Co-founder and Chief Encourager for Acton Academy
About Laura Sandefer
Laura Sandefer is an author and the co-founder of Acton Academy, a school whose learner-driven model is spreading across the globe with over 130 locations in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Guatemala, Canada, Malaysia and more, and in 2019 is celebrating 10 years of letting children take learning into their owns hands.
Acton Academy bases their model of learning on the Hero’s Journey: a story pattern common in ancient myths and modern day adventures in which a hero goes on an adventure, wins a victory and comes home transformed. Children at Acton Academy know why they are being challenged to learn — they are on their own Hero’s Journey to find their passion in life.
Sandefer went on her own Hero’s Journey in starting Acton Academy, which she chronicles in her book Courage to Grow: How Acton Academy Turns Learning Upside Down (Acton Press, 2017). She became a reluctant entrepreneur, growing Acton Academy so other parents can start their own learner-driven communities.
Now, Sandefer is passionate about giving children hands-on entrepreneurial experience through Acton Academy’s Children’s Business Fairs, giving children the opportunity to be entrepreneurs — boosting their confidence, teaching valuable lessons and giving them an experience so they will thrive as adults in a rapidly changing world.
Committed to the mission of inspiring children to find their callings, Acton Academy also emphasizes hands-on, real world projects and apprenticeships. The school also uses adaptive game-based programs through Khan Academy and other online tools for teaching core skills, as well as Socratic discussions to challenge and equip children to be independent thinkers and lifelong learners.
Acton Academy and Sandefer have been featured in the Austin American Statesman, Inc.,Forbes, National Review, Huffington Post and more.
Sandefer has a bachelor of arts and masters of education degrees from Vanderbilt University. She currently lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, children and three dogs.
On Being An Acton Academy Parent
Children are natural learners – full of curiosity and excitement about the world around them. They are not afraid to fall down or make mistakes. They are not afraid to ask question after question and explore deeply to discover new answers. Most even believe they have superpowers that could change the world. This is the energy we work to fuel at Acton Academy. But how?
By using the Hero’s Journey as the ultimate metaphor for life, we invite children on an adventure to find their gifts, fight their inner monsters of resistance and distraction, and discover true treasure at the end: a calling that meets a burning need in the world.
My greatest lesson is that my children must struggle in order to find their best selves. I must not solve their problems and work to take their pain away if I want them to grow and realize their full potential. As I went around making their lives easy, I found I was stripping them of their ultimate joy. I learned to be with them in a struggle, love them through it, but not take it away.
There are four critical components to my vision for education in the 21st century:
- Self-paced master of reading, writing and math skills delivered through deliberate practice and the latest in educational technology.
- Tools and skills delivered through project-based quests that solve real world problems.
- Critical thinking and powerful writing and speaking delivered through deep Socratic discussions about heroes, history and self-governance.
- Authentic relationships delivered through written promises and covenants that form a tightly bound community led by the young people themselves.
Courage to Grow is the intimate origin story of Acton Academy, one of today’s most innovative schools with a model quickly spreading around the globe. If you have ever wondered if there are more powerful ways for young people to learn, step aboard for a behind the scenes tour of how Acton Academy unlocks the genius in every child, while embracing personal accountability and forging young characters. However, this is not a how-to book. Nor is it a book about educational theory. It is a fast-paced tale of courageous families, transformed by what young people can accomplish when armed with the right inspiration, questions and tools. Like all good tales, there is a surprise ending, a final bit of magic about parenting and life you won’t want to miss.
Courage to Grow
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