Changing the Education Paradigm

Sir Ken Robinson explains the need for an “education revolution” to help youth succeed in our rapidly changing world. For years he talked about giving students the opportunity to explore their talents and search within themselves to be successful in the world. Joining the education revolution means that you are open to changing your current paradigms about education, which is challenging. You have to be open to change. Big change! I am grateful River Oak Academy has risen to the challenge.

Traditionally, schools focus on learning to know. Students are provided material that they must memorize, and are tested regularly. At River Oak they take a three-pronged approach: learning to be, learning to do, and learning to learn. Through the Acton curriculum students get to be curious, independent, lifelong learners. There is no homework, no grades, and no testing. There is meaningful hard work presented in a way that fosters a joy of learning. Students create SMART goals every day, track their own progress, work on core skills, participate in various quests composed of projects, research, and teamwork. While there is no homework, my son will often come home researching or doing something related to the current quest at school. This is student led learning! Homework isn’t required, but he’s so engaged with what he’s learning that he voluntarily does his own kind of homework.

One of my favorite differences between a traditional school and an Acton school is the Journey Meeting. As a parent and a former teacher, I can honestly say I’ve never had a school conference quite like it. Traditionally at a conference – parents, teacher, and student review

grades in all subjects. They may discuss missing assignments, challenges with tests, and some behavioral issues. Usually, if a student’s grades are good, there simply is no conference. This is why so many students with good or average grades don’t get the help they need to succeed. Or they do so at far too great a cost to their mental well-being. Sometimes straight ‘A’ students have struggles detrimental to their future that go completely unnoticed. Our grades do not define us.

For the Journey Meeting, our son was not present. A progress report was presented and three categories were discussed: learning to be, learning to do, learning to learn. Our son was evaluated on twenty four items. This evaluation not only focused on his progress in core skills like math and reading, but also social-emotional learning skills like organization, relationship skills, leadership, and perseverance to name a few.

At his previous school, our son was a high achieving student. I remember one of his teachers warning me that the main focus in schools is rarely the high achievers. That I should make sure that he doesn't get less attention than he needs from his future teachers. At River Oak I am grateful for the Journey Meeting and evaluation. I value their holistic approach to education, recognizing that a student has more than just academic needs. It helped us as parents understand how our son was doing in school on a whole new level. Our son is on his Hero’s Journey and we are excited to watch him grow.

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