As parents of an inquisitive and outgoing toddler we were excited to witness our son’s experience in preschool. We loved our Montessori school and teacher and his rapid development and progress were proof he was learning. On several occasions I stood at his classroom’s one-way window to observe him. He was focused, hard-working, and followed instructions from his teacher. Over the course of several weeks I did notice one thing that was nagging me. Our son didn’t seem enthusiastic. We didn’t know if this was just his personality or if he was just being a stubborn toddler who would rather be playing at home. Eventually we began second-guessing our choice in school model and wondered if a play-based approach would have been better. We even asked ourselves if school itself was too much at his age and that maybe we should have let him stay home and just “be a child”. When we were done with our second-guessing and self-inflicted guilt trips, we realized there was no right answer. From his remarkable teacher to whom we will always be grateful, he had learned so much about life and the world around him, how to conduct himself, and how to do things independently. Regardless of the reason, his lack of enthusiasm made an impression on us and served to jump start our decision to look more closely at our options for the future.
Reflecting on when I felt the most enthusiastic about 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 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 remember more of what I learned from this type of educating because I was enjoying the process. Through practicing independent research, I also learned how to figure things out for myself, a skill that would become far more useful than memorizing historical facts. 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?
We did not have high hopes because we had not heard of such a school. I began my research as I often do…I asked 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 school.
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”.
Jaime and I feel honored and grateful for the opportunity to launch an Acton affiliate to serve our own children and our future Acton families, so that all of us experience the hero’s journey of a real education – and we will do so enthusiastically.