American Academy of Strategic Education

My Take on “Trying to be Perfect is Killing Our Teens and We’re to Blame”

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Angela Hansen
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?”

I too am done making my children miserable. I am all for hard work, determination, and grit, but I am also about happiness, joy, and being balanced individuals. As I look around I notice the inconsistency of our message to our kids about being happy, independent, and respectable people, yet continually force them into educational situations that produce the opposite outcome.
In grade school, we teach our children to share, be honest, and be happy. In junior high, we promote being thoughtful, courteous, and well-rounded. But by the time our kids get into high school, we are shaping them to be self-centered, dishonest, nothing-but-driven, unhappy, single-focused A+ students amped up on drugs to stay even more focused than their peers.
 
Do you ever step back and ask yourself why
 
I believe it is because we all naturally want our kids to be happy and successful, however, we sometimes get confused with how happiness and success actually look. We become caught up in what “everyone else” is doing (if your friends jumped off a cliff would you?) without any regard for what is actually best for each individual child. While we are pushing our own educational agenda on our victims we forget to foster the character traits we want our children to emulate: the courage to be different, self-contentment, joy, honesty, thoughtfulness…
While there may be some pros, there are also many cons to the public and private education system today that each parent should be asking if it is right for each child.  Sometimes the bad outweighs the good. And don’t kid yourself into thinking that all that is wrong with education is referring only to public schools. Many private schools are just public schools that cost a lot of money and have prettier wallpaper! (Trust me, I have spent a pretty penny on private school tuition.)
If you’re serious about helping your child become a happy, successful adult who loves to learn and who cares as much about his or her own success as you do, consider helping him/her find the right path toward success that might be different from what you’re currently doing.  If you’re going to give your child an educational opportunity that is uniquely his/her own, it must be flexible, adaptable, and personalized and must not close any opportunity doors for him/her later in life.
Have you ever had a heartfelt conversation with your child about his/her life? I recently asked my son if he really enjoys school and asked him what was and was not working for him.  We talked about where he wants to end up and what he must be willing to do and to give up to get where he wants to be. Most importantly, we discussed that this is his life and that only he can make decisions that will affect him in the long run because eventually, he will be the only one his decisions affect.
I hope that these kinds of conversations become woven into our daily dialogues with our children and that we can bring about real change in our children’s education.

After-School Classes Build Workforce Skills

“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*

Teamwork abilities
78%

Problem-solving skills
77%

Verbal communication skills
71%

*Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2017

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Next-generation students benefit from after-school classes

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

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Experts weigh in on the value of after-school classes

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.

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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.

Welcome to American Academy of Strategic Education

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Designed as a low-cost education option for students 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.

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” 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 B., 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


If you live in Orange County and are thinking about home schooling but are overwhelmed, don’t want to “do it” or “do it alone”, this academy is PERFECT!!! Angela and her staff really care about these kids and bend over backwards to help parents. I didn’t have a CLUE about homeschooling, didn’t want to do it, but my son REALLY was adamant about it, and he and Angela worked together and figured out a great plan for him and made it happen. He was almost 100% in charge of his own education most of high school, he got to pursue courses HE wanted to explore and got a great education.
Katrina W. H.


We really appreciate the way the school provided such a smooth transition to virtual learning. You guys have made it seem effortless although I know it is not! I have greatly appreciated the early and ongoing communication! You guys are amazing!
-Brooke W. and Family


Love, love, love this place! They bring the joy of learning back to kids who have lost and provide a positive environment.
-Nancy H. and Family


Highly recommend! My son has been going to the American Academy of Strategic Education. We have been very impressed with their understanding of our son and the importance of attending to the whole child… They are always evolving and looking for best practices in this very fast paced shifting world. I am so grateful they truly care – not only in words, but actions.
-Kathy C. and Family


American Academy has been so supportive and helpful. I have appreciated the time they have taken to help my son with his education. The teachers are so knowledgeable. My son has enjoyed the classes and clubs and is looking forward to Spanish immersion this school year! We love American Academy!
Yolanda R. and Family


We LOVE this academy! I was new to homeschooling and never thought I would do it until I found this school! They have been so helpful and so attentive to my daughter. I love that I have the flexibility to tailor her learning programs and the teachers here can help her learn and reinforce what she is learning. I highly recommend this academy!
-Shannon K. and Family


We are so grateful for American Academy and the service and education they provide. It’s really hard to find an educational center that will work with you. Thankfully, American Academy was very flexible. As a teacher myself, I really value that American Academy teachers promote higher level thinking skills with things like group discussions, projects, art, and STEM activities that don’t just rely on worksheet after worksheet. The kids always came home excited and I could tell by the things they were talking about that their brains had been very stimulated. Thank you, American Academy, for everything and for being a great service to our family!
-Bethany L. and Family


“Our daughter loves going to the American Academy of Strategic Education!! 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

Are Homeschool Students Ready for the Real World?

By Angela Hansen
Founder & Director, American Academy of Strategic Education
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Most people would agree that students who have been homeschooled typically excel academically, however some critics continue to challenge homeschoolers on being ready for the real world stating that homeschool students need more socialization. As a mother of two homeschoolers, I can attest to the fact that my kids do need more socialization not because they lacked socialization skills but on the contrary, because they love to socialize!

Generally speaking, homeschoolers overcome the potential for “lack of socialization” through heavy involvement in learning centers; social and academic clubs; after school music, art and language lessons; sports participation; and regularly attending field trips. Most homeschool students grow up extremely involved with other children.1 Homeschool students participate in more fieldtrips, spend more time planning their own education, have unique opportunities to pursue their interests and to apply their talents, and work with a wider age span of children and adults—all “real-world” opportunities.

If you consider the critic’s argument that homeschoolers lack “real world experience” and compare the homeschool student to the traditional school student, it might just be that homeschool students learning experiences are more in line with the real world. Thomas Smedley wrote his master’s thesis for Radford University of Virginia on “The Socialization of Homeschool Children.” Smedley found that in an effort to conform to their immediate peers, public school students are socialized horizontally and with a short-term focus. On the contrary, homeschool parents tend to socialize their children vertically and focus on teaching accountability, service, maturity, and with a long-term aim.2

University of Michigan’s Assistant Professor of Education, J. Gary Knowles, conducted a study that concluded that most homeschool students were prepared for the real world. Knowles surveyed 53 adults who were homeschooled. He found that 2/3 were married, which is the norm for adults their age. None were unemployed or on welfare. He found more than 3/4 felt that being homeschooled had helped them develop relationships with people from varying levels of society. More than 40% attended college and 15% of those had completed a graduate degree. Nearly 2/3 were self-employed, 96% said that they would want to be homeschooled if given the opportunity to do it over again. He stated, “Many mentioned a strong relationship engendered with their parents while others talked about self-directed curriculum and individualized pace that a flexible program of homeschooling permitted.”3

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Footnotes

  1. “Socialization Practices of Christian Home School Educators in the State of Virginia,” a study of ten Virginia home school families, performed by Dr. Kathie Carwile, appeared in the Home School Researcher, Vol. 7, No. 1, December 1991.
  2. Thomas C. Smedley, M.S., “Socialization of Home Schooled Children: A Communication Approach,” thesis submitted and approved for Master of Science in Corporate and Professional Communication, Radford University, Radford, Virginia, May 1992. (Unpublished.)
  3. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, study of home school adults by Assistant Professor of Education, J.Gary Knowles, Associated Press article entitled, “University Study Says Home-Taught Children Won’t Become Social Misfits,” appearing in the Grand Haven Tribune 9 March 1993.

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The Best Education Resources

While we believe the best resource a homeschool student has is his or her parents and our academies, we have found a few other great free and almost free resources that we wanted to share with you.  We hope you enjoy! If you have any ideas to add, please let us know.
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GENERAL:

Smithsonian Education
www.smithsonianeducation.org/students/explore_by_topic/explore_by_topic.html
Interactive lessons on the topics of science/nature, history/culture, art, and people/places.

Study Jams
www.studyjams.com
This is a free site from Scholastic.com. Through real world examples presented in a multimedia format, StudyJams helps students understand the underlying concepts of math and science so they are better able to solve individual problems.  For Grades 3-8.

ABCya!
www.abcya.com
ABCya.com offers free educational computer games and activities for elementary students. Grade level lessons incorporate areas such as math and language arts while introducing basic computer skills.

Fun Brain
http://www.funbrain.com
Great array of games including math games, reading games, and games for both kids and parents to play.

Hoagies Gifted
http://hoagiesgifted.org
The all-things-gifted site, full of resources, articles, books and links to help and support parents, teachers, and gifted children alike. This is a free site.

FREE OPEN COURSES ONLINE

Open Coursware Consortium
www.ocwconsortium.org
Free, open educational content—high quality university-level educational materials. These materials often include course planning materials and evaluation tools as well as thematic content.

Hippo Campus
http://www.HippoCampus.org
Free, high-quality, multimedia content on general education subjects such as algebra, calculus, physics, statistics, U.S. history, biology and more.

Weebly
Openeducationsource.weebly.com
This free site offers educational resources available for homeschooling and supplemental education for kids Pre-School through High School and beyond. Subjects include math, science, social studies, English and more.

MATH:

GeoGebra
www.geogebra.org
GeoGebra is free and multi-platform dynamic mathematics software for all levels of education. It joins geometry, algebra, tables, graphing, statistics and calculus.

Xtra Math
https://www.xtramath.org
This a free web site for students, parents and teachers. It helps with the foundations of all math—addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
STEAM:

How to Smile
Howtosmile.org is a free-access collection of 3,500 of the best hands-on science and math activities for all ages. Based at UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of the Science, SMILE makes STEM fun and educational, and draws activities from leading science centers, science and science education organizations, universities and national agencies.

SCIENCE:

Exploratorium
http://www.exploratorium.edu
The Exploratorium is located in San Francisco—but this site is of interest to everyone, regardless of location. Topics cover every day science, the earth, the human body, living things – even the science of baseball. This is a free site.

NASA for Students
http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/index.html and http://starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov
Nasa.gov is a great site for students K and above and includes educational programs, Nasa e-clips, podcasts, and MORE. Starchild is geared toward a younger audience interested in learning about “space stuff”. Both sites are offered free of charge.


Middle School Chemistry
www.middleschoolchemistry.com
You can download all of the lessons from Middle School Chemistry for free. Middle School Chemistry is a resource of guided, inquiry-based lesson plans that covers basic chemistry concepts, along with the process of scientific investigation.

Science Buddies
www.sciencebuddies.org
This is a free site with over 1,000 science fair project ideas in more than 30 different areas of science. Great for home experiments too.

WRITING:

Starfall
http://www.starfall.com
Starfall is a free site that provides a systematic phonics approach in conjunction with phonemic awareness practice for kids Pre-School—2nd Grade.

Brave Writer
www.bravewriter.com
The website offers many free resources including podcasts, daily writing tips, exercises to try at home with your children, a forum where you can post questions, plus much more. In addition, the website sells a variety of products.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE:

Duolingo
www.duolingo.com
Free language education in Spanish, English, French, German, Portuguese and Italian.

HISTORY and GEOGRAPHY

National Geographic
http://ww.nationalgeographic.com/kids and http://education.nationalgeographic.com
Wonderful content, amazing pictures—and who doesn’t like the National Geographic? Plus, it’s a free site.

ART & MUSIC

HomeschoolPiano
http://www.homeschoolpiano.com and http://jazzedge.com
Lessons follow a 6-step cycle that makes it easy for students to master the piano. Students have online access and learn at their own pace in the comfort of their own home or wherever they have internet access. No special equipment is needed. You can view the lessons as much as you like on any computer, tablet, or phone. Drum lessons are also available.

Online Drum Lessons

Click here for drum lesson info.

Harmony Fine Arts
http://harmonyfinearts.org
Homeschool art and music plans, written by Barb. Read how she includes art, music appreciation, and nature study in her children’s educational programs. Free, and items for purchase are available on the site.

SUPPLEMENTARY/FUN PRODUCTS and WEBSITES

Bookemon, Inc.
http://www.bookemon.com
Free, easy-to-use online, iPad and iPhone book creator for parents, educators and kids to create their own personalized books in pro-quality print and e-book format. Their exclusive edCenter platform gives homeschool parents a safe and secure environment to collaborate and work with their kids online. Their Young Author Press program helps young authors turn their creative writings into published books with ISBN-13, which allows students to be recognized as published authors worldwide.

Internet Marital Arts (IMA)
www.internetmartialarts.com
The site offers online martial arts courses which include web-based instructional videos, training, monitoring, and an online belt testing program for individuals age 6 (beginner friendly) and older. Students can train on their own schedule, and train anywhere while having access to instructor feedback—it’s the cyber martial arts learning solution.

How Stuff Works
http://www.howstuffworks.com
Fun site for everyone. Topics include engineering, environmental science, forces of nature, innovation, and more.

Teach With Movies
http://www.teachwithmovies.com
Lesson plans based on movies and films, such as The Sound of Music, Diary of Anne Frank, Mulan, and more. Teach With Movies provides the curriculum materials but not the movies themselves. 350+ guides—this was a subscription site and is now free.

Typing
www.bbc.co.uk/schools/typing
A free and fun colorful website with animation and games introducing touch typing to children ages 7 to 11.

Songs for Teaching
http://www.songsforteaching.com
Thousands of children’s songs, lyrics, sound clips, and teaching suggestions. Songs about science, mathematics, social studies, the fine arts, life skills and more. You can listen to the songs online for free or purchase songs that you like.

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