Military Heroes’ Journey

Our heroes have reached the end of their Military Quest. Thank you for supporting our heroes during their exhibition. The heroes shared how they believe their exhibition made a difference in the lives of their families and friends. Many heroes talked about how their families learned new things about the military. Some believed that they may have influenced some people during the exhibition to change their jobs and join the military. One hero pointed out the importance of telling others about the military so they could tell others too. All the heroes agreed that people who saw them during the exhibition would also have the courage to support the military because “the military is the best thing about the United States!”

They have also read the book of Philippians during this quest. The final chapter has helped the heroes contemplate on important messages from the Lord. In one discussion, the heroes tackled a controversial issue, choosing between preserving peace or fighting to help others. Most heroes changed their mind several times when friends challenged their decisions. The heroes who immediately chose peace easily wavered in their decision when the others reminded them about those in need of their help to protect them from the bad guys. On the other hand, the heroes who were ready to fight were also challenged by those who valued peace and wanted to avoid fighting. But after reading Philippians 4:7, “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” they were convinced that peace comes from Jesus in our hearts, so whether they choose to fight or not, they still have peace in their hearts and minds.

Later that day, during close, the heroes shared how they remained peaceful throughout the day despite challenges they faced. One hero, who felt offended by another hero said she found peace when she forgave her friend. Then the other hero who offended her added that she found peace when she used kind words to help her friend feel better. Most heroes shared how they had peace because they remembered that Jesus is in their hearts and minds.

The heroes have been reflecting on their Hero’s Journey this week as we end our military quest. They remembered their Call to Action at the beginning of the quest, when they were first inspired by Lt. Comm. Thomson from the US Navy, thinking about the lives of the men and women who serve in the military. Our Bible verse from Philippians 4:9, Whatever you have learned…put it into practice, moved our heroes to reflect on their call to action. They talked about how they all had different callings, as seen in their choices of military branch. Some heroes shared their calling to tell others about Jesus, while some felt they were called to help others.

All the heroes Accepted the Challenge to go on a military quest. For six weeks, they willingly immersed themselves in their quest to learn as much as they could about each branch of the military and try to imagine stepping into the soldiers’ shoes. They were genuinely sincere in their concern for the well being of the military men and women as they prepare the Hero Boxes for the soldiers.

Then as we drew closer to the exhibition, many heroes felt that it was time to Face their Fears, to stand and sing in front of a huge audience in a movie theater, to honor the United States Military. Despite the “tummy bugs” they felt even in just thinking about it, they were convinced and could not be swayed from doing otherwise. At any time, the heroes had the freedom and independence to change their minds and turn back on their decision to perform during the exhibition and do something else, but they did not. They believed they would overcome their fears through their prayers and faith.

After the exhibition, each hero had a strong testimony for their Bible verse from the book of Philippians, I can do all things through Him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13), and “all things” included their exhibition. The heroes expressed their confidence at the end of their quest, that they were able to share the most important message they would like to impart throughout their quest, that “the military never gives up to keep us safe so we need to help them and they always win because God is on their side!”

Week 6: March 26 – 30, 2018







Reflection day



Bible verse song

2 Timothy

Philippians 4:7

The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Is it more important to preserve peace or to fight to help others?

Why do we need the peace of God? How can we have peace in our hearts and minds? What happens when we do not have peace?

Philippians 4:8

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent and praiseworthy – think about such things.

Are you a hummingbird or a buzzard? What ways could you be a hummingbird?

Philippians 4:9

Whatever you have learned…put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

What do you do with what you have learned? Would you tell others or do something? What did God call you to do? What is your Call to Action in your Hero’s journey? Do you Accept the challenge? Are you ready to face your fears?

Philippians 4:12

I have learned to be content in all circumstances.

When do you feel content? When do you not feel content? Is it possible to be always content?

Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.

Think of a time when you felt like you could not do something. Were you able to do it eventually? How did you do it? What did you think or feel that helped you do it?

Writer’s workshop

Author’s chair:

Scriptwriting – military branch recruitment fair

Typing club

Printing book

Spelling city

Invitation writing



Play-based TWTh



Scooter boards

Trash bag parachutes

Straw connectors tower

Toy store dramatic play

Nature Hike


Why do we need to have an exhibition?

Future quests and exhibitions

What else do you need to prepare for the exhibition?

How will you convince someone to sign up for your military branch?

What would you like the people in the exhibition to know about the military branches?

How did the exhibition make a difference in the lives of your family and friends?

Project time

Military branch posters

Military branch script practice, role play

Collection drive poster

Exhibition practice

Hero box packing



Exhibition presentation




Exhibition artwork


US Military deployments around the world review


Hero boxes artwork




How did you keep the peace of God to guard your heart or your mind?

Who was a hummingbird today?

What did you learn today? How does this change you?

What ways were you content today?

What quest would you like to do next?

The heroes would like to thank everyone who brought donations to fill their Hero Boxes. During project time, the heroes devised a system on their own, an assembly line that started with someone taking one grocery bag at a time, another one takes out one item, passes them to those in line up to the end of the line, who then passes them to two heroes distributing the items in each box. What an amazing sight to see them organize this system on their own! The only flaw in the process was the need for more boxes after filling all ten boxes overflowing. But they were excited about sending more care packages and helping not only ten soldiers, but they said they could help ten more!

A Flash of Red as a Reminder of Our Vision

Written by Laura Sandefer and originally posted March 26, 2018

Today at 8:25 am, I was driving west on Martin Luther King Boulevard. I had just dropped off popsicles at the elementary studio for our celebration of reading together “A Wrinkle in Time.” Traffic was the typical morning push toward downtown Austin.

I noticed something small and red lying in the road a few cars ahead of me. I also noticed a man had pulled over, gotten out of his truck and was looking at it, hands on his hips as cars zoomed by. I assumed something had fallen off of his truck.

I hit the brakes as the car immediately in front of me hit the object.

It fluttered and flapped, the red color spinning around. It happened too fast for me to stop but I was able to straddle it without hitting it – again.

As I drove over the object, I saw that it was the body of a cardinal, the bird that always catches my eye and is the one that represents God’s presence to me.

I looked in my rearview mirror. The man now walked into the road, stopping traffic. He gently cradled the broken bird in his palms and walked calmly back to the side of the road. I saw him place the bird softly in some grass under a bush.

The gentle care of a wild bird on a busy road reminded me that there is tenderness – even love – all around us. There is also indifference and carelessness.

As I drove on, I immediately thought of the Acton Eagles I had just left behind. Their instincts would have been to save the bird. They live with their hearts wide open and their capacity for tenderness runs deep.

At Acton Academy, our job is to nurture, not hinder, the natural instincts of the children. They are born ready to learn, ready to be a friend, ready to get up after falling down, ready to work hard and to solve problems. On our weak days, we step in and take over, solving problems for them and feeding them information they could find on their own. On our good days, we step back in trust.

We know the world will feed fear, insecurity, and hard-heartedness into them soon enough, too soon. And so we aim to keep our space sacred, set apart, with one vision: if we continue to call up the inner hero of these young people, the world won’t succeed in dimming their lights. They will be the people who stop their day, stand by the road and wait to help a broken soul.

Countdown to the Military Exhibition

The heroes are so excited for the exhibition. They have been checking the calendar and counting down the days before the exhibition. They have also been reflecting on their military quest during their discussions. Many heroes shared the reasons why they went on a Military quest. Several heroes indicated that they wanted to go on this quest because they wanted to learn about the different jobs in the military and they were actually considering serving in the military to help those who are hurt. One hero said it would be nice to help her country and help the military so she would like to join the army. Another hero tried to convince her friends that it was really important to go on this quest to help her family and to keep everybody safe. Many heroes said they did not know much about the military so they wanted to learn more and they thought it would be fun to learn about the military!

In another discussion, the heroes contemplated on why this quest is important to them. Some heroes valued learning about the different branches of the military that they never knew existed. As they dug deeper into their thinking asking each other more “why” questions, the heroes became passionate about convincing others the importance of their quest because they are honoring the men and women of the military and their families because they are saving us and our families from the “bad guys.” Many heroes were even inspired and said that they wanted to join the military when they grew up because they too wanted to help save the world from the bad guys.

The heroes have been working together to prepare their presentations for the exhibition. They give each other feedback and share ideas on how to improve their presentation. One of the issues they faced was what to do with their Military flags and US flags. Several heroes noticed that the flags were distracting them because they made a lot of noise. So some heroes made suggestions how to solve this issue. One hero said they should put the flags down behind them while singing. Another hero asked her friends if they could just hold their flags still instead of waving them. And another hero suggested that they only pick up their flags for specific parts of the presentation as it fits their songs. They worked it all out together and they were pleased with the improvement in their presentation.  The heroes continue to make their presentation better and better to honor the United States Military.

The heroes spread kindness everywhere they went while they were shopping for the military heroes. The other shoppers and store clerks were so blessed to hear about their Hero Boxes and their efforts in providing for our deployed troops. Despite all the temptations at the store to want something for themselves, the heroes focused on the needs of the military heroes. Through generous gift card donations from Forest Hills Foods and Meijer, the heroes returned victorious, grocery bags on hand, filled with treats for the soldiers worth $200!

Please invite family and friends to our heroes’ Military presentation and Recruitment Fair during our Military Quest Exhibition on Thursday, March 29 from 6 to 7:30 pm. Our heroes may arrive earlier around 5:45 pm to help set up their tables. They will also have their Hero Boxes available for more donations brought during this event. They will be ready to start their “recruiting” at 6pm to try to get visitors to sign up for their military branch. Light refreshments will be served at this time. They will begin their Military presentation at 6:30  right before the start of the EMS documentary on World War II survivors. They are so excited to share with you all they have learned and experienced during their Military quest.

Our Week at a Glance

Week 5: March 19-23, 2018








Bible verse song

2 Peter 3

Philippians 3:15

If on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.

Think of a time when you thought differently than your friends. Did anyone try to convince you to think the same? Did you try to convince others?

Philippians 3:17

Join together in following my example… just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.

How will you be a good example to others? Who has been a good example for you?

Philippians 3:20

Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Imagine you are waiting for something you are really excited to have or do. What do you do while you are waiting?

Philippians 4:5

Let your gentleness be evident to all.

Why is gentleness important? How will you show gentleness?

Philippians 4:6

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

What happens when you are anxious about something? What would you do instead of being anxious?

Writer’s workshop

Typing club

Printing books

Spelling city

Field trip

Author’s chair:

Letters to the military


Play-based TWTh




Tug o war

jump ropes


Straw connectors

Army dramatic play



dress up play



Coast Guard

Why did you go on a military quest? What was your goal when you started this quest? Did you meet your goals?

Joining the Coast Guard


Why do we need the Coast Guard?

Why is this quest important to you? What is the most important thing you have learned on your quest?


How will you change the world through your quest?


How did this quest change your thinking?  Will your thinking also change your actions?

Experience the Coast Guard

How will you share your experiences during this quest?

Life in the Coast Guard

Project time

Coast Guard


Exhibition presentation practice

Coast Guard poster

Military branch posters artwork

Support our troops banner

Core skills

Invitations for family and friends



Coast Guard flag


Oceans review



Coast Guard song

Core skills


Watercolor painting hero boxes




How did you resolve a disagreement?

Who is your role model?

If you have $20 to spend, what would you buy to put inside your Hero Box?

Who showed gentleness?

What made you feel anxious today? How did you overcome your anxiety?

Confidence and Competence

Our heroes have been gaining more confidence in completing their tasks, beginning with setting goals and believing that they will meet those goals. They demonstrate confidence in finding solutions to their needs independently, through collaboration, or doing research, reminding each other 3B4G. Their confidence remains even in the midst of mistakes, encouraging one another to try again. In an incident during recess, one hero was playing with another hero’s squishy ball with water beads inside, when the ball ripped open, leaving water beads all over the floor. Immediately, all the heroes stopped what they were playing and started picking up all the water beads to help, then one hero instantly grabbed tape to fix the ball, while some heroes comforted the other hero who was sad about her broken toy, including the hero who broke the toy. After apologizing several times, this hero kept repeating to himself that he learned from his mistake, and even reminded others to be careful with playing with the ball. He remained confident that his mistake, no matter how grave it may seem at the moment with water beads all around him, his friend crying, and all his friends trying to clean up his mess. This was an amazing demonstration of confidence under pressure.

Even during storytime, the heroes proved their confidence in learning from their mistakes in reading our Military Special Forces: Choose your own Adventure book. At the end of the mission as Navy Seals, through the choices they made, the story ended narrating their failure in capturing the enemy. The mission ended with a hope that “others would succeed where we have failed.” But the heroes did not easily accept failure as the end game. They immediately suggested getting on another truck, plane, or boat. They believed they could try again and succeed in the mission!

Our heroes’ confidence paves the way to gaining competence in their learning. They are well-experienced in tracking their own academic progress through their badge books and core skills programs. They discuss their performance levels and goals with others, especially to celebrate their accomplishments. Another amazing sight to behold is how every hero encourages another hero to meet their goals, never pointing out their own accomplishments, comparing themselves, or competing against one another. When a hero completes a level in math or reading, or even close to meeting their goals, they celebrate the accomplishment, regardless of how small it may seem. A hero who completes level 4 in a program is honored by all the heroes, even those who are in level 10. Never would you hear a hero say, “I already passed that level,” instead the heroes would be seen hugging and jumping with joy for that one hero’s accomplishment.

Competence is also demonstrated through the heroes’ perseverance in engaging in strategies they have tried and new strategies that challenge them. Through their badge books and core skills programs, the heroes are able to create a sense of where they are, where they are going, and what to do next. Their competence in learning stems from a growth mindset with an understanding that they are more than able to improve their own learning. Our heroes recognize mistakes as part of their learning process and believe that they only fail if they give up. And they have resolved to never give up. Regardless of scenarios and situations and challenges we talk about during discussions, our heroes remain adamant about their decision to never give up.


Our special guest speaker this week for our Hero Talk is our very own Middles School Hero, Camryn. She was very proud to show our heroes pictures, awards, and certificates that her Dad and Grandpa received while serving in the US Marine Corps. Camryn also brought her Dad’s uniforms when he served as a Marine and let the heroes try them on! She brought her Grandpa’s very special uniforms fully decorated with medals and badges. Camryn even found her Grandpa’s backpack which he used while fighting in World War II!

Learning about the different military branches has helped our heroes make their choices regarding which military branch they would like to represent as a recruiter during the exhibition.

They have made decisions amongst themselves, including giving up their choices to let others go before them or join a friend who is working alone. Independently, they resolved issues that arose with selfless hearts.

Our Week at a Glance



Bible verse song

1 Thess 5:15-18

Philippians 3:3

We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort.

What is the difference between being confident and prideful/arrogant?


Philippians 3:8

Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

Imagine you are a missionary telling someone about Jesus who has never heard about Jesus. What is the most important thing to tell them about Jesus?

Philippians 3:9

I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ

Would it be easier to make good choices by following a list of rules or by being like Jesus?

Philippians 3:10-12

I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.

Is it good or bad to be a perfectionist?

Philippians 3:13-14

I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

What is your focus? How does your focus help you reach your goals?

Writer’s workshop

Typing club

Letter writing

Spelling city

Labeling illustrations



Play-based learning TWTh


Hula hoop




Nature hike



The “Why” behind our quest


The mission of the United States Air Force is to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace. We pursue our mission with excellence and integrity to become leaders, innovators and warriors.

What is more important in pursuing your mission, excellence or integrity?

Saving others


Imagine you have joined the Air Force, would you be interested in attending college or are you ready to develop working skills?


Which careers interest you?


How do Airmen find an excellent work-life balance? Why is this important?

How to join

Every Airman has different reasons for joining. Which of these is most important to you?







Phase 1 Orientation

Phase 1 Indoctrination

Phase 2 Development

Phase 3 Application

Phase 4 Transition

Project time

Air Force


Air Force in Action

Camryn’s Dad and Grandpa

Marine uniforms and medals, yearbook, photos

Air Force poster board

Air Force flags

Military flags

Pledge of Allegiance ASL

Song for Veterans

Air Force uniform craft

Speed test

Airman challenge 



Flags coloring


US Military deployments around the world:

Air force stamps on world map



Air force song


Paper cutting craft




In what ways did you feel confident today?

How did you tell others about Jesus today?

What helped you make good choices today?

How did you learn more about Jesus today?

How did you challenge yourself this week?

What Does It Take to Thrive at Acton Academy?

Written by Laura Sandefer and originally posted March 14, 2018

We can boil the Acton Academy systems to just two choices that ensure a happy, fruitful learning journey:

Be kind.
Do some work every day.

Simple, right?

Yes, but not always easy.

It actually takes time and practice to become strong in both. But we believe learning them deeply will position our Eagles well for the rest of their lives. With this goal, our systems are built to support growth – providing grace and forgiveness with accountability and feedback – all along the way. By the time an Eagle progresses through elementary school, middle school and Launchpad, they have gained a high level of complex decision-making around these two choices.

For example, in the very early years, kindness is as simple as not hitting each other and not saying mean words. Soon, layered into this experience is learning that not distracting each other during work time is an act of kindness. Then, Eagles learn to make peace with each other using the process at the Peace Table and to give and receive feedback that is kind yet tough, warm and cool. Later, kindness includes learning how to apologize well and deciphering the difference between kind-hearted and mean-spirited humor. Finally, in Launchpad, kindness is played out through authentic servant leadership grounded in honesty, humility, and confidence.

The same sort of progression happens in terms of learning the habit of working every day. What begins as short but daily spurts of reading, writing and math progresses into three-hour sessions of daily work and ultimately, uninterrupted deep work experienced as flow. The work ethic is built step by step with the gratifying experience of earning badges of mastery and experiencing what excellence feels like. Mediocrity won’t satisfy once you’ve tasted excellence.

The simple choices of being kind and working each day end up feeding each other so the alternative doesn’t make sense anymore as a good way to live life.

Dr. Seuss said, “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

Just be kind and do some work. That’s it.

Autonomy in Learning

Our heroes have become increasingly autonomous in their learning because they are in charge of their own education. They are planning, monitoring, and evaluating their learning during core skills with their badge books and computer programs. They are making decisions on content and objectives writer’s workshop, project time, and even gym class and play-based learning. The early learners have developed insights into their personal learning styles through the various strategies they choose to employ for their tasks at hand. They have become actively involved in their approaches to the learning tasks they have chosen. The early learners have also developed their own system of guiding principles wherein they problem solve and think creatively to find solutions to challenges they face. Our heroes decided that they would like to take turns being the leader for the day, as the prayer leader, line leader, storyteller, and launchpad police.

Because they feel in control, the heroes think more about what, how, and why they are doing what they do. Our heroes are able to focus on their learning and feel safe in their learning environment because their needs for structure, clear expectations, and guidance are met. The heroes are also willing to take risks without the fear of failure, and instead, they recognize the value of lessons learned from failure. Their learning is more meaningful because knowledge is discovered and constructed rather than taught. Our heroes are growing into strategic learners and effective thinkers.


This week, another hero stepped up to the plate and invited a military hero for our Hero Talk. Maddy asked her Dad’s friend, Mr. Tim, to visit our studio and tell her friends about serving in the United States Marine Corps. Mr. Tim did not only share about his experiences as a Marine, he also brought with him various memorabilia such as his dog tags, medals, uniforms, an American flag he flew in Iraq, and even his Dad’s sword used in the Vietnam War!

Mr. Tim was very gracious in answering our heroes’ questions and was also impressed with the questions our heroes thought of on their own. One hero asked about his greatest fear while serving as a Marine and deployment in Iraq. Mr. Tim said his greatest fear was letting his troop down if he makes mistakes. Another hero commented that she thought his greatest fear would be getting shot. But he said he was not afraid of that because he knew his troop “had his back just as he had their backs.”

As Mr. Tim talked about his role as the Ammunition Technician while in Iraq, he described how he kept an inventory of bullets by counting them very carefully. One hero was a little too honest when she said that she would get so bored doing that job. Mr. Tim agreed but added that he still did his work because it was his job to keep his troop safe and it was important to keep track of the ammunition when fighting in a battle. The heroes discussed amongst themselves later on about how admirable it was for Mr. Tim to do his job and help his troop even when he did not feel like it. One hero reflected on what Mr. Tim said later on during a discussion and pointed out that Mr. Tim thinks of others first, which is an answer to her prayer every morning.

Mr. Tim also told our heroes about getting care packages and how he felt each time he would get one. He gave the heroes other suggestions on what they could put inside their Hero Boxes. Getting to know Mr. Tim, even more, inspired our heroes to learn more about the men and women who served in the military and to support our military troops through their Hero Boxes.

All week long, our heroes have been reading Philippians 2, focusing on following Jesus’ example. Out of all Jesus’ character traits that we have discussed, our heroes have chosen to focus on humility. Each of them seemed to be in awe of the humility Jesus’ model for us. They shared many ways that they have chosen humility is various situations. Some heroes gave their friends ideas on how to remain humble even in their most difficult circumstances, which usually has younger siblings involved. It was amazing to hear all the different ways our heroes thought of showing humility:


Using kind words


Helping others in need


Helping the poor


Taking the time to listen


Forgiving and using kind words when others are unkind


Giving compliments


Letting others know when they make her sad


Letting others take turns first


Letting others make their choices

In addition, our heroes also tackled making decisions in other challenging scenarios, some of which they have already experienced, again with their younger siblings, such as doing “everything without grumbling or arguing” and “rejoicing at all times.”


Our Week At a Glance



Bible verse song

Proverbs 3:5-6

Philippians 2:3-4

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

What ways could you show humility?

Philippians 2:5-11

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

What attitude of Jesus helps you be like Jesus?




Philippians 2:13

God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

What power did God give you that pleases Him?

Philippians 2:14-15

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you.

What happens when we complain? Or argue? Do you get the results you are hoping for? What could you do instead?

Philippians 3:1

Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord.

Do you rejoice only when you get what you want? What if you don’t?


Play-based learning TWTh


Soft polo

Cardboard boxes

Dramatic play






Military Quest


Navy introduction

How is the Navy similar/different from the Army and the Marines?

America’s Navy: “Game”

In the Navy, it’s not about where the sea takes you. But who it makes you.

How could the Navy make you a different person?

Life as a sailor

What part of the military life helps a sailor do his job?

Life on a ship

What ways are the sailors making safe choices on the ship?

Stories of Service

Which story inspires you most to accept challenges in your hero’s journey?

Sea Story

What character trait did the Navy men and women possess that enabled them to achieve their goals?

Project time



Navy flags

Navy poster board

Navy equipment

Cardboard boxes

Navy Careers and jobs

Uniforms and insignias

Navy sailor

Joining the navy

We support our troops banner



Kids food basket

Brown bag watercolor painting


US Military deployments around the world:

Navy stamps on a world map

Navy locations



Navy song




Tying knots




Who showed humility today?

What attitude of Jesus did you see in friends today?

What did you do today that pleased God?

How did you find another solution to a problem instead of complaining or arguing?

What did you rejoice about today?

Getting Beyond Our Parenting Fears

Written by Laura Sandefer and originally posted March 09, 2018

“Only a fool is not afraid,” Mrs. Whatsit told him. (from A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle.)

When it comes to parenting, we have a lot to fear. Here is a short list of the fears I’ve collected from parents over the years (my own are included):

I’m afraid my child will get made fun of.
I’m afraid my child will feel stupid.
I’m afraid my child won’t love reading.
I’m afraid my child won’t have friends.
I’m afraid my child won’t like sports.
I’m afraid my child will be mean.
I’m afraid my child will become addicted to video games.
I’m afraid my child will see pornography.
I’m afraid my child will be lazy.
I’m afraid my child will become pregnant or get someone pregnant.
I’m afraid my child will try drugs and alcohol and become an addict.
I’m afraid my child won’t mature well and will become self-absorbed.
I’m afraid my child will be rude in public.
I’m afraid my children won’t find their passions.

And then they get their driver’s license…..

Some fears are built into our psyche as vital for our children’s survival. It would be foolish to ignore these fears. (A great read on these instincts is Gavin De Becker’s The Gift of Fear.)

But acting out of fear when our children’s lives are not at stake can rob them of poignant learning moments and more joyful living. So how do we tame that fear-based self especially if conquering our fears may be the best gift we give our children?

Two thought processes have helped me. First, I recognize three traps parents tend to fall into that trigger fear:

Needing to be in control.
Needing to be right.
Needing to look good to others.

When I feel anxious, angry or fearful (knowing that anger is often a cover-up for fear) I pause and try to name the root of my bad feeling. Which trap am I falling into? I can then work on healing myself rather than projecting my fears onto my children. Only then can I be fully present with them as calm and proactive rather than emotional and reactionary.

Second, I think about the Hero’s Journey in relation to my parenting life.

Do I prefer to stay in my comfort zone in this situation so I don’t have to change or grow? Or am I ready to step out into an adventure of the unknown?

At Acton Academy, we don’t ask parents to disengage. Rather, we ask parents to engage bravely and lovingly by leaning into their children’s journeys without protecting them from entering the dark caves of struggle. Acton parents understand what Joseph Campbell meant when he said, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

The view on the other side of fear is one that includes the light shining from our children’s eyes as they discover the treasure of their inner gifts. It is a bright and happy place to be.

What Matters? A Glimpse into the Sacred at Acton Academy

Written by Laura Sandefer and originally posted March 03, 2018

What makes an Acton an Acton?

This is the question we had to ask ourselves when other parents requested a kit so they could open their own. Over the years, we had amassed an astonishing heap of activities, processes, experiences, programs, and projects – some good, some not so good.

Could we boil it down to the top five or so treasures that would ensure someone else could create a learner-driven community – one that frees young people to be responsible, kind, confident, independent thinkers and decision-makers equipped with the skills necessary to thrive?

You may be surprised what rose to the top. The Hero’s Journey and the Socratic Method made the list, of course. What was next?

Studio Maintenance.

How could tidying up be a distinguishing characteristic of a school, one that unleashes learning? And don’t most schools sing their own rendition of “clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere”?

The difference resides on a spiritual plane even as it includes cleaning toilets because the Acton Eagles have claimed their studios as sacred – set apart as deserving honor and respect.

Their belief is clear: what we are doing inside these walls is vitally important.

Reflecting back to my own school experience, it wasn’t a big deal to see writing on the walls or gum stuck under a desk. Someone else took care of that. It wasn’t our job. “Sacred” was the furthest thing from my mind when I thought of my classrooms.

But it’s a tangible reality at Acton and feeds the learning journey beyond building teamwork and the skills to maintain a workspace.

Every day for fifteen minutes, the Eagles stop what they are doing – even if they are in flow or just about to finish an important goal. They stop. And they take care of their space. Together. They work quickly in teams with duties that are specified into checklists. The goal? To get back to a “pristine” space in which a fresh start may be made tomorrow.

For parents, this has rich application at home. And it’s not about keeping bedrooms tidy which is a different can of worms.

The questions I’ve asked myself are: What as a family do we hold sacred? Do I use that word often so my children absorb the concept in their own lives? What do we sacrifice for and keep protected, separate from the mundane?

For us, it’s family dinners. Nothing fancy. Just carving out time each day to be together and replenish ourselves with food and conversation. I may not have the chance to actually cook something (thank goodness for salad in a bag and already-roasted chickens!) but I do light a candle and try to have a sprig of something to make the moment “pristine.”

Some weeks we miss the boat and family dinners are lost. Inevitably, this has a trickle-down impact on the rest of my life. I do not feel as grounded or mission-based.

We see this in the studios, too. When Eagles begin to slip in their Studio Maintenance, it often shows up as a loss of excellence during their core work. Reigniting the spirit of a sacred space can be a trigger to light the fire elsewhere. It’s a matter of remembering and then doing.

We are spiritual beings at the core. Holding something as sacred in our otherwise very physical existence may be what holds us together as whole humans. Sometimes all it takes is a vacuum cleaner or a candle to trigger our memory: this matters.

(Note: I wrote this yesterday before entering the elementary studio where I am reading A Wrinkle In Time each day after Studio Maintenance. It’s a blast and we had ended on a cliff-hanger the day before. I didn’t get the chance to read with them because the Eagles chose to do a deeper cleaning than usual and to rededicate their studio by signing their names next to their handprints on the wall. They conducted their ceremony in complete silence to represent its importance. These very young heroes were cheerfully and seriously choosing the sacred over the fun – and this on a sunny Friday afternoon after a long, hard day of work.)

Heroes’ Interest in Learning


Our heroes are making leaps in bounds in their academic progress. An important factor that significantly affects academic progress is interest in learning. Because our heroes have the freedom to learn based on their interests, their attention increases, they process information more deeply and much faster, and they work harder and smarter.

Each early learner is taking on tasks and challenges that other kids their age may not have even tried. The heroes often challenge themselves to do work that may not be included in the traditional curriculum for their assigned grade level according to their age. But instead of allowing their ages to dictate their learning, the heroes dictate their own learning. They decide what they would like to work on when they set their goals. They decide how much time they would like to spend on a task. They decide when to move on to another task. They demonstrate when they have mastered a skill and decided when they are ready to try a more challenging task.

The results are increased motivation to learn and significant academic progress. Our heroes have made measurable advancement in their core skills computer programs and badge work. Most of our heroes who started in Level M math or reading at the beginning of the school year have earned their badges and have moved up to Level 1. Some of the heroes who started at Level 1 are working on second-grade level material in their computer programs.

The heroes’ interest in learning increases as they challenge themselves on their own. The work they choose is neither too easy nor too difficult so they are willing to put forth a strong effort in their tasks. Our heroes also work hard because they make connections between their work and real-life purposes and they understand the reason for doing their school work.  And most importantly, our heroes know that they learn from failure so they are never worried to fail or make mistakes, which increases their motivation to try and try again.


This week, we were honored to speak with a Vietnam veteran who served in the Marine Corps, Jim Cavalucci. This hero talk was completely planned and arranged by one of our heroes, Amelia. One day, she came to school with a sticky note with a phone number written on it to call her grandpa in Florida. She found out that grandpa served in the Marines so she asked mom if we could call him for our Hero Talk. So Amelia called her grandpa and asked him if he could tell us about being a Marine. She arranged with Grandpa a good time to call him for our conference call with her friends. She also asked her friends for questions they would like to ask her grandpa and collected their questions, which were written in small notepads. And so in a conference call all the way from Florida, Amelia introduced her friends to Grandpa Jim who shared with our heroes his wonderful experience as a marine. He shared with the heroes how much he learned from his service in the Marines especially learning how to be responsible. He told the heroes how he was drafted to join the army when he was 18 years old, but he volunteered to join the Marine Corps. He said he had lots of fun training to be a marine and also serving as the cook and baker. At the end of the call, Grandpa Jim thanked our heroes for their wonderful questions, attentiveness, and for honoring him with this conference call as our honored Military hero.


Our field trip to the USS Silversides Museum was truly memorable as we learned not only about submarines but also about the brave men who were aboard the USS Silversides and their sacrifices to protect our freedom. Our heroes experienced first-hand how it might have felt to live inside the submarine: sleeping in small cots with thirty other service members, and maybe even next to a torpedo; imagining only showering once every two weeks and having to remember twelve things to properly use the “head;” taking turns eating in the small dining room but with the best food in the military, including cakes and ice cream; hearing the loudness of the engines and the alarm signal for “Dive,” “Stations,” and even for “Collision!” Our heroes also enjoyed some stories about the submariners, so ask them about the kangaroo story and if they remember what KFS stands for.


Our Week At A Glance



How to study your Bible

Begin with prayer


Ask questions


What does it say?


What does it mean?


How does it apply to you?

Philippians 1:20

For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die.

What advice would you give a friend who feels ashamed to tell others about Jesus? What if they are ashamed because they feel they are not good at talking or making friends?

Philippians 1:21-22

For to me, living means living for Christ…if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ


How are you living your life for Jesus? How can you do more fruitful work for Jesus?

Philippians 1:27

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the …standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.

How can we live as citizens of heaven?

Philippians 1:29

For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. We are in this struggle together.

How could we help friends who are struggling? What would you do if they do not want your help?

Philippians 2:2

…  agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

Is it okay to agree to disagree? Could you still work together with friends even when you disagree with them?

Field trip reflections

Would you volunteer to be a submariner? How would you adapt to the living conditions inside the submarine?

What factor contributed to USS Siversides’ success? The functionality of the submarine or the effectiveness of the submariners?

Writer’s workshop

Operation gratitude – writing letters to troops

Letter writing with students

Spelling city

Typing club

Cole’s Daddy storytime

journal writing

Reflection paragraph


Play-based TWTh



Marine corps

physical fitness

Gymnastics mats

Cardboard boxes

Dramatic play – kitten family

Soft Polo




Stories of Distinction

The fight against Al-Shabaab

Should the marines train other soldiers to stop the terrorists or stop the terrorists themselves?

Somali pirate takedown

If you were a local fisherman, and the pirates give you a choice to either join them and get lots of money or not join them but give them your own money, what would you do?

Opening Afghan schools

If you were a marine working in the school with the children, what would be the most important thing you would like them to learn?

Amelia’s grandpa

Jim Cavalucci, Marine Conference call

Ready to battle

How can you make good split-second decisions? How can you think fast? Is it better to act fast or think of a plan first?

Project time

Marine Corps


Becoming a marine

Assemble hero boxes

Marines poster board

Being a marine

Military flags

Legendary uniforms

Roles in corps

Warfighting lab






Handprint US flag


US Military deployments around the world

Marine stamps on world map



Star Spangled Banner




Tying knots




Submitting to authority

1 Peter 2:13-25

Submit to authorities to honor God

Romans 13:1-2

What do you do when an authority (group leader, parents, guides) do something you believe is wrong? Would you still submit to their authority? How would you respond to their demands? How will you honor God in this situation?

Isaiah 3:1-6

Would it be better to have a bad leader or to have no leader at all?

Submit to authorities because of the example of Jesus

1 Peter 2:21-25

When should we not submit to authority?

Submit to authorities to overcome evil with good

Romans 12:19-21

In what ways have you “overcome evil with good”? What would happen if you return evil for evil?

Field trip reminder

USS Silverside museum

Submit to authorities because of the rewards

1 Peter 2:18-20

Would you be more motivated to submit to authorities because of God’s promise to reward you or God’s promise to judge justly?

Please mark your calendars for our Military Quest exhibition, which will be held at Celebration Cinema North, 2121 Celebration Dr. NE, on March 29 at 6pm for the World War II Movie Premier. Our Early Learners will be collecting items for their Hero Boxes for admission. Our heroes will also be holding a “Military Branches Recruitment Fair.”

Experiencing World War 2

It’s been an eventful week in the EMS studio! On Thursday, our heroes went on a field trip to The Silverside Museum in Muskegon, where they walked through a submarine (used during World War 2) and learned what life would be like serving our country. The heroes not only walked through the submarine, but also had the opportunity to hear stories and ask questions to satisfy their curiosity!

Not only did our heroes enjoy a hands-on experience at the museum, but on Friday, they also had the opportunity to try a military meal (pre packaged) and cook it using hot water. While I was somewhat concerned that the heroes might not  like this experience, they came with open minds and were willing to learn what life would be like in the military-including participating in some work-outs!

Throughout the week, our heroes were immersed in several other World War 2 related activities. They learned about propaganda during the war and created their own posters, read a novel, and posted events on our quest timeline all the way through the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Some of our heroes also began creating model planes that were used during World War 2.

In addition to experiencing more of history, our heroes have also been working hard to meet a stretch goal this session. A stretch goal is simply a challenging goal that our heroes create for themselves to encourage their perseverance and personal growth during Core Skills. Stretch goals are set for each subject area; reading, writing, math, and spelling.

To further encourage and inspire one another towards meeting goals, our heroes discussed how they might strengthen their current accountability system. Every week, our heroes meet with a buddy to ask each other questions about goal-setting and progress. However, some of our heroes have been feeling their running buddies have been hovering and haven’t been as encouraging. For this reason, the heroes came up with a few questions they want to ask each other during running buddies. While they are still working to improve running buddy time, these are a few of the questions they came up with:


  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • Do you need help in any area of learning?
  • How do you feel you can improve?


A few other discussion questions this week included:

  1. What questions would motivate and inspire your best work?
  2. Which habit of success do you want to focus on this week?
    1. Plan Ahead
    2. Set Goals
    3. Use time efficiently
    4. Know what you need to do
  3. If you were born and raised in Japan and had joined the military during WW2, would you go on the mission to Pearl Harbor? Remember, you have lived in Japan your entire life and it is all you know.

To end this week, our heroes actually threw me a surprise birthday party (which they’d planned all on their own). I was highly impressed with the planning and thought that went into this-and proud of them for it too! My heart is full of gratitude for the kindness, cards, and gifts (I’m assuming our heroes had some help with this part). Thank you!!!! God bless you and your families this weekend!