Laura Sandefer

While each Acton Academy community has its own culture and personality, we are bound by the same key principles that drive our daily work:

Principle #1. We treat each child as a hero with the respect due a world changing genius, no matter the personality, learning style or circumstance.

Principle #2. We are bound to each other by promises outlined in contracts and a clear due process to limit adult power in our learning communities. Learners have agreed to join our communities with voluntary contractual freedoms and responsibilities. 

Principle #3. We believe questions are more powerful than lectures; hence, a guide never answers questions. Instead of giving directions, guides offer choices and consequences which may include a recipe, process, example or game to further connection between other learners. 

Principle #4. We believe growth mindset praise fuels learning. Our guides offer growth mindset praise and personal testimony as encouragement, with “fresh eyes” every day. A guide may “hold up a mirror” as a reminder of promises made; however, a guide never issues grades or asks leading questions in order to manage behavior.

Principle #5. Our primary role is to equip learners to lead their own small communities. At every opportunity, our processes are modeled and handed off to learners as soon as possible. 

Principle #6. Each person in our learner driven communities is on a Hero’s Journey.  This means that each person understands that the most important work to be done requires the courage to look where he or she least wants to look in order to discover the next step on their own personal Hero’s Journey.

Up next, I will share the why and how of a learner driven community.

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.