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Hero’s Journey Parent Resources

ABOUT MORNINGS – A STORY SHARED BY AN ACTON PARENT

ABOUT MORNINGS – A STORY SHARED BY AN ACTON PARENT

Laura Sandefer

September 30, 2019

Sharing stories may be the best gift we can give each other. I am grateful to Erin Martin, an Acton mom, who most generously sent me this story to share with you:

It was nearing 6:30am and I found myself losing focus on the last part of my workout. My ears were straining to listen for my 10 year old daughter’s footsteps upstairs. Was she up and getting herself ready for school? Was she making her way to the piano?

Our family routine for many years has been that she completes her 30-45 minute piano practice in the mornings, before breakfast. She enjoys playing music upon waking, and like most families, our afternoons can be hectic with after-school activities, family dinners, etc. The few afternoons each week she has unscheduled, she treasures the downtime and boredom.

Lately, I found myself interrupting my own intentional practice of morning exercise to call up to her from the bottom of the stairs: “Are you up yet? Are you finished getting ready? It’s 7:05 so you need to start your piano!” This was a new dynamic fraught with frustration for both of us. We’ve tried hard to avoid unnecessary power struggles in parenting and yet, here I was, reminding, chiding, and prodding each morning like clockwork. The tension in my voice amplified by irritation in stopping my own routine.

While eating breakfast a week ago, my daughter paused, looked up at me and said kindly but firmly, “I really think you need to let me experience the natural consequences of not getting my piano practice done or not waking up on time. I really value having free time in the afternoons, and if you let me fail, I’d have the natural consequence of having to do get my piano done after school instead of relaxing.” Her words. Verbatim.

I was stunned.

But I really shouldn’t have been.

This is what several years in the Acton studio prepares our kids to do: to take responsibility for their actions, to be ruthlessly self-reflective, and control of their own destinies.

She knows how to hold herself and others accountable. She’s had experience learning how to craft peer feedback and respond to constructive criticism. While her words to me were beautifully warm-hearted but tough-minded, in the hours that followed they echoed in my ears a few different ways:

Stop rescuing me.
Let me figure it out.
I’m capable, and it’s ok if I fail.
I’d rather be angry with myself than feel scolded by you.
Some lessons are meant to be learned by experience.
I can’t grow when you’re hovering.
I need you to get out of the way.
I trust you enough to give you honest feedback.

In the week that has followed, we’ve both held true to our new agreement. Each of us is responsible for our own morning goals and responsibilities. It sounds so simple and self-evident that its almost embarrassing to say aloud! Each of us is responsible for ourselves.

How did we devolve into me chastising in the first place?! My lack of trust. As her diligence and morning habits starting sliding, I jumped in to (ineffectively) scaffold her – leading her to feel resentful and less competent. It’s was only a daily micro-interaction, but it had consequences.

This week she’s arrived at the breakfast table on time, eager to prove her discipline. Her confidence (now that her success is her own) is palpable. She doesn’t need me to cheer-lead her through her routine, and my own morning is boosted by my full attention and presence.

Will she fail sometimes? I expect so. We all have days where things don’t go right. My fear of her failing to manage her own time was hugely out of sync with the real risks and consequences. Now when she fails, she’ll gain the growth that comes from self-mastery – something she can’t do if I’m in the way.

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Parent Resources Socratic Method

HOW CAN A PARENT KEEP THE SPARK OF CURIOSITY ALIVE?

HOW CAN A PARENT KEEP THE SPARK OF CURIOSITY ALIVE?

Laura Sandefer

September 25, 2019

The romance of starting a new school year is fizzling.

We’ve been here before. Reality is settling in and we’re remembering how rugged the road ahead is for heroes on a learning journey. It’s already making us a little tired and we’ve started dreading the days when all we can muster is: “How was your day?” and “Did you learn anything new?”

How can we do this better? How can we keep that spark of excitement about learning alive when life gets hard? Is there a way to connect more deeply with our children that supports them on their journeys? A way that brings us joy, too?

It’s taken me a long time, but I have finally, finally, learned that asking questions is far more powerful than delivering answers – not just in our learning studios at Acton Academy, but in my life at home.

But it’s tough to come up with good questions when you’re under the stress of all that comes with children and “school.” So here’s a cheat sheet for those days. I hope you feel the sparks of curiosity getting stoked each time you have the opportunity to ask:

When did you feel most challenged today?
Do you want me to just listen, to give advice or to help?
What is one step you could take toward your goal?
What strategies could you use to move forward?
What story are you telling yourself about this situation?
Has something like this ever happened to you before? If so, how did you handle it?
What can you learn from this?
How did you participate in this?
What might be the other side of the story?
What part of the Hero’s Journey is this?
What tools or resources do you have to deal with this?
What are the consequences of your actions?
Can you see an opportunity in this crisis?
Can you give me an example?
What would you advise someone in your situation?

I thank Shannon Falkenstein, my friend and founder of Acton Academy El Salvador, for sharing this list and reminding me to trust the Socratic process.

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Independent Learning Parent Resources

TWO BIG ROCKS AT ACTON ACADEMY: PE AND ART

TWO BIG ROCKS AT ACTON ACADEMY: PE AND ART

Laura Sandefer

September 17, 2019

Last week I sat with the Eagles with an empty glass vessel, a pile of sand, 20 small rocks and two big rocks. My story went like this: The glass vessel represents our lives – a vessel of time. Each of us has the same amount of time in a day – how we fill it determines the kind of daily life and, hence, life we have.

Scooping the sand in the vessel, I shared that it represents all the little things we do every day that aren’t important. Scrolling through Instagram is a big scoop of sand. I then tossed in the small rocks – the things we do that are more important than the sand but that don’t have severe negative consequences if we don’t do them. Brushing my dogs is a small rock for me.

Now it was time to put in the two big rocks.

Oh, whoops.

There was no room left in the vessel for the two things that are urgent and important -the things we do that can improve or destroy the quality of our living. For me, family dinnertime is a big rock.

I poured out the sand and rocks and started over.

This time, I put the two big rocks in first; then the small rocks; and with a little jiggling, the same amount of sand poured right over the whole pile. My vessel contained it all.

Like magic, when we know our focus and our big “to do” of the day, everything else falls into place.

I held up the two rocks and shared a surprising fact about the Acton Academy learning design.

We have two big rocks that go in first. They aren’t math and reading; or science and writing.

They are P.E. and Art. (As an aside, our elementary studio voted that P.E. stands for “Physical Eagles.”)

Building a strong body and a curious, creative mind are the big rocks that make all the other learning happen in a deeper way.

With these two rocks, we gain conditioning to persevere when things get hard. We learn to breathe deeply to recover under stress. We learn what it means to focus and concentrate. We learn that failing happens and it takes work to improve. We learn how connected our body is to our mind. We gain courage and imagination. We experience the truth that being uncomfortable is necessary if you want to grow and get better. We learn to use our voices to share our ideas. We become problem-solvers and curious questioners.

How can you do math if you aren’t conditioned to focus or if you feel weak, without stamina or grit?

Our two big rocks make us strong, curious and creative, first. We then become open to working hard to learn and grow. Life is just better when you’re strong and creative as a baseline.

What’s your big rock today?

(This short video is the source of this little exercise.)

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