Inspiring Healthy Habits in Young Children

Let’s talk about habits.

As we get into the new year, we have fresh ideas and New Year’s Resolutions to inspire us to form new habits that will make us into a better version of ourselves.

Here at Acton Academy, forming these new habits one step at a time is something that we empower children with every day.

We believe that habits determine your future. If you work out every day, you will become fit. If you work on learning a new language for half an hour every day, you will eventually be able to speak that language because you have the habit of putting consistent time into learning.

Keep in mind that habits can be a double-edged sword. There are good ones and bad ones. If you think about it, we are all building different kinds of habits all the time, whether good or bad. There are many things we do over and over again daily. 

For this reason, it’s important to understand how habits work, why they work, and how you can design them yourself. Knowing how habits work allows you to shape them yourself and find yourself empowered to form your own vision (and reality!) of the future.

At Acton, there are great habits we instill in our routine on a daily basis. One example is having a gratitude circle where the Eagles can say something they’re grateful for that happened during the day. We also practice mindfulness, meditation and regularly reflect on our work and presentations.

One of the main things we want our Eagles to understand is that they have control over the choices they make every day. They can be the architect of their habits rather than the victim of them, and create the life of their dreams!


Self-Driven Learning

One of our main philosophies here at Acton can be summed up by a quote from Dr. Seuss: “It is better to learn how to learn than to know.”

In a lot of traditional environments, children are trained by having them memorize facts so they can regurgitate them onto a test. Children are instructed to memorize knowledge and show it back to their teachers.

At Acton Academy, we get to the core of what will engage a student as a learner. We focus on what will drive the students and spark passion in them to find more information on a topic. That is why we are constantly asking questions and trying to inspire learning so that the Eagles can soar on their own and find out how to expand their knowledge based on their own curiosity. Why? Because that is what they need to be doing for the rest of their life. Once they’re out of school, no one will tell them they need to learn this or memorize that. They are on their own.

It’s amazing to see learners being self-driven. They care about what they are learning because they are choosing what path to go down. They might say, “I’m really interested in the French Revolution. When was that time period?” And they will go to the computer or encyclopedia and research on their own. That one question may lead them to another question and another until they are well down the path of absorbing the information that they themselves sought out.

As their guide, all we are doing is inspiring them in their own hero’s journey. We are here to remind them that they can grow their brains just as fast as they want to on their own.


3 Stages of Empathy Your Child Will Go Through

As your child ages, they go through 3 levels of empathy. Let me share some tips that will help deepen your child’s empathy as they reach each stage.

When emotions are acknowledged, talked about, and given respect, that is when your child becomes empowered and confident, instead of being at the mercy of their own (or others) emotions.

The first level is “emotional sharing.” Emotional sharing happens when a child feels distressed watching other people suffer. When toddlers hear a baby crying, they often ask why and start to become anxious themselves.

This is the perfect time to engage your child in a discussion even if they’re only two years old. Talk to them about the causes and effects of emotions. Ask them why they think the baby is crying and how they can show they care. Just engage your child and talk to them about beliefs, desires, and goals. Even if they’re really small, you can use simple language.

The second level is “empathic concern.” Empathic concern is the motivation to care for others who are vulnerable or distressed.

At Acton Academy, we help children cultivate empathy by focusing on filling other people’s buckets. We engage the children and always ask “Are you a bucket filler or a bucket dipper?” We also focus on self-reflection and evaluate what we could have done better each day for others.

The third level is “perspective taking.” Perspective taking is the ability to consciously put yourself in the mind of another person or in someone else’s scenario.

You can help your child cultivate empathy by helping them discover what they have in common with other people. As adults, we tend to feel greater empathy when we perceive somebody to have something in common with us. And the part that really sharpens empathy is when you have a discussion about it. 

Teaching mindfulness meditation and compassion meditation is also an effective way to cultivating empathy. Teach your child to relax on their own. Even a 10-15 minute daily meditation at home is powerful.

I hope these tips will come in handy for you as your child grows in their empathy and emotional intelligence.


How Much Does Student-Teacher Ratio Really Matter?

“What is the student-teacher ratio in Acton Academy?” This question has been asked of me by parents countless times.

It’s not surprising that parents think that student-ratio is important. After all, the idea that your child can have access to more teacher attention in education is very tantalizing.

Since the No Child Left Behind Law came into play, many teachers are forced to stay on the subject until every single child in the class fully understands it. Although it seems heartwarming at first, the application and execution of it is a different story.

Think about the 10-15 children who understood the topics right away. Teachers are forced to give them worksheets on topics they already mastered just to keep them busy. These are frustrating not just for teachers, but for students as well because they can’t move on at their own pace.

At Acton Academy, we believe that each learner has the right to have an entirely individualized core skills education where they learn at their own pace and in ways that work for them, whether it’s through lectures, gaming, or hands-on activities. With the power of the internet today, we have the ability for learners to experience a million to one ratio of teachers to students. We have every expert, alive or dead, at our fingertips today that we can access anytime online.

Do you want your children spending their days where their learning pace is set by others? Or do you want your child to be able to learn as fast or as slow as they need to? A child won’t be able to excel in something if they are constantly being held back by others. After all, how many of us learn at the exact same pace and in the exact same way as other people do?


Test Taking: How Important is it in Elementary School?

Do you believe that taking tests and memorizing facts does not set your child up for success? You may think otherwise because that is exactly how schools have been structured for over 200 years. It is also how we experienced school when we are growing up.

However, have you ever wondered why the majority of millionaires today did poorly in school? There are a lot of millionaires that dropped out of schools, such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Simon Cowell, Ted Turner, and Richard Branson. How do you explain so many highly successful students that are getting straight A’s and have graduated college, yet can’t get a job? We hear this story so often.

Here at Acton Academy, children spend time mastering real-life skills and engaging in real-world problem-solving. We inspire them and give them the tools they need to know who they are inside and be confident in their abilities so they can pursue their dreams.

In this age of Google where everyone has answers at their fingertips, memorizing facts is not as valuable as it used to be. We believe that schools should focus on cultivating entrepreneurship and creativity. 

How about you? What do you believe in? Do you want your child to waste countless hours memorizing facts just to regurgitate on the test? Or do you want your child to learn how to set their own goals and overcome obstacles so they can pursue their dreams?


Trusting Leads to Transformation in your Children

Today, many people believe they can’t trust children to motivate themselves. As a mother, I can relate to this. It is hard to take a step back and trust that your child will do the right thing without your guidance.

From being under their parent’s wing, children are sent straight to school where their teachers are telling them what to do and keeping them in line every day. The problem with this is they start doubting their ability to accomplish anything by themselves.  You see this when they start to always seek for directions and help instead of taking any initiative on their own.

Our lead guide here at Acton Academy used to work with troubled youths. He knew a 14-year old who had to wear velcro shoes every day because nobody ever trusted him to learn how to tie his shoes. It may be an extreme example, but it’s true.

Here at Acton, we trust the children in many ways.  One example is that they clean the studio every day. Students do studio maintenance by putting away things, vacuuming, and wiping surfaces, and they take pride in it. For this reason, parents noticed amazing changes in their children at home, such as keeping their rooms clean.

Do you want your child to remain in an environment where they aren’t even trusted enough to go to the bathroom without asking permission? Or do you want to see self-confidence that comes only from being trusted and being able to initiate things on your own, shine through your child?

In entrusting children, we will see amazing transformations. In trusting them, they begin to gain self-confidence and learn to take control of their lives and their learning.


Show Your Children That Knowledge Is Not As Powerful As Applying Knowledge

Have you ever heard the quote “Knowledge is power?” Since we spend 12 years of our lives in a school environment that drills learning to memorize facts as the most important thing in the world, it’s natural for us to view knowledge as power. But I believe it is the application of knowledge that is powerful.

Many students ask teachers “When will I use this in the real world?” Usually, teachers will just say “Trust me, you will use it.” However, a recent survey found that 80% of Americans never use Math beyond what they learned in 6th-grade, such as decimals, fractions, and percentages. Also, the 20% who ARE using higher-level math, such as algebra or calculus are blue-collar workers (construction, and mechanical trades).

Conrad Wolfram, one of the world’s foremost mathematicians, describes how standardized tests focus entirely on the student’s ability to do repetitive computations by hand quickly and error-free. He said, “These tests have nothing to do with creative problem-solving. They don’t assess what people do in real life with math, which is to solve hard problems by using the power of modern computers. No one finds integers or inverse metrics today outside of education in the tests they take in high school. They use a computer, a tablet or a phone.”

Did you know that today’s smartphone has 10,000 times the power of a multi-million dollar supercomputer from 1970? We also have Google at our fingertips 24/7 to answer all our questions.

The bigger question is, should our children be wasting 12 years memorizing facts? At Acton Academy, we don’t think so. Children should learn from the start how to apply what they are learning to real life. We do this through real-world projects called “Quests.”

One of our Quests is called the Sandwich Economics. The learners are tasked to figure out how much it costs to make a sandwich. We take a trip to the grocery store so they can find all the ingredients and purchase them. We come back to the studio and they re-do their math to see if they were close to the real answer. After that, they make the sandwiches and bring them to a local soup kitchen.

Do you think your child’s time is best spent memorizing facts for standardized tests, that they will most likely never use in the real world? Or do you want your child’s education to focus on real-world problem solving that requires creativity and imagination?

The choice is yours.


When Adults Take A Step Back, Children Do Amazing Things

There is a belief in our society that children have to be told what to do. Many people think children are unable to make decisions for themselves or to motivate themselves. Unfortunately, the old saying of “children should be seen and not heard” is still ingrained in the roots of our society.

Starting at preschool, we were taught how to follow directions and obey rules. In fact, we became very good at doing everything in a way that pleased our teachers. However, if you believe that children are not capable to make decisions and be motivated, how do you explain all the successful entrepreneurial children who are crushing it in their market today? How do you explain a 10-year old girl who designed and sold her own stationery at Etsy? How about a 9-year old girl who published her own book that is now for sale on Amazon?

At Acton Academy, we empower our learners with positive thinking. We also give them the tools they need to be successful, such as learning how to set goals, overcoming obstacles, and striving for excellence.

When adults take a step back, that’s the only time you will see how amazing children can be with their creativity and motivation. Children want to do things. Their drive to accomplish things is exemplary. They are still young enough that society hasn’t impose its limiting beliefs on their minds yet. When a child believes he can be a superhero, that is his reality.

Giving children the freedom over their own learning makes them excited to go to school. It makes school mean more to them as an individual. In addition, it makes them super inspired to follow their creativity and curiosity, which then allows them to find their passion.

The question is, are you the type of person who is going to let your child be dictated to all day long, so they can be a good follower? Or are you going to empower your children to make their own decisions and become a confident leader?


How To Connect Deeper With Your Child

If your child is thriving at a traditional school and you know they’re on the path to realizing their dreams, this message is not for you. On the other hand, if you feel like something is missing and you are searching for something better out there, then please read on or watch the video recap!

It might be that your child is advanced in some subjects, but he is not able to move at his own pace because he has to wait for the rest of the class to catch up. Perhaps, your child has a ton of energy and he kept on being sent to the principal’s office. He may start feeling like he is a bad child, but he is not. He just has a lot of energy and can’t sit still at a desk for 8 hours a day. After all, sitting on a desk for a long time isn’t something normal for any child to be doing. Maybe your child used to be so excited about school but the sparkle left their eyes and the motivation is gone. No matter what you say, you can’t get them to push themselves. Whatever the reason is for you and your child, there is something you can do.

Of course, there are some parents who are fine with the way things are. They may even think or feel like there is nothing they can do about changing their child’s experience in school. After all, that’s the way school is and that’s the way it’s always been done! I call these parents the Status Quo Parent. “Good” is good enough for them.

On the other hand, there are others like us who look at the status quo and think, “Can this be better? Is there something more I can do?” I call them the Inspired Parent. These are parents who are curious and always searching for answers. They know there must be a better way.

Let me teach you one powerful character-building system we use every day at Acton Academy. We have what we call “Socratic Discussions.” We have circle time in the morning where we present real-world dilemmas. The learners talk about various topics and they are called to make a stance, stick to it, and defend it. There is no right or answer. It’s all about opinions. We have amazing conversations with children ages 5-10. It’s amazing what children can come up with when you let them talk and have ideas of their own.

Today, so much of traditional schools memorize facts that have a right or wrong answer. They practice passively with their opinions and aren’t usually asked to think on their own. Imagine if you implemented a Socratic discussion every day with your children? I think a good time for this is at dinner. Do you think your family would get closer? Do you think it might spark curiosity on certain subjects? Do you think it would give your child a chance to practice taking a stance on something and defending their opinion?

My husband, my son and I have evening circles where we go over what we were most grateful for in the day and what we’re looking forward to the next day. If you’re wondering how to come up with topics or find a question, you can talk about a topic that is currently on the news (“Will there ever be peace on earth?”) or grab a coffee table conversations deck, or even use a behavior you want to see changed in your child (that one is a favorite at Acton – we just had a discussion on “It is ok to lie? why/why not?”). In case you get stuck, I am more than happy to send you a page of questions or topics to get you started.

I know that you want to see the best in your child. At Acton Academy, we believe that every person who enters our doors is a genius and they will use their passions to change the world. Our Eagles engage in their education as heroes on a journey and they are looking for the treasure within themselves. 

I wish you success and a deeper connection with your own little heroes.


Challenge The Status Quo To Help Your Child Succeed

Becoming a mother changes everything. Your life revolves around your children and you are always in the depths of parenthood.  There are no breaks, no days off and even if you are not physically with them, you are always thinking about them. It is a beautiful, rewarding, and wonderful experience, but it is challenging at the same time because knowing what is best for your children is not always easy.

When I had my son, my husband and I started thinking about school. We knew we wanted a nature-based preschool for him, perhaps something like Montesorri. In the process, I had so many questions in my mind. I love to dig into information and learn about all my options before I make a decision. My husband, on the other hand, is an engineer. When it comes to research,  he takes it to a whole new level and looks at every consumer report and review before making a purchase. With that being said, the two of us did a lot of research! When it came to finding the right school for our son, we spent a lot of time listening to podcasts, reading books, and going on school tours. 

One thing we found about private schools is how they offer an edge on certain things, such as sports or having smaller classrooms. On the other hand, when you get down to it, most private schools were traditional school-modeled. They still had all students segregated by age in different classrooms,  with a strict schedule dictated by bells and traditional tests for competency. 

As we kept on searching, we discovered a whole new world of alternative education such as homeschooling. Homeschooling is amazing if you have the ability to dedicate enough time to it for your children. However, that was not an option for us. 

The moment we came across Acton Academy, it spoke to my heart so clearly. It was a dream school that I would have wanted to attend. It is a place where children can learn at their own pace and do what interests them. It is a place where they can choose different platforms for their core skills, depending on their personality. It is also a school where students work on real-world projects. As they solve real-world dilemmas at school, they also learn real-world skills and invaluable character traits. 

My husband and I went looking for an Acton right away, but the closest one to us was Northern New Jersey. We decided we would either move or open our own.  There were 8,000 applications in the pipeline to open your own Acton. Luckily, I was able to get our application in and we were accepted.

Whenever people hear about Acton, it just makes sense to them because this is the way schools should be. There are a lot of parents out there that think everything is going pretty well,  but that there is something missing. They feel there is something better out there. But what is it? We think the missing link is character development. An environment where children learn grit,  perseverance, kindness, endurance and most importantly, who they are inside as an individual. They learn to value themselves and challenge themselves and they lay out and initiate a plan to follow their passions and change the world. 

Today, there are 178 schools opened worldwide and we are growing fast. We are happy and excited to be part of this network where we are spreading a new philosophy of learning.


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