Session 2 at a GlanceRead Now
New Session Means
At our independent school in Lincoln, Nebraska we are often asked, "What is your curriculum?" by prospective parents. Curriculum is a hot topic as everyone seeks to provide the best education possible for their children.
At Acton, we believe in the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic if you will, but we find this is the easy part! The harder and far more impactful part (and frankly where we focus most of our time) is:
This means at time that life can be messy at Acton, it can be messy in the studio, it can be hard on parents and guides to see the learners struggling through real issues. We always encourage our parents to sit back and give issues room to breath and for the heroes to work through these issues themselves. That said, we aren't asking parents to be passive, they can still be an active participant in their child's Acton journey, it just looks different at Acton than it might in a traditional school setting.
No doubt, as a parent at Acton Academy, you have embarked on a hero’s journey (whether you are ready for it or not!). Below are answers, testimony and tips we’ve gathered from Acton Academy parents from all over the world to equip and inspire you on your Hero’s Journey as a parent:
What should I do as a parent if my hero has an issue?
So when an issue occurs in the studio we typically ask a few questions, which help us determine what actions to take:
- Is a child being intentionally harmed either physically or emotionally?
- If so, email the guides and encourage your hero to talk about it with a guide.
- Does this bother them or just me?
- If just me, wait and observe.
- Does this bother them?
- Encourage them to use the tools they have to make the studio a better place to be. In most cases, a hero knows the courageous action they must take, but would rather a parent step in and rescue them.
We find that oftentimes problems in the studio bother us as parents or guides, but don’t really bother the heroes.
Sometimes, however, it is a real problem for the heroes, which creates a great opportunity for them to learn to do something, and forge character in the process. As parents, we can encourage our hero to pick up a tool in the studio, and solve their own problems.
In this scenario, here are a few questions to help them recognize what tools they have, and empower them to solve the problem:
- “Have you asked the person doing it for a hero buck every single time?” - This will stop negative behavior extremely fast.
- “Do you have any outstanding issues with any of your fellow travelers about this?”
- Challenge them to go to the peace table and, if they would be more comfortable, request a guide to help with conflict resolution.
- “Is this a problem that everyone faces?”
- Challenge them to bring it up in town hall meetings, and suggest a solution.
What if my hero is unhappy?
Instead of focusing on short term happiness, Acton Academy focuses on long term satisfaction and fulfillment. Overcoming short term challenges is often a part of that journey.
As parents, we’ve found our heroes grow most when we comfort them and listen empathically, but do not try to solve the problem ourselves or allow blame to be cast on others. “I hear you. That must be so hard. I trust you to find a way to solve this on your own and can’t wait to hear how you did it” seem to be the most powerful words we can use as parents.
If your goal is to have a child who is happy all the time, Acton Academy may not be the right place for you.
What if my hero is facing a problem that makes me especially anxious?
It can be hard to watch our children face challenges, but heroic parents must look to the long term value of challenges to determine if they must interject. I was recently talking with another owner who said that one of their parent nights led to a wonderful belief that struggles and challenges are valuable if they are in pursuit of a worthy goal or outcome. Sometimes stepping back is the best choice we can make.
We also find that many challenges make us anxious because they touch on something we’ve experienced in our past or experience today.
So if a situation makes you particularly angry or anxious, before reacting ask: “Is this more about me or my hero?”
Why can’t you force my hero to ____________ ?
Unfortunately, deep and lasting learning doesn’t work this way. Someone has to want to learn, if deep learning is to occur.
We’ve found that Growth Mindset language and praise – and most of all patience – work better than criticism. Additionally, the systems at Acton Academy reward hard work and growth by rewarding effort (Weekly Points), excellent work (Badges) and leadership (360 Degree Feedback) with more freedom, which encourages growth and learning through choice. All of these things will be introduced with time in our studio, when the learners are ready and asking for them.
What if my hero simply refuses to work hard?
Our studio systems, modeled after companies like Google and Amazon, are designed to reward effort, excellent work and leadership with more freedom, and to reduce freedom for lack of effort, excellence, and leadership.
There are three primary reasons a hero struggles to work hard in the studio. These real world obstacles are a core piece of the learning and development at Acton Academy. Most of us face these same struggles each day:
- Resistance: Sometimes it just takes courage to take the first step towards something hard. Encouragement and modeling are powerful tools here. We often ask ourselves when we see resistance in our children, when is the last time we took a difficult and courageous first step in front of our family?
- Distraction: Cheap distraction is everywhere in life. For me this comes in the form of social media, tv, or checking my email. In the studio, this might look like a hero fiddling with a toy, chatting with a friend, doing cartwheels or even changing the background on their computer. Freedoms in the studio can be lost if a child is too distracted. Parents might also consider removing distractions at home to encourage more effort in the studio.
- Victim Mindset: Often heroes gain attention and solace by playing the part of the victim, and almost all families have some form of the Dreaded Drama Triangle. We highly recommend listening to the book as a family or watching the videos, and committing to use the language of empowerment instead. At the very least, while being empathetic we refuse to allow our heroes to blame others or circumstances. If you were born in America and attend Acton Academy, the complaint that “life is unfair” rings hollow. When the Victim is the issue, we ask if we are modeling negative or blaming language ourselves, or playing the part of a Rescuer or a Persecutor.
Questions that seek understanding:
"What's the best thing that happened today?"
"What's the most challenging thing that happened today?"
"What did you discuss at launch this morning?"
"Did you learn anything new about yourself or your calling today?"
Asking "Why?" Listening, then asking again. Variation: "Why do you think...?"
What did you fail at today?
Questions that discover and reinforce heroic character:
What did you do that was hard today?
What did you do that was kind today?
What did you do that was [character trait] today?
What did someone do to you that was [character trait] today?
Questions that follow up on challenges or goals:
"What goals did you set today?"
"Did you submit that town hall request today?"
"Did you ask [name] to go the the peace table today?"
"Did you ask someone for a hero buck today?"
"Did someone ask you for a hero buck today?"
Likely a lot of opportunity to follow up with encouragement, trust, and relatable personal stories with these questions.
1000 Hours Outdoors - Arctic Blast Update
We rounded out the month of January with 25 hours outdoors, about 5 hours less than I would have liked. I see that number and it looks so small and yet I KNOW that many of those hours required some real effort, time and tears to make it out the door. So, we’ll take them.
- Hot chocolate + marshmallows = a simple pleasure
- "Sweet exhaustion" is a beautiful term and after your children have spend HOURS outdoors in the cold and snow- that’s exactly where they’re at.
- Favorite winter hack, trying to have the dryer empty so that when we come inside all the cold, wet gear gets thrown right in. This is an extra sweet idea if you’re headed back out shortly, the girls LOVE putting back on their warm, snuggly clothes straight from the dryer.
- We’re absolutely doing things that we NEVER would have done in the past. My personal favorite, a 90-minute, Saturday afternoon hike through our neighborhood “woods” with snow falling all around us. Hands down one of my favorite experiences since becoming a family of five.
Here’s what I also know- we MISSED our outdoor time during the frigid temps. The other day our 3 year old asked when it was going to snow again, so they could go outside and scoop. THEY are missing their outdoor time. We have extra energy that’s hard to get rid of, lots of LOUD voices inside that we’re used to using up in the great outdoors
I’m already making plans for how we can knock out some chunks of time once those temps hit the 30s and 40s...40s...a heat wave. Bring it on!
Outdoor time will also be a staple at Acton Lincoln. We plan to implement Forest School Fridays later this spring and build an outdoor classroom as soon as the weather allows.
One of the most innovative education programs in the world is right here in Lincoln, NE!
In an attempt to understand where each of our prospective families is coming from, I make a point of asking our all our families who tour our school in southwest Lincoln, "what is one thing you wish you would have had the chance to learn in school?" I also posted this on my social media accounts recently and despite the wide variety of answers, without exception I find myself answering the same way... We do that here at our private school.
Seeing what other thinkers are wishing for in education like what Trevor Soponis, PhD posted recently, “We need new models of learning. … it’s about empowering students to not move at the speed of the teacher or their classmates. Or even study the same thing,” has prompted me to realize what we have here at Infinity School.
I’m seeing big dreams for interdisciplinary programs, high schools that don’t make teenagers start at 8am, and hopes to see the programs not revolve around a curriculum that is painfully outdated. Guess what, we’re already doing all of that here!
Reading all of these posts on LinkedIn and wishes for change in education, I’ve really been thinking about what “education innovation” means. To me, innovation is a process of questioning, reinventing, and trying. It is asking big questions that we might not like the answers to in our pursuit of removing old ways of thinking to make room for new ways of growth.
Education Innovation questions are ones like these:
- Are report cards still (or were they ever) a useful tool for measuring progress? If not, what is better?
- How can we hand power and ownership of learning over to those doing the learning?
- What kinds of learning activities are truly useful and impactful?
- How can emotional intelligence, empathy, and open mindset thinking be incorporated into every day?
- Is having a teacher as “expert” standing in front of a (often large) group of children/ teenagers the best way to learn? Do you like learning like that?
- What is school for?
I also believe that innovation in education is about creating systems and processes that make it possible for the program to essentially run itself. And putting the ability to change these systems in the hands of those they most affect — the learners.
Over the past five years I have watched the handful of brave six to eight-year-olds who walked through our doors on the day we opened from thinking inside the public school box to people who can project manage, lead others even when a few of those others are difficult and not contributing, ask incredible questions, and do tough things. And they are happy.
This handful of learners five years ago has grown to almost forty children and youth doing school differently.
When we ask them what they like the most about this program, we usually hear two things: I love the freedom to be myself and learn how I learn, and all the adults are really nice here. We don’t hear about how innovative we are or about the myriad of things we have done to make this program one of the leading systems in education. These Eagles simply know that they matter and that their love of learning continues to grow. Maybe that’s truly what education innovation is about.
Co-founder & Director of Acton Academy Infinity
Originally blog published on Infinity School Blog
Your Kids Can Love School!Read Now
A school that helps Kids Love learning again!
Meet Miss Mayah. This past session our learners wrote their memoirs and she chose to write hers about Acton Academy Lincoln, "her favorite place to be". Watch and see why she loves Acton, a private school in Lincoln, Nebraska
WHAT SETS ACTON APART FROM
TRADITIONAL EDUCATION OPTIONS?
Students from all types of school choice backgrounds thrive at Acton Academy Lincoln: Whether your family comes to us from a Montessori school, after homeschooling, public school, private Christian school, or charter school, we believe a like-minded tribe aligned around a common purpose is powerful. Learning happens all the time, and staff, parents, and children each have a powerful part to play. All parts of our learning community are engaged for support, to share perspective, and bring value.
Grab Your FREE Info Kit Here: my.actonacademylincoln.com/freeinfokit
What to Expect from our Audition Process
For us, we prefer to call ours and audition. We are auditioning for you as much as you are for us! It's a two way street, and it must be a good fit for both parties.
We recognize that we ask you to dedicate time and thought to the process. Families who are thriving in our community often share that they truly enjoyed the process, and we hope you do too.
We invite you to schedule a campus tour OR attend a Discovery Night.
2. REQUEST OUR PARENT APPLICATION + HERO FORM
After completing your own research and reading "Courage to Grow" we invite you to complete our two-part online questionnaire.
After we receive the completed questionnaires and your videos, your child is invited to visit our school for a day. The visitor day is an excellent way for us to get to know your child and allow them to experience learning at Acton Academy Lincoln.
4. ADMISSIONS DECISION
If we believe Acton Academy Lincoln would be a good fit for your family, we will invite you to enroll. Admission to our school will be confirmed upon receipt of the registration fee, and signed enrollment documents.
You can find tuition information along with other specifics about our audition process to our private school here in Lincoln, Nebraska under the apply page of our website.
This session our heroes (what we call our students) learned about the American flag and the history of the pledge of allegiance.
Last week, we had the opportunity to invite a real-life hero into our studio to speak to our heroes! Mr. Borchardt, who currently serves as a Captain in the U.S. Army and National Guard, shared about his job and what being a part of a team means to him. “Being a part of something bigger than myself is what my job is really about. In order to accomplish our missions, my team has to work together.”
Mr. Borchardt’s words relate very closely to what life looks like in our studio here at Acton. Each and every day, our heroes must work together to ensure they accomplish their SMART goals for the day and stay on schedule. If one hero falls off the track, the entire tribe is affected.
Mr. Borchardt described that America to him is about opportunity and freedoms. “Less than 1% of Americans go into the military. We get to do things over 99% of people don’t get to do.” This goes to show how incredible of a job Mr. Borchardt has and how he truly is a hero every day. At Acton, our heroes learn every day how special of a role they have in the world! Becoming a real hero may not be the easiest or most common path, but, as Mr. Borchardt shared, there is no doubt it is the most impactful. To wrap up our time our special guest, we asked Mr. Borchardt to share any advice he had for our Acton Lions. He said, “Focus on being a part of the team here. If you give your best, your team will be able to give their best too.”
We are incredibly grateful for Mr. Borchardt’s service to our country and that he was able to come share about his hero’s journey in our studio! We can’t wait to see how our young heroes apply what they learned from this discussion to their adventures here at Acton!
Acton Academy Lincoln
A learner-driven private school in Lincoln, Nebraska. We offer a truly different approach to school. Supported by the latest in technology and cognitive science, we move beyond the traditional tools of lectures, homework, high-stakes tests, and grades. At Acton Academy Lincoln, students K-8 learn in collaborative classrooms of multi-age learners. Our flexible approach challenges each student with their differentiated learning plan and inspires them through real-world projects.
Learn more by watching this video.
What is your curriculum?Read Now
"What is your Curriculum?"
While we utilize Montessori elements and the latest in game-based adaptive software, the "curriculum" at Acton Academy Lincoln can seem confusing; especially when learners are allowed to work at their own pace on core skills programs and our real world projects look nothing like traditional subjects that fit nicely into a textbook.
When asked about curriculum on tours, I like to quote fellow Acton owner, Matt Beaudreau:
Our most important curriculum is fostering self-awareness from having tried a number of things and developing self-confidence from actually having pulled through doing hard things that mattered.
-Matt Beaudreau | Acton Placer Founder
1. First, Make it Fun.
Plus, motivated Lions work at 10X the rate of average students.
2. Focus on Core SKills.
Reading: First, make reading fun and enjoyable (see point number one above.) Allow Lions to read anything they want. Once Lions love to read, you can offer more challenging ideas, authors and genres.
Hint: Never mention the word “classic.” Sadly, many children define "classic” as “a boring book that grown-ups make you read.” You can and should offer Great Books; just be careful what you call them.
Writing (Communication): Make writing fun by starting with journaling or lighthearted creative writing. Start early with Socratic discussions. Always write or communicate for a reason, usually as part of an exhibition, so that quality matters to the Lions. Over time, offer more difficult challenges and genres. Use peer critiques to boost motivation; Lions will write and revise a great deal if they can share with friends.
Handwriting and spelling will come over time, but giving Lions incentives to improve these earlier helps some parents relax. Grammar is different. Too much early emphasis on grammar can kill the joy of getting thoughts and emotions on paper. If Lions care about writing and communicating, better grammar will come.
Math: Khan Academy and other game based adaptive programs like Beast Academy make math curriculum a breeze, so you can focus on motivation and including math in real world projects.
Civilization: Find articles, videos and ethical dilemmas that put the Lions in the shoes of a heroic decision maker, require them to take a firm stand and debate the alternatives in a Socratic Discussion.
Lions are competitive by nature. Ask them to track and post the results for the Core Skills activities above, and deep learning will happen.
3. Add Quests for 21st Century Skills
If you are confident that the Core Skills are being mastered, you can add Quests to master 21st Century skills and subjects like Science. A Quest is nothing more than a series of hands-on, real world projects that contain a narrative and a public exhibition at the end.
Start with simple Quests first. Then add more complex Quests. Once you have a sense of what makes a great Quest, simplify again. Then hand over Quest creation to your Lions.
4. Real World Apprenticeships
As soon as possible, ask Lions to begin real world apprenticeships – often as early as ten years old. This includes each Lion considering his or her individual gifts and talents; activities that bring joy or “flow,” and the irresistible opportunities or terrible injustices that inspire a young hero.
Challenge Lions to identify and pitch apprenticeship opportunities themselves, with as little help as possible from adults. There’s nothing quite as freeing as knowing you can identify and land your next adventure in life, all by yourself.
Lion Driven Learning Communities offer a rich tapestry of collaborative discovery with serious rigor, as young heroes negotiate collaborating and learning with Running Partners and in small groups. But “self organized” doesn’t mean chaos; in fact, it usually requires a rigorous set of rules and natural consequences. Embracing the principles above allows the chaos at Acton Academy to (usually) have an upward trajectory, and to self correct when it doesn’t.
Originally posted on "The Eagles of Acton" Blog
You can read more from this blog here.
As we prepare to open a more traditional Montessori Studio in the Fall to compliment our Elementary and Middle School Studios, we thought it would be great to share this article from a fellow Acton Academy owner. They explain their experience as parents with a top-rated Montessori school near them and opening an Acton Academy similar to our school in Lincoln, NE.
What are the Main Differences Between Montessori and Acton Academy Programs?
A common response to this question from other Acton owners is that Acton Academy is almost like a Montessori 2.0 or Montessori for the 21st Century. While Acton Academies do believe in many of the principles espoused by Maria Montessori (respect of the child, self-learning/freedom of choice, multi-age classrooms, a prepared environment and teachers as guides, to name a few), there are significant differences between the programs as well.
It is important to note that not all Montessori schools are officially licenced so there is some variation in the style of programming delivered. Similarly, each Acton Academy is independently owned and operated as well so absolute generalizations cannot be made.
With that in mind, here are some specific distinctions that make an Acton Academy a unique learning environment compared to a Montessori school.
Consistent Progressive Education Goals vs. Focus on Early Years
Acton Academy Lincoln is a great option for families looking to continue an alternative education after graduating out of their current Montessori School in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The Montessori programs offered for older children weren’t necessarily developed by Maria Montessori and have been formed by individual programs wanting schooling for higher ages. As a result of this distinction, many Montessori schools add more traditional elements to their programs as the children get older; this actually leads to decreased responsibility in the higher grades. At an Acton Academy, our Hero’s are given more responsibility as they get older and are heavily involved in self-management, leadership, and self-government of their learning environments.
Having said that, our school and many other Acton Academies accept students at age six or seven so we often rely on, recommend, and partner with local Montessori programs for the toddlers and preschoolers who will come to our school at that older age.
The Focus on Mastery + Use of Technology
Technology is one tool we use to allow this kind of learning to take place. For the most part, Montessori programs have a reflexive policy against the use of technology in the classroom.
Jeff Sandefer, the co-founder of Acton Academy said this about our program: “Acton isn’t pro-technology, but we use powerful game based programs for areas like Math, as well as relying on the internet to bring experts and the world to us. We don’t dismiss technology out of hand. If it’s a useful tool, process or habit, we use it, whether its Khan Academy or a walk in the park.”
Socratic Method vs. Group Discussions
Ability to Apply Learning to the Real World
The Acton Academy system is focused on preparing our Lions to find their own calling in the real world. We continually help our students in this regard in multiple ways:
1. The use of the Hero’s Journey heuristic as a way of using stories as a backdrop for learning, and in understanding that they themselves are on their own journey
2. Bringing in guests to discuss their Hero’s Journey and demonstrate the challenges everyone faces on their life’s path
3. The use of Quests as structured real-world challenges that create real world accountable results, much like project-based work
4. The use of Apprenticeships as Eagles get older to make the world their classroom
5. The focus on entrepreneurship, leadership, and self-management
6. An emphasis on character development and the concepts that allow our Hero’s to do their best – Curiosity, Gratitude, Grit, Growth Mindset, Optimism, Purpose, Self-Control, Social/Emotional Intelligence, and Zest
At an Acton Academy, we continually focus on relating lessons and tasks to the real-world in order to give our Hero’s the skills, abilities and confidence to succeed in whatever field they choose. The focus is on the process of learning, not just the content of it, thus enabling them to be ready for whatever the future may bring.
Ongoing Improvement to Achieve our Educational Goals
Overall, while Acton Academies do share, respect, and incorporate many of Maria Montessori’s philosophies on children’s education, we do have a number of differences which we feel help our Heroes to best prepare themselves for the future. It comes from the similar desire to do all we can for our next generation but also takes advantage of the recent advances in tools, philosophy and understanding of education in the 21st Century.
Written by Dr. Vineet Nair & Andrea Nair, M.A., CCC
INFINITY SCHOOL: AN ACTON ACADEMY IN LONDON, ON, CANADA
"What do you want?"
Though merely two sentences within a long, heated Socratic discussion, Matteo’s words were flashes of gold. Everyone agreed with them. With clarity and ease, he’d pointed us to the essence of why Acton exists in a way I had never pondered.
It is about wanting. It is about desire.
Desire is longing for something not yet attained and includes a sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo. It is the fuel for curiosity – the most powerful intrinsic motivator.
But I wasn’t satisfied with my analysis of Matteo’s words. Was he really talking about just the desire to be smart?
I decided to pursue his idea further. I asked a small group of Eagles to help me out:
Why do you want to be smart?
So I can feel confident in the world.
So I can understand how things work.
So I can make hard decisions and tough choices.
So I can do the right thing.
So I can do something important with my life.
So I can solve problems that aren’t being solved yet.
So I can find my calling.
Their wanting to be smart was not about having an academic credential. It was not about pleasing parents and teachers.
These young people desire doing intelligent work that matters for this big, wonderful world.
Shakespeare wrote: “Joy’s soul lies in the doing.”
Acton Academy exists for the “doing” not just the “knowing.” Ultimately, there will be joy even if the journey includes suffering and sacrifice because the learning and work are purposeful. They are driven by the heart – where desire and character reside.
As a parent, this shifts my stance on talking with my sons about their work at school. My natural tendency at the end of the week is to ask them: How many points did you earn? How many Eagle Bucks do you have?
These extrinsic, academic questions are easy and okay. But, frankly, they miss the target.
There is a much more important question: What do you want?
I often forget to consider the desire in their hearts. When I focus merely on the external evidence of their daily learning, I snuff out the force that will drive them for the rest of their lives: the desire that lies in their hearts to do work that matters.
These young people exude profound confidence and inner freedom because they carry a mindset of growth. They know they can learn absolutely anything if they work at it. There is no slumped-over pessimism that comes from the burden of being labeled “smart” or “not smart.”
It’s as if they are already saying, “Open wide your doors, world. We are excited to meet you.”
Thank you, Matteo.
Acton Academy Co-Founder
Original blog published on Being an Acton Academy Parent
If we want children to move mountains, we first have to let them get out of their chairs.
A day in the life of a typical modern kid- imagine this.
Sarah, a sweet nine-year-old, gets up and dresses quickly in the morning, keeping in mind that if she eats fast enough her mother will let her watch cartoons before leaving for school. As soon as she finishes her last bite, she watches reruns of “Looney Tunes.” Twenty minutes goes by in a flash.
Sarah lives in the country, so it takes about twenty-five minutes to drive to school. Her mom feels guilty about the long drive, so she lets Sarah play on the iPad until they arrive. “Everyone, please take your seats!” the teacher shouts as Sarah approaches her desk, where she sits most of the day, except for a brief snack, quick lunch and a twenty-minute recess. Then it is time to go home.
After another twenty-five minute commute home, Sarah is feeling energetic after a long day of sitting. She instantly heads toward the swing set in the backyard. “Not yet,” Mom catches her. “Homework first”. Sarah groans, shuffles to the dining-room table, and pulls out her assignment.
“Argh…” Sarah is literally trying to pull her hair out. “I hate this! I can’t do this!” It takes about ninety minutes to complete the homework on a good day. By the end, she is exhausted. After two bouts of crying, she feels angry and spent. “Can I play on the iPad for a little bit?” She asks her mother. Her mother, thinking Sarah has definitely earned it this time, says, “Sure. But remember, we need to leave for Girl Scouts in thirty minutes.”
After Girl Scouts, Sarah and her family use the drive-through on their way home since it is already a late night. When they get home, Sarah grabs her Harry Potter book and readies for thirty minutes before it is time for lights out. Tomorrow, she’ll do this routine all over again. Only instead of Girl Scouts, she has basketball practice.
| || |
When I think about these children, children begging for time, for play, for life to just SLOW down it truly breaks my heart.
I came upon this book on my Kindle months ago. I started reading it, life got busy with the Holidays and so I set it aside and just days ago started back at the beginning. Two weeks ago I came upon an Instagram account called “1,000 hours outside”. It was pretty easy to see that I was being pointed in a strong, straight line towards the simple concept that our children thrive when we allow them outdoor, active, FREE play without adult interference.
I don’t use the term “called to” lightly. But this, there was no denying. Maybe it’s our current climate, the craziness that was 2020, I’m not sure -but when I came upon “1,000 hours outside” on Instagram I fell in love with her message, her content, her challenge and I didn’t hesitate- 2021 would be the year that the Harsin family committed to 1,000 hours outdoors.
Are we currently behind our (my goal) hours? We are. Do I enjoy being outdoors in the cold? I do not. Is it a fight (with LOTS of whining involved) to get everyone in boots and coats and hats and out the door? 100%.
But, here’s what I already know...after just 12 days: Once we get outdoors and find our adventure- our big girls don’t want it to end. This past Sunday we spent almost 3 hours at Mahoney State Park sledding, hiking, having a picnic and even after all that time- they didn’t want to be done! I’ve noticed that the girls are already asking for less screen time- when we come in from outdoor time they’re so content to just settle in and PLAY. Bedtime is a breeze, nothing wears a kid out more than moving their bodies in the fresh air. Our girls are falling asleep immediately and for the most part, not making a peep for 11-12 hours. If nothing else, these things make it ALL worth it.
The things that I love most about the 1,000 hour challenge (outside of what it can bring to our children): you can begin this challenge whenever you choose, you set your own rules and even if you fall short of the 1,000 hour goal...you still WIN.
If one word of this resonates with you- I challenge you to dig into either of these resources, or the many others that you can find on this very topic and explore. We owe it to ourselves, our families and our children to simply do that...explore.
I am excited for our journey and hope you will follow ours here, while simultaneously finding the inspiration to start your own outdoor journey.
This story is the first in a multi-part series by Heidi Harsin, wife, mom, co-founder of Acton, and the reason Acton Academy Lincoln exists. If it weren't for her momma heart pushing her to find a refreshing approach to our children's education we wouldn't have discovered Acton.
A Founding Family Story - The Shaws
"I have never felt more like I have a say in her education than I have the past month and a half at Acton. If your gut is guiding you to make this change, trust it. You will not regret giving your child(ren) the best gift you can give them."
We continued into her second-grade year and her not wanting to go to school only intensified. She was miserable and I was miserable sending her every day. I honestly understood why she was not happy. A lot of what I saw in her is what I felt growing up going through a system that was very rigid and put me in a one size fits all approach that did not align with how I learned at all. We went to our second scheduled parent-teacher conferences in February 2020 and I left knowing I had to figure out a change. Tests and metrics that we had been told in previous years to not put much weight into all of the sudden in the second grade were a big deal and the ability to explain those to the parents and help guide the student on the best path to enhance their learning was non-existent. One month later COVID hit and school was remote the remainder of the year. I was dealing with a very different child via remote learning. She wanted to learn, and she could explore her interests as well as develop in core skill areas. Ironically several of the programs we used at home were the same ones she was using at school, so she was getting some of the same content but with the ability to work at her level and solidify her understanding instead of having to keep at a pace to get through the year worth of content to meet standards and most likely only solidify a fraction of the understanding. This showed me kids are missing the valuable building blocks they need in education.
Gut feelings are like guardian angels and I knew I was being guided in the right direction.
Gut feelings are like guardian angels and I knew I was being guided in the right direction. My best friend from college messaged me after she saw I had “liked” Acton on Facebook. She said, “I know the owners that are opening this school and they are great people.” That was it. Peyton and I attended a park event where she met several of her fellow travelers. I met with Zach after that event to get more information in regards to Acton and on November 16, 2020, Peyton started her Journey.
The challenge, if you don’t know it, is a fun and instructive design exercise that encourages teams to experience simple but profound lessons in collaboration, innovation and creativity.
The challenge seems simple enough: small teams have to build a structure in 18 minutes using 20 sticks of spaghetti, 1 yard of tape, 1 yard of string and 1 marshmallow. The winning team is the one that can construct the tallest freestanding structure with the marshmallow on top within the time allowed. The point of the exercise is to collaborate very quickly in order to respond to the task. It reveals some surprising lessons about the nature of collaboration.
I had the the prior knowledge that our youngest group of heroes (age 5-7) had time and again proven they would beat CEOs of fortune 500 companies, so it was extra special to watch this play out in front of our eyes.
The challenge has been done hundreds of times across the country and the results are intriguing.
Who performs poorly?
Recent business school graduates. Why? They cheat and get distracted. They try to find the single correct plan and then attempt to execute that. They run out of time and when they put the marshmallow on top, it’s a crisis. Sound familiar?
Who performs well?
Kindergarten kids. Why? First of all, none of the kids spend time trying to become CEO of Spaghetti Inc.! More importantly, they start with the marshmallow and then build successive prototypes, all the time keeping the marshmallow on top until they find a solution that works.
The lesson learned from all this fun? The capacity to experiment and prototype is essential to success. (aka trial and error)
Our youngest heroes won! They build the strongest and tallest tower.
What Can We Learn From This?
We all want to avoid the uh-oh moment when the marshmallow causes the structure to collapse. The Marshmallow Challenge teaches us that prototyping and iterating can help achieve success. It also shows that success is dependent upon close collaboration between team members. ALL things we encourage and work on at Acton Academy Lincoln.
As we saw with The Marshmallow Challenge, learning at Acton Academy Lincoln is much like a contact sport – you have to get your sleeves rolled up and get stuck in. Collaboration helps get everyone involved in the process right from the start so you can reach that ta-da! moment at the end.
By getting started and focusing on iterating the process, we can implement what works and quickly throw out what doesn’t work. This approach ensures that when we reach the end of the project, the marshmallow is sitting firmly on top. This is Acton through and through.
We have lift off | Week OneRead Now
The Journey has begun!
It all began last Saturday as our families and heroes crossed the threshold into the unknown. Their journey has begun and they couldn't be more excited.
As our heroes took in their first few days this week, we fielded a number of phone calls from interested families as they saw our new school become a reality! Spots are going to be full for the spring and our Fall list is ever growing too.
After letting our heroes explore their new space we then completed a second Acton tradition of palm painting. Here we invited our founding heroes and their parents to leave their mark on the space.
One of their team-building challenges was to create a lip dub video, after some initial failures they adapted their plan and put together this fun version of a Frozen song.
Should Every Child Have an IEP?Read Now
SHOULD EVERY CHILD HAVE AN IEP?
At Acton Academy Lincoln, we regularly hear from parents who have had to "fight hard" for their child to receive an IEP. Each time I hear this I feel for the parents and their child. No family should have to "fight" for this. EVERYONE is their own individual. Education should be individualized for every learner, not simply those who are "behind" or "struggling".
Individual Is Not Practical in Traditional Education
The problem is that in society, we sometimes do what is more convenient rather than what is right. It’s not practical in traditional education, i.e., the factory model, to individualize each learner’s educational plan. In traditional education, everyone learns the same thing at the same time for the purpose of efficiency. But, if you’ve ever met 2 people even with the same parents, living under the same roof (heck, even identical twins for that matter), you know just how different each individual is. So why do we insist on educating young people in the same way?
Individual Education for Each & Every Learner
At Acton, we believe in individualized education plans 100%, but for each and every learner! This is not to say that everyone won’t learn some of the same material, but the timeline of when that happens is based on who that learner is as an individual. We have learners of the same age in vastly different spots, but no one is ahead or behind, they are all exactly where they need to be for them because everyone’s development is unique. We work towards improvement and progress for each individual with an understanding that there is never such thing as “done” because learning and education is a life-long journey.
Learners Discover and Lean Into Their Passions
And what about passions? At Acton, we let our learners lean into their passions by first exposing them to a wide variety of trades and crafts and then letting them try out what fits for them with apprenticeships each year (starting around the age of 11). This allows them to try out a passion to see if it’s something they would like to pursue (as a hobby or career). Because again, we believe that each child’s educational journey should be, first and foremost…individualized.
Kori Stack, M.Ed.
Acton Academy Kennebunkport
The Vogels Journey to Acton
Once Kash was born, I started looking into local private schools, but frankly, I didn’t feel that Lincoln had very strong alternatives. This left me feeling a little defeated, and I started mentally preparing myself to send Kash to LPS. I actually went as far as enrolling him. Then COVID hit. Which made public education feel even more constrained than before. I decided to register as a homeschool parent at about the same time that my friend told me about Acton Academy. I watched the videos on the website, scheduled a meeting with Zach, and then read The Courage to Grow. I finally found what I didn’t know I was looking for. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Albert Einstein: “Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”. This clearly aligns with Acton’s belief system.
While waiting for Acton Lincoln to open I was forced to figure out a homeschool ‘program’ that would fill the gap. In the beginning, it was a total nightmare for both Kash and I. Why? Because I was doing exactly what I was trying to protect him from. I had put up a copy of the Declaration of Independence, and the U.S. Constitution on the wall behind his desk, and I was trying to force him to follow along the Hooked on Phonics program at a pace that I had pre-determined, rather than letting him work at his own pace. We were both miserable. And I was teaching him that learning is a negative experience. It was the opposite of what I wanted for him. So, I reflected back on “The Courage to Grow”, and decided to reframe things based on that book.
"I am truly grateful for what Acton has already done for our family, and I look forward to seeing what will come when Kash spends his days immersed in an environment that is designed to help him discover his inner genius."
Kash is now excited about reading, math, and most of all science. We have come to enjoy the time we spend learning together and I truly do owe that to Acton. Even though we haven’t “officially” started yet, Acton has already transformed our ideas of what learning should look like (more so than I expected going into all of this). I am truly grateful for what Acton has already done for our family, and I look forward to seeing what will come when Kash spends his days immersed in an environment that is designed to help him discover his inner genius.
Will an Acton Academy diploma get me into Harvard or Stanford?
You’re right. Acton Academies are off-the-charts different. On purpose.
But if you think Acton students have limited options after graduation, think again! In their years at Acton, students learn to be independent thinkers and self-starters. They launch real businesses. They learn practical, marketable skills. They find their calling.
Acton graduates, from around the world, who apply to college are attractive candidates, displaying responsibility, maturity and a diversity of experiences that is rare among their peers.
Graduates who start their own businesses have a leg up on the competition because, by the time they turned 18, they’d already started and ran several businesses and completed dozens of internships.
There are no limits for Acton graduates – they are ready to follow whatever path they choose.
Acton Academy graduates who do intend to apply for college have a choice:
1. Translate badges into a diploma and transcript identical to those issued by top college prep high schools, a strategy most effective for second tier state universities with more bureaucratic admission hurdles;
2. Present a rich portfolio of work and a fistful of reference letters from apprenticeships, an approach favored by alternative schoolers and homeschoolers for more selective universities like Stanford or Harvard.
Increasingly universities like Harvard and Stanford covet self-directed, focused graduates like ours and offer large discounts on tuition.
New School Opening in LincolnRead Now
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Soon, there will be a new school opening in Lincoln.
New school opening in Lincoln
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Soon, there will be a new school opening in Lincoln. It's called Acton Academy and is an alternative for parents who don't want their kids to follow traditional K-12 learning. The room it will be in is going through renovations right now but soon it will be a place for nearly a dozen kids to learn.
Soon, there will be a new school opening in Lincoln.
It’s called Acton Academy and is an alternative for parents who don’t want their kids to follow traditional K-12 learning.
The room it will be in is going through renovations right now but soon it will be a place for nearly a dozen kids to learn.
“Our families are really excited to join, and build this with us as we learn too,” said co-founder, Zach Harsin.
Kids who would be in grades K-5 will all be in one room learning together. Right now, there’s ten enrolled.
“They’re learning how to be students in the 21st century and that requires problem-solving skills, that requires interpersonal skills, that requires communication and interviews and how to go out and solicit to get a job,” said Harsin.
Read the full article at 1011now.com
Accepting The Call to Adventure - A Note from the Harsins on our New Launch DateRead Now
New Launch Date Announced!
As we started speaking with our founding families, we quickly realized of all the years for these families to sit and wait for their dream school, this was NOT the year.
We decided to see how we could speed up our time table and meet their needs. We immediately began a hiring search while also looking for the perfect location. Within weeks we had hired our rock star guide and found our ideal location, but it still wasn't how we envisioned launching.
We still needed a handful more families to join us on this journey and there was still about six months of prep, planning, and training to fit into the next few months.
Yes, we want to deliver on all our promises, yes we want all the pieces to be planned exactly right, but we also realized, we wouldn't be true to the Acton spirit if we waited until the timing was perfect and all our ducks were in a row. This is our own hero's journey after-all!
We know it won't be perfect, we know there will be bumps in the road, but we are excited to meet our call to adventure and cross the threshold into the unknown with a small group of founding families by our side!
The Specifics of our New Launch Plan
Enrollment Deadline: Oct. 30th
Launch Date: Nov. 16th
- e are limiting enrollment for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year to a small dedicated group of just 10 families to help us be more flexible with Covid.
- We will expand enrollment in the fall of 2021 to full capacity.
- We have just 3 seats remaining for founding families - Begin your family's journey today!
The Hero's Journey And the Acton Experience
Miss Karla, Our First Guide!
I am originally from Venezuela, where I lived until 2007 when I moved to Hastings, NE to learn English as an exchange student.
I then had the opportunity to pursue my passion of Vocal Music & Studio Art
at Hasting College. I have since earned my Masters in Music and English as a Second Language.
I then pursued a calling to become a teacher as a lead preschool teacher, before moving on to teach Spanish for Saint Joseph Catholic School here in Lincoln, Nebraska for the last three years.
My husband Jeremy and I have two beautiful little girls, a 4-year-old and a 1 year-old. The girls were the reason we decided I would try staying home. However, education has always been a great part of me, and the calling never left.
It was while missing my students, that I saw an ad for the Acton Academy Lincoln Guide. The idea of children learning independently, promoting freedom, and encouraging challenges excited me and I knew I had to apply. Once the interview process started, I quickly understood this was not just another school, it was a safe environment for children to develop their interests, their curiosity, and experiment with different subjects at their own pace. Acton is a place where answers aren’t given to the students by the teacher, rather each hero is a teacher at Acton as each of them get to discover answers themselves or better yet, with the help of fellow learners.
I knew this was my place to be.
Today, I am assigned with the task of guiding and helping these learners grow as they develop their own Hero’s Journey. I cannot wait to start this journey alongside them!