Laura Sandefer

The mindset shift that happens at Acton Academy with the children is two-fold:

1) Shifting from a fixed mindset (I’m just not good at math) to a growth mindset (I can learn anything, and I need to work extra hard in math.)
2) Shifting from a victim mindset (This isn’t fair!) to a hero mindset (I can help fix this problem).

For parents, a mindset shift happens, too.

Unfortunately, our mental shifting happens slower and with more angst than our children’s. It’s simply because our thought patterns are more entrenched, often as a result of traumas in our childhoods. We’ve been working hard to survive and our brains have adjusted accordingly. Acton begins to call into question our thought processes and this feels, at a minimum, uncomfortable; and at some moments, excruciating.

But the shift does indeed happen for those who stay in the game. And it’s more freeing and exciting than anything I’ve ever imagined. It just takes time and vulnerability. As well as surrounding yourself with other parents who are willing to grow and learn, too.

The mindset shift for Acton parents has four layers that stack up to joy and confidence in your family life – even on hard days:

1) Shifting from wishing Acton had all the bells and whistles of a traditional school to understanding there are trade-offs at every school – there is no utopia.

2) Shifting from worrying that my child isn’t progressing fast enough and delivering the highest quality work to trusting the process at Acton Academy even when it’s messy and takes time.

3) Shifting from stepping in as my child’s problem-solver to trusting my child to solve problems and being their #1 cheerleader.

4) Shifting from gossiping with other parents about problems with the school to participating in helping the owners and guides by telling them and offering ideas for solutions. “We are all in this together on behalf of our children.”

At Acton, parents are vital partners in every way. We are not a traditional drop-off school where education is “done” to the children and the parents stay out of it except to volunteer or raise money.

Rather, we are an intimate, community of learning where the power is pushed back to the families to communicate, encourage, solve problems together and live the best life as humans changing the world.

Mindset shifts are equivalent to heavy-duty learning. Real learning is hard and we are all doing the best we can.

Co-founder and Chief Encourager for Acton Academy


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.

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.