It was 5:30am on a cold morning. I was doing what I always do at that time of day – sitting in my bedroom, reading the Bible – when 6 foot Charlie walked in.
He said, “Mom, I want to go somewhere else for high school.”
All I could muster was, “Thank you so much for coming to me. Let’s wait to talk with Dad about this until tonight.”
My thoughts swirled into a storm and my heart broke wide open.
What in the world happened? What is he reacting so strongly to? What is he running away from? Have we completely failed?
It’s been six months since that morning. Today is Charlie’s last day at Acton Academy.
What began that morning as a real sadness has morphed into a clean and simple realization: everything I dreamed of Acton Academy giving to Charlie has come true.
What stood before me was not the 6-year-old child who loved trucks more than anything. Here was a young man who had become an independent learner and could make solid decisions. Here was someone who could claim his dreams and make a plan to achieve them. Here was a person who could admit what he needs to learn in order to be complete. Here was my boy who proved he can work extremely hard and is not afraid to begin a new adventure on his own. Here was someone saying, “I need to do this on my own now, Mom.”
Charlie figured out that for his life to be authentically a hero’s journey, it was necessary to leave the school his parents had created.
These were the lingering questions with which he had been wrestling long before he walked into my bedroom:
- Who am I outside of the school my parents built?
- Can I learn and succeed without them around?
- What is it like to be an outsider?
- Have I had it easy all this time?
I am privy to the decisions the young heroes at Acton Academy make each day. Making good choices is one of the important outcomes our children need in order to live well as adults. When I see our Launchpad Eagles running their studios, creating quests, leading others and making decisions about college and entrepreneurial start-ups, I see the Acton ideals happening in real time.
I am so excited for them and for the new Eagles joining that group this fall. And, I’m excited that Charlie is exploring his own path even though we’ll miss him in our daily work.
Today I celebrate what this community gives to each person willing to dive in and give it their all. This model works because it puts the responsibility of learning on the Eagles. There are no ways to hide under the radar and not learn or grow substantially while here. And the evidence it works is walking around this campus: it is the young people who love learning, can wrestle with big life questions and know that taking action rather than just talking is what a hero does.
But beware: equipping young people to learn how to learn, learn how to do, and learn how to be will play out in ways that just may break your heart. These young people will grow up and do big things that may not have been in your plans for them.
But a broken heart is one that has greater surface area to love even more. I am okay and am more excited than ever about what Acton Academy delivers to the hearts of young people.