The Freedom of Being an Acton Parent
A common theme has come to surface since school started for which I wanted to offer encouragement. The title of this entry could’ve easily been “Parents in the Dark.” But one wise parent offered that not knowing all the things our heroes are experiencing offers freedom to us, to let go and trust the process of the journey that we have chosen. So the optimistic position is one of ‘freedom’, not a lack of knowledge and control.
Starting the year at Acton Academy, there are very few things that are really important for us parents to know. Drop off and pick up times and food allergies are really the only two things that I can think of. Would it be nice to know when my boys are going to the creek and will come home with wet shoes in the backpack? Yes. Is it important that I know that? Not really. Are wet shoes in a backpack important to my child? Not. At. All. Until they want those shoes the next day and they’re still wet and smelly. I think we naturally seek out the wet shoes in the backpack to save our child from the frustration of wearing wet shoes or having to find different ones the next day. Or because cleaning out our child’s backpack is what we’re supposed to do if we’re a good parent. But I’d suggest that every time we interfere in the learning process, whether it’s wet shoes or keeping track of passwords for our child’s Core Skill websites, we rob them of an important part of their own journey.
Smelly shoes teach quite a lesson on their own! And I don’t advocate for neglecting your child’s experiences, but supporting them through reflection and problem solving once the wet shoes are found. “How could you avoid this wet shoe problem next time?”, “Do you know how to handle wet shoes?” This happened with my five year old Spark learner. I observed my ten year old packing his own extra pair of clothes, and realized later it was a creek day. He learned that if he didn’t want to sit in wet shorts for the rest of the school day, he should pack a dry option to change into. I didn’t have to intervene and tell him this. He learned through discomfort and failure the first time. How wonderful!
Our learning timeline for our children is much different than their timeline for themselves. Are our actions respecting this difference or communicating that they’re not measuring up? A sweet mom at morning coffee declared, “Who decided third graders needed to know their multiplication tables anyways?” From studying various countries and how they approach teaching and learning, you would find that every culture has different expectations for their children and the timing for when children learn what they do.
Are we falling into what our culture thinks is important or what our children think is important?
Can something really be learned until a child is ready and decides to care about it?
I had to memorize things as a child in a rigorous academic program. I had no idea why it was important. I just had to know it. What I memorized sometimes never became useful to me (unless I was tested over it) or the need for the content became obvious when I was much older and needed it for a relevant use. I’d bet all of us have experienced that, and want more than a surface level memorization for our kids, otherwise we wouldn’t have chosen Acton Academy.
If a piece of information isn’t important to your child right now, it should not be important to you. This is a hard pill to swallow and you may want to argue with me. But when it’s important to your child, it will be because they crave a certain outcome and need that piece of information. Us telling them to write something down and bring it home or asking them to explain the Freedom Levels or Badges will cheapen their process by giving things importance that are not yet relevant to them.
When they want to figure out what points mean and earn their way through the Freedom Levels, you bet they will be able to describe how these things work in detail! The carrot we dangle in front of them will never be as sweet as when they find their own carrot. We want a rich learning experience for our heroes. We forget that their timeline looks different and Acton Academy honors and allows for that. What a blessing!
Release the pressure you’ve put on yourself and your child to move along the culture’s conveyor belt of achievements. Beautiful things will happen for our children, I promise. There are so many examples and testimonies of this after just one year at Acton Academy that are often shared at Saturday coffees. Hearing these experiences gives us faith in the process and helps us embrace the freedom that the Acton model allows parents. I encourage you to take advantage of it. Have faith in the journey. Support your child’s unique timeline. There’s no need to sprint. The finish line is years and miles away.