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Hero’s Journey

THE FIVE MOST IMPORTANT WORDS AT ACTON ACADEMY

THE FIVE MOST IMPORTANT WORDS AT ACTON ACADEMY

Laura Sandefer

July 31, 2013

“Every child is a genius.”

Without a doubt, each child is capable of a Hero’s Journey. Each child has a unique and valuable spirit. Each child has gifts to be nurtured and honed.

What each child does matters. This is why we insist on excellence and ask, “Is that the best you can do?” instead of stamping a grade on their work and being done with it.

But it’s not only the children who have this genius within. Each parent and each guide does, too.

Have you embraced your own Journey lately? Have you listened to that quiet voice within yearning for new adventure, new growth?

Remember that the best parent is a happy human – learning, growing, curious about the world and life.

Feel free to look in the mirror today and say, “There is genius within me.” And remember that what you do with this truth matters.

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Hero’s Journey Parent Resources Socratic Method

DO YOU TRUST THE CHILDREN?

DO YOU TRUST THE CHILDREN?

Laura Sandefer

July 29, 2013

This is the essential question Acton Academy presents to the world. Without trusting the children, our school is simply another classroom experiment.

Our choice to build Acton Academy on the foundation of the Socratic method is a simple yet profound statement of trusting the children.

We trust they can make excellent decisions. We trust they have genius within. We trust in their desire to learn, work hard and achieve excellence. We trust they will seek help from mentors and guides when necessary. We trust they will teach each other. We trust in their ideas and opinions. We trust in their joy. We trust in their honesty.

This trust is the glue that holds our entire program together. It is more important than great books, Khan Academy, well-designed projects or a new campus. It is transformational and lasts a lifetime.

By trusting our students, we empower them to think deeply and ultimately trust themselves. With the knowledge that they are trusted human beings, they will in turn grow to embrace the world and trust that it is a good place even though bad things happen and people make mistakes. This is the foundation of resilience and meaningful living.

Why is this easy for me as “head of school” but as “mom” I find it most challenging? Do I really trust my own children like I say I do? Why do I want to jump in when one of them is struggling in a friendship? Why don’t I simply trust them to work it out? Why do I want to direct what they choose for after school activities? Why do I give mini-lectures when they are stuck on a math skill rather than ask questions about their process and let them struggle to figure it out?

Psychologists document that children who are not trusted at home grow up with a sense of worthlessness and become critical, inflexible adults. This is serious business. This has lifelong implications.

I desire at home what I give at school. I want to change. I want to trust my children more. I want to let go of the false security of micromanaging. How can I do this?

I think back to learning to scuba dive this year with Sam, my 10 year old son. The idea of being underwater for long periods of time went against everything that felt natural and good to me. But I learned, step by step, to breathe and descend and never stop breathing. (Thanks to Sam who calmly coached me and literally held my hand until slowly letting it go when he knew I was okay.)

The discovery of joy in this new underwater world freed me. I trusted Sam so fully in those moments.

I can take his guiding lead and follow those same steps on solid ground. I’ve held their beautiful hands for a long time now. I can practice letting them go. I know they are okay. I will celebrate them taking charge of their own lives. From the small details like making their own lunches (I know; it’s about time!) and doing their own laundry to the bigger issues of solving sibling battles or failing to achieve a goal, I will breathe deeply rather than intervene. I will dive down into good questions rather than give them answers. (Jeff is going to hold me accountable to this.) I will work to demonstrate my authentic trust in them and their decisions. They will hear me say often, “I trust you.”

They are free, then, to change the world.

Suggested reading: Nurture Shock: New Thinking about Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

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Parent Resources

ON CHOOSING CHROMEBOOKS

Acton Academy Mesilla Valley

ON CHOOSING CHROMEBOOKS

Laura Sandefer

July 18, 2013

Parents often ask why we do not have MacBooks for our students to use for their online learning at school. “Cost” has always been the simple answer.

In the Acton way, though, we are constantly seeking the best practices and tools for learning and are ready to pounce when more efficient and effective resources and ideas arise.

Inspired by Russ and Dani taking Acton Academy on the road successfully with Chromebooks in hand, we decided to look into these devices as an option for our school. I think Russ did a cartwheel of joy when I told him we were pursuing this idea.

Thanks to Ms. Samantha’s tireless research and testing, we are following the Foltz-Smith lead and transitioning to Chromebooks. The middle school students will work with Mac Stations in addition to Chromebooks for their creative project work and online portfolio designing.

I think you’ll enjoy this description of why this transition makes sense:

https://www.edsurge.com/n/2013-07-02-opinion-why-chromebooks-should-rule-the-school

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Socratic Method

DREAMING UP THE PERFECT SOCRATIC GUIDE

Acton Academy Mesilla Valley

DREAMING UP THE PERFECT SOCRATIC GUIDE

Laura Sandefer

July 11, 2013

Let’s say you are to dream up a list of qualifications for people you would choose to guide your children to discover their greatest gifts and master 21st century skills.

Wouldn’t you dream big? Wouldn’t you come up with a crazy list requiring those people to be:

  • Passionate about children and lifelong learning;
  • Off the charts smart, deeply curious and always learning;
  • Entrepreneurial – innovative, proactive, a problem-solver, self-managed, courageous, wise in risk taking and decision-making;Visionary and forward thinking yet solidly grounded in the real world;
  • Healthy and happy – intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and physically;
  • Independent and hard working;
  • Collaborative and generous with ideas;
  • Creative and free thinking while deeply responsible and dependable;
  • Humble – no need to be the center of the learning for that is for the children;
  • Comfortable with change and new ideas;
  • And, of course, kind and compassionate?

This is an extraordinary list of qualifications. Can you hold a human up to such expectations? And this list doesn’t even include the essential skills and knowledge required to write and deliver world-class curriculum, guide discussions, manage technology, communicate effectively and organize and analyze data.

Would you dare to dream this big? I believe we parents would give the same answer: Yes!

This truly is our pie-in-the-sky list we use in hiring guides. And, Yes! We fulfilled it in the rare group of humans who have guided the Acton Eagles with such a high degree of excellence this year:

Kaylie, Anna, Samantha, Terri, Abigail, Jeff and Jeff.

Brian Holtz, our new middle school apprentice guide, also fulfills our vision of a dream guide and is waiting in the wings to join the team in August.

While sharing these traits, each of our Socratic Guides has his or her own unique genius and masterfully makes an imprint on daily life at Acton Academy.

As we close this academic year, I celebrate the gift of our guides and thank them, from the depths of my heart, for their work each day. I wish them rest and renewal even while we work together toward the next chapter in the story of Acton Academy.

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