Often, we are asked what type of families are a good fit for your school, Wildflower: An Acton Academy. We used to say: "Everyone " or “Anyone can flourish,” but recently we realized that only Heroes and parents that have the courage and conviction to set and hold high standards will truly flourish.
Originally, we believed if either a Hero and the parents were committed, the odds were good that their child would thrive at Wildflower. We still believe almost any young person can succeed at Wildflower. In truth, we have witnessed firsthand the amount of emotional, social, and academic success our Heroes have. But we now know a Hero and their parents must be fully committed to a Hero’s Journey or it puts too much pressure on the studio.
In other words, if our Acton Academy is a model for hundreds of Learner Driven Communities, we cannot ask Heroes to put up with studio-mates who shirk work or disrespect others or parents who allow such behavior to continue.
A Courageous Stand Against Corrosive Forces in Modern Society
Wildflower: An Acton Academy's families face three corrosive forces in modern society:
Resistance – a fear-based reluctance to take the first step in learning a key skill; and
Distractions – addictive-like behaviors towards video games, television, and social media.
Victim-hood – lashing out at others rather than courageously assuming personal responsibility for life’s surprises and challenges.
Under and over-parenting in America has led to:
The average nine-year-old spending over 50 hours per week in front of a screen;
Child obesity increasing 500% in a single generation;
Americans medicating teenagers at seventeen times higher rates than parents in Great Britain.
Even more troubling than tumbling rankings on international tests is the loss of self-control, conscientiousness, and civility that are the bedrock for a satisfying and fulfilling life at age 30 and beyond.
Celebrating Heroes and Parents Committed to a Hero’s Journey
Wildflower parents refuse to cede critical responsibilities to schools in return for a report card that makes them look like successful parents. They care less about being “liked” by their children or short-term happiness, and instead accept the struggles, failures, and lessons needed to prepare for a fulfilling life in the real world.
Wildflower parents are willing to hold the line when a Hero refuses to work or acts disrespectfully:
Overcoming Resistance by insisting Heroes take the first step.
Removing Distractions by setting strict limits on or even eliminating access to television, social media, and the internet;
Ignoring Victim-hood and instead of letting the natural consequences of studio contracts and covenants shape habits and decisions; and
Making manual labor or a much less attractive traditional school the alternative to Wildflower instead of a painless transfer to a less demanding school where every child receives a trophy.
No doubt, as a parent at Wildflower: An Acton Academy, you have embarked on a Hero’s Journey (whether you are ready for it or not!). Below are answers, testimony, and tips we’ve gathered from Acton Academy parents from all over the world to equip and inspire you on your Hero’s Journey as a parent:
What should I do as a parent if my hero has an issue in the studio?
In a learner-driven community, run by developing Heroes, this is sure to occur. One of the overarching goals for these young Heroes is to empower them to solve their problems and see themselves as Heroes of their lives, not victims of their circumstances.
So when an issue occurs in the studio we typically ask a few questions, which help us determine what actions to take:
Is a child being intentionally harmed either physically or emotionally?
If so, email the guides at email@example.com and encourage your hero to talk about it with a guide.
Does this bother them or just me?
if just me, wait and observe.
Does this bother them?
Encourage them to use the tools they have to make the studio a better place to be. In most cases, a Hero knows the courageous action they must take, but would rather a parent step in and rescue them.
We find that oftentimes problems in the studio bother us as parents or guides, but don’t really bother the heroes.
Sometimes, however, it is a real problem for the Heroes, which creates a great opportunity for them to learn to do something and forge character in the process. As parents, we can encourage our Heroes to pick up a tool in the Studio and solve their own problems.
In this scenario, here are a few questions to help them recognize what tools they have, and empower them to solve the problem:
“Have you asked the person doing it for a Hero Buck every single time?” - This will stop negative behavior extremely fast.
“Do you have any outstanding issues with any of your fellow travelers about this?” - Challenge them to go to the peace table and, if they would be more comfortable, request a guide to help with conflict resolution.
“Is this a problem that everyone faces?” - Challenge them to bring it up in town hall meetings, and suggest a solution.
What if my hero is unhappy?
We promise to equip and inspire your child to find a calling that will change the world. Struggles and difficulties are part of the journey.
Instead of focusing on short-term happiness, Wildflower: An Acton Academy focuses on long-term satisfaction and fulfillment. Overcoming short-term challenges is often a part of that journey.
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, Wildflower 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. They are more resilient than we might be able to expect. Most of our hearts would break if we knew the challenges Heroes quietly and bravely overcome.
It can be hard to watch our children face challenges, but heroic parents must look to the long-term value of challenges to determine if they must interject. I was recently talking with another owner who said that one of their parent nights led to a wonderful belief that struggles and challenges are valuable if they are in pursuit of a worthy goal or outcome. Sometimes stepping back is the best choice we can make.
We also find that many challenges make us anxious because they touch on something we’ve experienced in our past or experience today.
So if a situation makes you particularly angry or anxious, before reacting ask: “Is this more about me or my 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 s/he doesn’t, fall into the mindset that the learning community or school should require the behavior.
Unfortunately, deep and lasting 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. Additionally, the systems at Wildflower reward hard work and growth by rewarding effort (Weekly Points), excellent work (Badges), and leadership (360 Degree Feedback) with more freedom, which encourages growth and learning through choice. All of these things will be introduced with time in our Studio when the learners are ready and asking for them.
What if my Hero simply refuses to work hard?
This is a difficult question because human motivation remains one of the great mysteries.
Our studio systems, modeled after companies like Google and Amazon, are designed to reward effort, excellent work, and leadership with more freedom, and to reduce freedom for lack of effort, excellence, and leadership.
There are three primary reasons a hero struggles to work hard in the studio. These real-world obstacles are a core piece of the learning and development at Wildflower: An Acton Academy. Most of us face these same struggles each day:
Resistance: Sometimes it just takes courage to take the first step towards something hard. Encouragement and modeling are powerful tools here. We often ask ourselves when we see resistance in our children, when is the last time we took a difficult and courageous first step in front of our family?
Distraction: Cheap distraction is everywhere in life. For me, this comes in the form of social media, tv, or checking my email. In the studio, this might look like a hero fiddling with a toy, chatting with a friend, doing cartwheels, or even changing the background on their computer. Freedoms in the studio can be lost if a child is too distracted. Parents might also consider removing distractions at home to encourage more effort in the studio.
Victim Mindset: 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 were born in America and attend Wildflower: An Acton Academy, the complaint 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 fails?
Let us be abundantly clear.
Your Hero will fail.
We as Wildflower Owners and Guides will fail.
You will fail as parents.
All these are OKAY. Failing doesn’t make us failures. We will all mess up and stumble in our roles as Learners, Guides/Owners, and Parents. The important thing is that we fail forward. That we productively struggle and grow.
If you are afraid of failing or allowing your child to fail/struggle. Wildflower is not the place for your family.
What if my Hero gets a third strike and has to spend a day at home?
If a Hero is asked to go home for a day, this is a powerful opportunity for deep learning. Everyone makes mistakes, including harming others, but when discovered and called out, 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 Hero is progressing?
Our tracking systems allow you to view the work your Hero produces. Reviewing Weekly Points, Badges earned, and Hero Bucks asked (or 360 Degree Reviews) will give you a far more accurate picture of progress than a report card, standardized test, or the opinion of a Guide. These support the vision of a Hero's Journey.
More specifically, you can find these details by asking your Hero and checking in on Journey Tracker, the online tracking tool they use every day in the studio to track goals and progress.
More important than measurements on a Hero’s Journey are the questions a parent asks a child every day. Here is a list of powerful questions we can ask our young Heroes to prepare them with the character to embark on a Hero’s Journey. Here is that list:
Questions that seek understanding:
"What's the best thing that happened today?"
"What's the most challenging thing that happened today?"
"What did you discuss at launch this morning?"
"Did you learn anything new about yourself or your calling today?"
Asking "Why?" Listening, then asking again. Variation: "Why do you think...?"
What did you fail at today?
Questions that discover and reinforce heroic character:
What did you do that was hard today?
What did you do that was kind today?
What did you do that was [character trait] today?
What did someone do to you that was [character trait] today?
Questions that follow up on challenges or goals:
"What goals did you set today?"
"Did you submit that town hall request today?"
"Did you ask [name] to go to the peace table today?"
"Did you ask someone for a hero buck today?"
"Did someone ask you for a hero buck today?"
Likely a lot of opportunities to follow up with encouragement, trust, and relatable personal stories with these questions.
Why are there Guides and not teachers at Wildflower: An Acton Academy?
Heroes at Wildflower have access to all the great teachers in the world, from Sal Khan to Richard Feynman to a Youtube video to the squad member 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. This, however, does not mean that Guides do not offer support. We use Growth Mindset language and respond with challenging, thought-provoking questions to empower Heroes to find the answers to their questions.
Teaching and learning are not the same things. Our main job is to provide the inspiration, tools, and processes for Heroes to solve the difficult challenges we offer, until s/he is ready to find her/his challenges on their journey.
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 Heroes 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. We care less about the perfect exhibition and more about the learning opportunities to create one.
This is an example of focusing on the process of learning, rather than the outcomes. Better for these young Heroes to try and fail and learn than to be relieved of all the responsibility to make it look really good at the hand of an adult.
What if I don’t understand a studio system, like Hero Bucks, Badges, or Freedom Levels.
First, ask your Hero. If your Hero says she doesn’t understand the system, they are likely having a hard time explaining it because of age or it is likely they just don’t want to discuss it. Heroes are more than happy to explain how the Studio works to newcomers, and operate in the Studio with great understanding.
If you would like to dig further, set up a time to come in and visit the Studio with your child and get a tour. You’ll get all the info you need!
What if I need to pick up my hero?
Parents are welcome anytime.
How do I know my Hero will succeed at Wildflower: An Acton Academy, especially when it’s hard?
We believe almost any young person can succeed at Wildflower, 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 problems, even when the world seems unfair. The future of Western Civilization may well depend on real Heroes that massively succeed in the reality of life.
I hope you enjoy what we’ve learned together so far, and look forward to many more adventures ahead.