How can kids learn more about the hero's journey?

Acton Academy Taipei

If you’d like to learn more about the hero’s journey, a core aim for Academy Academy learners to pursue, here are books you can read to your students to help them better grasp this concept!

  1. Wilma Unlimited

  2. Emmanuel’s Dream

  3. A Picture Book of Lewis & Clark

  4. The girl who couldn't sit still

  5. What do you do with a problem

  6. What do you do with an idea?

  7. Mr. Zinger’s Hat

  8. The Rosie Revere series

  9. Salt In His Shoes

  10. Wilma Unlimited 

  11. Harvesting Hope

  12. Drum Dream Girl

These may be for slightly older Eagles (6 or 7 and up):  

  1. "Tales of the Kingdom" by David and Karen Mains. 

  2. Although some of them are a bit cheesy for adults, the Stephen Cosgrove books all have great mini hero's journey tales

Are there books you love?

What are the best books to read by age?

Acton Academy Taipei

One of our fellow Acton Academy owners, Anne Olderog, shared, “One of our hopes is that Eagles start developing an interest in “big books” that stretch their minds and souls.”

Here’s a great list of Twaddle-Free books:

Living Books = books that are well-written and engaging–they absorb the reader–the narrative and characters “come alive”; living books are the opposite of cold, dry textbooks.

Twaddle = dumbed down literature; absence of meaning

And, here’s another list compiled by and used in Ambleside Online's free homeschooling curriculum. We used it in the past (it's really just an ordered list of books). 

With the recent college scandal, what can you do?

Acton Academy Taipei

With the recent college admissions scandal, is college even a good idea for your child anymore?

Here’s what Acton Academy founder, Jeff Sandefer, shares that he’ll do for his own kids:

"Given the university admissions scandals in play, I thought I’d share our (current) college plans for our boys:

1. We give them the funds we set aside for college. Their decision.

2. Our recommendation:

* Apply to as many high end schools as practical.
* Save your money. Defer admission to your favorites.
* Work VERY hard to get a super cool, high end apprenticeship-job at a top company in your area of specialization.
* After ten months, decide if you want to defer again or go to college.
* If after three years you’ve advanced, no need for college, but you always can tell people (and put on your resume) you were accepted to Stanford and MIT and chose not to go because you were too busy in your calling. 
* In the interim, you can have earned every high end certification in your field.
* OR, you can keep working and knock out the first two years online and then go to college for the last two (and most valuable) years at 1/2 the cost and 1/10th the waste of time.

In other words – lots of optionality and capturing the credential without the cost."

What do you think about this approach?

Acton Eagles visit local Taipei Start-Ups.

Acton Academy Taipei
Acton Academy Taipei

Our Eagles are currently on an entrepreneurial quest, so they’re launching a fun company focused on the Lunar New Year, called Lantern Moon.

They’ll be selling goodies focused to help welcome the Chinese New Year at the Tianmu Creative Market on January 26th, 2019, then participating in our bigger Children’s Business Fair this upcoming March.

That’s why we made a visit recently to Taiwan Start-up Stadium, a hub that connects startups to the most innovative start-ups in the world.

“We STRENGTHEN the startup ecosystem by building strong bonds among member startups, and collaborating with local and International partners, such as international accelerators, conferences, partners, and corporates. And, we COACH startups to go global through bootcamps, workshops, pre-conference pre-event training, and 1-on-1 accelerator coaching.”

If you have a child who’d like to participate in our upcoming first ever Children’s Business Fair in March, we’re excited to meet you!

Learn more here.

As a conscious parent, what should you be reading?

Acton Taipei

As Acton parents, here are books we’re all about having the right resources and information to show up as the best guides for your own Eagles.

Here are books that the Acton Academy Founders, Jeff and Laura Sandefer, recommend:

Have you read any of these books? What do you think?

How do you communicate with your children — non-violently?

Acton Taipei

Marion Rose leads a beautiful website called Mothering Mentor and we recently came upon her resources in searching for ways to communicate non-violently with your children.

The idea of “nonviolent communication” was founded by Marshall Rosenberg who also created the Center for Nonviolent Communication. It’s been used in everything from marriages, partnerships, and corporations, so that everyone involved in any group dynamic can get their needs expressed and ideally also met.

When it comes to kids, Rosenberg says:

“And here were these young children teaching me this humbling lesson, that I couldn’t make them do anything. All I could do is make them wish they had... [and] anytime I would make them wish they had, they would make me wish I hadn’t made them wish they had. Violence begets violence.”

Marion Rose notes that for many parents who want to avoid conflict, they take the permissive approach, where they aim to meet all their child’s needs and ignore their own.

This leads to resentment in the parent, models self-sacrifice to the child, and prevents the child’s needs for contribution and cooperation being met.

What’s especially interesting a modern definition of “violence.”

While many of us would balk at the idea of corporal punishment for our children, Marshall Rosenberg describes other ways we invoke violence on a daily basis that we’re not quite cognizant of:

  1. Reward and punishment: “Punishment is the root of violence on our planet.”

  2. Guilt: We trick others into thinking that they are responsible for our feelings, eg “Now you’re really making me angry.”

  3. Shame: We label someone when they don’t do what we want, eg. “You are so rude.”

  4. Denying responsibility for our actions: Using the words “had to,” “can’t,” “should,” “must,” and “ought.”

Using NVC, we aim to connect compassionately with others and ourselves and inspire compassion from them. The goal is for everyone to get their needs met, parents and children alike.

As Marion Rose notes, “We move from power over to sharing power. Rejecting the domination language of blame, judgment and coercion, we embrace life-serving needs of compassion, cooperation and contribution.”

When we identify needs, understanding and connection results. Since all violent communication and actions are simply the tragic expression of unmet needs, we can easily translate any judgments and diagnoses of others and ourselves into needs that want meeting. By freeing ourselves from moralistic judgments, we are able to connect compassionately within and without.

When our child says or does something we don’t like, we have four options:

  1. Blame ourselves: “I’m a bad parent, it’s my fault she’s like this”

  2. Blame them: “You are so selfish”

  3. Connect to our feelings and needs: “I feel disappointed, because I need recognition for the effort I’ve made”

  4. Guess their feelings and needs: “Are you feeling reluctant because you are wanting to make your own choices?”

When we connect to our true feelings and needs, our children’s need for connection gets met and they are more likely to want to cooperate.

If you’d like to read more tips and tools, check out this excellent free PDF from Marion Rose:

Do you NEED to go to college?

Acton Taipei

For many of us, when we were growing up, we were told that going to college was the gateway to a successful life.

Yet, in the 21st century, is this even true any more?

And, when it comes to students in alternative education like Acton Academy Taipei, is this even a desirable expectation when we’re encouraging each individual to pursue their own gifts, heroine’s journey, and ultimate happiness?

Here’s what our founder, Jenny Wang, wants to share:

“As head of Acton Taipei, I strongly believe that university is not the only 'right' path after graduating high school. For instance, I took a gap year after high school to study Chinese in Beijing and to work on a ecology expedition in Borneo, Malaysia. Both were very deliberate choices, as I felt burnt out from my very competitive high school, which did not allow much 'adventure', in terms of traveling and also I felt I missed out on a true immersion experience in Chinese culture. 

But beyond gap years, I completely believe it is best for some to go straight into work, like the homeschooled student, who started a ski school business in Japan at the age of 18. Shortly thereafter, she opened four new extremely successful branches.

There are so many different paths — college is not the only way. If it’s something that you want, it makes a lot of sense to be prepared and have the option available to you, which requires a lot of forward planning.”

If you’d like to learn more about what it takes to prep for a successful college admissions process, join our upcoming livestream event on our Facebook page, where you can ask Lisa Bartle anything you’d like!

Click here to join our upcoming event on December 11th, 1:30pm Taiwan Standard Time or submit your questions for Lisa in advance:

And, here’s more about Lisa Bartle, Director of Counseling, US College Admit:

For over 20 years, Lisa has been working with students, families and schools to help hundreds of international applicants reach their college admission goals in the United States, Canada, and UK. As the former executive director and owner of the Princeton Review Taiwan, she has a unique perspective on how the pressure of standardized tests too often stifles the imagination and how the stress of college admissions saps the pleasure of learning. A recognized expert on university advising and admissions, Lisa has done extensive research, designed original curricula, and developed innovative practices in working with students and their families. She has been an interviewer for the University of Michigan and an application reader at the University of Virginia and has first-hand knowledge of their admission processes. Lisa attended the University of Michigan for her B.A. and the University of Maryland for her J.D. 

So, what types of alternative education ARE there?

Acton Taipei

Curious about what types of alternative education currently exist in the world? And, wondering how Acton Academy Taipei fits into the mix?

Here’s a quick breakdown, based on Peterson’s blog post, on what kinds of education you can pursue if traditional schooling doesn’t fit you, your child’s temperament, or your family’s philosophies.


This is likely the most long-standing type of alternative education, in which a child is educated primarily by their parent at home.

Many homeschoolers follow a set curriculum and others piecemeal their studies, pulling from different resources. Homeschooling allows the family to learn together and work on projects as a team, allowing the student to feel supported and assume a leadership role in a safe environment.

It is an incorrect and unfortunate stereotype that homeschoolers never leave home and are woefully un-socialized. Most homeschool families take part in classes, clubs, groups, co-ops and the like to give the homeschooled student a well-rounded education. Many states even have homeschool sports teams and gym classes.

Online Schooling

If you’d like to learn more about online schooling, you can dive deeper by visiting this site here. According to Peterson’s, here’s what they say about online schooling:

Accessibility to technology and the internet has allowed for a rise in children being educated at home through an online school program. Online programs are taught by experienced teachers who follow a curriculum. They teach lessons, interact with their students, give tests and quizzes and keep records of the students’ grades. The services that online schools provide is extremely helpful when it comes to taking some of the pressure off of the homeschool parents’ shoulders.


We’ve been in touch with parents who have children with ADHD and find that unschooling, especially being in nature, has been an incredibly helpful way to encourage their children’s best development.

When a parent wishes to erase the influences of the public school system, time spent unschooling may be the ideal option. Unschooling does not involve any set curriculum or standards. It allows students to freely follow their interests without the constraints of assignments, grades and schedules.

World Schooling

Many expat families or digital nomads believe in world schooling, in which you raise your children in a third culture, different from ones that either parent grew up in. These can be immersion programs or longer stays, and in some countries, the international schools are quite long-standing and prestigious.

World Schooling is something we’re ideally looking to launch in 2019 with Mandarin-language immersion programs for students from around the world to participate in!

This is a great website for you to dive deeper into the best schools in countries around the world.

Private Education

Traditionally, private education was most commonly found at religious academies.

While far less common, there are some secular private schools scattered throughout the country. Sometimes going under the names of Democratic schools, Waldorf Schools or Montessori Schools, they all offer a unique approach to non-public education. With an emphasis placed on nature studies, independence and creativity, secular private schools attract many non-traditional students and families.

Military School

Military school used to be the thing of threats made by parents to misbehaving youth. Now, it is a viable education option for students looking for high-quality academics and post-graduation opportunities.

Military schools have a low dropout rate compared to that of public schools. They also boast excellent sports teams and the chance to learn independence and respect. Many military schools are boarding schools where the students live on the school’s campus, but others may offer schooling services to local students without requiring that they live on campus.

So… where does Acton Academy Taipei fit?

We’d like to say that we’re a non-traditional educational opportunity that’s a great balance of private education, world schooling, homeschooling, and even a bit of unschooling!

With so many quality options available, including forest schools that truly emphasize nature, We Grow (via We Work’s collaborative co-working space) that emphasizes conscious education rooted in entrepreneurialism, and even tiny schools, what elements of schooling do love for your children? What would you like to be even more disruptive?

What is an Acton Badge? Is it like getting a 'grade'?

Acton Academy Taipei

Sending your child to Acton Academy Taipei means that they’ll be developing skills that can’t be easily quantified — things like self-management, self-governance, character, high-level communication skills, learning how to learn and opportunities to dive deeply into areas of your greatest passions and gifts.

Badges are a way to showcase this work and translate them into a traditional transcript, so your children, also known as Eagles here at Acton, can compete with their peers in traditional education environments.

Watch this quick 2-minute video to see what these Eagles feel badges mean to them.

So… what is a badge?

Think of it as a long-term effort focused on a particular discipline. Each badge is a process. There’s a large quantity of work reviewed several times by several people.

In traditional academic language, a badge is comparable to completing a course. Yet, instead of getting a grade, a badge is awarded only when excellence is achieved.

In Asian educational environments especially, you might be wanting to know, “How does a badge look on a transcript?”

We believe that it’s best explained in this Acton Academy Parents post written by the main Acton Academy co-founder, Laura Sandefer:

Here is a sample of our Transcript Acton.

Completion of a Badge = mastery = A. (High 360 scores would add a “+”.)

We are a competency-based learning environment. Mastery is the goal. Eagles work until they master  their learning goals. Then, they progress to the next level.  If a badge is not completed, the grade is “Incomplete.”

This is why that last sprint to compile their work after completing the requirements of a badge is so critical to the Eagles. It is the final step and is the proof of their hard work.

And this is where our parenting support comes in most fruitfully.

We especially like this part of the post, which encourages parent participation:

When all the required work for a badge is done, the badge is not yet achieved. It must be compiled and submitted. Ask your Eagles about whether or not they’ve scheduled time to compile this work for badge approval; then check in on their progress; ask if they are excited about the work or worried they missed something. Finally, celebrate the hard work of compiling the badge.

And, what about admissions to future schools?

Admissions officers may ask to see the work behind each letter grade. This is where Eagles will shine. (Personally, I hope Eagles will have the opportunity to show their full portfolios in an interview. Acton Eagles will knock the socks of savvy recruiters if they get the chance to sit down and talk with them. I’ve sat in on one of these interviews and it was pure bliss. By the end of the interview, they wanted to hire the Eagle for a teaching job rather than merely accept as a student.)

We have an entire collection of work from each Eagle for every badge achieved. This work is above and beyond what is required from traditional courses in middle schools and high schools across America. I am so impressed with the work the Eagles accomplish!

Another great question is: How do badges translate to traditional subject requirements?

Translating the work of a completed badge into traditional course content is necessary and is part of our curriculum planning.  For example, a traditional school’s “English 101” in high school equates at Acton to 6 genre pieces, 4 deep books and 1 No Red Ink badge. The Acton curriculum is easily mapped to the core requirements of high school graduates for acceptance to competitive colleges.

Unfortunately, the most important accomplishments at Acton such as Apprenticeships, Leadership, Project Management and Quest Creation don’t translate easily under traditional academic subjects like Math, Science, History and English.

In order to move up, every Eagle at Acton is expected to earn a certain amount of badges. Each student must receive a certain 360 score by their peers on kindness and tough-mindedness. Every person must earn a certain average of weekly points. At Acton, we don’t believe that everyone must do this at the same pace or level. We know that it will take a unique amount of time and growth for each person to be able to hit these standards. But we believe that every child is a genius, and fully capable of doing the work in order to earn more freedom. That’s what Acton is all about.

More importantly, how does this all translate to the “real world”?

If we want to be prepared for our true Hero’s Journeys, we cannot be accustomed to being pampered. In the real world, if you want to work for Google, you have to be good enough! You have to work incredibly hard to meet the standard! If you want to be a professional athlete, it doesn’t matter how hard the journey is, results are what matter. No one will ask how hard you tried to score a touchdown, they will ask if you scored the touchdown.”

What are your concerns or appreciations with how Acton differs from traditional schools in awarding badges over grades? How do you feel “excellence” is defined?