This article is inspired by our friends over at Acton Academy, a high-functioning, fast-growing microschool that shares much of our vision.

“Teaching” and “learning” are only loosely related, similar to “talking” and “understanding.” The key to inspiring deep learning is finding out what motivates the learner, and giving them the freedom to choose what challenges to take on next. This method is highly liberating to the student who’s quickly becoming an individual, and is also one of the most powerful motivators in growing their love of learning.

We believe in allowing students the freedom to choose. We believe that the greatest lessons can be learned from consequences for their choices — good and bad.

This rule equally applies to parents and learning coaches. We don’t endorse anarchy and unlimited student agency in our movement, but there is immense power in adults merely curating and framing choices, and allowing participants to decide or even suggest other options. This power must not be used in a manipulative or disingenuous way. Unless someone’s choices would irreparably harm an individual, we give students and parents the right to choose; and if they fail, the right to try again.

The job of a learning coach is to propose a journey, with an outcome at the end, challenges along the way, and rules everyone agrees to respect — and then to invite students to embark on it.