Monthly Archives: November 2017

What’s on your bucket list?


Do you have a bucket list – a list of exotic locales you’d like to see before you die?

Well, the middle school and Launchpad Eagles have a bucket list.  Plus, they know how to plan a trip to each place, whether it’s a bare bones visit, a luxury adventure or something in between.

Even more importantly, if our Eagles are called to write and deliver a world-changing speech – they know how to do that too!

sp2 Sp1

During Session Two, MS and LP Eagles selected a historical hero – like Winston Churchill.  Then each wrote an eight to ten minute speech in the voice of their hero  and chose a city somewhere in the world to deliver it.

Eagles dug deeply into speech preparation and delivery by identifying the needs of an audience, crafting memorable taglines and hooks, calling an audience to action and, of course, watching dozens of world-class speeches.

Fly2 Fly1

Next came the task of planning the trip, including:

  • Detailed itineraries and budgets (at various prices) to the city where they delivered their speeches;
  • A list of favorite travel apps;
  • Google Earth tours, and
  • A bucket list of places to visit around the world and in Texas.

At the Exhibition, we saw powerful renditions of historical and modern politicos, social activists, artists and entrepreneurs, including: Thomas Jefferson advocating for the signing of the Declaration of Independence to the delegates of the Thirteen Colonies in Philadelphia and Mahatma Gandhi calling an audience of Indian citizens to peaceful protest near Ahmedabad. Leonardo Da Vinci even made an appearance!

Eagles also pitched their travel planning services to visitors, banding together to form travel agencies, and the agency that generated the most revenue won.

Strategy was key. Would the winner sell high-priced travel planning services to a few customers or low-priced travel planning services to as many customers as possible? Did it make more sense to spend a significant amount of time with each prospective customer or as little time as possible?

winner 1

Our winner, AA Travel Solutions, found success by qualifying customers early and selling luxury travel planning services.

After the Exhibition, Eagles gathered for lessons learned where they showed a deep appreciation for the difficulty of delivering an eight-minute speech and a newfound respect for the art of trip planning and sales.

Specific lessons learned included:


  • Eight minutes is a long time. Speak slowly.  
  • Customers are fickle. I had someone talk to me for 10 minutes and not buy anything!
  • Every business begins with a customer need. Once I learned we were selling our travel planning services, I really had to change the way I thought about my budgets and itineraries.

Powerful take-aways for Eagles who will soon be running businesses and delivering their own world-changing speeches.

How do we measure growth?


Education Guru Bernard Bull thoughtfully featured Acton Academy in his latest blog post: Show Me What You Measure in Your School, and I’ll Tell You What You Value (if you care about young people and innovative learning, Bernard’s blog is a must read!)

Bernard reminded me what we measure and why at Acton to deliver on our promise to inspire each person who enters our doors to find a calling that will change the world.

  1. Weekly Points to encourage hard work;
  2. Badges to celebrate excellence; and
  3. 360 Peer Reviews to strengthen warm hearted and tough-minded habits that lead to healthier relationships.

Work hard, strive for excellence and treat others with respect.  Three key ingredients for a hero on a Hero’s Journey.

Acton Launchpadder Chris Carpenter Goes Glamping

If you want to enjoy some Acton Academy laughs, check out Amanda and Jack Go Glamping,  a lighthearted romantic comedy featuring Chris Carpenter as an Acton-like Lord of the Flies character.  Every few minutes, I found myself chuckling at a reference to badges, SMART goals or another Acton ritual.

Chris has worked hard on his acting, directing and filmmaking skills, and it shows, both in his starring roles in various local productions and his work in  Amanda and Jack Go Glamping.  He’s a real pro.

The indie film – which can be found on Amazon or I-tunes or select local theaters — is directed by former Acton parent Brandon Dickerson, and Acton parents Jeff and Marcy Carpenter and Steve and Jenny Williams serve a Executive Producers.

Seeing Chris’s performance as an Eagle-in-the-woods is alone worth the price of admission!

How healthy is your Tribe?


Two of the best predictors of happiness, satisfaction and fulfillment are industriousness and the ability to work well with others.

While there’s a hereditary component to these traits, you can develop positive micro-habits to enhance them.  One of Acton Academy’s secrets is how we forge heroes on a Hero’s Journey into a supportive tribe, and along with strong parental support, develop positive micro-habits.

But how do you know if your tribe is healthy and getting healthier?  How do you measure the mix of individual personalities and aspirations, and tell if they are multiplied by a common cause?   How do you detect wayward individuals or the rise of cliques and warring factions?

Welcome to the Culture Map a tool we’ve developed to measure the health of a tribe.

The Culture Map asks each Eagle how close he or she feels to every other Eagle, and where there might be an unresolved conflict.  By plotting the strength of relationships, you can measure if a group is moving more closely together or further apart.


Here’s how Middle School has progressed this year, from early in the year to the end of Session One to today.   The closer the Eagles are to the center, the closer they feel to each other.  Concentric rings around an individual indicate a conflict with another person.

Clearly, we have some work to do, but we’re moving in the right direction.


Launchpad has made even more remarkable progress.  Starting with a relatively close-knit tribe, and becoming even healthier as the year progressed.

What would the Culture Map look like at your place of work, your neighborhood or your place of worship?

Khan Academy Math Works!

Khan Academy

Khan Academy (KA) is a website with short videos and adaptive game-based exercises in a wide variety of subjects, most notably math, where it covers from “1+1=2” to advanced Calculus.

We’ve been fans of Sal Khan from the start, personally, as philanthropic investors and professionally, and were delighted to play a small part when he launched Khan Lab School.

If you are an Acton Academy parent, you may have become accustomed to hearing a mild expletive uttered before “Khan” when an Eagle makes a sloppy mistake and sees a mastery challenge disappear.  You may have even heard “Khan doesn’t work for me.”

Well, we finally have enough data to set the record straight:

If your Eagle dedicates 25 minutes a day, every day on Khan Academy math, watches the videos and asks for encouragement when needed, KA is a powerful way to learn math, offering deeper and more comprehensive coverage than the average traditional math class.

We encourage Eagles to do math during silent core skills time, so they can earn their way to higher freedom levels.  If your Eagle is struggling, he or she may need help removing distractions, overcoming resistance or avoiding victimhood – but it is unlikely Khan Academy is the problem.

KA Math in a Nutshell

  1. The secret to KA math? 25 minutes a day, every school day.

KA does work for learning math, and it works extraordinarily well.

An MS Eagle needs to invest 25 minutes each school day, five days each week, for 36 weeks a year will finish Algebra I in middle school.

MS Khan minutes

Minutes of Work to Finish KA MS Subjects

An LP Eagle needs to invest 42 minutes each day, five days each week, to complete all required high school math in Launchpad in 2 years, setting the stage for Pre-Calculus and Calculus.

LP Khan minutes


Minutes of Work to Finish KA LP Subjects

An MS Eagle who comes from another elementary school needs an additional five minutes per day to catch up on the first half of Pre-Algebra we cover during ES.

ES Khan skills

ES-MS Skill Overlap

  1. KA math is deeper and more extensive than a traditional math class.

Mastery of math through KA provides more depth and coverage than a traditional school.  We estimate KA math is between 2-4 times more efficient and effective than the average classroom lecture.

  1. KA math works for Eagles at all levels of intrinsic math ability.

Some Eagles require 20% more time than the averages above; some 20% less.  But when an Eagle decides he or she is serious about completing math, KA works for all levels of math ability.

  1. Some Eagles soar through seven years of traditional math in as little as 18 months.

Eagles who start to love math can rocket ahead or catch up quickly.  We believe most differences in advancement rates are a matter of attitude, not aptitude.  By investing 90 minutes each day – 30 minutes at Acton Academy and an hour at home – an Eagle can finish all of middle school math in nine months.

The difference in time to completion is not a matter of talent, but largely the amount of time invested.

A Few Caveats:

  1. Learning math is hard.

An hour of intense concentration on Khan Academy burns up a lot of brain energy and is draining.  But this is exactly what deep mental work is supposed to do.  So when your Eagle complains: “Math is hard;” the best response is: “It sure is.”

  1. Eagles must watch the KA videos for a specific problem. 

An Eagle absolutely, positively must watch the videos – there is no substitute, unless he or she wants to Google to find different YouTube videos.

  1. Eagles who do KA math every day do far better than those who binge and procrastinate and binge.

One secret to doing well with KA math is to do it every day.  It is very easy on Khan to track when your Eagle is working on math, and whether he or she is truly focusing on videos and problem sets that will help, or wasting time to log minutes.

  1. A subject like Algebra Basics is not the same as a school year of math.

Do not make the mistake of assuming each KA subject area equals a year’s worth of work.  An MS Eagle from our ES should finish Pre-Algebra plus 30 skills in Algebra Basics in the first year of MS and Algebra Basics plus 40% of Algebra I in the second year of MS, to be on track.

  1. Encouragement and companionship can help.

Some Eagles like to sit next to a parent, sibling or friend and collaborate.  As long as the encouragement delivers more learning than distraction, having a coach is helpful.

  1. KA math is not Math Utopia

Everyone would like to have Euclid sit next to him or her to learn Geometry.  And it would be much better to learn all math in a hands-on, real-world way or to dive deeply into Set Theory; real-world risk management, computational math and other areas.

But this Math Utopia doesn’t exist – yet.  If a parent or a college admissions officer wants an Eagle to trudge through a traditional math sequence, KA math is a terrific way to proceed.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line? KA Math works.  If your Eagle is struggling, we hope you’ll follow our lead in the studios, and use Growth Mindset encouragement and focus on incentives and consequences designed to address Resistance; Distraction and Victimhood, until KA math becomes a deeply embedded habit.