One Truth We Can’t Get Around at Acton

Laura Sandefer

February 16, 2018

My friend would sleep on her textbook before a biology exam thinking the words might sink in. She also played recorded lectures while she slept hoping for the same easy fix.

Sadly, there is no easy fix for true learning.

As much as we talk about the love and fun of learning at Acton, there is one truth we cannot get around:

Learning is hard.

How so?

1  I must embrace a bit of suffering for deep learning to happen. (Maybe it’s pushing through the disturbing feeling of not understanding something; or maybe it’s the sting of mistakes that are bound to happen.)

2 I must invest a large quantity of time. (Here’s the gist of a recent conversation in our home: “I’m sorry you hate math right now. You think you’re not good at it? How much time did you spend on Khan Academy this week? Let’s look at the dashboard…oh, 65 minutes this week? And you think you aren’t good at math? It takes a lot more time to master math. What you are doing is really hard. Have you watched the videos? How many times? I know these videos may not be exactly entertaining but they do bring you face-to-face with a master who will show you how to do the work. Think of him as your private coach. Some people watch a video over and over again to understand, finally, how to work the problems. There is no easy way out of this. I know you can do this. I’ve seen you work really hard many times.)

3I will want to quit. Distractions tantalize and practicing is boring.

4I have to be the one to do the work. No one can do it for me. And learning cannot be done to me. Learning is a deeply internal, ultimately private experience. Even when collaboration and play are part of the on-going process, deep learning is dependent on the learner’s honesty and effort.

Grounded in the story of the Hero’s Journey, the Acton Eagles have guides and fellow travelers alongside them as they learn. This means they have others who believe in them, love them and will not let them fall under the radar. It also means they have a safe place to grow their intelligence and their strength of character, even grit, over time. This is the magical – and difficult – road to living a meaningful life that is happy and purposeful.

At Acton, we embrace constructive collaboration, friendly competition, game-based programs and engaging quests. While these things may add fun and energy to the day, the truth lurking around every corner of every interesting activity is the hard work that must happen for the learning to stick.

As a mother, this means I must let my children have the suffering along with the fun. There are days I want to take the struggle away. I mustn’t. If I do the work for them, I will rob them of their own learning especially in the realm of “learning to be” where we become fully human, living rich lives filled with love and joy.

Up next: How do I know if my child is learning anything at Acton? I can’t see progress in the portfolio this time.

And then: An Important “To Do” item for Acton Academy Parents.

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