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Family Plans Hero’s Journey Parent Resources

ONE EASY WAY TO COAX SOME REFLECTION TIME FROM YOUR FAMILY

ONE EASY WAY TO COAX SOME REFLECTION TIME FROM YOUR FAMILY

Laura Sandefer

December 28, 2019

We’ve witnessed in our Acton studios that reflection time is the magic key to deepen learning. It’s been one of my favorite things to remember to do at home, as well.

A holiday tradition that’s worked for us may work for you, too. During this busy time, it’s easy to overlook the importance of quietly thinking and listening to each other’s hopes and dreams. Here is my answer to that dilemma:

If you walk down our main hallway right now, you’ll see a big white board and a jar of Expo pens sitting on the floor beside it. I drew a line straight down the middle and on the left side wrote: “Looking Back – Memories of 2019.” On the right side I wrote: “Looking Forward – Hopes for 2020.” Everyone jots their memories and hopes on the board over these days leading up to New Year’s Eve. Seeing what the others write makes me think more about what I want to write. The board stays put, gets filled slowly, and stands as a reminder that time is passing so what do you want to do with your life?

You can do this without a white board. Painter’s tape down the wall and different colored sticky notes would work great, too.

We’ve done this exercise since our children were about three years old. Back then, I’d tape up photos of the year to trigger memories. Recording their hopes for the year required conversation. “What is one thing you really want to do? Is there something you want to learn?” They’d quickly think of a few things and we’d draw pictures on the board to represent their hopes. “Jump on one foot for one whole minute” is a great dream and fun to draw.

We can let time pass, just reacting to what comes our way. Or we can savor it, ponder it and look forward to what lies ahead, taking action and celebrating the moment at hand. You don’t need a master of philosophy or a grand mountain to climb. You just need to mark a busy space in your home and let the reflection arise.

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IT’S SUMMER SESSION AND THE LIVIN’ IS EASY

IT’S SUMMER SESSION AND THE LIVIN’ IS EASY

Laura Sandefer

June 1, 2019

Session Seven may be my very favorite Acton oddity. To be in school in June and July and to feel joy about it? It’s true.

Yes, the Eagles continue to show up ready to work, play and grow – like all year. But there’s a downshifting of gears this session. With summer, comes a spaciousness on campus.

Maybe it’s the energy of older Eagles coming and going from apprenticeships. Or maybe it’s their Art Quest that infuses the studios with the generosity and joy of creative work. Or could it be the younger Eagles embarking each week on a new quest designed by the “fifth graders” to grow their curiosity?

Whatever the reason for the magical feel of summer session, I treasure it. There is a sense of easy living that is worth inhaling – and then slowly exhaling. And then inhaling again.

I offer you my three summer parenting gifts so you can bring the magic of session seven home:

Gift 1: Freedom to grow: Act like the Eagles. You are free to learn more. Read more. Create more. Try something brand new. You’ll begin to feel that childlike wonder return. Remember the key to growth is getting out of your comfort zone. Most powerful is to ask your child to hold you accountable in your learning. You’ve got a great running partner in an Eagle. And your courage to learn will feed theirs. Plus, parents are just more fun to be with when they are energized by their own curiosity and learning rather than focused on their children’s goals.

Gift 2: Permission to do less: Do less parenting. Less pampering. Let your children do more for themselves. Trust them. Things won’t go as perfectly as when you do everything, but summer is the perfect time to let it go. Seriously do less. Your relaxing on the “doing” equips your children in their own learning:

“Children who are surrounded at home by excess in the way of toys and pampering require greater talent and effort on the part of the teacher over a longer period of time to reach regular, deep, and lengthy engagement.” Donna Bryant Goertz, author of Children Who are Not Yet Peaceful.

And from Alfred Adler, Austrian physician and psychotherapist: “I believe pampering children is one of the greatest evils of mankind.”

Gift 3: Space to wonder. Cut something unnecessary out of your schedule. You, too, get to experience some of that spaciousness we feel in the studios this summer. Sit and think. What do you wonder about? What do you question? What do you desire? You may want to start writing down the thoughts that arise in these spacious times. Let summer be a whispering – to yourself. Who knows what you will hear?

You now have more freedom, permission and space – feels like summer to me!

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10 WAYS TO LOVE YOUR CHILD TODAY

10 WAYS TO LOVE YOUR CHILD TODAY

Laura Sandefer

March 22, 2019

It seems silly to say. We all know our #1 job as parents is to love our children. We do love them. It’s as natural as breathing.

But are we living our lives so our children feel this love in their bones? Are we creating a home that is our children’s favorite place to be? Are we building hearts and spirits strong enough so we are no longer needed? Are we loving them well today?

Here are 10 little ideas that communicate love and respect. I thank Cyndi Hanes for her little book “2,002 Ways to Show Your Kids You Love Them” and how she helped me remember little things each day do matter.

1Give a milk “toast” to your child at dinner.

2Knock before entering your child’s room.

3Remember that tears are healing. Let them flow when your child is sad.

4Replace lectures with stories.

5Apologize if you embarrass your child.

6Have a suggestion box for your family.

7 When your child is talking, don’t interrupt.

8Give yourself a time-out if you become angry, snippy or critical. Tell your child you will return when you feel better.

9Never let a day go by without saying, “I love you” and sharing a hug

10 Write your child a love letter with 50 things you love about her.

As Jane Austen said, “Ah! There’s nothing like staying home for real comfort.” What can you do today for your child to feel utterly comfortable upon walking in the door?

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ARE YOU A SKEPTIC OF FAMILY PLANS?

Acton Academy Mesilla Valley

ARE YOU A SKEPTIC OF FAMILY PLANS?

Laura Sandefer

December 9, 2015

It’s okay to admit it. You are skeptical of the whole “family meeting” concept. Yet you have a lurking feeling it could change your life for the better; and, Acton families make a promise to write one as part of being in the learning community. So what is holding you back?

Is the Lencioni Family Plan Badge we have for you a bit daunting? Does it feel too time-consuming? Do you resist integrating “business” into your spontaneous, fun-loving family living? Is there a way to hack this? A short cut to test it out?

For those of you dragging your heels a bit with the charge to write a family plan, I’ve created a pain-free way for you to test these waters.

1Plan a time next week for your family to have dinner together at home. This is non-negotiable. (You can pick up dinner or cook…do not stress about those details.)

2 Set the table in a way that is outside of your normal routine. (Ideas: cut a sprig from the yard and put in a jar. Or, light a candle. Or, toss some old family photos on the table. Or, put on some favorite music. Do something a little surprising for your family. What would you do if a special guest was coming by on short notice? Do that. Think of your child as this special guest.)

3 Have a piece of paper and pencil ready for each person. After enjoying food and easy conversation, ask your family members to write down (or draw depending on age and skill) two things they wish their family would do together this year; and one thing they wish to learn to do for themselves. Share these aloud or just collect them and ponder. Whatever feels right in the moment. Then do the dishes together or take out the trash. Go on with your evening. You are done.

See what happens in the days that follow. Can you forget what your children wrote down? What will you do with your own thoughts and hopes?

This isn’t a matter of taking up time or adding something to your list of things to do. It is a matter of intentionality. The Eagles work hard to practice intentionality every day. Trying some ourselves is the least we can do.

You may find by testing the waters that you are inspired to dive in with arms wide open. When you are ready, let me know. I will send you a plan to follow that will make those pieces of paper you collected become experiences you will soon hold as cherished memories. You won’t know until you try.

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TO WRITE A FAMILY PLAN OR NOT TO WRITE A FAMILY PLAN?

TO WRITE A FAMILY PLAN OR NOT TO WRITE A FAMILY PLAN?

Laura Sandefer

June 28, 2014

Weighing the options:

On one hand,

  • I’m too busy.
  • The family isn’t together enough to get it done.
  • It feels to “business-y” for our family.
  • I don’t know where to start.

On the other,

  • I’m tired of being too busy.
  • I crave being fully present with my family more often.
  • I want to cease wasting time and money.
  • I desire the Acton Academy journey of purposeful living as a family.
  • And there’s that hobby I’ve been promising myself.

At Acton, we as families commit to writing family plans and sharing them with the community. The decision to follow through is up to you.

For the record, I commit to completing ours by the deadline of July 30 even if it’s just a sketch.

(To read previous posts with more details on this topic, enter Family Plan in the search box above.)

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WHY AND HOW DO WE START A FAMILY PLAN?

WHY AND HOW DO WE START A FAMILY PLAN?

Laura Sandefer

September 24, 2013

One of our founding family members told me: “If Acton Academy were to go away tomorrow, the one thing we would never stop doing is our family meetings. Our family plan has changed our lives more than anything.”

It would be crazy to run a business without a mission statement, vision, clear goals, budget and strategic plan. Aren’t families more valuable as human organizations? Why not give the same attention and care to our most precious work? If we were so purposeful in our family lives, wouldn’t we be more satisfied each day? Less stressed? Better stewards of our time and resources?

At Acton Academy, we call this putting in your big rocks first and then filling in with the little rocks. (Ask your child to demonstrate this to you if you haven’t heard about it yet.)

We believe there is infinite value in a family sitting together regularly to talk about who they are, what they want to do as a group and as individuals, and writing up a real plan of action.

There are many ways to do this. We do not prescribe a specific method to you. We simply encourage you to do it.

To get you going, we have found one clear and easy route to writing a Family Plan with your children. It comes from Patrick Lencioni’s book, The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family. If you need a copy, let me know and you can borrow mine.

These are the questions that work to begin this adventurous and productive process for your family:

  • What makes our family unique?
  • What is our family’s most important priority – our rallying cry – right now

Going deeper on this one: To do this, we will……..; and we will also have to stay on top of our regular responsibilities which are…

  • How will we use these answers and keep them alive? (ie, hang them up on the door, have weekly family meetings…)

We have posted the family plans from our community in our parent section of our main website. I am inspired each time I read them. My family is probably the least disciplined in the bunch to sit down and check on our goals. Sometimes we hit a weekly check-in, other times, it’s each month. Some years, it’s each quarter. You’ll find your stride.

Our next parent lunch meeting will be a time to share stories and encourage each other in this process.

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A CARROT FOR A FAMILY MEETING

A CARROT FOR A FAMILY MEETING

Laura Sandefer

April 13, 2013

I’d like to offer a tantalizing carrot to you. But first a little spring cleaning.

Spring cleaning is built into my psyche. For my Norwegian mother it was a time of mattress flipping and gutter sweeping. My take is more of a mental and spiritual “de-cluttering.”

Included in my list of things to reflect upon and fine-tune is the Sandefer Family Plan. Our weekly meetings for the past six months have been family “huddles” (taken from one of my favorite management books, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish.) We meet together for no more than 15 minutes each week and answer the questions: What’s up? Where are you stuck?

Each spring, we take out the piece of paper we wrote last summer and analyze our Family Plan. Is our rallying cry still valid? Do we need a new one? Are some goals unrealistic? Should we add new ones? Where have we grown? What can we cross off our list? Who needs ice cream?

As Acton Academy families, the concept of family plans and meetings is central to our community. We have experienced the truth that having a sense of purpose in our family frees us to live well rather than to live busily.

And here is the carrot that may inspire you to have a family meeting this week: Resilience.

Research shows that having a family narrative, a family mission statement and family meetings is key to building resilience in our children. I am gratified to know this for I dream that my children will cultivate their own resilience before they leave the roost. Thank you to Heather Staker for sending me the following link discussing these findings:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/fashion/the-family-stories-that-bind-us-this-life.html?pagewanted=1&_r=5

Our next parent luncheon will include a conversation about the ups and downs we’ve experienced with our family meetings. I look forward to learning from you and I am encouraged by this higher vision we can now share around these efforts.

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PLANNING OR DOING?

PLANNING OR DOING?

Laura Sandefer

November 29, 2012

I am an Acton parent with a Family Plan in hand. My thoughts around the experience of having a “Sandefer Plan” may ring true for you:

We met. We shared. We took notes. We looked at calendars. We listened. We dreamed. We got real. We crunched a few numbers. We wrote a plan. For all to see.

And then life came at us hard and fast, as always. And we missed our family meeting again last Sunday. And I don’t like one of my goals anyway.

I wonder where Sam is. It’s 7am and he’s usually at breakfast by now. It’s so quiet upstairs. Something must be wrong. I knock lightly on the door. Sam? He holds a finger up for me to please be quiet. (I promise he didn’t learn that from me.) He’s reading on his bed so that he can cross his goal off his list.

He is taking action. Real world, independently chosen Action.

This is the purpose of it all. It is the beauty, too. Not the planning. Not even the plan itself.

The process of talking about our purpose and our plans is slowly sinking into the depth of our being. It is becoming real life. We are living our dreams and pursuing our goals even if we are terrible about having “meetings” and our plan isn’t well-written or documented with S.M.A.R.T. goals.

The intent to live purposefully is being played out with the little things I am seeing around the house. I might miss them if I don’t pay attention. We linger longer at our dinner table. The boys make their beds without a word from me (I know…that’s just my personal thing; I don’t care if your family makes your beds.) The television isn’t on much. We have free time on weekends. We are selecting important things to read together. We are having a blast.

This week a quote from Frederic Bastiat made me pause:

“The plans differ; the planners are all alike…”

Let us not be known as the planners. Let us be known as the doers. Sam has inspired me to put my running shoes on and get out the door. I must remember to tell him that.

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