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Freedom with Responsibility

"In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved." Franklin D. Roosevelt

When you mention freedom in an educational setting many times it is associated with a lack of structure, and the learners having a lack of responsibility. But freedom cannot exist without responsibility. If you take all responsibility away from someone, that will inevitably negate and infringe upon someone else’s freedom. At River Oak we utilize the Acton curriculum, which values learner's freedom and encourages learner's to be independent, to be responsible. This is more simply described as “choices with limits.” Children walking into an Acton studio enter a place set up for them to have freedom to make many choices during the day. They are actively engaged with personal power to make decisions at every turn. Our students are self-directed, lifelong learners who want to change the world. But learning to use freedom wisely takes time and practice. As soon as you prove you can handle more freedom and responsibility, you receive it. Work hard; show evidence of a strong character and deliver excellent work — and you gain more freedom and responsibility. It’s that simple.

Yes, some of us may have difficulty giving up grades, grade levels and annual promotions. But institutional familiarity seems a small price to pay for allowing students the freedom to develop skills, habits and character at their own pace, until they are ready to soar.

Each choice has limits or consequences. There are boundaries in place as per their contract and consequences for crossing them. There are also natural limits such as digestion, gravity, and human emotions.

With the Acton program and in homes where parents give choices with real consequences, children learn quickly that real freedom is not impulsive behavior or getting whatever you want. The true freedom is having a deep sense of self-control, an inner ability to respond to one’s circumstances effectively which leads to authentic connection to others and the world. It also puts them in the driver’s seat of their learning and ultimately their lives, preparing them for the future and real world. If you look at the world as a Hero, you will welcome challenges; embrace responsibility; act kindly towards others and hold firm relational boundaries, while being grateful for opportunities that come your way. If you do this, you likely will look back on life as a journey filled with almost limitless opportunity and luck.

There is no Utopia on earth. Work is work, even when it’s rewarding. Skills must be mastered through deliberate practice; there are no shortcuts. Human beings are complex and will disappoint as often as they amaze. If you choose not to work or to treat others unkindly, you almost are guaranteed an unhappy and unsatisfying life. In the real world, there are real consequences. The same will be true at River Oak Academy because we have promised to prepare you for a calling that will change the world.

From our Head of School “Teaching” and “learning” are only loosely correlated, somewhat like the difference between “lecturing” and “understanding.” The key to learning is finding out what motivates the learner, and giving that person the freedom to choose which challenges to accept. Allow young heroes the freedom to choose, and the responsibility to choose wisely or suffer the consequences. There is great power in curating and framing choices and allowing participants to suggest other options. Learners have a right to choose; fail and try again.

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