Tegucigalpa, Honduras Report of what it's like to live there - 03/21/23
Personal Experiences from Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Acton Academy - Montessori
1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?
2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?
12th grade 2022-2023
3. What years did you live here?
4. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?
5. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
Yes. My daughter chose this because she spent preschool - 1st grade in a Montessori school. We also later homeschooled with a modified Montessori method. In addition, Montessori meets her learning style and this school also provided a US accredited diploma.
Most schools say they're into "self-directed learning" but this is the 1st international school I've been to (out of 5 total experiences) that actually understands what "self-directed learning" looks like in practice. After viewing this in person on the tour, I knew this would be a great fit.
Admissions & Welcome:
1. Are the admissions and placement procedures clearly stated to prospective families, either on the school website or through other means of communication?
The admissions and placement procedures are not as formal as most other international schools, but it completely fits a Montessori-style. During my tour, the Director mentioned that all prospective students are asked to attend for one week before enrolling to make sure it was a good fit for everyone. The fee was $50 for each student (well worth it). Her quote was, "Montessori is for every child but Montessori is not for every parent"...which is absolute WISDOM!!
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
The staff is very welcoming and the younger students are very welcoming. Most of the high schoolers are welcoming and the parents WANT to be welcoming but my lack of language skills bored them quickly, LOL. I suffered through half a dozen senior parent meetings conducted in Spanish that were an unbelievable waste of my time but I was expected to attend because the local parents are incredibly involved in every single detail of their children's lives.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
Communication is adequate. Barely. Once, I received a WhatsApp notification for a parent-teacher meeting that I must have opened and not read. 3 months later, I get another notice about a meeting that I read. When I mentioned my apologies at the meeting they were quite unconcerned that I missed the meeting. I thought it was odd that nobody reached out a second time or confirmed it....or that they weren't bothered enough to reschedule. Obviously it was my mistake but I just found it odd that the whole interaction happened and I didn't know for 3 months that I missed it!
If you need regular, professional communication, you will not be happy at Acton. Fortunately my daughter is pretty responsible and she only needed 1.5 credits her senior year to graduate, so we were very hands-off. I would have been very frustrated with this level of communication with another child who was less responsible.
2. Aside from school fees, are there required expenses such as uniforms, laptops/tablets, musical instruments, or field trips that parents are expected to cover? What are the approximate costs?
No computers needed until middle school or high school. The student provides their own and can use any device of their choice.
Seniors are expected to participate in a ridiculously overpriced Senior trip within Honduras...about $750 before spending money.
Senior Prom fees are $1,300 for my family of 5. The entire family is expected to go and the other parents seemed bemused that none of our family was flying down from the US to attend prom. It lasts from like 7pm - 3 am and the entire family (including our 9 and 12 year olds) are expected to attend.
The entire high school did a "service trip" in which very little service was conducted. My daughter opted out because she is not required to complete the service hours for the Honduran diploma. I think it was a couple hundred dollars per student.
I asked the Director to send me the bill before she sent it to the Embassy. Unfortunately she ignored my request and submitted the bill with the graduation fee separated out from the tuition. Of course, the Embassy denied payment and now we are stuck with a $1,700 graduation fee. The frustration is that the fees at Acton are about half the cost of the other schools, but the other schools roll the graduation fees into the tuition. I think they realized their mistake because we are the first Embassy related family to graduate and I'm sure it will be fine for the next family....but it really stunk for us.
Academics & Resources:
1. What personal or academic counseling resources are available at this school? Is there a dedicated college counselor at the school? Is he/she familiar with universities worldwide?
There is not a dedicated counselor but the Guides (aka teachers) are very well-versed in college and career opportunities. This is the only school we visited that even understood the value of a gap year after high school. My daughter plans to spend a semester in South Korea to learn Korean and the college counselors at the other schools were very dismissive of this idea. Acton completely understood it and has helped her work on essays, scholarship applications, etc.
Because of it's Montessori nature, I feel that Acton has a much better grasp on how the real world works than the other schools at post who just want to slot your child into a category that fits their goals of "100% acceptance rates", etc.
2. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
They don't have a library but each house has sufficient age-appropriate books freely available to the students. In the elementary age classrooms, the students are actively encouraged to read at their leisure. Students are very self-directed and learn to master their own schedule. If they read all the books on their "goal chart" in the 1st three months of the year, they have to spend the rest of the year focusing on their other goals. So they are allowed to read as much as they want, as long as they accomplish their other goals.
3. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
There are computers in the elementary rooms for the students to work on specific programs with goals for reading comprehension, grammar, and math. Otherwise, the students are guided towards engagement with their peers, reading books, manipulatives, etc.
There are some technology classes in the younger rooms, perhaps some robotics, but technology is definitely second to real-life experiences.
4. What are the technology requirements for students? Do they need their own laptops/ipads? How is technology integrated into the classroom and homework?
The elementary age students do not need devices. When they need an electronic device for a lesson, it is provided.
For the high school, the students bring their own computers and use Excel, Word, etc.
5. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
There is a swimming pool and small playground. This school is housed in a temporary facility. They had begun building a new school when COVID shut down Honduras and everything ground to a standstill. I presume they are still working towards that goal.
6. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
7. Are Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses available in upper grades? If this is an IB school, is the full diploma required of all students?
Your student can take any class they want for the most part. I think the parents would pay for AP classes out of pocket but the school would assign credit.
Montessori and IB do not mix well, so there is no IB program at Acton.
8. Are students generally challenged appropriately by the curriculum? Please describe any particular strengths or weaknesses in this area. Do you have any thoughts how the curriculum is applied and implemented at this school?
The students learn to challenge themselves. There are no limits on the students and if a student is advancing far more rapidly than their peers, Acton will make adjustments in their daily activities.
9. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
Yes. Students are not given homework because that is counter-intuitive to self-directed learning. However, the high school students work at home on their essays and other projects that require additional effort.
10. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
11. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
I do not believe there are specific services but Acton is designed to develop any student at any level. Every student is gifted in at least one area and Acton works diligently to ensure the students are appropriately challenged.
12. What services are available for students with learning disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
I do not believe there are specific services for learning disabilities at this school, but I am confident they would do everything in their power to help all children develop at their own pace.
13. What services are available for students with physical disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
None. Actually, there are a lot of stairs in the school right now due to its temporary location in a large residence. If a student struggles with stairs, there might be extra challenges.
14. What services are provided for speakers of English as a second language at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
Most of the students are speakers of English as a second language. They work with the same grammar curriculum that native English speakers work with. My younger sons play futbol with Acton students and all of the students from Acton speak beautiful English.
15. What extra-curricular activities (including sports) are available at this school? Have your children participated in these activities? What activities do you feel are missing at the school?
I believe that extra-curricular activities are limited. We attended the first year after COVID. Honduras just lifted the mask mandate in March of 2023 so it's been a struggle locally for activities to get back to normal. I expect that Acton will develop more extracurriculars in the near future, but now it is not really a "thing".
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. What is the climate for children with special needs? Is there a general attitude of inclusion for children with special needs?
Without personal experience, I would say that special needs students would feel included in the elementary house. In the high school, I would not send my student with special needs for fear of bullying and discrimination by the other students.
2. What is the climate for LGBT+ kids at this school? Are there resources they can draw upon? Does there appear to be any exclusionary behavior?
I do not know of any LGBT+ students at Acton but I would expect the environment anywhere in Honduras to be a little exclusionary. This country claims a religious base that they apply quite discriminately.
3. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
4. Are there are any problems with exclusionary behavior, cliques, or bullying at this school? Please describe any problems your children may have experienced in this area.
In my opinion, the high school is quite exclusionary, but it's equally applied and the targets change weekly. I felt it mind-blowing to see some bullying that was tolerated and not stopped. I feel that it is a breeding ground for the upper class of Honduran society to practice discriminating against anyone who does not offer any real benefit to them.
Fortunately, my daughter is an oak and has not been the brunt of much of the bullying. If she has been, she has borne it with a laugh and a shake of the head.
5. What is the climate for students who identify as ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious minorities at this school? Are there resources they can draw upon? Have your children had any experiences in this area?
I don't really know of any ethnic or racial minorities in this school. It's not very diverse in that it's probably 80% Hispanic and 20% Caucasian. There is definitely a classism that permeates the international schools in Honduras, and that hasn't escaped Acton.
6. What can you say about diversity among the faculty and staff at the school and their experience in supporting minority students?
Faculty and staff are fabulous. Absolutely fabulous. They love all the students equally and apply rules and order without regard to any personal preferences or prejudices.
1. What letter grade (ranging from A, excellent, to F, fail) would you assign to this school based on your overall experience? Would you choose it again?
B. I would still choose it for my daughter that attended, but it is not for my younger daughter who is more easily affected by social pressure.
My elementary aged sons would also have thrived here but they chose to homeschool when given the ability to decide for themselves. I have no regrets, either homeschooling or Acton is a total victory in the elementary ages.
2. Please describe some of your child's/children's highlights and challenges during their time at this school.
The seniors enjoy so many celebrations and it has been such a kick for her to participate. She has also felt encouraged by her guides to follow the path that is best for her, not the path that is "expected."
3. Please tell us anything else you think prospective parents and students should know about this school. Thanks for your contribution!
The communication is very loosey-goosey and can be frustrating. However, the self-directed learning is real and invaluable. Youngers kids will definitely thrive. I would examine the make up of the high school students before deciding, as my daughter was the only "gringa" and there were obvious issues with some of the other students preference to keep their little club intact.
A lot of parents are going to be uncomfortable with the Montessori method, so make sure you understand it before you attend. Your child will not receive awards or trophies or inflated grades, etc. Your child will learn to learn on their own but it does not result in bragging points for parents. You're going to have to be proud of your student based solely on their personal growth....without the bumper stickers and honor rolls.