As parents of an inquisitive and outgoing toddler we were excited to witness our son’s experience in preschool. We hoped he would develop his curiosity and love for learning – and he did so in the Montessori setting. Looking forward, the prospect of his future sitting at a desk most of the day in elementary school without time or space to follow his natural interests or learn outside of instruction, motivated us to look more closely at options other than traditional schooling. The bottom line for us was, we wanted our children to be curious and enjoy learning.
Reflecting on when I felt the most enthusiastic about my own learning, my 9th grade United States history class immediately came to mind. Our teacher never asked us to read textbooks and actually, he did not teach at all. He sent us to the library to research a pre-determined decade in history to discover notable people or events, such as a significant invention. The results of our research became what we used in his “history simulation”- a game designed to be played within the context of an imaginary economic system.
What my history teacher understood is that passive learning such as being lectured to, does not compare to allowing students to become responsible and active participants in their own learning. He also understood that learning and fun are not mutually exclusive. I may not be able to recall every detail of a historic event, but because of his simulation-style “teaching”, I became engaged and interested in history itself, I learned to gain knowledge on my own, and experience using that knowledge in a meaningful way by playing a part in history myself through his “game”. The skills I learned and being able to connect the dots between historic events and their consequences served me more than memorizing facts out of a textbook. I wondered why couldn’t all or at least the majority of learning take place this way? Did a school exist that offered a student-driven approach with collaboration between students?
After asking Google it did not take long for me to stumble upon Acton Academy Austin, and I could barely get through their documentary as I was overcome with relief, exhilaration, hope, and gratitude. Jaime and I immediately knew this was the answer for our children, we just didn’t know that we would be fortunate enough to one day open our own Acton campus.
With Acton’s emphasis on courage serving as inspiration for us, we set out to embark on our own hero’s journey by continuing to learn about Acton and how we can effectively serve our future heroes. All that we have discovered since joining this unique group of passionate parents led by Jeff and Laura Sandefer who co-founded Acton Academy, has not only confirmed our belief in this model, but has served to further our excitement and passion for the idea that, as Jeff describes, “learning is a full contact sport”.