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Friday Feature: Masterpiece Academy

Colleen Hroncich

Like many education entrepreneurs, Hannah Holguin had a two‐​pronged motivation for creating her microschool, Masterpiece Academy. A public school teacher for nine years, she was realizing that the system wasn’t serving all students as well as it could. At the same time, her child was becoming school‐​aged. “I felt there was something else I needed to do with my passion for kids, my passion for education, my credentials from college,” she recalls. “And so I started the journey to figure it out. Do I homeschool my children? How do I provide them with a high‐​quality education while also still serving my passion for teaching as well?”

As she began looking into homeschooling, she learned about microschools and hybrid schools. “During that time, I really had to ask myself, ‘What is my philosophy and why does it not work in the system?’ she explains. What I was finding is that I really wanted each child to learn at the pace that was appropriate for them and start at the level that was appropriate with them.”

Cooking at Masterpiece Academy

One of Hannah’s frustrations was having a classroom full of students who were at very different levels and being expected to treat them as if they were at the same level. For example, in her first year teaching grade 9 math, most of her students received Ds or Fs. “I thought, ‘I cannot do this again.’ But at the time I wasn’t brave enough to make my own path,” she says. “So what I did was within the system created a different learning model. I created a self‐​paced, individualized learning model and we were able to change that 75 percent of kids getting a D or F to 75 percent, even 80 percent getting an A,B, or C—and moving on with confidence.”

As she began planning Masterpiece Academy, she harkened back to what she did and didn’t like as a classroom teacher and focused on two core items. “I tried to embody that sort of philosophy when I was starting Masterpiece Academy—to really identify the strengths and areas of growth for each of my students and pick up from there, versus just a one‐​size‐​fits‐​all education,” she says. “And on top of that, as a Christian, it was really hard for me to feel fully myself in the public school system. I wasn’t allowed to talk about the values that I held dearly in my heart. So that was something I wanted to embrace, too, when I stepped out to forge my own path. Masterpiece Academy exists to honor kids as individual learners, but also who they are in Christ.”

Hannah started with just three students because she was expecting a new baby and had decided to slow down enrollment. By the end of that year, she had five students. She began the 2023–24 school year with twelve students and was up to around twenty by the end of the school year. Her numbers are already higher for the upcoming year. She says,

We’re seeing that other parents have stories similar to me and just really want something different and they want something better for their kids. They want their kids to be seen and they don’t want their kids to be a number. And they really like this small environment where kids can get that individualized attention without selling short on any of those components like socialization, a community, a highly qualified teacher. They’re not missing out on any of those components by participating in a microschool.

Masterpiece meets Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday are typical academic days. They start with a morning meeting where they have prayer, announcements, and the schedule. Then they break off, with students going to Spanish class or working on math or reading. The first hour is pretty individualized while the second and third hours include group work, unit studies, and math intervention. There are several “brain breaks” to help the kids recharge, burn off energy, and come back focused for academics.

Masterpiece Academy field trip

On Tuesdays, a homeschool co‐​op meets at their church, so Masterpiece students take field trips. Then Fridays are enrichment days, which include things like a knitting club and a drawing club. Hannah opens those offerings to homeschoolers who are not attending academic classes at Masterpiece.

“I really don’t know what’s in store for Masterpiece in the future. I’m just being obedient to God’s call and enjoying the ride. It’s been so fun to feel free,” says Hannah. “The system didn’t just—I don’t want to use the word oppress because it seems intense—but oppress the children by not letting them thrive. I also wasn’t thriving as an educator. It’s just so freeing to be able to have this path where I am free to do what’s best for kids.”

Hannah is confident the system will eventually change, although she doesn’t know if she’ll see it in her lifetime. She’s puzzled by the argument that “public funds belong to public schools.” The funds are to educate the child, she says, “so if the child goes, why do you feel the right to keep the money?” 

She didn’t anticipate being part of that broader discussion when she opened her microschool. “I am now part of this conversation because I’m a front‐​runner in educational freedom. It’s more than just school choice. This is new territory because I am not a politician, but I will fight for these kids,” she says. “I will just be one of the people that show there’s a different way.”

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