Greatness

 

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How do you define Greatness?

Some people define greatness as the number of trophies on their shelves.  Some people define greatness by digging into history books. Others define greatness as how quickly they climb the ladder of promotions or accomplishments at work. Others define greatness as popularity or fame. There are numerous definitions of greatness that float around our human minds. Yet, I am not asking you how others define greatness. I’m asking you. How do you define greatness? Have you ever really took some time to think about this? Have you really?  If so, that is fantastic! If not, maybe, if you are like me, it would be wise to consider this concept today. As parents, we can have a huge impact on our children’s future and how (or, if)  they will define, strive for, and achieve greatness in their lives.

To unite our unique definitions, I can confidently state that the vast majority of mankind will agree that throughout history and into our present time, nobody has ever achieved greatness within their comfort zone.  Nobody. Let that sink in for a bit. What does that mean in regard to you, me, and our children? It means, we have to get used to the idea, the reality, and the process of getting through our “uncomfortable” zone….successfully. Sure, it’s easy to think about, but how likely are you to endure? The further into your uncomfortable zone you get, the more stressed, anxious, and anything but chill. Will you display it? Maybe. Maybe not. A lot of that has to do with whether or not you live with a fixed or growth mindset.

The growth mindset will aid you in “training” yourself for greatness. Greatness is an honorable title to be given. It’s not something that you “try” to do. You won’t achieve greatness by just “trying.” This is something that you will likely fail forward toward multiple times. Persistence, resilience, grit, and the ability to push through the nay-slayers and haters is required to achieve a great status. Greatness is something you train for. It is. Don’t believe me? Check out 1 Corinthians 9:24-25.  Paul speaks of “strict training” to be rewarded the “crown that lasts forever.” Check it out.

Endurance is another obvious requirement to achieve greatness. Without endurance, you will toss in the towel before you have a chance to really wipe off your face. It’s crucial. Endurance requires resiliency, grit, and a lot of intrinsic motivation to fuel it. Everyone has intrinsic motivation hardwired into them, but not everyone finds their unique on/off switch for it. Why? Because, our passion is what flips the switch, and many people have no idea what they are deeply, truly passionate about. They know what others stand for and join forces, but what is it that they personally truly care about? What where they born to do? What where you born to do? What’s in your spiritual DNA? What’s your personal calling?

“…and let us run with endurance the race that was set before us,” – Hebrews 12:1 

God set a unique race before you. Holistically speaking, you have the spiritual, mental, and physical capabilities that God personally crafted for you to achieve the race that He set before you! Your race isn’t mine and my race isn’t yours. We have different callings, different talents, and different gifts. Our differences are what what make us beautiful to each other and make us powerful together. For example, what attracts me to my husband isn’t our similarities but our differences. His strengths are not mine, thus I find his strength in various areas very comforting and even sexy.  Music is powerful and is a universal language. It uses various harmonies to communicate a message to us and honestly doesn’t even need words (lyrics) to move us emotionally. Harmony is nonexistent without a diverse number of keys. Harmony is not conformity but diversity in sync. Likewise, a harmonious marriage or really any relationship be it friendship or business.  I think many of us have forgotten this reality.

As the Head of School at Acton Academy Salado, I am determined to instill into my own children and their peers the notion that they were born to be heroes and heroes are great. What does this mean? This means that they will be continually trained for greatness. They will be pushed out of their comfort zones to expand their potential. They will become truly confident by earning true confidence. Not the social media type of  keyboard confidence, but the quiet and powerful confidence that comes from the personal experience of facing adversity head-on, enduring it, conquering it, and becoming intrinsically stronger and more resilient.

My children and their peers will learn to fail forward, discover their unique gifts/talents, find their personal callings, and embrace the fact that they were born to change the world. These heroes will persistently strive for excellence while living harmoniously within their social settings. They will not succumb to peer pressure or live to please others. They will reflect the masterpieces that God created them to be instead of being a mosaic of what everyone else’s opinions and thoughts of them are. (Parents who try to live through their children will not survive at Acton Academy Salado). Acton Academy Salado heroes will be equipped with a growth mindset, resilient persistence, passionate intrinsic motivation, endurance, and every other character trait needed to enable them to achieve mastery and greatness with every step of their calling.

Would you rather try to be great or train to be great? What do you want for your children? What do you want for yourself?

Again, I ask you, “How do you define greatness?”

 

 

 

 

 

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Mastery

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mas·ter·y

noun
1. comprehensive knowledge or skill in a subject or accomplishment.

Acton Academy Salado believes in Mastery.  In fact, we believe in it so much that our eagles cannot move forward until they have mastered a subject. We agree with Sal Kahn (yes, Kahn Academy Founder) that children need to master subjects in order to really comprehend future subjects. In his ten-minute Ted Talk, “Let’s Teach for Mastery, not Test Scores” Sal addresses the absurdity of not teaching for mastery in comparison to a building a house.

In many educational institutions, due to time constraints and the pressure of standardized testing, many students may only grasp 70 to 80% of a particular subject before they are forced to move forward with the rest of their class and study material that builds upon the very 20 to 30% of the material they still do not understand.  Since  making a C or B is considered passing, schools feel it is appropriate to promote that student to the next level of material.  But, what if we built a house that way?  What if only 80% of your foundation got poured?  Would you allow the contractors to start building out your entire first floor?  What about if only 80% of the first floor got finished? Would you allow the constructors to build a second floor since they technically passed the first floor with a B? Of course not! Common sense tells us that the foundation is one of the most, if not the most, important aspects of home building. Why? Because everything else is built upon it. So, back to our student analogy, well, actually reality. This student will eventually get to a “floor” in their academic progress that becomes too stressful and unstable for them intellectually. Why? Because, they are still lacking the previous foundation’s or floor’s  information and comprehension. Thus, due to a lack of mastery, this student will now hit a level of frustration and possibly even quit due to a lack of foundational preparation. Frustration that is completely preventable.

So, why does this happen? Personally, I think that it’s a stronghold in our educational system that is failing students. The idea that “just passing” is “good enough” is leading our youth down an educational journey of frustration. Also, teachers would have to teach for mastery. This means, every student would have to master each subject prior to moving forward. Potentially, that could require a teacher to teach to a class of 18 students 18 different ways, because they are all moving at a unique pace. Is this impossible? Absolutely not. Has it been done before? Yes. Did it work? Amazingly well! Why aren’t all schools doing it now?  Well, because the schools still feel like 70% is passing.

One thing I love about Acton Academies (mine included) is that we are determined to allow our eagles to MASTER subjects. Each child has a unique set of SMART goals they set and reach each week. Every child is given the time they need to master their material before moving forward. And, every child is given the opportunity to move forward without having to wait on his/her peers to finish learning a subject matter. (Great for those intellectually gifted heroes).

Every eagle that enters our studios is embracing his/her Hero’s Journey and mastery is a huge part of that journey. Not only do our eagles master the material intellectually, they also get multiple opportunities to engage in quests and actually perform what they are learning. Thus, they not only read about it, they actually get out there and do it. Rote memorization will never work at Acton Academy Salado.

Mastery is a life-long characteristic that only enhances the lives of those who embrace it. Yes, it takes effort to master something, but isn’t it worth it? Life is so much more fulfilling when you are reaching past your potential. Learning is so much more fun when it is challenging.  Mastery can help build confidence in an individual that lasts a lifetime. Mastery is hard work. Mastery takes determination. Mastery is worth the effort. Children should always be given an opportunity to master things.Mastery becomes a lifestyle to help us achieve those things that mean a lot to us. Mastery keeps us laser focused and able to overcome obstacles that try to hinder our progress of reaching our goals. Achieving a Mastery mindset separates those of us who embrace a Hero’s Journey from those who never learn to fly.

Mastery.

It’s a decision.

It’s a lifestyle.

It’s inspired into every eagle at Acton Academy Salado.

Here’s a link to Sal’s Ted Talk that’s definitely worth checking out: https://www.ted.com/talks/sal_khan_let_s_teach_for_mastery_not_test_scores?language=en

 

 

 

 

Trust the Children

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“Trust the children.”

“Dr. Thompson, make sure they trust the children.”

“Suzy, trust the children.”

“Mommy, do you trust me?”

From an educational psychologist’s perspective, I know without a reasonable doubt that children can be trusted to learn. They are hard-wired to learn, to be curious, to make sense of their worlds, and are so much more resilient to failure they most adults realize. Children are ready to explore, excited to try something new, and embrace opportunities to grow. This God-given curiosity resides in every child, until we fear it out of them.

“Don’t touch that! It’s breakable! You could get hurt! Let me do that for you. You’re not old enough. You’re not ready to learn that. You’re not……capable.” 

Why do we parent our children by telling them what they are not capable of?  Because, we are being selfish. We are afraid of watching them fail. It hurts our hearts more than it hurts theirs. Children don’t realize that failure is a “bad thing” until we teach them that. Have you ever thought about that fact?  And, in reality, is failure actually bad?  Don’t we learn most when we fail? Isn’t failure just another opportunity to grow?

What if, instead of telling the kids what they can’t do, we tell the kids what they can do?  What if we threw-out the plastic kid plates and let them use our pottery?  What if we trusted them to carry something breakable? What if we encouraged them to try instead of being afraid of trying? What if we even encouraged them to fail?  What if we encouraged them to feel failure and then learn how to dust themselves off, and fail forward by trying again and again until they succeed? What would happen then?

Well, other then a possible handful of messes you may have to clean up, our kids would feel real confidence.  Their childlike faith, wonder, and curiosity would stay ignited and thrive. They would learn to default to failing forward instead of failing and giving up on their dreams. Our children would embrace mental, emotional, and physical challenges and learn how to scale the brick walls in life that try to halt our progress toward lifetime goals. We would be parenting our children toward grit, perseverance, resiliency, and confidence that cannot be taught any other way then personal experience. We would be calling out the Masterpieces and heroes in our children.

We may even learn how to get out from behind the “shield of fear” that we may be carrying around regarding failure.  Maybe we will begin to care more about what God thinks about us using or not using the gifts He gave us more than what our peers think about our gifts.  Maybe we will even begin to embrace our own callings and have the courage to become heroes ourselves.

I don’t want to rear-up a snowflake kid. I want to rear-up children that inspire the snowflake kids to kick fear in the rear and find their inner strength to become resilient themselves.  I want my children to flourish. I want my children to look fear in the eye and laugh at it. I want my children’s identity in Christ to be strong, their failures to catapult them into a deeper passion for success,  and for them to feel confident. Not an arrogant confidence, but the deep seated quiet confidence that can only come from personal experience and the Holy Spirit.

So, I’m all in. I’m going to live the Acton Academy Salado lifestyle at school and at home. Trusting the children.  With a deep breath and a big sigh, I’m in. It works. I’m no longer going to be selfish and not want to see my children hurt. I want to see my children succeed, and I want my children to be leaders and successes in life in every arena life offers to them. I want my children to only know how to fail forward.   

**Please set good guardrails for your children if you choose to join this child-enriching movement. For example, I will let my children help me cook, use our dishes, and do a number of things. But, they are still very small, so no electricity or fire or driving my car….at least, not this year. #Actonacademysalado  #TrustTheChildren #EquippingHeroes

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The Artist’s Studio

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stu·di·o

/ˈst(y)o͞odēˌō/

noun

1. A room where an artist, photographer, sculptor, etc., works 
Synonyms include: workshop, workroom, atelier, work space 
Example: “The artist’s studio.” 

I love the symbolism that accompanies the fact that Acton Academy Salado has replaced classrooms with studios! –Excited Parent 

The studios are 1200 square foot spaces inside of Acton Academy Salado were the children (the acton eagles) are entrusted and empowered to lead.  They are taught to hold these spaces sacred, thus they create their covenants and contracts there with each other, with their guides, and with the studio itself. They are to keep their studios sacred, and this is a serious quest in itself. This is their work space.  This is there “home away from home” while they are being equipped for their heroes journeys intellectually, socially, emotionally, and even physically. Inside their studios, they will study, learn, achieve, fail, find their motivation, develop grit, acquire resilience, face their fears, and find fellow travelers to help them beat the Goliaths on their individual journeys.  Within the walls of their studios, they will host town hall meetings, Socratic discussions, quests, and exhibitions for their parents and friends.  And, at the end of the day, together, they maintain their studios. They clean, care for their plants, care for their fish (once they earn a fish tank), and care for each other.

Each studio hosts a different age/educational bracket within that studio and the eagles earn their way from one studio to the next. Once an eagle completes all their required work within one studio, he/she is promoted and celebrated into the next one. They do not have to wait a year to be promoted or are required to socially promote with their same aged peers. They have earned their reward of being promoted, and we celebrate them immediately!

Each studio is filled with a variety of work spaces.  They have a mini dance floor to practice their dance moves on or wiggle if they need to without distracting their peers.  They have a library with bean bags or air chairs where they can read.  They have their tribal squads where their personal desks are located. These areas are where they can keep their belongings and work on their daily and weekly goals and tasks. They have a refrigerator and tables set-up where they can go eat when they get hungry for lunch or a snack.  Each studio is equipped with a television set for their mini-launches and Socratic discussions throughout their workday  and various colored lights that indicate the productivity of the room/atmosphere. The studios have windows, plants, and (once earned) a fish tank.  No shoes are worn in the studios. Thus, there’s a space for their shoes just inside the doorway. Since we host about three activities outside a day (two of them being recesses), it’s important that we keep our studios free of excess dirt/allergies. The studios also have a place where the children can create artistically. Paint, draw, doodle, sing, perform etc…Children are artists, we allow them to create.

Most importantly, each studio is sacred because Jesus is in them.  He is the ultimate Artist. Our Alpha and Omega and the Author of our lives. Within these studios, He is equipping Heroes to find their God-given callings. He is building character into the lives of His children. He is inspiring them to believe in themselves, in His love for them, and reach beyond their potential as they develop each year. Within these studios the children of God are being empowered to love people and change the world, because this is The Artist’s Studio.

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Warfare

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In six weeks or less, I knew which students were home schooled in my college courses. I never had to ask who they were, because these students did the most impressive work on their first assignment and all tests. They were self-motivated, respectful, diligent, independent learners, and had a strong sense of direction in their lives. They were socially adept and everyone really liked them, even the younger ones who were only fourteen or fifteen years old. These students were always fun to teach, because they were so mature and had so much more life experience and sense of identity then their older peers. Their questions were impressive, and their ability to think critically was impressive. Plus, I never saw a single one of them succumb to the negative influences and pressures that, unfortunately, thrive on college campuses.

I have colleagues who spoon feed their self-serving agendas and worldly identities to unsuspecting college students.  Instead of teaching the curriculum objectively, they used their professorship position to instill their personal philosophies and theologies into curious minds.  The goal was to have their students think like themselves, instead of teaching the students to think for themselves.

The college campus, even the religious ones, are the front lines of the clash of two worlds. It’s the front lines of spiritual warfare. Seriously. When we all know that the battle is in the mind, the college campus makes perfect sense. There is a surplus of passionate youth ready to change the world and wanting to learn what their professors have to teach them. Yet, what they don’t see with their acceptance letters and over the campus is the great big invisible sign that says:

“Welcome to Warfare.”

I honestly believe that it takes much more than just intellect to make it through college. There are a variety of character traits and abilities that are needed to achieve success unscathed. So, what do our kids need these days to succeed once out from under our roofs?  What is it that homes schooling families know that makes their children shine in college life?

They know that children need the academics, ample experiences, travel, hands-on opportunities, and to not be stuck behind a desk all day. Children need to wiggle while they work. They need to have mentors, apprenticeships, and the ability to find pleasure and earned value in their accomplishments. They need to learn at their own pace, dig deep, understand instead of memorize, and master concepts instead of grasping them enough for a passing grade. Children need to have fun while learning without the fear of “not fitting in” or being bullied. Children need parents who have the courage to let them fail so that they can learn how to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and grow resilient.

They need to be taught how to learn, how to do, and how to be. Seriously. Let’s break this down a bit together. Students need to learn how to think, how they best learn, and how to use Wisdom to filter through all the information (true and false) that will be thrown in their face daily. Today’s youth need to know how to think critically without becoming critical. They need to know how to face adversity without being disrespectful. They need to know when a hero submits to authority and when he/she needs to stand for Truth in spite of their authority’s position. To do this, they need a strong identity and confidence in their gifts, talents, and other abilities prior to stepping foot on a collegiate campus. And, they need a strong faith to keep them from crumbling under the weight of anxiety.

Our youth need to know how to do things beyond googling it. They need to know how to read a map and do math without a calculator. They need hands-on experience building, creating, and transforming what they learn in theory into tangible realities. They need to never be reliant on the internet or on having a signal. Technology enhances their lives, it doesn’t rule over their lives. They need to know how to pick up a book and read it, stay focused, write legibly, and have an innate desire to do more things instead of passing the buck to whoever is willing to do it for them instead. They need to be able to balance a checkbook, think like an entrepreneur, take calculated risks, and know how to keep oneself motivated so success and accomplishments are not trivial, but worth celebrating. They need time management and self-management skills, so that they don’t fall into the trap of “lying to their professors or employers” and becoming manipulative to cover their lack of self-control.

Today’s students need to know how to be. This means that they need to have a STRONG identity. They need to know their callings, their passions, their likes and dislikes, weaknesses and strengths, and they need to be resilient in the face of adversity. They need grit to make it into the category of positive world changers and Heroes in life. They need the ability to swim with the sharks without getting bit. They need opportunities to fail, so they can acquire grit. They also need the ability to get along with different personality types, work on teams, work independently, and stand for Truth without coming across offensive to others. Thus, they need a strong sense of humility…even among all their accomplishments.

All these characteristics, plus so many more, are put to use at Acton Academy Salado. We unschool children so we can best educate them. We believe in Heroes. We believe in family. We believe in God. We even believe in homeschooling your kiddos or taking them to a Montessori school until they are self-motivated enough to take on the challenges of our studios. We believe that the one-room schoolhouse can still produce Tomas Edisons, Albert Einsteins, and Wright Brothers Today just like it did years ago. We believe in children, and we believe they are destined to be our heroes. Our world needs them. Let’s unschool them together, so they can thrive in college life. Let’s equip them to change the world for Good.

 

Parental Fear: Transitioning again

 

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Are you really opening? Are you accredited? Are you really K-12th?

Yes. We really are opening, fully accredited, and your child really can attend Acton Academy Salado for Prek-12th.  Yes.

Over the past several weeks of interviewing and auditioning families, I have heard stories from several families whose children have bounced from one school to another again and again. “Our present school is only K-2nd” or “Our private school closed its doors” or “I’m tired of having to jump from one school to the next.” I have heard these stories again and again and, as a mom, it breaks my heart to see families going through these academic interruptions.

I know that kids are resilient, but it is important that they have the ability to make friends, feel secure in their environment, and have the reassurance that they do not have to change schools, again. I remember coming back from Saudi Arabia (my dad worked at King Khalid Military City) and going to three different schools in three years just within Belton Independent School District. Miller Heights. Central Elementary. Belton Junior High. I was in the same school district and I remember the impact going from one school to the next had on me. It wasn’t fun. It was frustrating. A feeling that I would never want to inflict on another kid.

Acton Academy Salado is here. We are fully staffed. We have a permanent location. We are not renting. We have amazing founding families. We are starting with PreK-6th and we will be adding grade levels each year until we are at PreK-12th grade. Period. We are not leaving. We are not shutting our doors. We are not going to do anything in this community but enhance the lives of the families who walk through our doors.

If you choose to entrust us with your children, you can breathe easy. Your search for “where will my child go next?” is over….unless you’re visiting colleges.

“For we are God’s handiwork, recreated in Christ Jesus, that we may do those good works which God predestined for us, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10. For my Hero’s Journey, that is Acton Academy Salado. God called me into it. It will be done with excellence. No weapon formed against it shall prosper.

Honoring Family

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Acton Academy Salado strongly believes in the power of family and we want to keep your time with your children, your eagles, sacred. We try to honor your time with your eagles by eliminating what we consider to be fairly common educational family disruptions. These things include homework, excessive social gatherings, mandatory attendance policies, and requiring volunteer hours from parents at the school and/or selling and delivering items for fundraising campaigns.

When the average student can complete all required elementary coursework in less than a year, yet the coursework is being drug out over the course of five years with ample amounts of homework and headaches, there is a problem. As an educational psychologist, I, Dr. Suzy Thompson, can confidently state that there is no statistically sound evidence that homework really does anything to enhance intellect for the typical self-motivated student. Thus, there is absolutely no reason to require or even suggest it. Therefore at Acton Academy Salado, homework is eliminated. When we eliminate homework, we open up hours of time, each day, to family time. Play fetch with the dog. Catch with a parent. Shoot hoops, dance, write, cook, dream, be inspired by your child, inspire your child, enjoy your child. No worries about trying to make it to practice, eat dinner, and get all the homework completed before going to bed….late, exhausted, and robbed of the time to have a heart-to-heart bonding moment with each other. You only have 18 years with them at home. Homework? Forget it.

Excessive social gatherings and mandatory attendance policies. What’s the real value of a social gathering if it’s not engaging us beyond a superficial comfort zone? At Acton Academy Salado, know that we will encourage you to be engaged in your personal Hero’s journey as a parent too. Do you want to finish your college degree? Start a business? Inspire your children? Fly to another country? Go on a mission trip? Maybe even learn karate? Parent meetings will only be hosted three times a year and we ask that you attend just one, if you can make it. If not, we understand. No questions asked. At these meetings, you will be challenged to dig deeper into your own Hero’s Journey. We may even ask you how we can help hold you accountable. You may find a runner partner within the group. Who knows? All we know is that it’s much easier to train a child to be a Hero if the parents are modeling the behavior too. Go ahead. Buy yourself a cape too.

Mandatory Attendance? Why would we do that?  Why do schools feel like they should be a priority over your time with your family? At Acton Academy Salado, we strongly believe that parents are in control of their children’s learning. We offer hard, fun, and engaging quests and challenges that go above and beyond basic statewide requirements for children’s education. Yet, we also honor the fact that you may need to take an off-season vacation, you may need to spend some time with grandparents or family out of state or out of country, or you may just want to take your eagle to breakfast. Parents need to spend quality time with their eagles. We get it. Thus, we have no mandatory attendance requirements. Seriously. I’m on a three week vacation as I type this right now. Aaron and I are on the Central Coast of California enjoying time with our children and homeschooling them on the beach. It’s great and it’s needed. However, if your eagle would like to continue engaging with his/her tribe and stay on task with quests, then he/she is welcome to Skype in and go to school with us in real-time online.

Parental volunteer hours? No. We are a business and businesses don’t require employees to volunteer a set number of hours each week or get a pay cut. So, don’t worry about having to “buy” your volunteer hours because you don’t have time to take off work and do it. There is no reason for a parent to have to volunteer for anything concerning our school. We know that you have other things to do and commitments to keep. So, don’t worry. We will not interrupt your time at work, or at home, or make you miss a Bible study or doctor’s appointment because it’s your turn to direct traffic, start a fundraiser, clean a studio, or bring a dish to a meeting that has no nourishment for your soul.

What you can expect from Acton Academy Salado is for us to serve your child to the best of our ability. We want your eagle to become the hero that he/she was created to be, reach their full potential, love learning, be curious, embrace Truth, and know how to discern between Truth and deception. You can expect us to uphold your Family Plan, the one that you create in your family on boarding quest, to be admitted to Acton Academy Salado. You can expect us to honor your time, your questions, and your trust in us as we become a part of your village in rearing-up your child. You can expect us to hold socratic discussions with our eagles on why honoring parents is important and you can expect us to challenge you to continue leading your children by being their best role model. You’ve been entrusted to train a child, and we know that nobody in their right mind would ever have a child that they expect somebody else to raise.

Family is important. Family is needed. Family in honored.