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.

The Hero’s Journey: Greatness

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At Acton Academy Salado, we launch our eagles on a Hero’s Journey. This journey begins in Kindergarten, what we call our “Eagle’s Nest” and continues throughout our elementary studio, middle school studio, and into our high school studio (what we call our “Launchpad Studio”). By the time our eagles have completed their Launchpad studio coursework, they are ready to spread their wings and be launched into their personal hero’s journeys.  They know their gifts, what they’re talented at, what their purpose is, and are ready to soar throughout their lives fulfilling their personal callings. They’re ready and some are already flying. They are great people. Seriously.

So, what does greatness have to do with a hero’s journey?  Is this concept even worth your time to read about? ABSOLUTELY! Let me ask you a question:

Do you want your child to be successful or great? 

Don’t scoff at this question. It’s serious. It deserves to be pondered upon with depth. A person can be successful without being great. In fact, most people never take that next step from being successful to being great. Really.  They don’t. They get stuck in their success and then their lives no longer have as powerful of an impact as they could have. They may be considered powerful leaders, but they never reach their full potential. There’s an internal ache in their souls, because mankind was born to be and to aspire for greatness. I’m serious!

Let’s take a look at what we’re naturally drawn towards. We love to hear stories about people who against all odds beat the system that was keeping them down. We love to remind ourselves of heroes past, especially our everyday citizens who morph into Heroes. Remember Todd Beamer and his famous line “Let’s Roll” before taking a plane down? He boarded a plane as a passenger and will be forever remembered as an American Hero.

We spend millions if not billions of dollars on superhero movies. Marvel knows this. Hollywood knows this. It’s etched into our inner beings. We crave greatness and are drawn to it. Some people love it. Some are threatened by it. With that said, let’s use a familiar superhero story as an analogy.

Lex Luthor vs. Superman

Lex Luther was highly successful. Fame. Money. Brand name clothes. Fancy cars. Fancy house. All the right parties. People worshiped him. Paparazzi. Wore black (that’s a thing for some people apparently). Cool shoes. Successful business. Great at negotiating. Etc… Lex Luther was a success.

Superman was great. 

Lex was always jealous of Superman, because he knew that there was something really special about Superman. People ADMIRED Superman. People listened to him. People respected him. People wanted to be Superman. Superman was undeniably amazing and able to change things for the better. Superman lived for others, rescued others, helped others, healed others, and cared for others in his sphere of influence. People love Superman.  Superman had the quiet confidence and composure that only a hero holds.  Lex, he was just bothered by others who were wanting to be associated with him. Respected? Maybe. Loved? No.

Moving forward with our analogy let’s look at this:

Lex was successful, but his success didn’t help him become great. Lex’s success kept him fragile, insecure, and worried/threatened by Superman. Lex’s success had a personal agenda, was selfish, worshiped what he saw in the mirror, what he owned, and could only be beneficial to himself in the moment. It was all about, “What’s in it for me?” Likewise, King Saul felt threatened by the boy, David in the Old Testament.

Superman’s success morphed into him becoming Great. Greatness caused him to step-up from being successful to being a Hero. How did that happen? Because, greatness causes us to look upward (toward God) and outward (toward others). Greatness comes when we are walking within our calling. It celebrates altruism, giving back, paying it forward, and lifting others up no matter the cost. Greatness grieves over what it sees outside and finds ways to positively impact it’s environment, society, and even individuals needing guidance. Greatness leaves a legacy and lasts forever. Likewise, King David.

Society pressures children to be successful and even pressures parents to rear-up successful children. Make the right grades. Go to the right school. Get on the right sports teams. Know the right families. Hang out with the right families. Live on THAT street. Drive that car. Wear that. Marry into that family. Go to that church and sit on that pew and make sure to attend that Bible study. Good grief. This nonsense has crept into our church houses too.

Greatness looks at all the society “rules of success” and shakes its head. That type of living is too taxing and shallow for the human soul. That’s not what Greatness wants on it’s epitaph.

Greatness leaves a legacy.

People on the path toward greatness hit resistance, but they don’t give up. They find more reasons why they can succeed then there are excuses why they can’t succeed. The don’t listen to the naysayers. They don’t pay attention to their pasts because they’re focused on their futures. They don’t get stuck in bitterness, because they’re too busy moving forward. Great minds see walls as opportunities to get stronger. Great people are gritty, resilient, and creative thinkers. Great people are game changers.

“A life unexamined is not worth living,” – Socrates. 

As an Acton Academy Salado parent, I have chosen to abide by Socrate’s advice and examine my life, my parenting methods. What am I modeling for my children? What am I teaching them is truly important in life through my words and actions? I don’t want successful children. I want my kids to be great. I want to know that I birthed Heroes into this world. And, as Head of School at Acton Academy Salado, I look forward to watching your children morph into great heroes too.

Arrow’s up!

Dr. Suz

 

 

Hearts like Dragons

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“Education has not always welcomed its brightest students. Outliers upset the apple cart. They don’t conform to the lesson plans.” – Linda Silverman (2013)

Over the years, the field of giftedness lost it’s initial and rightful place in psychology to the field of education and this has created a real crisis for gifted, talented, and creative families, because the majority of gifted children are not being identified. In fact, the majority of gifted children who are identified are likely not gifted at all. They are primarily just high achievers. Statistically speaking, only about 25% of high achievers are even gifted. If your head just tilted and you’re thinking, “What?” then please read-on. This crisis has got to end.

Here are some facts from decades of studies on giftedness:

  1. Play grounds are perilous for gifted children who question the rules of the game and try to make games more interesting or meaningful to them.
  2. Rejection is common both in and out of the classroom to most gifted children
  3. Teachers reject the child’s curiosities and inquiries into subject matter that may completely throw-off their lesson plans or the teachers don’t know the answers to.
  4. Children with extraordinary minds frequently do not divulge their true capabilities in unstimulating environments.
  5. Driven by their passions and curiosity, gifted children resent expectations that they maintain high grades in subjects that hold no interest to them. In fact, they may even reject the class altogether and get labeled as underachievers.
  6. Over 75% of gifted children hide their talents and try to blend-in with everyone else with the hope that they will not get rejected by their peers.
  7. Over 75% of gifted children are never identified, yet they silently watch their high achieving friends get labeled. Thus, they lose respect for the schooling system altogether.
  8. Giftedness impacts families. Those children who are not identified are treated differently than those identified and oftentimes this can trickle down to both parents and siblings.

“If most of the population does not acknowledge giftedness, or resents those of high intelligence, then multitudes of gifted individuals must camouflage who they really are in order to survive (Colangelo, 2002). 

So, in a world where giftedness is often mislabeled as high achievement, how do we find these children?  How can we rightly identify, nourish, and protect them? Just like with Pete’s Dragon, we pursue their hearts. In the movie Pete’s Dragon, the dragon only reveals itself when it is either furiously protecting something it loves (now that’s a gifted trait) or if it trusts the person looking for it. The person who seeings beyond the ability and awe and can be trusted with the dragon’s most precious and vulnerable trait, it’s heart. Gifted children are the same. They will reveal themselves, really reveal themselves once their hearts feel safe.

This doesn’t happen by just talking about ability and success. This happens by trying to understand the deep thoughts, concerns, and passions that are held by gifted kids and tapping into them. The teachers, counselors, coaches, and other pediatric professionals who really get the gifted are few and far between. Thus, my goal, as Head of School at Acton Academy Salado is to take this Acton Academy and enhance it to be completely gifted and talented friendly. Any child who is self-motivated is welcomed to join us,  would love an Acton Academy and can be successful in our studios.

What makes my heart smile is that  the students who will really love and appreciate the Acton Academy studio would be those who have been in hiding, our unseen academic dragons of Bell County, our truly gifted children. Finally, they can have a space where they can be curious to their hearts content, study at their own pace, embrace academic endeavors with both eyes wide open and hearts pounding with passion. The kids can feel accepted by their like-minded peers, other motivated children, and the eagles can feed off each others’ curiosities. The students will have guides who will give individual attention and treat each eagle with a high regard of respect, trust, and not try to limit them…ever. They can walk with confidence knowing that there is a zero bullying tolerance at their academy by either their peers or those adults who have the privilege to guide them. Finally, they can leave behind feelings of isolation and loneliness and embrace true friendship and feelings of acceptance. They trade boredom and busywork for passion and depth.  They can walk into a studio and feel like they are home.

Shine Dragon, Shine!

Dr. Suzy Thompson

 

 

 

 

 

 

Equipped to Be Kind & Get Work Done

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Webster’s Online Dictionary defines the word “Intentional” as “done on purpose; deliberate” with synonyms including such words as “conscious, studied, meant, willful, purposive, and the like.”

I saw this descriptive come to life the first time I visited an Acton Academy and have seen it time and time again at every Acton academy studio I have ever stepped foot in. The guides are intentional about the learning atmospheres in their studios. The eagles (students) are intentional about their studies, their goals, and their relationships with others. In fact the entire studio is filled with intention and not a bit of it is anything less than engaging, fun,and equipping. Why is this important? Moreso, why is this important for gifted, talented, and creative kids?

Let’s stat with engaging. If a gifted child is engaged, then we have his/her full attention. An engaged learner is one who is learning for the sake of learning, not just learning so he/she can pass a test. The engaged learner is acquiring a depth of knowledge (mastery) that cannot be as easily acquired by being forced to study this subject and this time for this long to pass this test. An engaged learner’s mind is in a state of full attention, thus the child is able to process much more information at a faster and more elaborated rate than a child who’s attention is divided. An engaged learner is having fun. At Acton Academy Salado, our eagles are engaged individually by working on their personal academic goals each week and as a community through afternoon quests and challenges.

Fun. If there’s anything I learned from teaching college for 15 years and watching my mother teach 4th graders for over 20 years is that the best learning occurs when the students are having fun. Fun doesn’t have to be silly. Fun can be quite challenging and even competitive. When the eagles are having fun, they are more open to taking risks and discovering new outcomes. They are not just building their intellect, but they are building friendships as well. In the sense of competitiveness, the eagles are learning how to win fairly and lose with integrity. When the studio is fun, the eagles want to be there, they want to learn, they want to discover, and they learn to soar as they become more and more intentional with their personal academic goals and accomplishing them.

Equipping. This is by far the coolest thing I’ve ever seen at an Acton Academy and definitely a standard that separates Acton Academies worldwide from other private schools I have encountered. At Acton Academy Salado, our goals and guides expect nothing less than what other Acton Academies expect in regard to equipping students. We are here to equip our students to succeed at their lifelong hero’s journeys! We are not just here to get you into an amazing college, we are here to equip our eagles to graduate. Not college oriented? No problem. We are here to equip our eagles to learn, to be, to do. We are here to equip our eagles to soar no matter what their life callings are or are not. We are here to equip them to become:

Successful entrepreneurs
Deep and Critical Thinkers
Avid lifelong learners
Socratic
Intellectual and Wise
Secure in their personal identities
Risk-takers
Successful at time management
Successful relationally
Gritty
Resilient
Honest
Hard-working
Kind

and every other positive adjective you can think of that propels humanity into another level of success and favor. We equip our eagles to soar into life knowing that they have everything they need to overcome any hurdle that may try to resist them as they pursue their individual callings.

At Acton Academy Salado, we love our eagles and we believe in them. We have the courage to let them set the pace of their studies and to complete each unit with total mastery and depth. No more casually going through school. No more worksheets. No more homework. No more busy work. No more work that makes no sense to us, to them, or to the parents.

Gifted children respond positively to being trusted, to being challenged, to having fun, and, especially, to kindness. The two rules at Acton Academy Salado that are in every studio, every day, and will be incorporated into daily eagle life is:

1. Be Kind
2. Get some work done

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if more people could do these two simple things? Maybe even simultaneously? Be Kind. Get some work done. Simple, yet profound. No bullying. No cheating. No cliques. No unfair parental or student politicking. No more mean playgrounds or sitting alone at lunch. No more feeling different for being curious or wanting to sit quietly and read through a lunch break. No more begging to not go or dragging one’s feet while getting ready for school. At Acton Academy Salado, the children are being equipped to be successful in life by (1) being kind and (2) getting some work done.

Oh, and by “getting some work done” we mean with mastery.

Are you ready to launch your child into a Hero’s Journey? Visit us at http://www.actonsalado.org

Teaching Gifted Kids

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Gifted children are pros at camouflaging themselves and their abilities. Some gifted kids are never identified in school and then accomplish amazing feats in college. Some decide to become high achievers and others decide to blend-in with the crowd. Most, however, start off strong. They’re curious, inspired, engaged, and excited about school until it becomes too routine, too boring, and a place that they no longer go to learn but to just socialize with friends as they get older. Many will drop out altogether, get a GED, and then start afresh in college and end-up as Fortune 500 entrepreneurs, Medical Doctors, or even Ph.D’s. How do I know all of this?  Well, I’ve been intensely studying and researching this unique population since 2002, have been life-coaching them since 2008, and am a member of the “Never identified” and “Drop out of school turned Summa Cum Laude” Ph.D. myself, ironically studying Intelligence & Creativity at Texas A&M University.

Gifted children need wiggle room physically and mentally. No matter what their age, gifted children need recess. They need time to engage their bodies. Riding bicycles, climbing, playing sand volleyball, kicking a soccer ball, hopscotch, jumprope, hula-hoop, whatever. They need to play a couple times a day. They have more psychomotor energy then most children their age, and they need to wiggle so they don’t get misdiagnosed as ADHD or trouble makers.

Mentally, gifted children need the wiggle room to ask questions and excel. We should never halt a child’s intellectual advances due to age/grade level. Let the five year old take algebra. Let the nine year old study geometry. Why not? Why make them wait? Let the children ask questions that the adults don’t know the answers to and encourage that behavior. The children will find ways to find the answers and both child and adult alike will learn more together. Instead of forcing gifted children to memorize, help them learn how to think critically, creatively, and divergently.

Gifted children need likeminded friends.

Gifted children need a handful of like-minded friends. Oftentimes, gifted children feel like nobody really understands them or knows them, because they really are not that interested in what the majority of other kids their age are raving over. Some gifted children have opportunities to connect with other kids due to their amazing athletic abilities, but that is just one area of their life. Like everyone else, gifted children want to be known for who they are, not just what they are good at. They want to be able to have friends who they can connect with heart to heart. They want “nerd” friends, because those are their people! Those kids understand the intensity of curiosity or why philosophical type debates or conversations are so fun and engaging. Gifted children actually like it when they do not know all the answers or are not the “smartest kid in the room.” They would much rather be challenged with interesting questions from their peers instead of being the kid with all the answers.

Likeminded friends help gifted children feel known and fully accepted. Likeminded friends challenge each other and motivate each other to stretch their potential and minds. Likeminded friends get the inside joke and make lasting memories together. Likeminded friends help gifted children not feel alone. Likeminded friends are fun and engaging.

Gifted children need opportunities to be acquire grit. Trained educational guides are able to create environments where gifted children feel safe to fail. Failure is no longer an enemy to the gifted child, because with likeminded friends, the gifted child is already known for who he/she is instead of having an identity mainly or only defined by what he/she can do. Thus, failure is not only safe but encouraged. It’s through the trials of frustration and failure that children acquire superhero traits like resiliency, grit, accountability, and even time management. It’s through frustration and failure that children learn what truly intrinsically motivates them. It’s through frustration and failure that gifted children meet their current potential  and stretch its limits. It’s through frustration and failure that gifted children “Superhero Up” and once they master their task, truly feel accomplishment through their own hard work.

So, how do we best teach gifted children? We don’t. We don’t “teach” them. We watch them. We encourage them. We hold them accountable to each other and to themselves. We take a step of faith, hold our breaths for a second or two, and learn to trust them. When we take a courageous step of faith to trust a gifted child, we  will be blown away at what they will accomplish. Every. Single. Time.