Originally posted by Laura Sandefer on August 20, 2019.

This post from a couple of years ago sets my mind back on the right track for a new school year.

This time, I added “Let Go of the Leash” to the title because Charlie is going into his senior year at Acton. It’s going to be my biggest “letting go” ever and I need to start practicing now.


Hobbes is our 11-week old Tasmanian devil in Australian Shepherd clothing.

We took him to one of Austin’s dog-friendly restaurants last night. Probably not the wisest choice for his first “on-leash” experience but we survived.

In feeling around to get his leash on, I realized how stiflingly tight his bright red collar had become. I quickly loosened it, apologizing profusely to the little fella.

When something is growing in front of my eyes, the change is so subtle I forget to adjust some of the very basic things. Poor little Hobbes has no words for “please loosen my collar.”

My sons, too, are growing in front of my eyes. Am I forgetting to loosen my hold on them? In what ways do I keep a grip that is too tight? How am I causing pain without knowing it and in ways they cannot find words to explain? While I easily adjust to the physical growth I see with bigger shoes and longer pants, it’s the “Learning To Be” growth I often miss.

A few ways I crush their growing spirits come quickly to mind:
  • When I solve their problems
  • When I ask a question I know the answer to and listen with an agenda
  • When I lay onto them a busy schedule so they have no alone time
  • When I invade their privacy
  • When I tell them how to do something they can figure out on their own
  • When I relieve them of experiencing the true consequences they have earned
  • When I use fixed mindset language rather than growth mindset language (This: “Sorry, you must have gotten my  math brain rather than your father’s!” Rather than: “I see you are struggling in math. That shows me you are learning. Good for you.”)

“Learning to Be” doesn’t display itself nicely in a portfolio. It is the newfound abilities to solve problems, be patient, suffer consequences, admit wrongdoing, stand up for what’s right, sit in quiet peace, wait for results, delay gratification, laugh with love rather than meanness. These are the wondrous things I choke off by my well-intended protections which include trying to please my children by smoothing their paths for them.

Today I hope to loosen the collars in my midst. But Hobbes’ will remain a bit on the tighter side until he Learns to Be a good dog. Happy new school year to all!

Hi, I'm Aaron Johnson. 👋

I'm Co-Founder & Head of School at Acton Academy Sioux Falls

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