Journey Tracker – Green Means Good; Red Means I Have Questions

Journey Tracker – Green Means Good; Red Means I Have Questions was originally written by actonacademy on

We call it Journey Tracker and it’s a bit more nuanced than the title of this post – but not by much.

Eagles set goals every day, receive their quest, civilization and writing challenges AND post their work on Acton Academy’s Journey Tracker.  We parents have daily and immediate access to all of our children’s work and can see the status of their progression whenever we want.

But there is a catch. It takes my personal responsibility as a parent to be informed. The good news is that it’s not complicated.  And there is satisfaction, even joy, in being informed about my children’s progress and seeing the work they are doing. The bad news is that your guides aren’t going to spoon-feed you. We trust you to take charge of being personally informed.

Here’s how you can be armed to ask the best questions of your child and know exactly where they are in terms of moving to the next level or studio:

Login to Journey Tracker.  (Or ask your child to do this for you if you don’t yet have the login credentials.) Look at your child’s badge plan – the big map of their learning that you signed off on – and where they are in terms of completing their plan.

When you see green, you know that work is finished. Green = good.

When you see red, it means it was not. This is not always bad because there are different scenarios for why a goal was not completed. Red means it’s time to ask the question: Why is this red?

Now you get to have a meaningful conversation and inject some good old fashioned love, support, encouragement or trouble-shooting as needed.

Don’t do this every day. That’s called micromanaging and gets annoying for your hard-working Eagle. Once a week is a nice stride or even bimonthly.

Enjoy this amazing tool and thank Mr. Reed when you see him.


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Take Advice from the Ancient Greeks: Play Board Games

Take Advice from the Ancient Greeks: Play Board Games was originally written by actonacademy on

It’s as basic to the human experience as hunting and gathering food. And we have the ancient Greeks, Mesopotamians and Persians to thank. With the invention of board games came a way for humans to learn, play, grow and strengthen family bonds.

We use games in the Acton Academy studios often – as a reward for hard work and as a tool for learning strategic thinking, mathematics, writing and design concepts.

If you don’t yet have Game Night as part of your family life, I highly recommend it. Here’s why: For the very young, games teach the basic concepts of rules and staying within limits and how to deal with frustration. As your children get older, the power of games grows as a tool for learning probability and pattern detection. More importantly, games forge intimate family bonds as we learn about each other, laugh, get mad, resolve things and move on. Having fun together is an act of intimacy when done well.

When my children were young, we played lots of games but I did NOT have fun. I struggled with the balance between letting them win and ensuring they lose. Uno got boring for me and I got annoyed when one of my boys would lose badly. But we did it anyway. They grew and I grew.

Now on family vacations, we just need a deck of cards and our evenings are filled with rip-roaring poker games, Spades tournaments and Hearts competitions. We don’t miss our screens in the least and I wouldn’t trade those hours for the treasure of King Tut’s tomb.

Give it a whirl. Here are some top favorites: Dominoes, Blokus, Chess, Hangman, I Spy, Apples to Apples, Monopoly and, yes Uno.


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My Child is Stuck and It Makes Me Mad

My Child is Stuck and It Makes Me Mad was originally written by actonacademy on

It was one of those afternoons. My son was grumpy. He’d have to work all weekend to finish a badge. My thoughts are  once again screaming in my head: The system is too complicated! He shouldn’t have to work so hard to get a badge approved!

I want to intervene. Blame the school, my husband, the guides.

But I resist. I’ve been here before. I know if I tell him there is a problem with the system and this isn’t fair, he’ll tell me to stop intervening.

So I wait.

When the badge is finally submitted and approved, we process it together and I hear the same thing: “That was on me. I didn’t get the work done on time so I complicated things.”  

Feeling the pain of procrastinating or turning in shabby work is part of the etching of character onto one’s heart. It is far from comfortable.

I read the comment on our family survey this week and felt a kinship to this anonymous middle school parent who said:

A frustrating week. Even after days of begging and pleading, our eagle’s former squad leader said there was no requirement for a squad leader to take the time to review and sign off on late badges. The result was our Eagle got no review and no credit for late badge work. Certainly this was a great lesson for our eagle about how success sometimes depending on the cooperation of others. However, I am again asking the question why are studio squad leaders not motivated to help their squad members succeed? In most companies and functional organizations a leader’s success depends on team member success. By not providing squad leader motivators for member success, the academy is failing to teach an important life lesson about leadership.”

As always, we take these comments to guides and Eagles to investigate what is going on and see if we can make improvements.

On this one, a small group of high school Eagles met with middle schoolers to investigate. What they found was written up to us in report:  

“According to all of the Squad Leaders, it is the responsibility of the Eagle to submit their badge on time:

  • It was made clear that it is no longer the Squad Leader’s responsibility after the deadline.
  • According to the Squad Leaders, it was made clear in Town Hall and discussions when the deadline was and what the consequences were of missing the deadline. They said that this is poor time management of the Eagle, and that the Badge System was very clear.
  • It would be a favor for a Squad Leader to review these badges, and according to the Squad Leaders, only a few were approached by Eagles with overdue badges.
  • Based on the comment and the responses by Squad Leaders, this falls on the Eagle. To put it bluntly, an Eagle acted like a victim to their parents, who do not have knowledge of the system. The consensus of those with proper knowledge of the system (the Squad Leaders) was that the Eagle is responsible for poor time management and a lack of effort to approach other Squad Leaders.”

The studio-mates worked it out. Squad leaders generously shared their personal time to help.

And I remembered that much of what frustrates my own Eagles (hence triggering anger in me) is tied to the consequences of work left undone, turned in late, or presented in less than excellent form.

While there may indeed be a problem with a process – and we will work with Eagles to improve those – as a parent, I’m gratified knowing my children are learning this truth deeply: missing deadlines hurts

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Do You Have a Bag of Rocks?

Do You Have a Bag of Rocks? was originally written by actonacademy on

After ten years, I’ve learned the most important thing I do as a parent at Acton Academy is not even about my children.

It’s about me.

This visualization may help me explain:

Imagine every day carrying a heavy sack of rocks on your back.  

For years you have carried this load. Day in. Day out. The weight never diminishes. There is pain in carrying it but you don’t mention it. You just keep carrying the rocks.

Imagine that each rock is a burden your parents gave you. Not intentionally. What parent would want to burden their child with a sack of heavy rocks to carry for the rest of their lives?

Unknowingly, though, there is the rock of “not quite good enough.” There is the rock of “unpredictable, inconsistent anger.” There is the rock of “shame on you.” There is the rock of “if only you were like…” There is the rock of “divorce.” There is the rock of “I love you when you are good.” There is the rock of “alcoholism” and “workaholism.” There is the rock of “neglect” and “micromanaging.”

Visualize yourself taking each rock from that bag. One by one. Hold it. Turn it over and really look at it. Then see yourself dropping it on the ground. Or throwing it far off into a field.

Now straighten up. You can walk lighter. Exhale more deeply. By letting them go, you are now free of your parents’ hurts, needs, fears, projections and resentments. You are free.

Back to reality. Now we are the parents.

How do we keep our own hurts, insecurities and fears from burdening our children? Life will be hard enough for them. How do we parent in a way that frees our children so they can progress on their own journeys, find their callings and live meaningful lives without worrying about us?

This is part of our own Hero’s Journey as parents. We all have hurts, blind spots and character flaws. There’s no need to hide them or pretend they don’t exist. It’s what makes us real.

But there is a way we can keep our own “stuff” from burdening our children. As I like to say, “Parent, heal thyself.”

Very simply put, we all need to get to know ourselves very, very well.

For some this means meeting with a counselor. For others, listening is a great place to start. We must listen to ourselves, our thoughts, our feelings. This includes knowing our bodies well – knowing when our heart beats too fast, or we start to sweat or feel that stomach start to churn. We begin to understand when anger is rising up or anxiety is creeping in because we know ourselves so well. And in knowing, we become proactive rather than reactive in our parenting. We learn to pause and be still.

Take the example of anger.

What makes you angry? The next time you feel angry, pause. Search yourself and ask yourself why three times. Why does that make me angry? Why does that make me angry?  Why does that make me angry?

Usually anger is covering up fear. As we think more deeply, we begin to understand our deepest fears and deal with them. This is significant because if we aren’t careful our anger can turn into resentment which festers into a desire for vengeance. And that’s one ugly monster for our children to witness especially when the anger is on their behalf and carried out in sly, subtle ways.

As we face another new session at Acton and a new year of life, we get to choose our mindsets and which path we’ll take. The young people at Acton are choosing what I call the “high and hard path” of learning and growing. It’s the Hero’s Journey and there are monsters tucked away in the dark valleys of growing up. But the children aren’t afraid. They will face their monsters. They’ll talk about the hard times together because we build in time during their daily schedule to reflect upon the battles they face and share with each other what works and what doesn’t to do better next time. They are brave and beautiful.

Let’s meet the young people at that high place. Let’s not be afraid to admit we, too, have monsters lurking. Not every parent is ready for the Hero’s Journey and I understand. It’s really hard.

For those of you who are in it with me, let’s do this. Let’s leave the bag of rocks behind and get on with the joyous privilege of being parents.  We are so very lucky.

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It’s time for collaborative core skills, everyone!

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“It’s time for collaborative core skills, everyone!!”

…The sound of our heroes holding each other to the daily schedule. As I listened in the other day, I couldn’t help but reflect on how capable our kids really are. They really know how to resolve conflict, hold each other to a schedule, and help each other when it’s needed. As collaborative core skills began, I looked around the room. In the corner, two heroes were sitting on bean bags while working on Khan Academy. I listened in to the first hero as he coached the second hero through a multiplication problem. It made me ponder (for a moment) what the world might be like if everyone developed the ability to lead and take ownership of their learning.

Each day, our kids become more and more comfortable themselves and each other. They can make their own decisions, pitch their ideas to each other, and they are learning what it means to develop an attitude of “excellence.”

This week, our heroes practiced evaluating the excellence of their work by asking, “Is this my personal best?”, “Is this better than my previous work”?, and “Have I compared it to a world-class example”? They then worked in pairs to give each other constructive feedback (based on those questions) and improved their work.

In addition to creating excellent work, our heroes also worked on creating excellence by being intentional with one another. They came up with a list of ways they could encourage each other and also participated in a few Teambuilding Activities such as creating a secret handshake (and sharing it with studio mates who were missing) and going on a picture scavenger hunt together. Though everyone had different ideas, they did a great job listening to each other and working to create a great handshake and selection of photos!

Some other highlights this week included:

On Thursday, our heroes participated in a squirt gun war to celebrate their hard work during Core Skills. Everyone contributed Hero Bucks to earn this special time!
Our heroes are each doing an excellent job growing their curiosity through this quest! Every hero has researched at this point, and a few have gone on to create something for the Exhibition!
During P.E. this week, I was impressed with our heroes’ creativity and collaboration. Without any guidance, our heroes created their own “quidditch” game which involved searching for a hidden rubber chicken while avoiding being tagged by dodge balls.
Discussion topics this week included:

Which “races” are you running? (based on 1 Corinthians 9).

The apostle Paul went around preaching the gospel, but we are all running some kind of race. These races say something about our lives. God cares about every part of it (whether school work, the way we spend our free time, our the way we treat others).

Which areas do you feel like you are “running ahead”? Which areas do you feel are really challenging right now?

The following areas are each vital to building a culture of excellence. Everyone is continually growing in each of them. Which area do you want to focus on this week?

  • Humility (Realizing that you will not be “right” all the time and asking for help when you need it)
  • Perseverance (Not giving up when you face trials)
  • Going to God’s word for answers
  • Attitude (Thinking well of others and staying positive)

How do you make a “To Do” list?

How do you decide what to accomplish first?

Before the Olympic games, a relay takes place in which a torch is passed from runner to runner. Everyone works together until the torch reaches its destiny. In what ways have you worked together at Journey Academy? Who has encouraged you since you started school?