3 min read

5 Questions With Kathryn Kelly, Northern Nevada Founder

Nikki in the AnnexI·School started out in 2011 as the eLearning Café community learning center in a strip mall in a small resort town on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. Basically I loved the idea of homeschooling my elementary school kids, but as the saying goes, I didn’t want to school them at home. Rather, I wanted to tap into our vibrant community of retired professionals to help homeschool a generation of students who had never been inside a library.

It worked great. NASA researchers taught kids physics. Restaurant owners taught kids to cook international foods. Retired engineers taught the kids how to build computers and radio-operated vehicles. The kids taught the retirees to use their (then) new iPads. The whole community came together to support us.

Having vastly underestimated the need for local academic support for all grades (and the depth of public school opposition to us), we quickly grew and are now an accredited, mastery-based K-12 school enjoying our “new” home built in 1879 close to the State Capitol in Carson City. We have about 40 students, half of which are on campus, and half are high-schoolers sprinkled throughout the country and overseas. This past fall we were delighted to open our faith-based school, The Hope Academy of Nevada, so now families have two mastery-based academic paths from which to choose.

What is one unique (or uncommon) feature of your microschool experience your learners and families tell you they especially value?

image (1)Our microschool, I·School, where the ‘I’ stands for Individualized, is highly valued by our learners and families for its unique ability to provide a personalized educational experience. Our dedicated teachers tailor the academic path for each student from day one, catering to their individual needs, interests, and abilities. You can’t do that in a one-size-fits-all environment.

This approach has enabled our students to pursue diverse paths, ranging from Columbia to cosmetology school, and from commercial airline pilots to cybersecurity experts. Our flexible environment accommodates the needs of competitive athletes traveling the world and chronically ill students who spend much of their time in hospitals. The teachers work tirelessly to identify what motivates our students at an early age and encourage them to explore these areas on the foundation of a classical liberal arts education. As an example, we have a curated list of 160 timeless books, none written in the last 20 years, that all students are expected to read before they graduate. I love that.

What student successes really stand out for you?

 Our students’ achievements are a testament to the effectiveness of our approach. We’ve seen a bright sophomore with cystic fibrosis continue her studies in the ICU while awaiting a lung transplant. A lively 10-year-old boy, previously labeled as ADHD in public school, has transformed into a thoughtful, hardworking student under our teachers’ care, free from stigmatizing labels. An eighth-grader with a passion for Japanese anime pursued her interest all the way to studying Japanese and international business at Temple University’s Tokyo campus. A special needs student, who had a traumatic experience at his former private school, overcame his struggles to graduate and attend community college without needing remedial English or math. These are just a few examples of the many student accomplishments we’ve celebrated over the past 14 years.


What is some of the key advice you give new microschool founders?

20220823_090808You and every microschool founder and parent may feel paralyzed by the thought you are going to do something that will permanently ruin your kids’ lives. You won’t. Homeschooling or microschooling your kids will be the hardest and most rewarding thing you will ever do. So do it, taking advantage of the many resources offered by the National Microschooling Center and other organizations to help your homeschool journey. 

Hope Academy’s status as a PEA means that we are able to be a true reflection of our families’ values, part of the reason the number of microschools is dramatically increasing across the country. When our parents have voiced concerns about government vaccination or mask requirements, Critical Race Theory or DEI, or sharing locker rooms with kids of the opposite sex, our families are confident that their values are being upheld at I-School and Hope Academy. 

Please describe one facet of your microschool’ s experience that you’d like people to think of when your microschool comes up in conversation.

That we teach kids how to think, not what to think. It’s incredibly tough to be a student in 2024. They’ve suffered the social isolation of a global pandemic. They’ve lost many opportunities to try new things and the confidence that comes from succeeding at them. They have social media relentlessly infiltrating their lives every waking moment. They’re also grappling with the complexities of an AI-driven world where discerning reality from fiction is increasingly difficult. Our parents value our concerted efforts to help their children navigate this labyrinth with confidence. While we’re far from perfect, we like to think our persistence and relentless dedication to our students’ success set us apart.Logo academy COLOR MEDIUM

What are you most proud of?

Having a part in raising thoughtful, responsible children who will grow up to be thoughtful, responsible adults valued for their contributions to society.


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