And, how I decided to pull my children out of traditional private school…
By Angela Hansen
Founder & President, American Academy of Strategic Education
Driving to my children’s private school across town one morning, I became 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 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 were 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 pull my children out of their traditional private school and find an alternative education system for them. 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 teaching our boys myself 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 teach them at home? 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 educational journey has been incredible. We opened our doors of American Academy of Strategic Education in September 2017. Our academy was created to support parents in educating their children. Parents, teachers, and students collaborate to design the child’s learning plan, and the teachers at the academy support that learning plan by offering the students the opportunity to study and learn at his or her own pace, participate in lively discussion- and project-based core-subject courses and foreign language classes. Students also participate in fun and interesting electives as well as social and academic activities and field trips.
The partnership among parents, students, and administration provide experiences that encourage students to develop an appropriate sense of independence and the opportunity to engage in a wide range of academic, applied-learning and social experiences.
American Academy promotes a love of learning through flexible, adaptive, and unique educational opportunities. At our center, the individual talents of students are nurtured while the individual needs are supported in a collaborative and thoughtful learning environment.
Our teachers work to foster habits such as organization, extended concentration, cooperation with peers, compromise and perseverance. As a result, the innate learning that occurs is often more valuable and transferable than objective content alone. It is our goal for students to develop a true love of learning, an inherent will to building lasting relationships with their peers, and a growing love for life.
We look forward to partnering with you and your children on this educational journey.