Western Academy at a Glance
Classrooms that open to wooded areas; teachers leading a nature walk or a football game; students sorted into houses under a great oak—the Sorting Tree; boys catching insects, climbing trees, reciting poems in a wood fort, sitting around a fire listening to ghostly Halloween tales, competing for their houses in Capture the Flag—welcome to Western Academy!
The school lies in a broad grassy and wooded setting. The campus includes a forested area with a variety of trees, a wood fort, and open field for play. It facilitates the integrated and interactive educational experience of Western Academy. For example, the boys explore the woods and learn of the various trees and birds on the campus. Students gather at the fort for classes, stories, and poetry competitions. The live oak has a sense of strength and adventure that can attract boys to the educational experience. The large setting has many niches and locations for quiet and calm observation necessary for a whole education and stirring the latent capacities of contemplation and intuition.
The boys are placed in small homeroom classes (no more than twenty students) and have one principal homeroom teacher. A homeroom teacher and small class sizes have many advantages in the education of young boys who are increasingly looking for male mentoring, encouragement, and example. Western Academy teachers provide models for cultured manhood: men who play sports, are friends, work diligently, and are genuinely interested in the world and ideas. Such examples are especially important for preadolescent boys who are more open to ideals and engaged learning of the world. The homeroom setting enables the teacher to gain a better understanding of each boy and the boy to be better understood. Homeroom teachers also further a more informed and cooperative relationship between parents and teachers.
Notable aspects of the Western Academy experience include the number of recesses and amount of time allocated for physical exercise, and the freedom the boys are given. There are three recesses per day: a short recess in the morning and a longer recess after lunch for play; the third break is for silent reading and journaling. Each grade also has a gym period four times a week. The recesses and physical education are necessary breaks in the intense academic routine and are also necessary for development of the virtues taught through sports - such as courage, discipline, working for a team goal, and good judgment. They also provide healthy occasions for less formal exploration or more imaginative play.
Freedom is a vital component of the play and overall tone of the education at Western Academy. This freedom may include climbing trees, fort building with sticks, tackle football, or freer exploration of the wooded areas. Freedom is necessary not only to develop authentic moral virtues, but also for authentic intellectual habits, since good behavior should not merely consist of exterior manners that please adults, but should connect with the interior, the heart of the person who truly desires to do good things. Similarly, learning is not a game of grades and getting ahead, but should involve genuine interest, wonder, and a search for truth and wisdom (though the boys are not necessarily aware of this at the lower-school level). Along with freedom the boys are given an emphasis on the personal responsibility inherent in true freedom.