As parents, we all want to support our kids’ dreams. We also want to raise humans who are self-motivated and care about serving their communities. Yet these goals can be in conflict if and when we “snow plow” the obstacles away from our kids’ paths, as admittedly tempting as that may be.
Whether it’s starting a new business, pursuing a cause, changing the status quo, inventing something new, or leading others, our children will eventually need to motivate themselves while also having a passion for solving the world’s problems. And they will need to build the habits necessary to do so while they are still children. Maybe they won’t be the next Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, or President of the United States (or maybe they will), but the spirit of service and innovation at any level is about the drive to seek solutions and refuse to be a victim of the way things currently are.
Acton Academy Madison West is a local private school that prides itself on helping each learner develop that spirit. We can also apply some of the school’s guiding principles at home with our family. Here are four ways we can raise the next generation of community leaders and problem-solvers:
1. Encourage children to pursue their interests and their “call to adventure”
Go back in time to your high school English class, when you learned about the hero’s journey that underpins every epic narrative. The hero of the story is called to an adventure that takes him or her outside of their comfort zone, tests them, and changes them. Like life imitating art, we all experience the hero’s journey. At home, we can embolden our kids to explore their passions and meet challenges, big or small, as part of their journey. Are they beginning a new friendship? Learning about volcanoes? Playing a new sport? These are all examples of the call to adventure. When they encounter inevitable obstacles, guide your children to see them as learning opportunities. Help them brainstorm solutions by asking powerful questions. Encourage them to find mentors or friends (fellow travelers) to support them. Help them reflect on what they have learned and how they are growing and changing. Instill in them the notion that the hero is the one who takes on the challenge and gets up when her or she fails.
2. Create time for independent, learner-driven projects
These days, it’s not uncommon to jampack our schedules with activities. But even visionaries need time to day dream, tinker, and pursue their ideas and interests. Heroes are self-motivated, driven by curiosity and fascination. A project or topic chosen by your child can be the fuel they need to spark a passion for research, problem-solving and discussion. For us, we stumbled upon a book about the Trojan Horse, which sparked weeks of interest. My son asked us to draw pictures together of the horse, and read more books. I found documentaries for us to watch together, and finally he initiated a playdate with a friend to build and decorate Trojan Horses out of boxes and role-play the Greek invasion of Troy. When your child has down time, away from screens, their minds and curiosity will flourish.
3. Provide questions rather than answers
Sometimes the best answer is another question. As parents, it’s tempting to direct and provide solutions, especially when we are trying to get out the door on time, or adhere to our daily timelines. But when we can slow down, and turn the question back on our children by asking, “What do you think?,” they are often more resourceful and capable than we expect them to be. It’s in these child-led discussions that our children develop a habit and pride of self-efficacy.
4. Find, or be, a “running partner” for your child
Every hero needs fellow travelers on their journey. Partners help each other set goals, act as sounding boards, and sometimes even provide accountability. You can be your child’s running partner, or even better, help them find a peer who can play that role, likely a friend who shares a strong mutual interest with your child. Running partners encourage and inspire one another by providing a space to discuss big ideas. Leaders and change-agents know the value of intentional friendships.
About Acton Academy Madison West
Do you believe in heroes? Do you believe character still matters? Do you believe that learning to learn, learning to do, and learning to be are more important than tests alone? Do you yearn for your child to find a calling and not just a career? Then Acton Academy Madison West may be right for you and your family.
Here is a documentary about Acton Academy:
Described as a “one-room schoolhouse for the 21st century,” Acton Academy Madison West provides a learner-driven education incorporating Montessori principles using mixed-age classrooms (studios) and allowing learners to move freely about the classroom, in addition to 21st century e-learning tools, immersive real-world projects (quests) and adherence to the Socratic method. Our learners don’t just memorize facts; they learn how to learn, learn how to do, and learn how to be. Our heroes (our name for students) are independent learners who find great joy in learning in a tight-knit community that upholds the highest standards of excellence.