The Oliver familyThe Oliver Family lives in St. Paul, MN. They joined our community in 2021–Kellen is in third grade and Cameron is in fifth grade.

What do you love about MPA?
We love the community. As a new family, it was important to us to find a school that offered and encouraged a sense of “welcome.” We found this through the enrollment process, when we met “buddies,” met online with several teachers and administrators, and then when school began where (possibly most significantly) we have found that students and teachers say “hello” and smile beneath their masks at drop-off, pick-up, in the halls and on the playground. We have really enjoyed this sense that everyone has a place at MPA and everyone gets seen at MPA.

What initially attracted you to MPA?
In our recent school search brought about by our family’s move from Los Angeles, CA, we were attracted to MPA’s small size and with that, a greater chance for our children to have individualized attention–both academic and emotional. We were inspired by MPA’s commitment to encourage and teach children to be independent thinkers and to honor, respect, and contribute to our diverse community and world. We also appreciate the emphasis on collaboration.

How are your children encouraged to dream big and do right at MPA?
We are new to MPA, so still assessing how the school’s “Dream Big, Do Right” is implemented on a daily or yearly and individual basis. However, already, our young boys have been given choices that guide their learning, from language to music to reading and science projects. This opportunity has encouraged them to take responsibility for their development to some degree and to look inside themselves as well as in their community of students and teachers for answers. We look forward to more of these chances to ask big questions, explore what excites us, and seek new knowledge during our years at MPA.

If your children have attended another school, how has your experience at MPA been different?
Our children have only ever “attended” homeschool. This included weekly tutor groups, where they would meet with about eight other students within two grade levels of theirs and go through some lessons with a volunteer instructor. MPA is different because it is not at home! This is a new challenge for our boys as they are away from the comfort of “home” and outside the reach of help from Mom and Dad. It is their first experience working with peers on a daily basis and being responsible for their materials away from home. The learning is quite similar, interestingly. We had always taken an approach that was about building an understanding of oneself and the world at large, asking questions and finding answers. We have believed in a supportive environment that is about achievement not for achievement’s sake, but for individual growth and preparation to be part of a larger community.

What would you tell another family considering MPA?
I would tell another family that MPA has been a wonderful place for our family to “land” after a cross-country move and 1.5 years in a pandemic. In only two short months, we have been welcomed and both the kids and we, the parents, have learned quite a bit. My favorite thing I have heard thus far is what Jenn Milam shared at the Middle School Orientation–that her job is to provide 1. Safety, 2. Health and 3. Happiness and that 1 and 2 have to be met for 3 to be possible. MPA has held to those goals and more.

In what ways has MPA prepared your child for life in the 21st century? What are the key attributes, skills, and content that you find most valuable?
What comes to mind are two things:

  1. Relationships. MPA seems to focus a lot on classroom and teacher-student and parent-school relationships. These are challenging to navigate in life, but also essential and super rewarding when done well.
  2. Tech – I love that MPA is incorporating tech skills (including boundaries) into the school day. Computers and the internet will likely be around for our children’s lifetimes, so these are vital to their “success.” I appreciate that the tech component is minimal and purposeful.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your MPA experience?
We appreciate everyone working so hard to keep MPA COVID safe and a wonderful place to learn!

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