Follow the Child

Courage to Grow: How Acton Academy Turns Learning Upside Down was written by Acton Academy's co-founder Laura A. Sandefer.  This book documents her journey of finding a learning environment appropriate for her children. This journey was steeped with challenges and took courage to pursue--resulting in the creation and establishment of Acton Academy.

Acton’s values are research-based and include best practices.  This divergent educational model focuses on the child's individual needs, wants, and desires. On the page directly following the dedication is a quote by Dr. Maria Montessori, “Follow the child.” This is in my top five Montessori quotes and I was geeked-out when I saw it included in this book.

My copy of  Courage to Grow: How Acton Academy Turns Learning Upside Down turned into my smash-book project. I am a multi-sensory learner and I need to be engaged when reading or I will absorb and digest little. I often take color-coded notes, read passages aloud, and draw mind-map pictures related to the text. I enjoy making smash journals. When I read a great book, I look to it as a mentor or friend. Laura’s book is now one of those mentor texts that I will be rereading for many years to come. 

In Chapter 2, “A Call to Action,” Laura shares the research, ideas, and influences that have shaped the Acton Academy foundation of learning. Dr. Maria Montessori's educational model was also explained in this chapter. I felt proud to see this philosophy included due to my personal background. It was heart-warming to have the Montessori approach explored in the book rather than just having her work cited at the bottom of a page.

This week while doing our community “meet and greet,” the Eagles were enjoying a stroll while viewing holiday window displays and light decorations. One Eagle noticed a large red mailbox that was uniquely for letters to Santa. We stopped to read the sign that proclaimed when the last letters would be delivered to the Jolly Old Fella. 

At the time, I didn’t realize what bliss my next few hours would be! When the designated time for core skills rolled around, the Eagles were asking to write letters to Santa with their requests. Why not? It follows the boundaries of core skills: handwriting, spelling, grammar, and manners (including correspondence etiquette). 

The letters also contained questions for Santa and their wish list items. As a community when an Eagle shares their final product or in this case the letter, we give character call outs.  This time was no exception It was a quiet, focused, and happy exercise.  This child-driven work was meaningful and purposeful – exactly what children of this age group need to get into their best flow. 

My heart grew like the Grinch's when I was involved in this spontaneous letter writing experience.  The children, Acton Academy, and the quote in Laura’s book gave me a gift:  the opportunity to “Follow the child.”