We enter into our child’s education years a little tired from toddlerhood hopefully optimistic about what is to come but ultimately a bit lost on how to help or what to even do. At Acton Academy, we require you to be an active member of your learner’s education team. 

But what does that even mean?!?

We have several ways to track your learner’s progress through their week, month, and year. Primary has a program called Transparent classroom where you can see the lessons your learner has been given as well as detailed descriptions about the lesson. Some questions to ask could be. Can you tell me how this lesson works? What lesson are you asking for next?

School Rush also provides good conversation. “Oh look at you working hard at the pink tower how high did you stack the blocks?” “Look at this photo of you working on handwriting; you are working hard there, did you work on this after lunch?”

Journey Tracker is for elementary, and soon middle, it is where eagles track their smart goals, receive the quest, writing, and civilization challenges and submit work. Parents have immediate access to all work submitted and progress made.

Here is how you can ask the best questions to support your eagle.

  • Check out the badge plan; this is the big map of the plan you signed off on. Green badges mean complete! Red means it is time for you to ask questions. It is not always bad, but it gives you a great conversation starter, now you can give love, encouragement, support, and troubleshooting.

  • Click over to weekly tracking - Don’t do this every day no one likes micromanaging. Green means complete, red means not complete, which is not always bad but again gives you a conversation starter.



Learning takes Time


Learning is HARD!

The requirements to accomplish any goal are pretty serious too.

  • Time - It always takes more time than you thought it would take — a recent Eagle check-in. I see you have not watched any Khan videos this week? Eagle, “I’m not good at math” Math can be hard and requires practice every day, just like an athlete or a singer. Have you watched the videos? How many times? Sal Khan is a great teacher, and you have him all to yourself. I know you can work hard; I have seen you accomplish hard things in the past.

  • Suffering - Yes, you must embrace the suffering, also known as hard work; it is a critical ingredient in deep learning. Recently a primary learner said to me midway through handwriting work. “Mrs. Malin my hand hurts!!!” “I sure bet they do; your handwriting muscles are finally growing because you are working so hard.”

  • Defeat Distraction - We all battle the three horsemen of Distraction, Resistance, and Victimhood.

  • Independence - You must go it alone, as no one can perform learning on you. There is no learning pill you can take, unfortunately. Learning is a solitary experience that the learner must bring themselves to with honesty and intentionality.

The guides and fellow travelers in the story of the hero’s journey help inspire the hero along the way. Allies cheer their hero on, lift them when things don’t go as planned, and hold them accountable when struggling with choices of character. This place of wonder and struggle is the true education that Acton provides.

We live inside a bubble of constructive feedback, friendly but fierce competition, games, stories, and quests. All of this is incredibly fun, but tucked into every corner and crevice is hard work because it is the glue that makes learning stick.

The best book I have read on child development and learning. When we get book club up and going again soon, this will be our 1st book of the year. Yes, it is on Audible as well!

The Carpenter and the Gardner by Alison Gopnik



The Struggle is the Lesson


I tell a story about a plastic bag at least four times a week, and it usually stops parents dead in their tracks.

Imagine your child at the grocery store, helping you in the produce aisle. You ask them to get a bunch of carrots for a meal you will cook together later that evening. They head over and pick out a beautiful bunch of carrot with large green tops and are still wet from the misters. You hand over the bag for them to put the carrots in and for the next 5 min your child struggles to get the large wet carrots in this flimsy bag.

I struggle not to take over and do the work for my child so that we can move on and get our shopping done. I do my best not to steal their learning because I know the struggle is the ultimate lesson and the best teacher of all.

My challenge to all parents is to slow down and not take the lesson from your child. Be still and slow down, maybe even walk away. When they have finished with their lesson, take a minute to celebrate all the hard work they accomplished.



The Rules of Engagement


In all or our studios from Primary to Elementary Socratic discussion is a sacred time full of value at Acton Academy which is why we don’t allow interruption or tardiness.

It’s a time for reflection, exploration, and growth all of which require self governance.

The Rules of Engagement

1. Be on time and prepared.

2. Be concise, clear, and make one point at a time.

3. Do not talk out of turn.

4. Listen respectfully with your whole body.

5. Start by saying “I agree” or “I disagree.”

6. Do not distract.

Abbreviated rules are used in Primary. The next time you have a family meeting say, “Lets use the Rules of Engagement!” or “What rules do you use in circle at school? Could you help us all practice?”

For our family we talk louder and louder until someone says “I keep getting spoken over!” Its then we all realize that boundaries are important to show respect to one another and to grow critical thinking.



Characteristics of Servant Leaders Part 1 

by Ed Lindekugel
CEO Acton Academy at Serenbe

Last week we discussed servant leadership. To follow up, over the next 2 weeks we will look at ten characteristics have been identified as most important for development of servant leaders. All of these characteristics are encouraged in Acton Academy at Serenbe’s program, and should be reinforced at home to maximize development of leadership in our children. Practicing these characteristics yourself will allow you to model them more effectively for your children.

This week, we will look at the first five characteristics: listening, empathy, healing, awareness, and persuasion.

Servant leadership involves prioritizing the needs of others over one’s own. In order to accomplish this, strive to listen attentively to others. To improve listening skills, always strive to give people full attention. Pay attention to their body language, avoid interrupting them, and provide feedback on what they say. Servant leaders strive to understand the intentions and perspectives of others. To be more empathetic, strive to value others' perspectives, and approach situations with an open mind. As a leader, support people both physically and mentally. As I have pointed out in the past, to love someone is to give them what they need. Work to make sure that people have the knowledge, support and resources they need to succeed. Self-awareness is the ability to look at yourself, think deeply about your behavior, and consider how they affect those around you. Understand why you think the way you do (meta-cognition). Anyone can become more self-aware by knowing their strengths and weaknesses. Ask for feedback from others and learn to manage your own emotions. Finally, servant leaders use persuasion and respect, not authority, to encourage action. They aim to build consensus insupport of decisions. Being persuasive should not damage relationships or take advantage of others.

Next week we will address the remaining five: conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people and building community.




Hardwired to Connect

by Ed Lindekugel
CEO Acton Academy at Serenbe

The incredible spread of online access provides youth of the 21st century more opportunities for  interpersonal connection than ever before. However, research shows that high usage of the internet is linked to loneliness, social anxiety and depression.  Some have raised concerns about the impact of internet use on young people and their mental health.

(The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families)

Dr. Rebecca Nowland, research Fellow at the University of Central Lancashire states, “research linking loneliness to internet use has shown that using the internet socially can lead to both increases and decreases in loneliness – depending on how it is used.” When technology is used to connect with people and maintain existing relationships, it can reduce loneliness. But when internet use replaces offline interactions with others, it can increase feelings of loneliness.

(Social media: Is it Really to Blame for Young People Being Lonelier than any Other Age Group?)

So how do parents address these serious concerns for their children? Mitigation of loneliness may lie in the idea of “authoritative communities”, such as Acton Academy at Serenbe.

Hardwired to Connect is a report issued by the Commission on Children at Risk, composed of children’s doctors, research scientists, mental health and youth service professionals. Dartmouth Medical School, YMCA, and the Institute for American Values jointly sponsored the study which sought to address a number of critical problems facing American youth including high and rising rates of psychological issues.  

The report concludes that the cause of this crisis of American childhood is a lack of connectedness; close connections to other people, and deep connections to moral & spiritual meaning. In short, the kind of connections that happen offline.

Humans are “hardwired to connect”; designed to need other people, to have moral meaning, and to be open to the transcendent, and meeting these needs is essential to health and human flourishing. The report found that the best way to meet this need for connectedness is inclusion in authoritative communities—groups of people who are committed to one another over time and who model and pass on at least part of what it means to be a good person and live a good life. Strengthening these communities is likely to be our best strategy for improving the lives of our children.

Hardwired to Connect defines authoritative communities as social institutions that include adults, children and youth. They relate to the child as a person and care about the child for his or her own sake. They are warm and nurturing, and establish clear limits and expectations for children. The core of their work is performed largely by non-specialists. Authoritative communities are multi-generational, have a long-term focus, and reflect and transmit a shared understanding of what it means to be a good person. They encourage spiritual and religious development, and are philosophically oriented to the equal dignity of all persons and to the principle of love of neighbor. The weakening of authoritative communities in the U.S. is arguably the principal reason why large and growing numbers of U.S. children are failing to flourish - and feeling lonely.. (Created for Relationship: A summary of Hardwired to Connect: The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities)

Acton Academy at Serenbe is the ultimate “authoritative community.” The way students learn, the character they develop, their curiosity, initiative, and self regulation - these are all things that are a part of an effective authoritative community, and real life. At Acton Academy, your child will be known and loved.



Character is what Matters

CEO Thoughts

Self-esteem does not define an individual.  Virtuous character does.  Self-esteem and virtuous character are not one in the same.

Without a doubt, getting cut from a sports team hurts a child, but when disappointment from being cut is dealt with appropriately, the blow can be a tool to help the child develop stronger character.

We can't always avoid damaging situations... nor should we.  Sometimes things are disappointing in life, for adults and for kids.  Often we don't reach the goals we set.  Other times we may be rejected or ridiculed. On occasion, we may even be told by others that we are not good or worthwhile. If we spend our lives avoiding damage, we will never challenge ourselves, never venture; never aspire to anything which could result in failure.  The same is true for our children.

We need to encourage our children to work hard to do their best in school.  Guide them to persevere individually and as a member of a team. Promote their development of friendships with new people. Motivate them to audition for the band. Encourage them to try to be anything they want to be, helping them understand that they may fail and that’s ok.  While doing so, we help them focus on their greater purpose in life - to love and serve others.

Sometimes, they will fail; get a poor grade, get cut from a team.  People may say things to them that are very hurtful. When those things happen, teach your child how to use the disappointment as a learning tool and as motivation for even greater commitment and effort.  Encourage them to study harder, practice extra, and even to be extra kind.  Most importantly, teach them how to put a setback into perspective, keeping their focus on their responsibility to serve their fellow citizens and community.

Doing these things will help their temporarily damaged feelings serve as fertilizer for the growth of true and lasting character. It will also help them to develop “grit”, which is where their strength of character comes from.

The Canadian artist Susan Gale states, “Sometimes you don’t realize your own strength until you come face to face with your greatest weakness.”  Allowing children to fail helps them to face their own weaknesses. Life is not always fair. The “good guy” doesn’t always win. Failing or getting hurt is an opportunity to learn and grow. Let it happen, and be there to make sure the lesson is learned. Instead of building “fake” self-esteem you will be building your child into an adult of virtuous character.

COO Thoughts

Our CEO Ed and I sat down and recorded an informal conversation last Saturday. You will get to see some of the clips in upcoming promotional videos. We spoke at length about what a hero is and what that means to both of us. While we talk about heroes a lot during school and in all of our school and board meetings we thought we should define what we mean by "hero".

Simply put, a hero is someone who gets up when they get knocked down - when life doesn't go your way you brush yourself off and try again.

Hallmarks of a hero

  • Heroes take responsibility when a victim makes excuses and blames others.

  • Heroes see a problem and work to fix it when a victim complains that there is one.

  • Heroes keep going when victims quit.

The hero's journey is the process a hero goes through to find their gifts and how they will change the world with their gifts.  This process has stages.

The Hero's Journey

  • Everyday life in the ordinary world

  • A call to adventure - A discovery, challenge, or obstacle.

  • Resisting or refusing the call.

  • Meeting a mentor who changes their mind and encourages them to take on the journey.

  • Cross the threshold where their commitment is tested. Usually, the test is monsters within yourself of resistance, victimhood, and distraction. 

  • Final Battle of overcoming and becoming changed.

  • Reward, journey back home to share your gifts with the world and becoming an ally.

This story is told again and again throughout time because it is the human story we all share.  Harry Potter, The Sword in the Stone, Lord of the Rings...The myth is not about the treasure, it is about the journey, the struggle, and the resulting change within, that is the true treasure.

"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be." - Albus Dumbledore



The Gift of Failure

Every dutiful parent wants to help their child(ren) discover and maximize their gifts and talents. A fundamental principle of Acton at Serenbe is that this is a priority, not only at home but in the learning environment at school as well. It is unlikely anyone would disagree - but how is it accomplished?

Countless articles and research identifies basic behaviors adults should adapt to identify, understand, and nurture the gifts and talents of children. These all have one basic principle in common; the child must have a substantial degree of freedom and independence to make decisions about the activities they engage in and the manner in which those activities are pursued (5 Ways to Help Your Children Find Their Gifts and Talents, How to Find Your Child’s Talent).

Increasingly, adults fail to execute this principle largely due to fear. Increasingly in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the natural human instinct to protect children from potential physical and emotional harm has translated into protection from failure and the elimination of obstacles. The term frequently used to describe this behavior is “helicopter parenting”. Needless to say, this type of adult involvement impedes normal psychological development of independence and confidence in young people.

“Helicopter parenting refers to overly involved and protective parents who constantly communicate with their children, intervene in their children’s affairs, make decisions for their children, personally invest in their children’s goals, and remove obstacles their children encounter” (Investigating Helicopter Parenting, Family Environments, and Relational Outcomes for Millennials). In a recent study, college students who identified as being raised by over-involved parents demonstrated lower psychological well-being with an increased likelihood for depression and anxiety. In addition, college students whose parents self-reported over involvement expressed lower levels of satisfaction with their family life (Helping or Hovering? The Effects of Helicopter Parenting on College Students’ Well-Being).

The problem with helicopter parenting is how it advances a child’s achievement in a transactional manner that impedes their ability to develop and face present and future challenges (Does Hovering Matter? Helicopter Parenting and its effect on well-being). Research also found that “helicopter parenting is associated with decreased self-determination” (The Effects of Helicopter Parenting on Academic Motivation). Another way of putting it… children who are not allowed to fail and learn on their own develop into adults without grit.  That is the reason for the expression shared in my first communication, “if our children don’t learn how to fail, they have failed to learn”.

For more information on this topic, I encourage you to read The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey.

May you and your families have a wonderful holiday season, winter break, and prosperous 2019!

Edward J. Lindekugel
CEO Acton Academy at Serenbe



What is a Hero?

1. A person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

Acton Academy at Serenbe’s core promise is to partner with you, our parents, to love and inspire each child to begin their own “Hero’s Journey”. This journey will allow our children to develop their courage and character, to discover their calling in life through genuine curiosity and servant leadership focused on improving our world. “We believe in the power of love. Each student can find a ‘calling,’ using his or her most precious gifts, in a way that brings great joy, to solve a deep burning need in the world.”(Laura Sanderfer)

Courage, curiosity, and character, foster genuine appreciation for the arts, the wonders of the physical world, and the mystery of life. Our students learn to treasure economic, political, and religious freedom through a student-centered model for learning rooted in brain-based research. This methodology is rapidly gaining notoriety throughout the world, as evidence supporting effectiveness of student-centered learning continues to grow exponentially.
(adapted from

“Our young people at Acton are learning that courage, grit, and perseverance matter far more than regurgitating facts.”
-Jeff Sandefer

Our heroes on campus here in Serenbe will be armed with a powerful work ethic; hunger for a meaningful calling in life rooted in love for their fellow man; comprehension of how and why civilizations rise and fall; and meaningful skills and work/learning experiences from apprenticeships and portfolios. They will develop and master critical analysis, communication, and leadership skills missing in so many of today’s youth. Foundational principles instilled in our children are to work hard, strive for excellence, and to treat others with the respect they deserve as fellow humans experiencing life’s journey together.
(adapted from

The “Hero’s Journey” is not an affront to reason. It affirms life as an adventure of self-discovery motivated by genuine love and a desire to serve others. The journey creates a shift away from self-protective ego, overcoming self-doubt and fear, and developing a higher level of thinking. The result is a recognition of the necessity for, and a desire to meaningfully serve others. Heroes from whom our children can learn include Nightingale, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and countless others.
(adapted from:

Considering our society and the values it promotes today, do you believe future generations will grow in these essential qualities without intentionality? I do not. Without a partnership of shared values between parents like you, and schools like Acton Academy at Serenbe, the future of our children is at best a gamble.

The Hero’s Journey is not easy, but the trials will be worth the sacrifice for our children. We can do this together…

Ed Lindekugel
CEO Acton Academy at Serenbe



First Contact

A Letter from Ed Lindekugel
CEO Acton Academy at Serenbe

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving together with family and friends, and that you are enjoying this holiday season. It was my pleasure to meet many of you at the Business Expo and school fundraiser a few weeks ago. Now I want to take this opportunity to provide you with a basic framework for the direction of this beautiful school, a true labor of love for the children, is heading.

In many ways, modern education has become a reflection of a society where challenges are viewed as obstacles, not opportunities for growth. One of the most appealing aspects of Acton Academy at Serenbe is the school’s constructivist paradigm, facilitating the development of each student’s personal understanding of the world. As the old adage goes, “experience is the best teacher”. Our methodology is an evolution of traditional education. Development of independent thinkers and future leaders demands adoption of this countercultural concept to allow nurturing of intellectual curiosity, personal resilience, risk-taking, and a genuine love for learning in our children.

Research and common sense show us that parents are the primary educators of our children. This responsibility demands partnership between home and school built on common values and trust. Allowing children to take risks, struggle, and sometimes fail is not easy. However, it is the best way to develop solid citizens, critical thinkers, and leaders who act to make the world a better place. Research by the Child Mind Institute demonstrates, if our children don’t learn how to fail, they have failed to learn.

Acton Academy at Serenbe is an “evolution of education”, capitalizing on the best parts of traditional education while evolving the learning process into an engaging inquiry-based, student-centered experience. Core skills are not only mastered but enhanced through experiential learning. Each child “owns” their learning in a way that leads to true individuality, achievement, and lifelong curiosity, Our goal for our students is that their learning will never stop. Through an inquiry-based learning methodology, Acton capitalizes on the development of 21st century skills including:

  • Critical thinking and problem solving 

  • Communication

  • Collaboration

  • Personal responsibility

  • Creativity and innovation

So where are we heading? In close collaboration with Malin and the Board of Directors, we have identified a number of strategic initiatives for immediate attention to ensure Acton is positioned to serve your children.

  1. Accreditation - AAAS presently has GAC accreditation but we believe in doing more. We are beginning pursuit of full accreditation by the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS). The accreditation process will involve self-study, professional support from SAIS, and will provide formal recognition of the amazing education provided to your children.

  2. Professional Development - We will invest in an ongoing professional development program for our guides (teachers) to ensure they remain equipped to serve our children. All new guides (teachers) will be certified, or on a path toward certification.

  3. Testing to demonstrate mastery - Every spring, we will conduct standardized testing to ensure mastery of the requisite concepts for their age/learning level. The test will be presented as a routine event and we will never teach for the test. We will utilize the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), a trusted and proven group-administered achievement test for grades K-12 measuring a student’s knowledge in areas including reading, writing, mathematics, science, social studies, vocabulary, spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and computation. At the 3rd grade level and below, two subtests are given in word analysis and listening.

  4. Board Member - We are actively searching for a fifth board member to replace Rusty Zarse, who recently resigned. We are grateful to Rusty for his committed service to the children of Acton Academy at Serenbe and will truly miss his perspective and insight. Thank you, Rusty, for your service.

  5. New Campus - We have begun planning for our new campus in Mado which will require us to raise funds for the new space. Phase I is three studio spaces to be used for one primary studios, one ES studio, and one MS (middle school) with the goal of completion and opening in Fall 2020. Phase II will be an additional primary studio and a high school studio.

Today’s young people mature more slowly than past generations. Why? Because children today are supervised far more closely than their predecessors. This increased supervision fosters an unhealthy dependency. Also, children spend vast amounts of time on their phone with peers, which fosters immaturity. More and more young people do not believe they need social interaction, as long as they are on social media at home. For the most part, children are overly cautious, unwilling to take intellectual risk, and afraid to interact socially and make decisions on their own. Are they afraid because they do not do as much, or are they not doing as much because they are afraid?

“If children are given room to struggle and to figure things out on their own, and if they have support from a mentor, peer, or guide who knows them well and holds them accountable, they will learn more than we can imagine.”

- Laura Sandefer

At Acton, we understand that students benefit from developmentally appropriate levels of genuine responsibility and ownership of the learning process. Dr. Tim Elmore, president and founder of “Growing Leaders” and best-selling author and speaker, asserts that humans mature and become truly confident only when they take on actual responsible tasks. “We don’t truly build leaders until students take on authentic responsibility. They must learn to lift something heavy, figuratively speaking. They must take on something hard. This will draw out the leader within, and the “adult” who wants to come out—but it is prevented with our “safety first” bias.”

Acton’s evolution of education, working together with your help and cooperation, allows this to happen. Your children will benefit for the rest of their lives...

Thought from COO Malin

Recently I gave a tour of the school to a lovely family. I walked them through our beautiful community and introduced them to several of our students. 

I spoke on the importance of the practical life lessons of cleaning, how they strengthen muscles and build coordination as well as igniting a sense of place in a community and the importance every member plays. I piqued their interest when I spoke of the hand to brain connection, how sandpaper letters stimulate the nerves in your fingers and simultaneously build neural pathways in the brain. How it preps for reading by capturing visual symbols, decoding each symbol’s sound, and assigning each symbol meaning. How practical life prepares you for the next steps in hand-to-brain connections like our lessons in golden beads and then on to project-based learning as the child develops. 

Then we got to the playground, and I have heard this before, "Where is the brightly colored play equipment with the padded ground?"  Now I just smile when we get to this part, mostly because it is the most important part of the tour.  I tell them that free play is one of the most important parts of the day for all studios here, this is where they practice independence, risk management, and social skills.  There is no padded ground because a hard ground is how you learn not to fall. I point out the steps that are not quite even and explain that is how you learn to balance. I mention the guide is here for safety but not to intervene at every unkind comment uttered, because this is how you learn to deal with other humans.  The world is full of busy streets, ledges, mean people, and precarious situations. We have to raise up kids to know how to handle it all on their own. Jonathan Haidt said it best, "Your job as a parent is to raise an independent adult and to work yourself out of a job."