Laura Sandefer

What does it mean to be Socratic? You may be surprised. 

What if we told you it means to live with a burning sense of curiosity? To be delighted in learning new things? To happily express that you do not have all the answers? To shed the armor of being an expert?

Socrates once said: “I’m the wisest man in the world for I know one thing and that is that I know nothing.”

For us to become Socratic, we must shed the power plays of an authoritarian mindset of parenting – a stance that is demanding and believes that failure is bad and must be punished, hidden or shamed. 

When we move toward the Socratic mindset of curiosity, we begin to see how this changes how we relate to our children. We are less like carpenters carving them into the shape we want. And more like gardeners, less concerned about controlling them and more focused on providing a rich environment for them to grow into whom they were meant to be. (We love to recommend Alison Glopnik’s book, “The Gardener and The Carpenter: What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us About the Relationship Between Parents and Children.”) 

Our Five Steps to Becoming More Socratic:


COMMIT TO A PARENTING ADVENTURE – Get clear on your WHY as a parent… Better to be gardener but we all have a bit of carpenter inside. 


SET THE CONTRACT: Define your role and add structure (Give choices; Don’t answer questions; Growth Mindset praise instead of nagging which is passive aggressive.) 


CREATE AN ATTRACTIVE GAME AND INVITE PLAYERS (or give them the choice to not play and be bored sitting on the sidelines watching others play.)




UNPUSH YOUR OWN EMOTIONAL BUTTONS (we recommend reading “He,” “She,” “We,” “Shadow” and “Inner Work” books by Robert Johnson

Starting Monday, I will take each of these calls to action one at a time and dive more deeply into them.

For today, I hope you wrestle with yourself a bit. Where are you on the scale of curiosity and delight?  Are you willing to live with the ramifications of embracing both? Are you willing to let go of your fears of losing control? Are you willing to say, “I don’t know?” And, like Jeff said at the end of our chat, I hope you spend an hour of quiet time and decide what you want to do with your life. You are then free to dive deeply into a more Socratic – and free – existence.

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.