Life at Acton Academy

It is hard for me to believe we just wrapped up our second week of school at Acton Academy.  The past few months have been a flurry of activity as this dream of opening a school has come to life.  To be quite honest, it has been harder and more challenging than I ever could have imagined.  The second night I came home and sat in the laundry room and cried.  The amount of time, creative energy, and financial resources this project has taken far exceeded my expectations.  After the magnitude of what I had gotten myself into had passed, my husband was able to encourage me by saying, “Babe give it time. How long have you been running a school?  You can do this.”    Sidebar – thank you Chris for supporting me and keeping me encouraged.

As we wrap up week 2, I am getting into my groove as are the children.   I am reminded daily of the “why” behind what we are doing.  The first week was somewhat hectic as the children acclimated to the Acton way of life.  There was yelling, interrupting, disrupting the group, and any other number of mishaps.  I sat quietly in the meeting room until finally one student got so fed up with the craziness that they asked those who weren’t listening to leave.  Order was created and students then engaged in a powerful discussion about the hero’s journey.   I am seeing character forming, leaders being made, and students realizing that they can be masters of their work and environment.

One of the powerful components of the Acton model is how students resolve conflicts.   Eagles establish rules for the studio.  If a rule is broken, a student may ask the offender to leave the group for reflection and rejoin when they are ready to abide by the rules.  A student may also take away an eagle buck for a violation.  An eagle buck board was elected to help resolve conflicts.   The first week students came to me, “Miss Anna this person did that etc.”  As the weeks have progressed, I have seen students taking control of their problems by using peaceful techniques to manage conflict.  WOW!  That is powerful.  Students have also learned that there are real world consequences for violating the rules they agree to.  Honestly I was blown away at how well it is working.  Yes we still have a lot of skills to learn but I feel all our eagles are better now than when they started at problem solving and standing up for their rights.  Our younger eagles will work into this model of problem solving as they mature in age and abilities.   Younger eagles work with a guide to solve their problems.  The younger eagles can only have points taken away by a Guide.  With time and maturity, they will learn to self-govern as they get older and more experienced.

I will work hard to give you a weekly blog post update as my time permits – I have been a little busy the past few days.  J .Here is a brief synopsis of some of the projects we have been working on.

K-2 Class:
1) Interactive notebooks have been started.  These help our youngest eagles with sound, letter, and phonetic awareness.
2)  A variety of math activities are being used including Montessori materials, Kahn Academy online, cube work, and good old fashioned paper and pencil.
3)  Children built a bee box, bees, tree, and fruit for the fair.  They learned about bees and farm life which culminated in real live animals arriving at the school.
4)  The barn reading loft is a favorite for all the children.  The Magic Tree House series seems to be most popular right now.   How do you inspire kids to read?  By giving them time to read what interests them.  We do this through DEAR – drop everything and read.
5)  Tennis and pound class are a hit.  The children are enjoying the outdoor space. Next week they will begin to prepare the soil for the organic farm.
6)  Chinese culture, ducks, river life, and boat engineering were all brought to life through the 5 In A Row program and the book Life of Ping.  We will be exploring science and the world through literature with a new book each week.  Next week children will be making ducks and painting water.
7) Spanish starts the week of 9/26 with Miss Natalie.

3-6 Grade Class:
1) Socratic discussions are a daily event at the morning launch.   Rules of engagement for the meetings are as follows. Be on time and prepared.  Be concise.  Do not repeat points already made.  Provide evidence and reasoning.  Link to previous comments.  (Use “I agree” or “I disagree.”) Listen with an open mind and consider new evidence. Focus and do not distract.  Have you been to a meeting lately where participants couldn’t communicate points or prattled on by repeating themselves?  I know I have.  Children are learning to professionally present their views on important topics.
2)MangaHigh, Kahn Academy, and paper and pencil math are being done daily.
3)Creative writing included a contest with real money for words used, Think It box, thank you notes, and No Red Ink.   Students could either hand write or type their work.  Soon students will be posting on the school blog.
4) 9/26 students begin meeting with their running partners to set SMART goals for the week.  Running Partners were drawn out of a jar.  Some student got someone they wanted and others didn’t.  Students are learning to work with all different types of people – a very important life lesson.
5) Eagles created an elaborate fair display that included bread for the bakery, clay eggs, green house, barn, lemonade stand, and rodeo.
6)A committee was elected to organize PE and students were given $50 budget for extra outdoor items.  An events committee was elected whose first order of business was to host a pajama day.
7)Eagles have begun their entrepreneur quest.  Some students have even designed their logo and ads for their businesses.  Second graders have joined this quest as well.
8)Spanish starts the week of 9/26 with Miss Natalie.

Albert Einstein sums it all up when he said, “Education is not the learning of facts but the training of the mind.”  This is what we are working to accomplish for our children.  Jeff and Laura, founders of Acton, sent us a welcome video.  I encourage you to watch it.

Best Regards,
Anna Biad