Parents on a Hero’s Journey

Dear  Acton Academy Parents,

Welcome and we thank you for going on this journey with us. You may have some questions as the years or months go by on how our studio runs and how your children can thrive in this environment. Below are answers to a few questions you may have:

What should I do as a parent if my Hero has an issue in the studio?

Our goal is to arm Heroes to solve their own problems, without parental intervention.


  1. Ask your Hero for permission to become involved before you do anything.
  2. Resist the temptation to email a Guide unless it is a matter of serious, immediate harm. Guides are asked not to respond directly to parent emails, but to follow a process that equips the Hero to solve his or her own problem.
  3. Ask your Hero whether she should approach a Guide with the issue and help her frame the issue in a positive light.
  4. If the issue remains unresolved, ask your hero to write an email to fellow travelers and copy Guides, expressing his/her frustration and a proposed remedy.
  5. If the issue is a personal one between Heroes, ask your Hero to call for a Conflict Resolution session, at the peace table.
  6. If the issue is serious and remains unresolved, a Hero may call for everyone involved to meet to address the issue, and parents are welcome to observe but not participate. We’ve found requiring everyone to be in the same room discourages mixed messages and triangulation, and often deescalates issues.

What if my Hero is unhappy?

Our promise is to equip and inspire your Eagle to find a calling that will change the world. Struggles and difficulties are part of the journey.

We are encouraged by research showing we all have a natural set point for happiness, and tend to revert to that level no matter what the circumstances – so chasing happiness often is a dead-end journey. Acton Academy focuses on long term satisfaction and fulfillment rather than momentary happiness.

As parents, we’ve found our Heroes grow most when we comfort them and listen empathically, but do not try to solve the problem ourselves or allow blame to be cast on others. “I hear you. That must be so hard. I trust you to find a way to solve this on your own and can’t wait to hear how you did it” seem to be the most powerful words we can use as parents.

If your goal is to have a child who is happy all the time, Acton Academy may not be the right place for you.

What if my Hero is facing a problem that makes me especially anxious?

Our Heroes take extremely difficult situations in stride every day. It’s called life. Most of our hearts would break if we knew the challenges all Heroes quietly and bravely overcome.

We’ve found when an event makes us especially anxious – like social anxiety or bullying — is more likely about an unresolved issue we faced in childhood than a problem our Hero is confronting. However, once an Hero senses our concern, he or she may consciously or unconsciously return to the topic, because it brings attention and comfort.

So if a situation makes you particularly angry or anxious, before reacting ask: “Is this more about me or my Hero?”

I’m very frustrated because I keep emailing Guides and never receive an answer or resolution.

Guides are equipped never to come between an Eagle and her parents. Our job is to let parents parent; let Heroes learn to solve their own problem in a safe environment; and as Guides ensure the guidelines and processes Heroes create are respected or altered.

All emails sent to any one Guide or Owner are immediately copied to all Guides for transparency and so everyone is on the same page. Plus, we keep track of the number of emails we receive from each family. As a yardstick, the average Acton Academy parent sends one or less emails a year about a specific incident regarding a Hero.

Why can’t you force my Hero to ……… ?

Many of us wish our Hero would spend more time on handwriting or spelling or Math, and when he doesn’t, long for a learning community or school to require the behavior.

Unfortunately, learning doesn’t work this way. Someone has to want to learn, if deep learning is to occur.

We’ve found that Growth Mindset language and praise – and most of all patience – work better than criticism. We also have systems at Acton Academy to reward hard work and growth by rewarding effort (Weekly Points), excellent work (Badges) and leadership (360 Coaching Reviews) with more freedom.

What if my Hero simply refuses to work hard?

This is a difficult question, because human motivation remains one of the great unsolved mysteries.

Our studio systems, modeled after companies like Google, are designed to reward effort, excellent work and leadership with more freedom. For those struggling, increasingly higher amounts of effort and goodwill to remain in the studio. We even offer ways to provide grace and a chance to start over.

When we still see motivation issues as parents, the three most likely suspects are:

Distraction: Is your Eagle, like most, drawn into social media, games, web surfing or other types of cheap distraction? If so, as a parent, you may need to strictly limit access to these distractions. While extrinsic rewards have their limits, some parents have found tying electronic access to Weekly Points will increase motivation.

When in this situation, we often ask ourselves if we are fiddling with our own Iphones instead of paying enough attention to those around us.

Resistance: Sometimes it just takes courage to take the first step. Encouragement and modeling are powerful tools here. We often ask ourselves when we see resistance in our Heroes, when is the last time we took a difficult and courageous first step in front of our family?

The Victim: Often Heroes gain attention and solace by playing the part of the victim, and almost all families have some form of the Dreaded Drama Triangle. We highly recommend listening to the book as a family or watching the videos, and committing to use the language of empowerment instead.

At the very least, while being empathetic we refuse to allow our Heroes to blame others or circumstances. If you live in America and attend Acton Academy, the lament that “life is unfair” rings hollow.

When the Victim is the issue, we ask if we are modeling negative or blaming language ourselves, or playing the part of a Rescuer or a Persecutor.

What if my Hero gets a strike or an honor code and has to spend a day at home?

If our Hero is asked to stay home for a day, this is a powerful opportunity for deep learning. Everyone makes mistakes, but when discovered, it gives us a chance to encourage deep introspection.

As parents, we’ve found it far more powerful to reexamine our Family Mission and Plan, look explicitly at facing resistance; remove distractions and disavow the Victim.

What if I’m worried about how my Eagle is progressing?

Our Tracker system allows you to view the work your Hero produces. Reviewing Weekly Points, Badges earned versus plan and Hero Bucks asked/versus requested (or 360 Coaching Reviews) will give you a far more accurate picture of progress than a report card or standardized test.

If our Hero seems to be struggling, we offer encouragement as well as asking the following questions and seeking verification:

1. Are you doing 45 minutes of Khan Academy each and every day? Are you watching the videos? 2. Do you have a Deep Book and are you reading at least 45 minutes each day?
3. Are you doing every challenge for the Genre (writing) prompts?
4. Are you doing every Civilization challenge?
5. Are you guarding against distractions and avoiding being asked for Hero Bucks?
Quests are like dessert. If your Hero is struggling, verify that the required effort is being put into Core Skills first.

What if my Hero says he/she just can’t learn from Khan Academy?

Many parents worry that without a teacher, it’s impossible to “learn math.” We’ve found just the opposite: Khan Academy is incredibly powerful and requires users to learn to think critically, from a number of perspectives, mastering a far broader set of mathematical approaches.

In contract, many traditional math teachers simply ask students to repeat a limited number of simple algorithms as homework. And despite what we might hope, seldom do traditional schools deliver powerful theoretical insights.

Heroes who have a hard time with Khan Academy typically struggle because they do not do the work or refuse to watch the videos. It is likely they would find the lectures of most traditional math teachers even more boring.

So if your Hero is struggling, start by making sure he/she is spending 45 minutes a day, every day. Encourage him/her to watch the videos, every time, and only afterwards to seek Socratic help in the studios. We’ve also found as parents that sitting beside a Hero who is doing Khan provides encouragement.

Why don’t Heroes have teachers at Acton Academy?

Heroes at Acton Academy have access to all the great teachers in the world, from Sal Khan to Richard Feynman to a You Tube video to the squad mate sitting beside them. We equip Heroes to hire or engage a teacher whenever they need one, rather than to be captive to a boring teacher-as-authority figure.

Young people are so accustomed to being under the authority of adults that we have found it impossible to have a Guide serve as both a Socratic role model and an authority figure, which is why guides simply do not answer questions.

Teaching and learning are not the same thing. Our main job is to provide the inspiration, tools and processes for Heroes to solve the difficult challenges we offer, until he is ready to find his own challenges.

Why don’t we teach science like a regular school? What if my child learns an erroneous concept or principle?

Science taught in traditional schools – textbook memorization and repeating tired experiments — bears little resemblance to science in the real world.

While it might make us feel better to have our child make an “A” on an AP Biology exam by correctly repeating scientific jargon and facts, any knowledge tends to be ephemeral. Our approach is much more a “learning to do” process to encourage deep learning, as described in the blogpost “Preparing Scientific Heroes in the 21st Century” If your Hero claims he is missing basic concepts, it’s likely he is skipping important links and simulations in a challenge, and would be just as likely to tune out in a science lecture. We like to ask our Heroes about how a Quest is going, and use those discussions to generate more interest.

Occasionally, a Hero will misstate an important principle. Of course, this happens in traditional classrooms as well, and easily is corrected in time if you are interested in the subject. Most world class scientists, like Richard Feynman, do not focus on being right, but rather posing powerful questions.

Why aren’t exhibitions more polished, with a clear presentation of all the information that’s been taught during the session?

In Exhibitions it is the responsibility of Hero to deliver an excellent value for parents and guests, so our events are not stage managed by adults. We ask parents and visitors to offer frank criticism as well as praise and to direct it to their Hero and his or her peers.

What if I don’t understand a studio system, like Hero Bucks or badges or Freedom Levels.

First, ask your Hero. If your Hero says she doesn’t understand the system, it’s more likely she just doesn’t want to discuss it. Heroes are more than happy to explain how the studio works to newcomers.

Next, commit to complete one of the Family Badges on Tracker to answer your own question or read through one of your Hero’s badges versus the requirements.

What if I need to pick up my Hero?

Parents are welcome anytime. Please let us know when you would like to come by.

How do I know my Hero will succeed at Acton Academy, especially when it’s hard?

We believe almost any young person can succeed at Acton Academy Jacksonville, and more importantly, the Heroes agree.

The key question is whether we are committed to our own Hero’s Journey as parents, which means trusting our Heroes to solve their own problems, even when the world seems unfair. The future of Western Civilization may well depend on it.

I hope you enjoy what we’ve learned together so far, and look forward to many more adventures ahead.

*most apply to our Heroes who are 7 years old or older