Laura Sandefer

July 13, 2012

This is not the blog I planned to write. Earlier today, we received the news that a dear family friend died tragically in an airplane accident. We sat and cried together for a long time. And then we talked about the beauty and fragility of life. Though the fog of sadness didn’t go away, the inspiration to go live the day to its fullest arose. And so we did.

One of the dreams I have for my children is this: They will be resilient and not lose hope when tragedy strikes. Because it will. It has.

This idea of resilience is built right into Acton Academy’s mission. If children understand what their purpose – calling – is then they will not be lost when life becomes murky. They will move forward.

Filtered down to daily living at home and at school, this means always knowing the “why” behind each activity, each project, each task. Why are we learning this? Why are we doing this?

William Damon in his book, The Path to Purpose says this: “In an extensive program of research the psychologist Bonnie Benard has shown that some children can bounce back from the most severe traumas and adversities. Children who respond resiliently to difficult circumstances have four key characteristics according to Benard: a sense of purpose (extended beyond the present to a future purpose); autonomy; social competence; and problem-solving skills. Of these four, I would designate sense of purpose as the most central, because it creates the motivation for the child to establish all the others.”

“Purpose” is one of the grounding forces in every decision we make at Acton. If the children don’t know what the ultimate purpose for their learning is, we will fail in our mission.

As a parent, this helps me keep out of the frivolous mentality of “because I say so.” A minor example for you: Sam wonders to me why making the bed is important when you just get back in it to mess it up. Good point, Sam. So we talk about what we do when grandparents come to spend the night. We make the guest bed for them. Why? Because they are our special guests and creating a nice space for them shows we care. Why not treat yourself like a favored guest? Making your bed is just a way to show you care about yourself.

The point is not to make your bed, please. My point simply is that if we give a “why” to the most basic “what” then things make more sense. Life has meaning.

Sometimes a purpose is clear; other times, nebulous. But that sense of seeking purpose for their learning and their lives will lead our children to find meaningful work, play and relationships without our guidance. They will spontaneously rise to the occasion in their lives; resolve their conflicts; and even overcome unimaginable tragedy.

As we fine-tune the curriculum for next year, we promise that we will not waste a moment of your child’s time at Acton Academy. Your children’s days with us will be filled with purpose.

Enjoy savoring precious time together this summer. (And remember, sleeping in and “having nothing to do” have their purposes. So does letting go of making the bed for a while.)

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