Habit 1: Be Proactive

Don’t wait for your ship to come, swim out to it.

Cathy Hopkins

Habit 1 of Almond Acres Charter Academy’s study of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is Be Proactive. The premise of this habit is that we have the power to tell our brains what to do! It is such a simple concept and frankly, simple to do. Feeding our thoughts with positive and productive ideas nourishes our lives with happiness and success. Thinking about doing something is the first step. Taking the next step and telling our brains to do it, is the action. Actions lead to habits, habits lead to character, and character leads to destiny.

Students who practice proactive behavior are able to ignore distractions, prioritize tasks, complete class assignments, and plan ahead. Academic, athletic, artistic, or any other intelligence will grow by focusing on the circle of influence and minimizing time and effort on areas of concern or distraction.

An Almond Acres Charter Academy student wearing a green uniform polo puts the final cup on a pyramid he made out of paper cups. He is very focused on the task.

Trying v. Doing

There are so many occasions in life when the word “try” is incomplete and only reactive. I think that “try” is a half-baked idea. Most of the time trying is short sighted–doing is what gets it done! 
The next time you congratulate your child for an accomplishment and he tells you, “Thank you, I tried my best,” remind him that he didn’t just try – HE DID IT! If he says, “I’ll try,” instead encourage “I will”. Trying insinuates that we may have given our best effort, when in fact, when we accomplish things, we did give our best effort. Proactively telling ourselves to do it is power and causes great actions.

Reactive language v. Proactive language

  • I’ll try    vs.     I’ll do it!
  • That’s just the way I am.   vs.    I can do Better than that!
  • There’s nothing I can do.    vs.   There is something I can do!
  • I have to.    vs.    I get to!
  • I can’t.     vs.    There’s got to be a way!
  • You ruined my day.    vs.    I’m not going to let your bad mood rub off on me.
Almond Acres students work together to put playground equipment into a mesh bag.

Being proactive also helps us to take responsibility for our actions and to accept responsibility for our choices. Proactive citizens don’t blame others, they challenge them and step up and as change agents in families, schools, and community. Encourage this habit this week with the following efforts:

  • 🔵 Heart – reach out to a family member or friend who may need some encouragement
  • 🟡 Mind – search for an answer to an unanswered question
  • 🔴 Body – shop for foods that will support a healthy brain
  • 🟢 Soul – take 5 minutes to enter the classroom of silence

Being proactive is stepping up to life instead of letting it step on you. Like every habit, it takes 3-20 times to turn it into a habit. At Almond Acres, we teach our students to be patient, persistent, and positively proactive. We think it pays dividends.

“Have a can-do-titude.”

Mr. B

Learning Links

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Time management is a misnomer. We manage what we do, we don’t manage our time. Time is what it is; seconds, minutes, hours… there is no stopping it. Our success and happiness are dependent on what we do with our time. Making choices about what we do with each hour is what we really have control over. 

Putting first things first is a conscious choice to have a proactive approach to our day. There are a multitude of things we can do each minute of the day. Without thinking too much, we might find ourselves entrenched in something that may not align with our personal or professional well-being. Successful people recognize how they are spending their time and they mind their business. In other words, they put their energy into what is important and push away the distractions that may not be important or urgent.


The Leader In Me system of thinking that we use at Almond Acres illustrates this idea nicely with Quadrant Thinking. The matrix below identifies and organizes how we spend our time based on how productive we can be.

Looking closely at this matrix, you can see that Quadrant 1 is made up of tasks of the utmost necessity. We attend to these daily, and as needed, throughout our lives. Quadrants 3 & 4 can swallow up much of our time, allowing us to neglect not just what is important and urgent, but also what is important, but not urgent. It is in these two quadrants that most of us spend our time—it’s the path of least resistance. 

It’s interesting that we use the words “spend our time”. When we look at our day as an opportunity to invest ourselves in life, it becomes clear that we would rather spend wisely. 

Spending our time wisely is Q2 Thinking. Like fire prevention, we put our attention to the things that will benefit us now and in the future. As a parent, putting my time and energy into growing great kids should suppress many problems in the future. It’s about being proactive.

When we spend most of our time on things that are important but not urgent, we are putting first things first. Parents realize that the urgent and important are also critical and must be attended to, but minding our Quadrant 2 business is powerful. It forces the mindless tasks to the bottom of our list and makes the best use of our limited time.

An Almond Acres Charter Academy student in red polo shirt uniform uses her time wisely by helping load cereal into the back of a car to take to a local homeless shelter.

One of my favorite lessons in the Middle School Pathways program is the rocks and sand exercise that is illustrated in this video, The Pickle Jar. It is a clear metaphor for getting our priorities straight and finding ways to be more intentional about our life and likely, being able to achieve more than we may have thought possible. 

Happy and successful people are great at spending their time and talent on what is most important to them; heart, mind, body, and soul. You can help your children examine their priorities by asking them about each of the AACA colors:

  • 🔵 Heart  – Who are the most important people in your life?
  • 🟡 Mind  – What topics do you enjoy learning about most?
  • 🔴 Body – How do you like to spend time physically? (favorite sports, hobbies… )
  • 🟢 Soul – Why are you so special?

The other important message tied to this week’s habit is knowing what is important and urgent, and what is important but not urgent. Sorting the tasks and activities in our lives between these two ideas helps to keep our plates from feeling too heavy. I have attached a simple guide that may support our families in organizing our week/month and helping us to be intentional about our time and talents. I encourage you to print it, talk about it, and decide as a family how you can best use the precious asset of your time.

Further Reading on Putting First Things First

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids! 

Choose Your Own Weather

“If you can’t see the bright side of life, polish the dull side.” – Nathan, Mr. B’s son

Did you know that it’s possible to choose your own weather? No, you can’t control what falls from the sky, or when spring will arrive, but you can control your own personal weather forecast each and every day. 

Our choice to smile or grumble is controlled by our personal choice power. It’s true that “stuff” happens every day, but how we respond to that stuff is entirely in our circle of control. We are influenced by the people and circumstances in our life and our response to them is a choice. Believing that we have a choice and control is the first step toward personal efficacy and empowerment.

Almond Acres Charter Academy 4th graders play in the mud during a field trip

Mess or Fun? Almond Acres 4th graders prove that mud is just a matter of perspective.

One of my jobs as a parent is to get myself out of the job before my child is an adult. I expect that he or she will have the personal strength to handle what life dishes out each day. Teaching our children to think positively and proactively when it comes to life events, academics, sports, hobbies, or relationships, etc. can help them to recognize the power they have over their circumstances. 

When you achieve success in school and life, it’s clear how important it is to prioritize and organize studies, work, play, and relationships. Here are some examples of how this proactive philosophy works in conjunction with our Almond Acres mission to develop the heart, mind, body and soul of each child: 

🔵 Heart – Assume the best in people.
🟡 Mind – Organize a study schedule that gets things done before they are due.
🔴 Body – Make lunch the night before so that it’s ready and right for a healthy lifestyle.
🟢 Soul – Spend time in the classroom of silence to reflect on the day and consider ways to make tomorrow terrific.

A positive and powerful approach to life is infectious. If someone calls me a knucklehead and I respond with, “you are brilliant and beautiful”, I can stop them in their tracks and help them to realize that their negativity is pointless in the face of positivity. It doesn’t mean to always be Pollyanna about things, but adding a negative to a negative only leads to more negative. Adding a positive to a negative reverses things in a positive direction. It’s fascinating to see a grouch put on a smile when someone with a positive disposition gets in their way.

There is a neurological term for eliciting a response from someone with a smile or a frown. The response is called “mirroring”. Mirror neurons exist in our brain and can cause us to smile when someone smiles at us, or frown when we frown. A proactive decision to make someone think positively because we are acting or speaking positively has powerful results.

The See – Do – Get Model

The See – Do – Get model of thinking helps us to remember that how we SEE things (whether it be our perspective, feelings, or thoughts) will lead us to action (DO) and our actions achieve results (GET). When we don’t achieve the results we hope for it is often a result of an error in how we are seeing things or in the actions we hoped would achieve the result. Use this model to help your child recognize that his or her proactive response to life can have dramatic positive results on their future.

A graphic of the See Do Get Model with arrows. In the center of the model, the principles of responsibility, choice, accountability, initiative, and resourcefulness are illustrated.

Interested in taking your learning on Choosing Your Own Weather a bit further? You can watch an interesting video here and take a deep dive on career coaching here. How do you make your own weather forecast everyday? 

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids! 

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

“We must never become too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw.”

Dr. Stephen R. Covey

We all use tools to help us throughout our day. The condition and quality of those tools is essential to how we perform: a sushi chef requires sharp knives for the perfect slice, a painter washes and dries his brushes so they may be used again, a potter keeps unused clay moist so it is easy to work with. Caring for our tools makes us better at what we do. In our everyday lives, we also rely on tools to perform at our best: our hearts, minds, and bodies.

Built into our philosophy at Almond Acres’ is the mission to grow children’s heart, mind, body and soul. Along with that growth, we teach our students that it’s important to balance work with rest and renewal. Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw is all about finding balance. 

Almond Acres students wearing red t-shirts with a running number and a teacher wave at the camera

Sharpen the Saw

You probably know what it feels like to “have a dull saw.” It may show up as exhaustion or disinterest. It may feel like a 3rd cup of coffee to get going for the day. For kids, it may be that feeling right before bedtime, when they’ve hit the wall and even going to bed sounds impossible. It feels like being “hangry” (angry because you are hungry) just before dinner because you missed lunch. In short, it’s no fun. 

If we continually seek improvement without caring for ourselves, we will experience burnout—our saws will dull. And without a sharp saw, we can’t continue to grow and be at our best. 

How Do We Do It?

Rest and relaxation isn’t all about sitting on the sofa to watch tv (although, if that is rejuvenating to you, do it!). We have to pay attention to our whole selves. Here are some examples of activities that renew us as we seek balance:

Heart: “Carefree timelessness” in meaningful social connections with family, friends, and community members are revitalizing. Laughing with a friend and having fun is a great way to strengthen your heart. 

Mind: Reading great books, journaling, and engaging in puzzling activities stimulates your brain and sharpens your focus. Learning is one way to take care of your brain!

Body: A healthy dose of sleep, diet, and exercise. Are you moving your body everyday? Have you filled up on nourishing food? Are you getting adequate sleep? No one can keep moving on an empty tank.

Soul: Enter the “classroom of silence”. Expand your spiritual self through prayer, meditation, art, music, or spending time in nature. Any activity that fills your cup is rejuvenating to your soul. 

As we renew each part of ourselves, we leave room for growth and change. We increase our capacity, our resilience in the face of challenge, and our ability to give. Self-care is not selfish!

An Almond Acres student journals while looking out toward the rocks and sea

Sharpening the saw for children might look different from an adult. It might mean learning to rest after a busy day at school by relaxing with a good book or painting. Or maybe your child balances a passion for video games with breaks outside to move his body and breathe fresh air. Finding balance is deeply personal and how we do that will change as we grow.

In a world that teaches us that we must constantly be moving and doing, Almond Acres aims to help students seek balance. We model rest and recharging so that we can be at our best, everyday. How do you sharpen your saw? How do you help your children sharpen their saws?  

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Open to all students from all communities, AACA is currently in a temporary Paso Robles location until our new purpose built building opens for the 2021-2022 school year. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids! 

Habit 4: Think Win-Win

Almond Acres Charter Academy students are growing their hearts and minds this week by focusing on win-win thinking and creating positive outcomes for everyone. Let’s take a closer look at Habit #4: Think Win-Win and how this type of thinking can help us grow into Highly Effective People.

An Almond Acres Charter Academy student views an image through a viewfinder while another student waits patiently behind her for her turn
What might we find when we use a different lens? Like these AACA kids in a pre-Covid world, our thinking shifts when we try on a new perspective. 

Contrary to what might pop into our heads at first glance, win-win thinking isn’t about giving in, giving up, or giving a trophy to both teams. It’s about cooperation, collaboration, community, and creative thinking!

Win-Win thinking is cooperating to seek a solution that leaves both sides happy with the outcome. Our success does not have to be framed by another’s failure. That concept of win/lose is expected in a board game or a tennis match, but life and relationships are not competitions. Instead of competing, we ask: How can we re-frame a problem so everyone can win? 

Creative Thinking

Win-win requires flexible and creative thinking—it pushes your brain to try something new. And using your brain is fun! Win-win thinking recognizes that there is more than one solution to the decisions and challenges of the world. We aim to help children see that their way plus your way may be the best way

Creative thinking and problem-solving are woven into all of our studies and projects at AACA. The tracks children set down in their brains when they solve a complex math problem or build a tall tower out of wooden blocks also support the ability to look at a social problem and come up with multiple solutions. All of our learning is connected!  

Six Almond Acres Charter Academy students of varying ages sit together on the floor in a circle to work on a project.
When we work together towards a common goal, we can think bigger and honor everyone’s ideas.  The sky is the limit!

Abundant Heart

Thinking win-win cultivates empathy and healthy relationships. If we seek first to listen to and understand the feelings and ideas of our family, friends, and colleagues, we are taking the first step to a win-win situation. 

We can approach relationships with an abundant heart and the belief that there is more than enough to go around. Win-Win thinking means that sharing is not losing. Young children can easily understand that if you cut a pizza the right way, everyone can have a piece. 

We practice perspective-taking when we think about what other people may want or need. We can put our immediate desires on hold so that both parties can be happy. Win-win thinking means we are maturing and building empathy and patience!

Thinking win-win can be a challenge at first, but with time and practice, we see that it is the best way forward. We encourage our students to reflect on what makes this tough, walk a minute in their neighbor’s shoes, and look at situations with a creative lens to come up with new solutions. 

When have you created a win-win situation? 

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Open to all students from all communities, AACA is currently in a temporary Paso Robles location until our new purpose built building opens for the 2021-2022 school year. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids! 

3 Things to Know about Habits of Mind

By teaching kids how they’re smart, we teach them to develop their thinking skills. We call them habits of mind. What are my habits?  What are the things I’m going to get good at, because I’m going to practice? These personal and intellectual character traits are what make us smart, happy, and successful. They are the mental frameworks that all of our knowledge and skill sit upon. 

One of our primary focuses at Almond Acres Charter Academy (AACA) is teaching kids to think about what’s important, so they’ll act on it. When we act on things that are important, we create habits. When we create habits, it becomes our character. Our character becomes our destiny. For us, it’s all about developing thought processes; developing smart, intelligent, thinking. Thinking triggers action and the cycle begins again —  habits, character, and destiny.

Almond Acres Charter Academy students sitting on the floor in a circle

How we teach Habits of Mind at Almond Acres

  1. We use a variety of tools — thinking tools — to help us teach our kids how to think and develop their thinking skills. The first is terrific. It’s an acronym TRRFC that includes these citizenship traits: Trustworthy, Respectful, Responsible, Fair, and Caring. These citizenship traits involve key principles that grow strong citizens. By thinking in these terms and modeling these behaviors — you are terrific. You’re being a better version of yourself. 
  1. We encourage and ascribe to The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. This is a very well researched and proven approach to help people become better versions of themselves. The Seven Habits are shared, encouraged and expected in our school on a daily basis.  

Our kids grow to know each of the seven habits that also develops into an Almond Acres leadership system. It’s our way for kids to be leaders in their classroom, the school, our community, or at home. 

An Almond Acres alum shared this feedback about their time at our middle school, 

“ I enjoyed the amount of one-on-one attention and education I received since the classes were so small. I felt like I could create deeper connections with my peers and teachers. I found it beneficial in my older years to have thoroughly learned the Habits of Mind and the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

  1. Leadership gives every human confidence. We expect all of our kids to experience leadership roles whether they stem from an official leadership group or they are a leader in their classroom. Our students glean leadership opportunities every day by being the light monitor, or the person who  opens the door when somebody knocks. Our student leaders might direct a guest or act as an  ambassador to the school and give tours to prospective families. 

There are tons of different jobs to promote leadership in every classroom, and we believe there’s a leader in every student. We try to provide every one of our K-8 students with opportunities to be empowered. 

Students that are confident citizens is another way to describe what’s at the core of our school mission — to grow great kids! We holistically celebrate each unique learner  — heart, mind, body and soul. Get to know Almond Acres. We’re enrolling tuition-free K-8 today! 

About Almond Acres

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. The school is located inSan Miguel and is open to all students in all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!