It has now been over 6 months since my dad, Bill Parker, died, which is hard to believe. He continues to remain with all of us in our memories and hearts. In a special way, my dad is present with me as I carry on a mission that started with him.
My dad was passionate about faith, family and freedom. About three years ago, he found out about an alternative education program that caught his attention. He called me and told me about it, and stated that my husband Matt and I should open one of these schools: an Acton Academy. Acton Academy is a hands-on, real-world microschool that highlights entrepreneurship, strong character, critical thinking skills, and our fundamental freedoms using a one-room schoolhouse model. Dad shared some of his education experiences and missed hopes and dreams with me. He wanted something different for future generations in education: a path for children to discover their God-given gifts at a young age and live out their career/vocation using those gifts to change the world. I agreed with my dad and had similar desires to make a positive impact on young people. I looked into Acton Academy. I was impressed, but brushed aside the option for a number of reasons. It certainly was not within my realm of 'expertise' to open a school!
About a year later, the idea from dad came back to me, and I revisited it with fresh eyes. I watched videos of young entrepreneurs from Acton Academy, speaking with a bold confidence that was striking...I repeatedly cried watching the videos! Matt and I were convinced to take the next step. We decided that we still didn't have the expertise, but we had the passion to make this vision a reality for our own children, and anyone in the community who wanted to join. I had been homeschooling our children, but was feeling isolated and overwhelmed, and was ready for a change. We began the process of applying to open our own Academy. After we were approved, and with our 5th baby on the way, we decided to launch as a hybrid program to offer significant support to homeschooling families- meeting three days a week as a drop off program. In the Fall of 2021, we began the Acton experiment out of our house. Sanctuary Academy, our Catholic Hybrid Acton, was born. We had 6 learners (3 of our own children and 3 others). Through God's grace, we completed our first year in June of 2022. The year brought many challenges, learning opportunities, failures and successes.
Dad's unexpected death midway through the year was not the least of the challenges. It was shocking and difficult, and to be honest, part of me wanted to give up on running Sanctuary Academy. It seemed like it was just too much work, and why did it matter if dad, who inspired this mission, was gone? At the same time another part of me thought that I needed to trudge forward precisely because he had died, and this would be a way for his legacy to live on.
I loved talking with my dad about Sanctuary. He just "got it" in terms of the methods, the approach, the values, the mission. Dad was so interested in the model, and he was often trying to implement the approach of being a Socratic Guide with our children. To foster critical thinking and problem solving, at Acton there are Guides not Teachers. Guides are not allowed to answer questions from learners, they can only respond with questions to help them find the answer with other resources (their own minds, books, peers). I remember vividly dad trying to use this approach to guide our two-year-old Lulu as we worked to get out the door at my parents house. Dad asked an emotional Lulu several questions and patiently sat with her while she tried to figure out how to get her shoes and coat on... after a while my mom intervened and put Lulu's shoes on as she commented, "Bill, I'm all about kids being independent but sometimes you just have to be practical; Monica needs to leave!"
The memory makes me smile, along with so many other memories about my dad. I have come to realize over the past few months that dad is with me in an even more powerful way now. He is present at all of our Sanctuary events, and I believe he is "Guiding" me in his own way from Heaven, through prayers and continued love. I miss him tremendously in the way I knew him before he died. I definitely miss his physical presence, smile, laugh and goofy jokes...and of course his singing. But I am also appreciating that I get to be with him in a new way that is bearing fruit in my life. His initiation of and blessing over this mission of Sanctuary Academy is something that fuels me to keep going on the hardest days.
For the 2022/2023 year, we are operating out of the St. Francis Retreat Center in Dewitt! This is a beautiful location and we are excited to serve families with heroes ages 7-13. Our plan is to expand this program to Middle School, High School, and Pre-K over the next 2 years. We want this hybrid program to be affordable for families. But the reality is, paying guides, supplying the curriculum, project supplies and the full studio setup is costly. We believe we have something extremely valuable to offer the community: 1) a Christ-centered education that embraces and supports the whole child, is engaging and relevant, and 2) much needed support for homeschooling families who are craving community, or school families who want something new for education but don't know where to turn.
I will be honest, my dream is to be able to offer this program free of charge, and be sustained by donations. In the meantime, we hope to keep tuition low and support families in need by having a scholarship fund. We also need some initial items to get started, such as books for a studio library, hands on learning materials and some furniture, as our studio room is pretty much a blank slate right now! 10% of money raised would go towards these items.
If you feel called, please consider making a donation for the success of Sanctuary Academy and to reach families in need, in Bill's honor. If not, please consider saying a quick prayer for us!
Thank you so much for your time and your support! We look forward to sharing updates as the year progresses.
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