Founder and Director, American Academy of Strategic Education
Original Article: https://grownandflown.com/trying-perfect-killing-teens/
Melissa Fenton, author of the blog “Grown and Flown” discusses the recent student suicide that has shed light on the mounting pressure placed on high school students to get accepted to top universities. She wants us to answer for ourselves “Why are we killing our teenagers?”
“How do we sufficiently prepare today’s students to enter the future labor market as adults?” This is a question that has perplexed experts for the past two decades. Currently, more than 1 in 3 workers believe that they do not have the proper training and education to enable them to move ahead in the workplace.
Specifically, employers are looking for employees who can work effectively in teams, who have strong communication and problem-solving skills, and who also possess expert-level technical skills.
After-school classes and summer learning programs help to close the gaps between the skills students have and the proficiencies employers are seeking.
After-school classes also help students discover new interests and professions that they might not have considered. Many afterschool classes provide students with real-world problem-solving opportunities to help them to achieve their career aspirations.
Percent of Employers Who Look For the Following:
Attributes in a Candidate*
Verbal communication skills
*Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2017
After-school classes are a vital part of your child’s well-rounded education. America’s next generation of employees and entrepreneurs are growing up right now. Many exciting school classes have been slashed from school schedules due to budget cuts and time constraints placed on teachers to adequately prepare students for mandatory state testing. School has become boring and meaningless to many students. Afterschool classes help young people discover new passions and motivate them to work towards their dreams.
Students with a variety of interests, ages, and abilities can enjoy the benefits of afterschool classes. Many classes focus on social and emotional learning, teamwork and communications skills, and exploring new subjects.
Potential colleges like to see students who have a variety of interests and who are well rounded academically and socially. Students might choose to take electives that they don’t have room for in their school schedule, or classes that give them concrete experience that will benefit them in future jobs. Afterschool classes help students discover potential career pathways by connecting students to real-world problems and guiding students to build the foundational skills that will benefit them in school and when they enter the workforce.
In American Academy of Strategic Education’s elementary, middle, and high school afterschool classes, students learn to work collaboratively while participating in exciting hands-on activities.
Academic electives include classes such as visual and performing arts. STEAM classes include courses in robotics and web design, and foreign language classes include Mandarin and Spanish. American Academy of Strategic Education also offers fun electives such as ukulele and cake decorating. To recommend a new class topic, please email suggestions to AngelaH@American-Academy.org
After school classes play a vital role in our community. A recently-published research report from The RAND Corp offers a research-based look at “The Value of After School Programs.”
The primary finding of the study is that there are measurable benefits to students and families who participate in afterschool and summer learning programs. The authors of the report noted that the students who benefited the most were the ones who attended the classes regularly.
The authors also noted that many actual benefits of after-school and summer learning programs are not calculated into the perceived benefits such as providing students with new and unique learning experiences, helping close the opportunity gap, and supporting parents who work.
American Academy of Strategic Education specializes in supporting personalized learning for every student. Our goal is to advance and transform student’s education by providing self-paced learning opportunities in a fun, safe, and innovative environment where students can engage in a variety of stimulating social activities.
In just a few hours every day using our accredited curriculum or your own, we will help students become independent, self-motivated learners. We operate flexible hours Monday through Friday to meet your student’s needs. Utilizing personal allocations of public charter school funds, American Academy is low-cost or no-cost to the student.
Designed as a low-cost option for homeschoolers from Kindergarten to High School level (K-12), American Academy of Strategic Education provides a fun, safe, and innovative environment for students to engage in social activities, as well as study their academic core subject courses.
American Academy operates flexible hours to meet your student’s daily schedule. In just a few hours–on the days of your choice, American Academy will help students become independent, self-motivated learners by giving students unique learning opportunities through supervised study time with certified teachers, social and academic clubs that promote student-led learning, and fun and academic after-school electives.
Students may use the curriculum of their choice. For those students who are searching for an academic program, we offer a wide-spectrum, secular and non-secular, A-G and California State Standards approved, fully-accredited curriculum. At the high school level, students may earn an accredited High School Diploma and prepare for college with AP courses. Our caring, certified teachers are dedicated to partnering with families and helping all students succeed.
We work with a number of charter schools to help families enjoy our center at low or no-cost. We are currently approved vendors for Excel Academy, Inspire Charter Schools, iLead Schools, National University Academy, Summit Academy, Springs Charter Schools, and Valiant Preparatory. We would be happy to take the necessary steps to become approved vendors for other charter schools. See full list of our partnered Charter Schools.
“Our daughter loves going to the American Academy of Strategic Learning’s Study Center!! It gives her a place go to get her work accomplished, while also being able to socialize with other homeschool students. We were able to make our own schedule. This was key for us since our daughter likes to be very busy in extracurricular activities. While homeschooling has been the best thing for our daughter, there always seemed to be a “missing piece.” Coming here has filled that need. When she talks to other friends who go to public/private schools, she has more confidence because she has a sense of belonging and can relate easier. Also, it gives her a great sense of pride and accomplishment to get up each morning and achieve her day at the center. She also has developed more independence outside of home. This is something that has concerned me over the years of homeschooling. I have found that she’s very strong and independent!!! I wouldn’t have known that if we didn’t have the time apart to actually observe how she’s developing in her outside relationships. I want her to be able to coexist and get along with others. Attending the American Academy of Strategic Learning helps her with this as well. She loves structure and sense of belonging and feels fulfilled here. There is a lot of bonding time with wonderful students as well. Many of the students attending clubs, which help them, work as a team. The owner is on time each morning and is organized and focused on the well being of all of the children. The staff is amazing as well!! This has been a blessing to our family!! I recommend this center to any homeschooling family because many different personalities that could flourish here.”
– Kimberly, Mother of 15-year-old Skylar
” I am so impressed by American Academy of Strategic Learning. Not only is the atmosphere inviting and the staff warm and helpful, but the programs provide an important social outlet and feeling of “belonging” for the students. This Study Center is just what Orange County needs to help meet the needs of homeschool students. Angela, the director is professional, warm, knowledgeable, and accommodating. I recommend this academy highly!!”
– Karen A., Charter School Teacher
My son was hesitant to attend the study center. He begged me to not sign him in, but after I attended an orientation I knew it was a good fit for him. He is a little bit shy that’s why I knew this was a good place for him to socialize, learn, and have fun. When you walk into the academy, it feels like you are at home. Now he is excited to go every week. He feels confident to talk and play with everyone. I know I made the right choice. Thank you, Mrs. Angela!
– Lourdes Brito, mother of a 5th-grade son and 1st-grade daughter
Our family is new to homeschooling, and the American Academy of Strategic Education has helped make the transition easier. Our 7th-grade son is a very social child but was bored at traditional middle school. The curriculum that American Academy introduced us to has been great and our son really enjoys his time at the study center with other kids and the academic clubs. We were concerned that the study center’s space would feel small to him with so many kids, but he says that they have plenty of study spaces and have fun during their breaks…the only thing missing is a basketball court! Because the study center has several rooms to support different working styles, we feel that our son is able to focus and study the way he feels most comfortable.
– The Basilio Family
As much as my three girls enjoy homeschooling, it has been a difficult journey finding friends they can interact with on a regular basis. As a family, we discussed that we would give homeschooling one last shot by signing up for American Academy. Best decision ever! They look forward to bringing their schoolwork to the center, where they have a quiet place to work, as well as play games or do projects with their friends during breaks. They are also involved in a variety of clubs during their time there, such as Entrepreneurial Club and Music Performance Club that have helped build relationships with their peers and foster leadership skills. And lastly, we have a few hours to ourselves while knowing our girls are in a place they enjoy being and is also beneficial to them. Thank you, Angela, for providing such a place!
– Dr. Herald and Heidi Ostovar
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.