Theater and Transitioning to Distance Learning in ES

Week 26: March 9 – 13

Theater and Transitioning to Distance Learning in ES


A week that began normally and ended taking a very different turn. Backstage theater tour, playbill content creating, striving for Core Skills session goals, working as a team in improv games, theater team collaboration, and then preparing and practicing for distance learning for the rest of the session. The last two days this week included making a plan for our distance learning the next few weeks and practicing what our new schedule would look like.


The heroes demonstrated gratitude as they wrote thank you notes to the four guys from Calvin’s Improv Group that came to Journey for a Hero Talk. We mailed their notes out this week. Caleb Curry, the President of the Calvin Improv Group wrote to us and said,

“I wanted to let you know that we all had an amazing time with you guys! Talking about it afterward, we were all able to agree it was the best environment we had been in to teach improv and something we will remember for sure. We had such a good time…We were all definitely impressed by it.”  – Caleb Curry


Our tour of the Forest Hills Fine Arts Center with Jeremy Cox proved to be more exciting than we expected! Being on stage, behind the scenes, in the set storage room, and working with the lights was so cool! Thank you, Jeremy for such an inspiring tour!

As we waited for the second group of heroes to arrive to the Forest Hills Fine Arts Center in the van, the heroes who had already arrived occupied their time by playing improv games.



Stage trap door! The heroes brainstormed plays that might utilize this trap door experience. Can you think of any shows that use a trap door?


Seeing the set for the Hunchback of Notre Dame show up close gave theater more of a magical feeling than simply an empty stage.


Maddy was especially curious about the backstage manager’s post since her role in the Journey Academy exhibition is the Backstage Manager.


Most of the improv games and warm-ups we played this week:

  • Film Dub
  • Slideshow
  • Fast Forward, Rewind, Pause, Slow Motion
  • And Then
  • Pile of Props
  • Yes, Let’s
  • Take a Walk
  • Ask My Neighbor/Kitty Wants a Quarter
  • Quick Change
  • Rainstorm
  • Human Knot


The heroes love going to GR Gymnastics! They challenge themselves to try new things, to work on their weaknesses, and to strength their previous gymnastics skills. In Evi’s opinion, “Wednesday is my favorite day of the week!”


This week during a Launch discussion, the heroes discussed the COVID-19 coronavirus through questions like: “What does the media want you to believe?”, “What is really true about this virus and its spreading?”, “Who is most susceptible to catching this virus?”, and “What can we do in our studio to prevent the spread of germs (in general)?”

This week in the “Journey Academy Heroes’ Podcast,” two heroes chose to talk about coronavirus. Our research came from Spectrum Health. Make sure you do your own research on this topic from reputable sources. Overall take-away message: Stopping the spread of the virus that caused COVID-19 through every day good habits is the best way to keep people healthy.

Music: preview of “Energetic Ukulele” by Royalty Free Music Awwkwards


A bonus podcast! We added in an additional podcast focused on the distance learning that we are transitioning to.

Music: preview of “Energetic Ukulele” by Royalty Free Music Awwkwards


Have you asked your hero:

  • What were some highlights from your tour of the Forest Hills Fine Arts Center?
  • What are your thoughts about Calvin Improv group’s comments about coming to Journey? (See above)
  • When were you in workflow this week?
  • Were you ever in your panic zone this week? When were you in your challenge zone this week? When/where were you in your comfort zone this week?
  • When adults look at you and your friends, what do you think they see? What would they think is important to you? Are their thoughts of you true? (from Generation Change by Dave Ramsey)
  • Do you ever hide behind your “stuff” so that other people–or God–won’t be able to see the real you? How would your friendships change if all you “stuff” was taken out of the picture? (from Generation Change by Dave Ramsey)
  • What is it about us that Jesus values so much? Does he care more about what we have or who we are? (from Generation Change by Dave Ramsey)


John 14:27

Jesus speaking: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

10 Ways to Love Your Child Today

10 Ways to Love Your Child Today was originally written by actonacademy on

It seems silly to say. We all know our #1 job as parents is to love our children. We do love them. It’s as natural as breathing.

But are we living our lives so our children feel this love in their bones? Are we creating a home that is our children’s favorite place to be? Are we building hearts and spirits strong enough so we are no longer needed? Are we loving them well today?

Here are 10 little ideas that communicate love and respect. I thank Cyndi Hanes for her little book “2,002 Ways to Show Your Kids You Love Them” and how she helped me remember little things each day do matter.

  1. Give a milk “toast” to your child at dinner.
  2. Knock before entering your child’s room.
  3. Remember that tears are healing. Let them flow when your child is sad.
  4. Replace lectures with stories.
  5. Apologize if you embarrass your child.
  6. Have a suggestion box for your family.
  7. When your child is talking, don’t interrupt.
  8. Give yourself a time-out if you become angry, snippy or critical. Tell your child you will return when you feel better.
  9. Never let a day go by without saying, “I love you” and sharing a hug.
  10. Write your child a love letter with 50 things you love about her.

As Jane Austen said, “Ah! There’s nothing like staying home for real comfort.” What can you do today for your child to feel utterly comfortable upon walking in the door?

Competence or Prestige?

Competence or Prestige? was originally written by actonacademy on

The news breaking around us regarding college admissions scandals is beyond dispiriting. Sadly, it is likely the tip of the iceberg. The layers of corruption run deep.

These are stories of adults and parents doing terrible things to children. They are shocking because of their scale and criminality. One can only imagine what damage is done on the souls of the children in their midst.

All of this fuels my urgency to continue fighting for the small learning experience we call “Acton Academy.”

We built Acton as the antidote to robbing children of what they rightfully own. We named it after Lord John Alberg-Acton whose scholarly work focused on liberty and virtue. Lord Acton wondered if a free society could also be virtuous. He wrote, “Power tends to corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Acton Academy exists to free children to be richly competent in a world where others around them have parents who seek ease or prestige as the ultimate value; thereby refusing to let their children fail and continually making their paths easier.

With ingrained and hard-earned competence, the Acton graduates won’t sit idly by waiting for someone to fix their problems or get them a job. They’ll be excited to stand up and get to work, using their gifts for good.

To the parents at Acton Academy: Thank you for your courage. I know what we are doing together is very, very hard. Yet each day you say “yes” to the rare work of letting your children take real responsibility for their learning. You don’t resist the Acton tools such as our parent contract and the parent communication protocol. You know it is not there to protect us as school administrators. You know it is there for one reason: We believe in your children. We know they have to do big things on their own in order to claim their competence and giftedness. We believe they can do amazing things. We believe they will rightly earn their place in the world and make it better. Thank you for partnering with us and sharing these beliefs. I wish it could be easier, but it cannot by nature be so.

At Acton Academy, we are fueled by a deep love of freedom, of humanity and virtue. This isn’t a popularity contest. Not everyone wants the hard road of transformational learning. People do leave when it gets hard and we honor that choice, too.

But I do know that any school or person who promises a journey with no frustration, easy progression through grade levels and always-happy parents is either bluffing or just wants to get people through a system to count it as a success. There is no learning without frustration. There is no love without suffering.

Our children deserve honest struggle which builds deep, strong roots. And they are vastly capable of facing it with courage. The courage to grow.

Why Growing Curiosity at Home Matters

Why Growing Curiosity at Home Matters was originally written by actonacademy on

How curious is your household? Do you ask lots of questions? Are you always reading something new and talking about it? Do you have lots of intriguing objects, articles, magazines, puzzles lying around? Do you wonder out loud about the world around you? Take my Curiosity Quiz to assess how your growing curiosity at home.

It’s the curious people who will thrive in the future as we move more to automation and AI. Plus, curiosity is good for your brain – literally. Check out the  science  that proves the physical value of curiosity.

Parents get to claim the role of key instigators of curiosity in their children’s lives. By creating a household that fuels curiosity, you have the power to send your children into a life of learning, deeper relationships and joy.

More important than the physical environment in which you live is the way you live your life. You are the best carrier of curiosity for your children. When they see you living life as a learner – making mistakes, asking excellent questions, and pursuing new ideas and knowledge, they adopt the same strategies.

Use the dinner table as your curiosity station. Talk about the food, where it came, from what spices and flavors you detect. Share stories of problems you encountered in your day and how you plan to solve them. Find out what burning questions your children have and set out as a family to discover the answers. Keep a box of questions out. My family uses these Table Topics regularly.  

In this Google age when you don’t have to work very hard to get your questions answered, curiosity gets dulled. Combine that with schools that contain curiosity rather than setting it wildly free, and we’ve got a curiosity crisis brewing.

Why does this matter?

Because the opposite of curiosity is apathy and apathy is the beginning of moral decline. Therein lies my sense of urgency around curiosity and keeping it alive.

It’s as if our lives are depending on it. Because they are.

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.


The post Take Advice from the Ancient Greeks: Play Board Games appeared first on On Being an Acton Academy Parent.

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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Failure is Not a Good Thing

Failure is Not a Good Thing was originally written by actonacademy on

Why talk about failure being a good thing?

It is not good. It’s terrible.  Real failure hurts.

But it is necessary.  

For deep, lasting learning to happen, failure is necessary.

At Acton Academy, we don’t avoid it.

We own it. 

Sometimes it’s the Eagles who need to own the failure.

Other times, we as their Guides need to own it because we didn’t make the “why” strong enough, or create a clear enough process to follow, or provide the right incentives.

The key is that the failure needs to sting. And after feeling the pain, there are two specific action steps we must take:

  1.  Reflect on the failure and talk about it;
  2. Figure out what we’ll do differently next time.

What then? 

We don’t quit even though we want to. We get back in the game.

There are no participation trophies allowed at Acton Academy. Instead, our Eagles carry around badges of courage, perseverance and honor etched into their hearts to last a lifetime.

Not so much fun. But definitely a win.

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Three Steps to Learn to Trust Your Child

Three Steps to Learn to Trust Your Child was originally written by actonacademy on

Have you ever been in that awkward situation of asking a child a question and the parent answers for her? There is the slightest shift in the eyes of the child that can go unnoticed or it can break a heart. Not being trusted wears a soul down.

How do we learn to trust our children? How do we break our habits of stepping in, answering questions, ordering their food for them at restaurants because we are afraid of silence or don’t want them to feel uncomfortable?

There are three actions we practice intentionally as Socratic Guides at Acton Academy that work wonders at home, too:

  • Pause.
  • Step back.
  • Then step back again.

Try it the next time your natural inclination is to rush over, fix, solve, repair, clean up, make amends.

Practice the hard work of waiting.

The trust will come because the children will earn it.

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