 2022 and is not limited to 8th graders. The upcoming Spain trip is tentatively scheduled for June/July 2021 but may be rescheduled pending Covid-19 travel restrictions. Parents and siblings are also welcome to attend these trips with Explorica. Grad night and other senior activities are included in regular tuition.
The $1675-month cost is locked in for the 2020/2021 school year. It is scheduled to increase to $1800 per month Fall 2021.