|A Page from my A.C.E. School Yearbook|
When I was in 6th Grade, I went to a very small Christian School that used A.C.E. Curriculum. It was quite possibly the best academic experience of my life*, because it taught me skills that I have used constantly since then. The skills I learned did not depend on using A.C.E. Curriculum, but they were habits that were encouraged in users of that curriculum. These principles have been a great help to me, not only in my own life, but as a homeschooling Mom; I apply these principles when I teach my daughter.
1. Kids should learn academic self-discipline. In the A.C.E. program, each student was expected to make his or her own lesson plan. At the end of each day, we were to make a plan of what materials we would cover the next day. When I later transferred to public school, then went to college & grad school, if I knew what the syllabus said, I never again had to wait to get an assignment to start it. Nor did I have to wait for the night before the due date to get it done. I had learned to plan my own time. This inspired my 2 1/2 Minute Homeschool Lesson Planning which allows my daughter to plan her own lessons.
2. Kids should not be left to themselves academically. Although we were expected to be self-disciplined with our lesson planning, we were not left to choose what or whether we would learn. We regularly heard "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6) Children were expected to be raised in the Faith and in life skills by Christian adults who would guide them in the right way.
3. Don't move on until you "get it." When a new student started at the school, he or she was given a placement test for each subject, and then was given materials in the proper grade level for each subject. A student could be 11 years old, and doing 10th grade math, but 3rd grade reading if that was what they needed. Because, you really can't do 6th grade reading if you haven't mastered 3rd grade reading. Students were also given "patches" for areas of difficulty. I remember one girl in 7th grade was given a 1st grade workbook on how to tell time. She had never learned before. Then, when she finished that, she immediately moved up to 6th grade math. Many parents worry that Mastery type curricula are too easy, since the student isn't doing things that are as flashy as their peers. But the schools that are really "dumbed down" are the schools that pretend to teach Algebra & Latin to students that cannot read English competently or do simple Addition with accuracy.
4. A "C" is NOT passing! Mediocre work was not accepted. An 85% was passing - and only just. A person who got a 70% on an exam simply did not understand the material, and had to do it again. This was such a blessing when the student moved to more difficult work. It is scary to think that when I go to the hospital, I might be treated by a doctor or a nurse who had "passed" an important class with a 70%.
5. If you work hard, you'll be able to play more! If we finished the assignment we made ourselves, we were done for the day! There was no homework unless we slacked off. There was a "light at the end of the tunnel" for each day's work.
6. You can't have too much Religion! As a student, I was quite worried about my A.C.E. school. It was "unaccredited," AND I spent THREE HOURS EVERY DAY on religion! We had Opening Exercises for 1/2 hour in the morning, then Private Devotions for 1/2 hour, then academic work to do in Bible and Church History, then afternoon Chapel! I was convinced that I was falling behind academically, and would be in bad shape when and if I transferred to public school. When I did transfer to public school, the Principal was also certain that I would be doing badly. He threatened my Mother, "Well, you've had your girls in an unaccredited school. We'll have to test them and see if they're at grade level. If they're behind, we'll have to put them back a few grades. But, we'll let them go ahead and start school at the level you say they should be at." A few weeks later, Mom called the Principal. Why hadn't we been tested yet? Well, as it turns out, we were at the top of our respective classes (I had NOT been at the top of my class before A.C.E. - I had been a mediocre student) - and he wasn't going to bother. You see, learning about the Bible teaches a lot of other skills like reading comprehension, logic, and historical understanding. But more importantly, God blesses the study of His Word.
7. A little motivation goes a long way. A.C.E. had a motivational system. Each week we could earn various privileges for doing an appropriate amount of school work, volunteer work, and Bible memory work. At the highest level of privileges, we were free to take a break any time we wanted. You can bet that I made sure I had the highest level of privileges every week!
8. Read for content. Most A.C.E. materials were workbook-based. There was a lesson to read, then there were fill-in-the-blank questions to answer that made sure we had distilled the important information from what we had read. Then, there was a test at the end of the workbook to be certain that the material had been retained. This approach helped me learn to read quickly for content, a skill that was a huge blessing in the subsequent years of schooling.
9. Learn Phonics First! Our school was very small - only about 100 kids in grades K through 12. So, those of us who were in 5th - 7th grade were on the other side of an accordion-curtain from the Kindergarten. All day, every day, I could hear the rigorous, intensive, phonics-first instruction given to the Kindergartners. There was no sight reading in sight! And, I still remember at the final assembly of the year, hearing those 5 year-olds (who were dressed in cute little suits and dresses) reading to all of us - long passages, straight from the King James Bible - without a flaw!
10. You can teach yourself most things you need to learn. Most people feel that if they need to learn something, they should sign up for a class, attend at inconvenient hours, and pay a lot of money for someone to teach them. Then, if the material is not properly spoon-fed by the instructor, they don't know how to study on their own, and they blame the instructor for their failure. But, I learned that most learning can be done by simply sitting down with the materials by myself regularly and studying on my own. After that, if I hit a snag, I could ask for help from a professional.
*Although I am a big fan of many ACE distinctives, I have not chosen the curriculum for my own use. I am a Greek Orthodox Christian, and the ACE Curriculum, while officially non-denominational, would not work for our family doctrinally. Besides which, I really LOVE customizing my own curriculum and having the relationship advantage of teaching my daughter face-to-face.
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