FREEDOM MOUNTAIN ACADEMY
Mountain City, TN
Kevin & Patricia Cullinane
Visit by Nancy Coulbourn Ike, MEd, CEP, April 27, 2009
I drove six hours from Cincinnati to Mountain City in eastern TN to visit Freedom Mountain Academy, a school that sounded so different from any boarding school I had ever seen. And it was different. FMA is tucked into a valley, a beautiful lodge designed and built by the Cullinane family which is surrounded by a farm that sustains the staff and students at the school. The students plant and maintain a garden, help feed and care for the farm animals, share cooking and cleaning at the lodge, take part in 5 ½ hours of academics 5 days a week, 4 hours on Saturday and participate in a four day expedition in the mountains once a month.
Kevin and Patricia Cullinane headed schools in northern Idaho and Sothern California and taught at Executive Training Seminars in South Caroline. In 2000 the Cullianes founded Freedom Mountain Academy. The school is equipped to house 20 students each in a single occupant room. The boys' dorm is entirely separate from that of the girls. There is no electricity in the dorms or schoolhouse. Light is provided by kerosene lamps. Meals are cooked on a beautiful old wood fired stove.
Students study in the mode of a one room schoolhouse. There are no computers or television but videos are shown on the weekend. Emphasis is placed on literature, ethics, composition and history. Students read Romeo and Juliet, The Fountainhead, 1984 and other classics. In history they study the nineteen civilizations that led up to the current one. Much time is spent on the etymology of the English language and students learn to be precise in the use of their language. Math is individualized with packets of material from the University of Missouri. Science is studied in the classroom and kitchen as Nutrition or in the out of doors during the mountaineering.
FMA is a nine month program and almost all students attend for just one year. Their ages range from 15 to 17, and they either return home to finish high school or go on to college.
Freedom Mountain Academy is not a therapeutic program. It is a highly structured but nurturing alternative school for students who are flexible and open for change. If students have been prescribed a medication for ADHD, the Cullinanes ask parents to try the school without the meds. A therapist is available in Mountain City and the Academy has a good relationship with a physician there. Excellent hospital facilities are found in nearby Johnson City.
FMA will share a list of alumni parents who are willing to talk with or email the parents of prospective parents.