I stole this one from Carolyn and Rhett Robinson. They told me that the most life-changing part of being at Acton is starting family meetings in their home. This sentiment has been consistent from the community for the last three years. To me, this is the biggest surprise of all because the idea to ask people to write a Family Plan was not popular in its early stages.
Before officially launching Acton, Jeff and I held a community-wide information session to present the overall philosophy of the school and get feedback. During this meeting, we shared our plan to ask each Acton family to write a “Family Plan.” The response was a bit jolting:
“You can’t tell us how to run our families.” “What a horrible idea to tell people how to manage their families.”
We wholeheartedly agreed then and now. Frankly, the last thing we ever want to do is to tell people how to do anything. We’ll leave that to the experts.
What we do think is a good idea is that a family is purposeful in their own unique way about how to spend their time and resources. The idea for writing family plans was really to create a support system for such an endeavor.
(As an aside, I find myself being fascinated by what triggers the emotionally-charged feedback we receive. It reminds me that there are fears and longings in each of us. Engaging in the business of “educating our children” can tickle and scratch at these places in our hearts and minds. I am humbled and awed by the tenderness of humanity when I witness the joy, angst, excitement and anger that bubble up without warning yet with true authenticity.)
So, we forged on with this aspect of our developing culture and chose to focus on “Family Plans” at our very first parents’ lunch meeting in 2009.
We gave each family a copy of Patrick Lencioni’s book, Three Questions for a Frantic Family. Using this as our guide, we asked each Acton family to meet together and answer the following questions:
What makes our family unique?
What is our most important priority – our rallying cry – right now?
How will we keep our focus on this priority alive?
The Acton founding families courageously went forth and met! Around dinner tables, in living rooms and on back porches there was real conversation with adults and children about the meaning of “family.”
“What does it mean to be a Sandefer?” held us in lively engagement for an entire road trip to San Antonio one day.
Since that time, most Acton families have an active plan in place. Each plan is unique and each family has stories to tell about the experience of holding family meetings. We have posted these plans in the Parent Login section of our website www.actonacademy.org. (Let me know if you need the username and password to get to the plans.)
If you haven’t done so before, I hope you’ll read through the plans and enjoy the diversity of our families. This always inspires me to commit again to the process. Our family is probably the worst in the group at keeping up with consistent family meetings. I learn so much from you and your experiences.
I am grateful to the following parents who shared their stories about family meetings and creating a Family Plan:
I think the most beneficial thing about the family plan is that it allowed us to prioritize in a concrete way.
The most challenging thing is monitoring our progress. With the swift pace of daily life and an unusual amount of travel this spring, it has been hard to remain disciplined.
When we revamp our plan for the summer, we may not pick as many specific goals with respect to learning new skills and leave it more general.
Our family plan and family meetings revolve around goal setting. We have a whiteboard with 4 columns, and we each write down our current goals. We meet at least once a month to update our goals. Recently we have begun fine tuning these lists by identifying the top 3 goals… to help us narrow in on what is really most important at the current moment.
We love how the family plan and meetings keep us thinking and revisiting what is most important to each of us. I also think it is so important for us to make our goals and priorities known to each other so that we have extra accountability and so that we can encourage and support each other. If we did not have the structure of the family meetings, it would be too easy to go about our busy days and keep our goals stuck in the back of our minds (rather than out there for everyone to see).
Family meetings are just a great family communication time. The kids never want the meetings to end. They can just talk and talk and talk about their hopes, dreams, ideas. There is nothing better! Thanks so much for introducing the Acton community to the Family Plan!
The program that Garrett suggested at the start of the year, where each person has all chores for the full week, continues to work for our family. We also find that having a visual reminder (cork board) also helps keep our priorities front and center. We have not be as successful with achieving the personal skill development goals we set for ourselves so we will look to learn from other families on that topic as well.
Now that you know my Ten Surprising Truths about Acton Academy, stay tuned for the upcoming series of posts: The Best Dinner Conversation Starter for the Week – all based on inside scoop from happenings in the classroom.