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QUARANTINE ADVICE FOR PARENTS FROM THE EAGLES

QUARANTINE ADVICE FOR PARENTS FROM THE EAGLES

Laura Sandefer

April 3, 2020

I just got off of my morning Zoom chat with the Eagles. I asked them to please give feedback to parents so we can learn how to make life at home better during this quarantine season.

They quickly gave five solid pieces of advice.

1 Give us a schedule but make it a loose schedule. Strict schedules aren’t helpful right now.

2 Try to do a fun activity with the family each day. (“We don’t want to be entertained all day by parents but really want one fun activity as a group.)

3 Hold up a mirror to us instead of telling us what to do. I asked for an example and he said: “Yesterday I was watching t.v. before doing my work which wasn’t a great choice for me. My parents could have walked up and told me to turn it off. Instead, they held up a mirror and said they saw that I had chosen to watch t.v. instead of doing my work first. This made me re-think my choice and I turned off the t.v.”

4 Relax more. What she really said was, “Just chill!” but then expanded to explain that if parents could relax more instead of being so stressed, this would all be much better.

Thank you, Eagles. Please continue to give us feedback. We need your fresh eyes right now.

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Hero’s Journey Parent Resources

PARENTS NEED RUNNING PARTNERS, TOO

PARENTS NEED RUNNING PARTNERS, TOO

Laura Sandefer

October 1, 2013

I dedicate this post to the newest Acton Academy parents.

It is that time of year. The rush of a new school year has subsided. The jolting chaos of new family schedules is settling into a groove. The stifling heat is beginning to break. I can breathe. But there is an unexpected feeling creeping into my otherwise sense of relief. It is discomfiting. I am surprised by it. It is the distinct feeling of insecurity.

What is this about? Why do I feel this way? What can I do about it? Why do I wonder if we made the right choice to come to Acton Academy? I feel like a loner in my group of friends who all have children in the neighborhood school. They ask me questions that I can’t answer about school. I miss the comfort of the old familiar path of school. Do I really want to be on a Hero’s Journey? This is hard.

If any of this sounds familiar to you, read on. This is the conversation I’ve had with myself and with numerous other Acton Academy parents. It seems to happen each October.

It may help to know that you are not alone in this experience of insecurity as an Acton parent. I can pinpoint three major themes that arise in the hearts of many new Acton Academy parents:

  1.  Insecurity about the daily learning and curriculum: “I don’t know what my child is doing at school; I don’t get to oversee any homework assignments like my friends do; I don’t see the curriculum outlined by grade level. I’m scared that he’s not learning what he’s supposed to at his age. How do I check in to see where he is? I’m scared he won’t get into a good college.”
  2. Insecurity about being off the traditional track: “My friends all question this ‘alternative’ route we are taking in our child’s education. I don’t know what to say to their questions and doubts about Acton Academy.”
  3. Insecurity about having Guides instead of Teachers: “I think my child needs more direction at school. Why don’t the Guides help her more? I want to see more work coming home. I want to be told how my child is doing. I don’t think my child is mature enough to make her own choices about work.”

This period of struggling is an important part of a Hero’s Journey. We must travel through, not around, the valleys and plateaus of deep learning, risk taking and growing.

Our children have Running Partners or Running Teams to help them on their way. We parents need a similar partnership – someone we trust who can answer questions, give encouragement, listen to frustrations.

If you would like to sign up for a Running Partner, please email me. I have gathered a small group of seasoned parents who have offered to share time over coffee – or emailing/phoning if that’s easiest – with any new parent who needs an ear or some guidance.

When you take a road less traveled, there are times of bewilderment and even a sense of loss. But we have a secret treasure at the end of our path that urges us forward: it is the knowledge and confidence that our children will find their callings and will be equipped to create meaningful lives with rich relationships for themselves and those around them. Until then, we can take advantage of having fellow travelers and guides of our own.

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ADVICE FROM EAGLES TO EAGLES

ADVICE FROM EAGLES TO EAGLES

Laura Sandefer

August 29, 2014

A few of our experienced 9 and 10 year old Eagles shared advice to their fellow travelers who are starting this adventure for the first time. Their advice is worthy to heed:

  1. Make friends right away. Take the first step. Everyone is kind so don’t worry about starting up a conversation with someone new.
  2. Be kind and curious. Ask for help when you need it. The other Eagles are really nice and will help you with what you need.
  3. Focus on your work during work time so your free time is really your free time.
  4. Set a good examples for others. Even if you are the youngest you can be a good example.

Thank you, Eagles. I am so excited for this adventure.

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A COVENANT BETWEEN 6-10 YEAR OLDS

A COVENANT BETWEEN 6-10 YEAR OLDS

Laura Sandefer

October 2, 2015

While it is common and ordinary for us to use the word “contract” at Acton Academy, I never want to forget how exceptional this is. Our children have claimed a space for themselves on this planet to be kind, persevering, responsible, curious heroes who support and care for each other. They aren’t following someone else’s mandate. They have written their own.

The following words represent hours of discussions, revisions, negotiations, clarifications and decisions by a group of elementary studio Eagles. It is their Contract and Covenant to each other for the year. They voted on it this morning and will sign it ceremoniously together on Monday. You may want to grab some sparkling cider and toast this momentous occasion as a family to celebrate their choice to be on a hero’s journey:

“I am on a hero’s journey.

Even through extremely hard times I will not give up because I have courage.

I will hold myself accountable to our promises and will not distract others or myself.

I will be diligent in my work and help others when needed.

I will take responsibility for my education and seek out help when I truly need it; I will win with honor and lose with grace.

I will keep the studio sacred, be respectful, and treat others how I want to be treated.

I will be honest with myself and others and have the courage to be different.

I will speak with kindness encouragement and truth.

I will try new things I haven’t done yet, maybe even things I won’t be good at, to find new talents and things might bring me joy.

I will never give up on myself.”

I feel the world changing already.

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GRITTY PARENTS

GRITTY PARENTS

Laura Sandefer

September 20, 2016

“I’m not sure I can do this – it’s so hard! I love it!”

These words will be music to my ears. My children may not be the smartest, most athletic or best looking in the room but for them to be gritty will trump it all for me.

Through grit, they will find the ecstasy of flow; they will experience one of their interests turning into a lifelong passion; and they will feel the sublime joy of authentic, hard-earned achievement.

I want this for myself, too.

The problem is that grit does not come naturally – to me or to them.

So how will we get it?

One path to grit is through “deliberate practice” as described by Angela Duckworth in her bestseller, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.” It includes:

  • A clearly defined stretch goal
  • Full concentration and effort
  • Immediate and informative feedback
  • Repetition with reflection and refinement.

Over lunch last Friday, 71 Acton parents decided to be role models for our children and pick one thing to practice deliberately.

Here is my gritty goal: Apple Pie.

I fear baking apple pie.

Seventeen years ago, I went to cooking school. I had an authoritarian, tsk-ing pastry chef as a teacher. One day she saw me happily cutting butter into the flour. “WHAT are you DOING?!” Apparently, I hadn’t chilled the butter properly. Feeling very stupid, I decided I never wanted to bake anyway. I literally quit and I have been afraid of baking an apple pie ever since. (There is a lesson in there about the power of teachers, too, but that’s another story.)

I want my life to include homemade apple pie. So, I have a plan. I am going to begin by reading everything I can about apples. Then I’ll dive into reading the art of the crust. I will experiment a lot. And bake one pie a week for the next 8 weeks. My family will give me detailed feedback about the look, smell, texture, taste. I will take notes and try again.

By Thanksgiving, I will walk to the table with my very own pie in hand. We will give thanks.

What will your deliberate practice be?

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WE ARE LOSING SOME OF THE EAGLES

WE ARE LOSING SOME OF THE EAGLES

Laura Sandefer

September 29, 2016

“I don’t know whether to be annoyed or overjoyed.”

These words, spoken by an Acton parent, were in response to a situation we have at Acton Academy:

Elementary studio Eagles are disappearing after closing group.

Literally.

They are hiding from their parents.

They don’t want to go home.

They’d rather stay at school.

I had a similar thought yesterday. My son broke his arm at school this week. The doctor asked that he stay at home for at least two days to rest and keep it elevated.

After day one, Sam was downstairs with his backpack at 7:00am, holding his arm elevated just above his heart.

“I’m going to school today, Mom. I’m fine.”

My annoyance faded quickly.

I am overjoyed.

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ANTICIPATION

ANTICIPATION

Laura Sandefer

October 16, 2016

On our journey of learning, looking back is important but so is the looking forward. Anticipation opens the door for extending joy and curiosity.

As a parent, I can either spark excitement or dread with my own mood and questions today.

Rather than groaning that fall break is ending, I may exhibit gratitude for fresh starts.

“If you come at four in the afternoon, I will begin to be happy at 3.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince.

I am feeling my happiness rise up at the thought of tomorrow’s reunion with my fellow travelers.

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Hero’s Journey Independent Learning

ON TRUSTING THE CHILDREN

ON TRUSTING THE CHILDREN

Laura Sandefer

November 1, 2016

It was 1972. I was 8 years old with two red braids hanging down to my waist on either side of my sunburned face. I was on a deep sea fishing trip with my father – my dream come true.

“Let her do this by herself.” My father’s jagged voiced struck the captain as he rushed toward me throwing his cigar stub in the ocean.

My fishing pole strained in a tight arch with an angry 50-pound king salmon flying up and fleeing at the other end. My father pinned me to the railing of the chartered boat and yelled at me to reel it in hard and fast. My ponytails kept getting caught in the line yanking out my hair as I worked with all my might reeling him in; then letting him take it back out and then reeling him back again.

After a grueling twenty minutes, the fish was up thrashing near the boat. The captain was ready with his large net – his one job was to get the fish in the boat. He leaned over, swooped hard and then the world went silent. He had knocked the fish off the hook and it disappeared into the depths of the black Pacific Ocean.

My devastation was a silent one. There was nothing to say.

I’ve re-lived those moments over and over in my mind through the years. My fish story. The one that got away. The painful lingering feeling evolved into one of pride because my father wanted me to do it by myself.

He trusted me.

The power of feeling trusted as a child sticks. I have heard my father’s words at so many critical junctures in my life. “You can do this by yourself, Laura.”

I don’t know if I am giving my children the same moments in time that my father gave me. Parenting is hard. I get scared when I want them to succeed so I jump in – just before they fail. But the truth is simple: I want them to take charge of their lives and I trust them with important decisions, jobs and problems.

So today I remember my fish story. And today I remember to push back those ambitious captains (including myself) who rush in to save my boys from hard experiences. I will let them do the very hard things that come their way. I will say, “You’ve got this. I trust you.”

And if the fish gets away, we’ll all be okay.

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WILL MY CHILD SUCCEED AT ACTON ACADEMY?

WILL MY CHILD SUCCEED AT ACTON ACADEMY?

Laura Sandefer

August 24, 2017

As we contemplate the beginning of a new year, you may be asking yourself these questions: What does “success” mean to our family in relation to the Acton experience? Is there a magical secret that will help my Eagle progress steadily? What words can I share to encourage her along the way? How can I best support my child’s Hero’s Journey?

Several veteran Eagles reflected upon their elementary school learning journeys and bravely share their advice to help others. Their words ooze with wisdom and truth. I hope your family has fun reading them and pulling out the nuggets of advice you’d like to focus on during Session One of this new year.

Advice from Seasoned Eagles

Ian J.:

  • Finish your work before it becomes a problem.
  • Always do your work.
  • If you set your mind to something, you can accomplish it.
  • To make a perfect day, you need to incorporate work and play.

Chander:

  • Manage your time.
  • Work doesn’t get done by itself.
  • Don’t delay work!
  • Believe in yourself.
  • Ask other people for support.
  • Watch the Khan videos!
  • If you work hard, then you will achieve.
  • If someone tells you something is important, listen to them.

Audrey:

  • Always ask other people for help when you need it.
  • It takes a flock to make an Eagle.
  • Develop a growth mindset. There is value in grit, teamwork, and fun.

Benjamin:

  • Balance your work.
  • Manage your time.

Jack:

  • Reach for the highest bar.
  • Don’t procrastinate.
  • Have a great time.
  • Be safe from bad things.

Mary:

  • Never procrastinate.
  • Always choose the hardest route.
  • Learn from your fellow travelers.
  • Ask for help.
  • Be grateful.
  • Be kind.
  • Respect others.
  • Have a sense of humor.
  • Be a hero!

Thank you, Eagles! You remind me that you are the experts in this experience. I look forward to learning more from you again this year.

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THREE TRAPS AND A PREVENTIVE POSTURE FOR PARENTS

THREE TRAPS AND A PREVENTIVE POSTURE FOR PARENTS

Laura Sandefer

September 12, 2017

It’s the beginning of the year and the Eagles are learning the processes and systems that will help them soar for the long haul. For parents, these early days can feel baffling and stressful. But hold tight. With each day that passes, your child is learning the ropes and will be able to teach you everything you need to know about Freedom Levels, Badges, and Journey Tracker before you can say “Pyramid of Intentionality.”

In the meantime, parents can get geared up to support their Eagles’ journeys by knowing the three traps along the road:

1Resistance: All Eagles go through the doldrums now and then. But a real resistance to achieving goals becomes a fear-based habit that’s hard to break. The studio systems are built to send up a flare so Eagles don’t get so far down the road of resistance that there’s no easy way back to the path of progress.

2Distraction: We embrace a laser-focused purpose for studio life at Acton Academy. It’s literally written on the walls. When an Eagle chooses to push or pull others away from our sacred purpose, the boundary systems kick in quickly. The nips and tugs Eagles experience as they cross boundaries will serve them well in the long run as they learn self-control and intentional decision-making.

3Victimhood. Playing the part of a victim is the worst trap of all. Blaming others. Not taking responsibility for personal choices. Criticizing the rules, systems or processes without offering ideas or solutions. Saying, “It’s not fair.” Punching out angry emails rather than pondering possibilities. Through the Honor Code, studio contract, Eagle Bucks, and conflict resolution processes, our Eagles will learn to pull themselves out of this trap and move beyond it to accept responsibility and grow. That’s what heroes do.

There is a powerful two-part mental posture we parents can hold to help our children from falling into these traps. (For those of us in the habit of defending on behalf of our children or blaming without questions, this posture will take time to practice – like getting flexible enough to touch our toes.) Practice holding these two things at once:

  • Curiosity
  • Open-mindedness

Rather than getting mad, defensive and blaming the school or others because your child lost an Eagle Buck or got an Honor Code violation or is in a low Freedom level, ask some open-minded questions of your Eagle with a sincerely curious heart: Why do you think that happened? Why is that process in place? What could you have done differently? What can you do to fix this?

And then send them back in the game. It’s the only way they’ll find their way out of the trap.

A few effective words to share as you encourage your Eagle: I’m curious how you are going to deal with this. This is hard and I trust you can do it. I can’t wait to watch you move forward. I believe in you. I love you.

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