Monthly Archives: June 2017

Austin’s New Museum: Donated by Launchpadders


“Imagine you were able to donate a museum to the citizens of Austin…”

As part of the Session Seven Art Quest, Launchpadders received a challenge:

Imagine you and your six best friends have sold your businesses, and want to leave a gift to the city of Austin – two new museums to be built at Zilker Park.  Given your civic spirit, the city has agreed to match your contribution, with 70% of the funding going to a world class museum of one type, and 30% to a regional quality museum.

The catch?  You and at least five of your friends must agree on which two museums to build, and which one will “world class.”

Armed with the challenge, off we set out for:

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The Dallas World Aquarium;

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The Perot Museum of Natural Science;

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and the Dallas Museum of Art.

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The Dallas World Aquarium received high marks for “telling a story” with it’s exhibits, offset by high admission prices and relatively fewer visitors.

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The Perot Museum featured DNA testing; world class gems; dinosaurs and hands-on science quests that would have fit in well at Acton.  Those arguing for the Perot pointed out the high number of visitors and potential for learning; those against its $185 million price tag.

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Hard working philanthropists get hungry, so a refueling stop at Hard Rock Cafe was a necessity.

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Exhibits at the Dallas Museum of Art ranged from Chihuly glass to honoring the heritage of the cocktail to sculpture to the Voyage of the Icebergs by Frederich Church.  Proponents argued for the power of art to transform; detractors for the need for more comfortable benches.

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The final verdict for Austin’s new museum?  A world class Natural Science Museum and plus a lesser aquarium: the Art Museum of Austin at Zilker Park simply would have to wait.

A simple field trip?  Not for Launchpad.  After all, one of them likely will build one of the world’s great museums, so we might as well start making the hard decisions now.

Which families are a good fit for Acton?

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Often, we are asked what type of families are a good fit with Acton Academy.  We used to say: “Anyone can flourish,” but recently we realized we must have Eagles and parents who have the courage and conviction to set and hold high standards.

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Originally, we believed if either an Eagle or both parents were committed, the odds were good an Eagle would soar at Acton Academy.

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We still believe almost any young person can succeed at Acton.  But we now know an Eagle and both parents must be fully committed to a Hero’s Journey or it puts too much pressure on the studio.

In other words, if our Acton Academy is a model for hundreds of Learner Driven Communities, we cannot ask Eagles to put up with studio-mates who shirk work or disrespect others or parents who allow such behavior to continue.

A Courageous Stand Against Corrosive Forces in Modern Society

Acton Academy families face three corrosive forces in modern society:

  • Resistance – a fear based reluctance to take the first step in learning a key skill; and
  • Distractions – addictive like behaviors towards video games, television and social media.
  • Victim-hood – lashing out at others rather than courageously assuming personal responsibility for life’s surprises and challenges.

Under and over-parenting in America has led to:

  • The average nine-year-old spending over 50 hours per week in front of a screen;
  • Child obesity increasing 500% in a single generation;
  • Americans medicating teenagers at seventeen times higher rates than parents in Great Britain.

Even more troubling than tumbling rankings on international tests is the loss of self-control, conscientiousness and civility that are the bedrock for a satisfying and fulfilling life at age 30 and beyond.

Celebrating Eagles and Parents Committed to a Hero’s Journey

Acton parents refuse to cede critical responsibilities to schools in return for a report card that makes them look like successful parents.  They care less about being “liked” by their children or short-term happiness, and instead accept the struggles, failures and lessons needed to prepare for a fulfilling life in the real world.

Acton parents are willing to hold the line when an Eagle refuses to work or acts disrespectfully:

  • Overcoming Resistance by insisting Eagles take the first step.
  • Removing Distractions by setting strict limits on or even eliminating access to television, social media and the internet;
  • Ignoring Victim-hood and instead letting the natural consequences of studio contracts and covenants shape habits and decisions; and
  • Making manual labor or a much less attractive traditional school the alternative to Acton Academy instead of a painless transfer to a less demanding school where every child receives a trophy.

Here’s to a great year in 2017-18, as we build a Tribe of Eagles and parents who can be a model for hundreds of Acton Academies all around the world!

What do Guides do at Acton Academy?


Guides at Acton Academy are gamemakers who propose exciting challenges, set  boundaries and invite Eagles to start a life changing journey.

Guides authority is limited by an Eagle-Guide contract that restricts the role to five primary tasks:

  1. Guides lift the eyes of Eagles to the horizon.

Guides believe each Eagle is a genius who deserves to find a calling that will change the world.

Guides inspire Eagles by offering a Hero’s Journey through life, beginning with the end in mind; discovering precious gifts and using them in a joyful way to serve others as they build a strong community.

  1. Guides are gamemakers who provide challenges, frameworks, processes, tools, milestones and world class examples.

Guide’s offer real world challenges that resonate with young heroes.  A Guide is a gamemaker who describes an exciting quest; sets incentives and rules and invites Eagles to play.

  1. Guides hold up a mirror of accountability.

Guides encourage Eagles to create covenants to govern the studio and then allow Eagles to learn from mistakes.  Guides insist on due process and if the studio isn’t living up to its promises, hold up a mirror so the tribe can decide to do as they promised or explicitly lower its standards.

  1. Guides shepherd the energy of the learning community.

Guides feed and nurture learner driven communities through the rhythms, rituals and reflections that build a healthy community, proposing intrinsic and extrinsic rewards tfor individuals, squads and the studio to boost intentionality and energy.

  1. Guides prepare Eagles to become gamemakers.

A Guide’s final and most important role is to catalogue, record, document and simplify processes so Eagles can become gamemakers themselves.  Guides celebrate as Eagles take on more and more of a Guide’s responsibilities until having an adult in the studio is no longer necessary.

What do Guides NOT do at Acton Academy?

  1.  Guides do not pose as Unicorn Teachers.

We each long for a personal tutor with the wisdom of Socrates; the curiosity of Nobel Physicist Richard Feynman; the developmental knowledge Jean Piaget; the pedagogy of Maria Montessori and the emotional intelligence of Oprah Winfrey.

Unfortunately, such Unicorn Teachers do not exist.

  1. Guides do not act as parents.

Guides do not nag or try to force Eagles to work.  Instead, guides trust parents to parent.  Guides never offer parenting advice.

  1. Guides do not offer insights about individual Eagles.

Many parents wish a trusted adult to ensure them their child is “above average.”  Acton Academy believes it is impossible for one adult to make accurate insights into the thinking and motivation of dozens of young people.

  1. Guides do not grade or lecture.

Guides do not grade.  Excellence at Acton Academy depending on whether an Eagle has given a “best effort or improved over time.

Guides never lecture.  Guides ask questions instead.

  1. Neither Guides nor owners offer financial advice, become enmeshed in family drama or act as bill collectors.

Guides are not financial experts, family counselors or bill collectors, so they do not help parents in these areas.

  1. Finally, Guides never answer any questions…EVER.


How many teachers are there at Acton Academy?

We often imply that there aren’t any teachers at Acton Academy.  That’s not true.

Traditional schools have classroom teachers to maintain discipline, dispense knowledge and assign passing grades.  The teacher-to-student ratio at most traditional schools is 1 adult to 20 or 30 students.

At Acton Academy, the teacher-to-Eagle ratio is nearly infinite, because our Eagles have access to subject matter experts from all over the world — from Sal Khan to Richard Feynman to an unknown genius on a YouTube video —  plus Socratic coaching from peers; mentors from scores of professions and heroic role models from antiquity to the present.

At Acton Academy we equip Eagles to engage teachers, coaches, experts and mentors whenever they need one, rather than to be captive to a single teacher-as-authority figure.

What can I do as a parent if my Eagle is struggling?

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No parent enjoys watching a child suffer.  Most parents are uncomfortable if a struggles or is unhappy.  Some parents feel every mistake made by their child means parental inadequacy.

So the following advice from veteran Acton Academy parents may be hard to take:  When your child is struggling: Celebrate!

Celebrate?  Yes, celebrate.  Because if your child is failing early, cheaply and often, she is becoming more independent.  She is learning how to survive and succeed in the real world, in a community where it is safe to learn from mistakes and grow. She is developing GRIT.

If celebrating is too difficult for you, practice doing nothing.  Let natural consequences teach valuable lessons.

If doing nothing seems a dereliction of your parenting duties, then provide empathy: “Gee, that sounds hard.”  Perhaps add growth mindset encouragement: “I see you are trying hard.  I would call that ‘grit.’”  Finally, send them back into the game with an affirmation: “I trust you can figure this out.  I’ll look forward to hearing what you decided to do.”

If apathy sets in with your Eagle, you may need to provide some boundaries and consequences at home.  Perhaps even offer a far less attractive alternative to Acton Academy to increase the stakes.

Anything enabling beyond this is likely to do long term harm.  Our job is to prepare our young heroes to change the world.  Not to prevent struggle or unhappiness.

Setbacks that aren’t permanently damaging encourage grit, courage and perseverance.  Again, our job is to prepare our young heroes to overcome challenges and soar, not to remove all obstacles to make life easy, or to be a best friend.

The Costs of Under or Over Parenting

We celebrate our Acton Academy parents who care enough to move counter-culturally and know that failing to set boundaries; focusing on short term happiness or ceding critical parenting responsibilities to schools in return for glowing report cards and cheap trophies has a cost.  All you have to do is consider the statistics:

  • The average nine-year-old spends an average of 50 stupefying hours per week in front of a video screen.
  • Constant snacking has replaced family meals, leading to a 500% increase in child obesity in a single generation.
  • Americans medicate disruptive teenage behaviors 17 times more than parents in Great Britain, instead of holding young people responsible for their actions.

The most troubling result isn’t that children are poorly prepared academically, even though it’s true America’s ranking on international standardized tests is plummeting. The most troubling result is the loss of self-control, conscientious, civility and character that are the bedrock for a satisfying and fulfilling life at age 30 and beyond.

Below is specific advice from veteran Acton Academy Guides and parents:  

 1.  What should I do as a parent if my Eagle has an issue in the studio?

Great question.  Our goal is to arm Eagles to solve their own problems. So:

  1. Ask your Eagle for permission to become involved before you do anything.
  2. Resist the temptation to email a Guide unless there is a threat of serious, immediate harm.  Guides are not allowed respond directly to parent emails or texts, but to follow a process that equips the Eagle to solve his or her own problem.
  3. Ask your Eagle whether she should approach a Guide or Council with the issue and help her frame the issue in a positive light.
  4. If the issue remains unresolved, ask your Eagle to write an email to Council and copy Guides, expressing his frustration and a proposed remedy.
  5. If the issue is a personal one between Eagles, ask your Eagle to call for a Conflict Resolution session, by email to Council with Guides copied.
  6. If the issue is serious and remains unresolved, an Eagle may call for everyone involved to meet to address the issue, and parents are welcome to observe but not participate.  We’ve found requiring everyone to be in the same room discourages mixed messages and triangulation, and often deescalates issues.

 2.  What if I’m worried about how my Eagle is progressing academically?

Our Tracker system allows you to view the work your Eagle produces.  Reviewing Weekly Points, Badges earned versus plan and Eagle Bucks asked/versus requested (or 360 Coaching Reviews) will give you a far more accurate picture of progress than a report card or standardized test.

If our Eagle seems to be struggling, as parents we offer encouragement as well as asking the following questions and seeking verification:

  1. Are you doing 45 minutes of Khan Academy each and every day?  Are you watching the videos?
  2. Do you have a Deep Book and are you reading at least 45 minutes each day?
  3. Are you doing every challenge for the Genre (writing) prompts?
  4. Are you doing every Civilization challenge?
  5. Are you guarding against distractions and avoiding being asked for Eagle Bucks?

Quests are like dessert.  If your Eagle is struggling, verify that the required effort is being put into Core Skills first; then ask about Quests.

3.  What if my Eagle says she just can’t learn from Khan Academy?

Many parents worry that without a teacher it’s impossible to “learn math.”  We’ve found just the opposite:  Khan Academy is a powerful tool and requires users to learn to think critically from a number of perspectives and master a  broad set of mathematical approaches.

In contrast, many traditional math teachers simply ask students to repeat a limited number of simple algorithms as homework.   And despite what we might hope, seldom do traditional schools deliver powerful theoretical insights.

Eagles who have a hard time with Khan Academy typically struggle because they do not do the work or refuse to watch the videos.  It is likely they would find the lectures of most traditional math teachers even more boring.

If your Eagle is struggling, start by making sure she is spending 45 minutes a day, every day on Khan.  Encourage her to watch the videos, every time, and only afterwards to seek Socratic help in the studios.  We’ve also found as parents that sitting beside an Eagle who is doing Khan provides encouragement.

4.   What if my Eagle simply refuses to work hard?

This is a difficult question, because human motivation remains one of the great unsolved mysteries.

Our studio systems, modeled after companies like Google, are designed to reward effort, excellent work and leadership with more freedom.  For those struggling, increasingly higher amounts of effort and goodwill to remain in the studio.  We even offer ways to provide grace and a chance to start over.

When we still see motivation issues as parents, the three most likely suspects are:

  • Distraction: Is your Eagle, like most, drawn into social media, games, web surfing or other types of cheap distraction?   If so, as a parent, you may need to strictly limit access to these distractions.  While extrinsic rewards have their limits, some parents have found tying electronic access to Weekly Points will increase motivation. When in this situation, we often ask ourselves if we are fiddling with our own Iphones instead of paying enough attention to those around us.
  • Resistance: Sometimes it just takes courage to take the first step.  Encouragement and modeling are a powerful tool here, and we would highly recommend The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield, perhaps even listening to it on the way to school for older Eagles (there is a bit of racy language, but only in a few places.) We often ask ourselves when we see resistance in our Eagles, when is the last time we took a difficult and courageous first step in front of our family?
  • The Victim: Often Eagles 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 Eagles to blame others or circumstances.  If you were born in America and attend Acton Academy, the lament 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.

 5. Why can’t you force my Eagle to ____________ ?

Many of us wish our Eagle would spend more time on handwriting or spelling or Math, and when he doesn’t, long for a learning community or school to require the behavior.

Unfortunately, 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.    We also have systems at Acton Academy to reward hard work and growth by rewarding effort (Weekly Points), excellent work (Badges) and leadership (360 Coaching Reviews) with more freedom.

6.  What if my Eagle is unhappy?

Our promise is to equip and inspire your Eagle to find a calling that will change the world.  Struggles and difficulties are part of the journey.

We are encouraged by research showing we all have a natural set point for happiness, and tend to revert to that level no matter what the circumstances – so chasing happiness often is a dead-end journey.  Acton Academy focuses on long term satisfaction and fulfillment rather than momentary happiness.

Acton Academy parents have found our Eagles grow most when we comfort them and listen emphatically, 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.

7.  What if my Eagle wants to leave Acton Academy for another school?

Acton isn’t a fit for all young people and families.  But often we’ve found that the requirements to do real work, live up to your promises and treat others with kindness and respect can lead to a knee jerk reaction to look for greener (and easier, less accountable) pastures.

When faced with this dilemma, some Acton parents suggest offering an unpleasant alternative: like a difficult after school or summer job requiring manual labor or a transfer to a rougher traditional school environment, to show your Eagle you believe she has what it takes to succeed and do not believe it is wise to always make life easier.

A parent’s job is to prepare children for a fulfilling life in the real world, not to remove all obstacles or be a “best friend.”

 8.  What if my Eagle is facing a problem that makes me especially anxious?

Our Eagles take extremely difficult situations in stride every day.  It’s called life.  Most of our hearts would break if we knew the challenges Eagles quietly and bravely overcome.

We’ve found when an event makes us especially anxious – like social anxiety or bullying — is more likely about an unresolved issue we faced in childhood than a problem our Eagle is confronting.  However, once an Eagle senses our concern, he or she may consciously or unconsciously return to the topic, because it brings attention and comfort.

If a situation makes you particularly angry or anxious, before lashing out or overreacting, ask: “Is this more about me or my Eagle?”

9.  What is my Eagle claims to have been treated unfairly?

Life isn’t fair.  Acton Academy’s rules and processes aren’t perfectly fair either, but they are much more just than most communities in the real world.

Our parents have found that the best response to unfairness is to acknowledge the unfairness of the world, and trust and empower your Eagle to do something about it.

10.  What if I’m frustrated because I keep emailing Guides and never receive an answer or resolution?

Guides are never allowed to come between an Eagle and her parents.  Our job is to let parents parent; let Eagles learn to solve their own problem in a safe environment; and as Guides ensure the guidelines and due process Eagle create are honored.

All emails sent to any one Guide or Owner are immediately copied to all Guides for transparency and to ensure everyone is on the same page.  Plus, we keep track of the number of emails we receive from each family.   As a yardstick, the average Acton Academy parent sends one or less emails a year about a specific incident regarding an Eagle.

11.  What if my Eagle gets a strike or an honor code and has to spend a day at home?

If our Eagle has to go home for a day, this is a powerful opportunity for deep learning.  Everyone makes mistakes, including cheating and lying, but when discovered, it gives us a chance to encourage deep introspection.

As parents, we’ve found it far more powerful to reexamine our Family Mission and Plan, look explicitly at facing resistance; remove distractions and disavow the Victim.

 Final Words

Acton Academy offers an encouraging environment where Eagles can earn more freedom by assuming more responsibility and grow as they learn from mistakes.  While we have a great deal of energy and fun in the studio, learning from real consequences and doing real work can be hard at times.

We’ve found the most successful Acton parents understand that growth requires effort, and occasionally discomfort.  So when an Eagle falls, the best a parent can do is help the child back up, give him a hug, and send him back into the arena.

Because it is much easier to learn the most important lessons in life early, at home and at Acton Academy, than to dodge them, only to have to same problems reappear a decade later.

Next post: What do Guides do?


How will I know if my middle school Eagle is faring well or poorly?


Many Acton parents want to measure a middle school Eagle’s progress towards learning to work hard, deliver excellence work and contribute to a community.

Four yardsticks measure the most important areas of growth:

  1. Weekly Points measure the ability to focus and work hard.
  2. Badges Earned prove an Eagle can deliver excellent work.
  3. 360 Coaching Reviews show growth as a leader, as measured by a survey of peers.
  4. Months until Launchpad is earned shows how long it will take an Eagle to enter Launchpad at the current pace.

Some Acton parents also may care about academic skills.

  • Progress in Math and Grammar can be tracked directly on Khan Academy and No Red Ink.
  • Progress in learning to write and reason can be judged by reading Civilization, Genre and Quest deliverables on Tracker, where every piece of Eagle work is captured and displayed.
  • Progress on more integrative skills can be seen in exhibitions, where the amount of learning can be compared to a ranking by peers that shows how much hard work each Eagle invested in each Quest.

Finally, three times a year an Eagle will create a badge progress report for parents and have a chance to revise his or her badge plan.  Usually the report will include comments from a Squad Leader and your Eagle.

 What are Freedom Levels?

Freedom Levels allow Eagles to earn more freedom by delivering on promises.  As a parent, there’s no need to completely understand Freedom Levels because you can rest assured Eagles have studied every nuance.

At Acton Academy, every Eagle has more freedom than at a traditional school.  Eagles jointly develop studio governance and rules every year.  Every Eagle largely is free to choose when to work and what to work on and free to leave his desk at any time, to take a walk, get a drink or grab a snack – as long as he doesn’t distract anyone else.

Freedom Levels allow each Eagle to earn even more freedom with regard to music, eating, collaboration and other choices, by earning Weekly Points, badges and high 360 Coaching Reviews.

In early months, Eagles may only be working 12.5 to 15 hours earnestly to earn 250 to 300 points per week in Freedom Level One or Two, with 360 Peer Review scores between 6.0 and 6.5 and from zero to 6 badges.

By Launchpad, Eagles in Freedom Levels Four and Five will be working 20 to 22.5 hours each week to earn 400 to 450 Weekly Points; with 360 Peer Review scores between 7.5 and 8.0, with between 36 and 50 badges to prepare. for the rigorous work of Launchpad.

How will I know if my Eagle isn’t progressing?

Acton parents may want to more closely monitor progress on Tracker if an Eagle consistently fails to deliver on badge plans and the “Months until Launchpad” estimate grows higher over time.

Likewise, it is a serious matter if an Eagle is sent home for a day for receiving a third strike for violating the minimum standards of the studio or an Honor Code violation.  Being sent home is a serious matter because the third time an Eagle is asked to leave he will not be invited back.

Finally, if an Eagle’s actions are believed to be detracting from the studio culture, the Eagle and parents may be asked to sign a Probationary Contract laying out a specific set of requirements for remaining in the studio.  Likewise, any Eagle who has decided to attend another school will be asked to commit to specific deliverables to make sure commitment remains high.

Final Words

The allure of the Hero’s Journey, Freedom Levels and the accountability of studio contracts are powerful incentives for continued growth.

When an Eagle does stumble, parents normally just send an Eagle back into the studio for valuable lifelong lessons.

In the rare case where more encouragement from home is needed, Weekly Points, badges earned, 360 Peer Reviews and “months until Launchpad” can help parents keep a close watch on progress, so as to praise every advance.

Next post: What can I do as a parent if my Eagle is struggling?


Why is it worth belonging to the Acton Academy community?


Why is it worth belonging to the Acton Academy community? 

Being an Acton Academy Eagle or parent isn’t easy.  It takes courage to be on the cutting edge of educational transformation; it takes a generous spirit to be willing to pave the way for thousands of young heroes and families to follow.

So why take on the challenge?

First, because the Hero’s Journey has stood the test of time.  There’s a reason most novels, movies and plays feature some version of the Hero’s Journey as the main plotline.  As human beings, we have a deep longing to make a difference and use our gifts to serve others, as we transform ourselves and change the world through courageous acts.

Choosing a Hero’s Journey means fully embracing what it means to be fully human.

Second, because Acton Eagles are different.  By Launchpad, an Acton Eagle Eagles know how to work hard at something that matters in her own journey.  She has learned in middle school to self-manage against long term goals, to self-govern using personal covenants with the courage to hold herself and others accountable; to choose a gift to deliberately practice in order to seek a worthy calling.

By Launchpad, an Eagle knows how to write and speak persuasively and how to make logical arguments and numerical calculations that are on point, accurate and meaningful.  She knows how to participate in and lead a Socratic discussion to discover a new process for accomplishing an important goal; how to find a world class example and mentor to provide guidance; and how to have an even deeper discussion about eternal truths, principles and values.

She knows how to be tough minded without being harsh, and warmhearted without allowing others to take advantage of her kindness.  She knows how to lead a meeting and cast a compelling vision or offer powerful incentives.  She’s learned to make friends out of strangers and treat co-workers with respect.

Third, Acton Academy studios prepare Eagles for the real world.  Acton Academy is not an educational Utopia.  Human beings and communities are too messy and complex to hope for perfection, so life in the studio is messy and the culture must constantly be rebuilt.

But our studio contracts and systems do function much like a Civil Society, where good choices lead to more freedom and responsibility, and poor choices deliver clear consequences and grace so Eagles can stumble and rise again.

Fourth, because Acton families are different too.  Families join in community and share difficult lessons learned.  Family contracts and family meetings let us clarify what family means to each of us, the first step towards setting set individual and family goals so life is less busy and more fruitful.

Acton parents frame choices rather than issuing edicts or helicopter-like micromanagement or to give an Eagle unlimited license with no responsibility.   Acton parents allow their Eagles to learn from mistakes, even when it’s hard.  Acton parents realize that in many ways they are moving counterculturally, continually against three corrosive forces:

  • Resistance, fear based paralysis that prevents making hard choices or starting a difficult project or journey.
  • Distraction, a behavioral addiction to television, online gaming and video and social media that destroys concentration and flow and cheapens life.
  • Victim-hood, the reflex to blame circumstances and others instead of accepting life can be unfair, and resolving to take personal responsibility for making the world a better place.

Being an Acton parent means realizing that our job isn’t to make our children’s lives as easy as possible; to relive our childhood wounds through our children or to treat children as friends or equals, but instead to act as role models, exercising genuine authority when needed and having the courage to trust natural consequences to prepare our children for a world that is at times magical and at other times terribly unforgiving.

Why is it worth belonging to the Acton Academy community?  Because each of us has a limited time on this planet.   We know that the mistakes, failures and trials build courage, resilience and grit one lesson at a time.  We want to nurture in our children a sense of genuine accomplishment with every Exhibition or apprenticeship, tempered by gratitude.

Acton Eagles and parents are different.  We are different in ways that will serve us well in the decades to come, eventually leading to fulfilling answers the three questions that matter most at the end of a well lived life:

  • Did I accomplish something meaningful?
  • Was I a good person? and
  • Who did I love and who loves me?

Why is it worth being an Acton Eagle or parent?  Because we long to squeeze every drop of joy, wonder and love from each day, even when the road is hard.  We have no other choice, except to live a less meaningful and less interesting life.

This is the first of several posts to prepare our community for a spirited re-launch in September 2018.



Meaningful Rituals to Celebrate the Year

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Eagles worked hard this year, so it was important to close Session Six with a celebratory Spring Ranch Trip, including team challenges, meaningful reflections and commitments for next year and beyond.

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We started with spirited contests, including an obstacle course  a shooting competition and a kayak race, with a closely fought team battle until the very end.

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Next it was time for swimming and a nature tour of the ranch.

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As we prepared to settle in our Hill Country bunk beds beneath 100 year old oaks, it was time for s’more’s  and a fireside ceremony, where each Eagle chose which roles in life to discard, embrace and hold as priceless.

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The next morning we assembled high on a hilltop to welcome the sunrise, celebrating how far we had come together; bidding”goodbye” to a few Eagles who were heading to Launchpad or beyond, and already anticipating the upcoming year.


A Sumo Robot Battle Royal: “Is artificial intelligence discovered or created?”

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Session Six focused on programming, artificial intelligence and securing world changing apprenticeships.

Eagles dug deeply into programming and artificial intelligence, including: coding in Python and EV3; solving real-world coding challenges; creating computer generated art and competing in weekly robotics contests.

Along the way Eagles learned lessons about how computers work, complexity theory, machine learning and other forms of artificial intelligence, all with constant drumbeat of Socratic questions over the true meaning of intelligence and consciousness.

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On Friday, we celebrated the session with a Robot Battle Royal  as well as a sharing of the “Why am I here?” video talks taped by each Eagle to describe his or her continuing Hero’s Journey.

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Of course, programming and robots weren’t our only focus this session, as each Eagle learned to find an apprenticeship by following Six Steps to Find a Life Changing Apprenticeship

  1. Find an adventure that matches your gifts and passions.
  2. Do deep research about your target company and who will be hiring you.
  3.  Create a compelling email, phone and in person pitch, each advancing you closer to hearing the magic phrase: “I’ll give you a chance to prove yourself!”
  4.  Craft a clear covenant between you, your employer and your parents.
  5.  Prepare to execute by showing up early, working hard, staying late and taking careful notes about who you meet and what you learn.
  6.  Follow up afterwards with a thank you note and request for a letter of reference.

Yes, some young people will be aimlessly wasting their time in college and afterwards living with their parents.  But not our Eagles – who already know how to identify, find and secure a challenging adventure, leading ever closer to a calling that changes the world.

A sure-fire way to guarantee  you’ll never be a replaced by a robot.