By Angela Hansen
Founder & Director, American Academy of Strategic Education
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Driving to my children’s traditional private school across town one morning, I began to become increasingly stressed about one of my boys being prepared for his history exam. I was fairly certain that he had not prepared for this exam which I was sure would result in a call home from his teacher! This childish fear of receiving a reprimanding phone call from the teacher caused me to start an impromptu cram study session right then and there in the car.
My son pulled out the study sheet that looked like a ditto copy from the 1940s filled to the brim with bite-sized historical facts. The subject of the history exam was an early explorer, Juan Cabrillo who discovered the Channel Islands (ask me how I remember this…). One of my boys was quizzing the other on the subject matter. The one being quizzed could not recall who discovered the Channel Islands. Me, getting frustrated with my son not knowing the answer, blurted out: “Juan Cabrillo!” All of my children were shocked and surprised that I knew such a random answer.
And then it hit me. How did I know that answer?! It was not because I was some sort of early explorer history buff. Rather, I realized it was because my three children before him had studied this exact same lesson. Of course, that in and of itself is not bad but this one small story only emphasized the fact that over the 12 years between my oldest and youngest child, while the world had experienced so much technological change, there had not been a single technological innovation when it came to how this lesson was taught.
And suddenly, in that moment, I had an epiphany. I thought to myself, “There has to be a better way for my children to learn than by memorizing piles and piles of facts off an old ditto-copied handout!” To make matters worse, my son frequently told me that his teacher kept saying in class, “I hate computers, I wish they would just go away.” Well, I think computers are here to stay, so I think we should make the best of it and teach our students how to use them.
Furthermore, when my other son kept coming home with 105% or higher on his Advanced Math exams (105%!), the apparent lack of challenging assignments led me to look for alternate schools. He was not being taught at a level that would keep up with his many different talents and abilities. Somehow, in that moment, it became very clear to me that I needed to find the right school for my children.
So as much as I loved the school my children had attended for all those years, I realized that it was high time for my boys to have a change in academic scenery. I went on the search for just the right school. I was sure that in Southern California I would be able to find at least one that would be able to satisfy all of my children’s needs. Unfortunately, it was not that easy.
I ended up enrolling my children in another private school, which turned out to be a mistake. Although the new school was a non-denominational religious school, its morals and standards were in utter disarray, and harmful to its students. Throughout the course of the year, students at this morally-bankrupt school shared inappropriate videos on YouTube with my children – all with the support of the teachers and principal. Additionally, the school’s education and curriculum was of subpar quality, and I was paying far more than what I should have paid for an inferior education.
After having many discussions with the teachers and principal over the students’ inappropriate conduct and the school’s overall curriculum, I decided that if by the end of the school year I could not find the perfect new school, I would homeschool my children. This compelled me to go back to school to earn my Master’s Degree in Education in Teaching and Learning and to obtain my teaching credential. After making this decision, I quit my full-time job as a Human Resources Director of a large company and set out to be the best teacher my children would ever have.
As the end of the school year came, we did not have a viable new school to send our children to. I told my husband that I would be homeschooling our boys next year. In the beginning he was mildly freaked out by the notion, as evidenced by his first response: “We have invested thousands and thousands of dollars in our children’s education, and for what? So that you can pull them out to homeschool them? Won’t that mess up their education, not to mention their social skills?” It was a tough sell, but in the end I managed to persuade him to let me take responsibility for their education and socialization.
Since then, our homeschool journey has been incredible. Up until this school year, my boys had completed their homeschool work on our dining room table. They thoroughly enjoy their personalized education. Their curriculum is flexible and adaptable to their needs and abilities, and is from a fully accredited program. The one thing missing from this otherwise perfect educational experience was social interaction with kids their own ages. To help eliminate the missing social components, we created many intellectually-stimulating clubs with their neighborhood friends, while increasing their after-school activities (such as sports, music, Boy Scouts), and we even started inviting other homeschool students to study with our boys.
Inviting other students to work alongside my boys had a tremendously positive impact on my boys’ overall homeschooling experience. As a result, they became more self-motivated to get their work done quickly; and they became more engaged, excited, and interested in their learning experiences. This one little change made a huge difference, so much so that even my husband noticed the positive difference in my boys’ attitudes toward learning. Because we had created such a wonderful home-grown learning environment that was working so well for my boys and their friends, my husband began to prod me to open a homeschool school. And he kept prodding me. And that is how American Academy of Strategic Education came to be.
We opened our doors in September 2017 with only a few full-time and part-time students. In just a few short months we have developed seven different academic and social programs that meet the needs of all of our students. Moving forward, to help meet the demand of students who are driving long distances to come to our academy, we will be opening additional academies throughout Orange County. We look forward to sharing our unique learning opportunities with students everywhere.