Homeschool Helps Homeschooling

How We Use A.C.E

I wrote a review on the A.C.E (Accelerated Christian Education) curriculum to which we switched last year over at The Curriculum Choice. It has been by far my most popular and commented on review. It led me to think that because there are not many homeschooling bloggers out there using the curriculum (or at least very few that I can find) I would put together a post or two on how we use this curriculum in our home. My hope is that it will be of use to other A.C.E homeschooling families.

Firstly, I mentioned in my review that we use A.C.E our way – not the prescribed way as we are a home not a school. At the time of writing my review what I was referring to was adding a strong Charlotte Mason twist to our work. I shared my initial thoughts on the A.C.E program here.

However, it seems that more changes were necessary for our family. For those of you who use the program you know that there is quite a prescribed way of setting goals, marking etc… When we first started using A.C.E we followed all rules as set out in the training manual – well – it ended up not working well for us. The actual curriculum worked really REALLY well – my girls enjoyed the work and what they were learning, everything actually got done every single day, and they did very well in their tests and have even retained majority of what they have learnt a year later (we keep getting little snippets of ‘did you know’ from our girls at various times in our daily lives and the info came from their PACE’s).

Marking is for mama – I like to be in touch with what they are doing.

But I struggled! I struggled to remain in touch with what they were learning, I struggled with being so ‘hands-off’ with regard to their education. Up until our switch to A.C.E I had been completely in charge of what we learnt and when and how. If  A.C.E was going to work long-term in our home then things needed to change! So change them I did.

Outlined below are how we use A.C.E now:

DAILY

* I plan the daily goals (number of pages per PACE) weekly

Usually the child sets her own goals. But with me taking control I am able to set a workload that challenges my children yet does not overwhelm. I am also able to see what my children are going to be covering during the week and mentally highlight any areas that look like they could be more challenging than others.

* I go through new lessons with them

By this I mean that when a new concept is introduced or taught – especially in English and Math, I like to be the one to teach it to them. This way we are able to go over the new concept a couple of times together. We all know exactly where we are and can quickly cut to the chase if a problem occurs.

I keep the score-key’s. The children only get access to them if I ask them to mark something.

* I mark all the work

This way I get to see areas of strength and weakness, I get to see exactly what area they are struggling with so that we can go through it together that very same day. Corrections that need to be done are considered ‘homework’ and is done once all 6 PACE’s have been completed.

PLANNING

I am a planner! I love to plan out the school year, the term, the week. I get a certain joy out of planning out our school days. I found that if we use A.C.E the prescribed way – it cut all out the joy of planning! Well, in my book we just cannot have that!

Let’s first look at my planner {pictured above}. This year I started off putting my own planner but then succumbed to purchasing The Well Planned Day. It has worked remarkably well in terms of planning out the PACE’s. Here is how it works:

*The planner has pre-labeled boxes for Bible, Math, English, Science, and History. Then there are a few boxes that are unlabeled. I labeled them ‘Word Building’ and ‘Literature’. There is enough space to plan for 4 children, only having two I have more space to play with.



* I have colour-coded my girls so that I can pick out who is who at a glance.



*In each subject box I have written the PACE number that they are busy with for that particular subject and then underneath I have set out the pages I wish them to do for each day of the week. The number of pages I set is dependent on a few things:



1 – The capabilities of each child 

2 – The difficulty of work

3 – The time period that I want the PACE to be completed in. (no longer than 3 weeks/PACE)



I would then take the total number of pages in a PACE and divide that by the amount of days that the PACE needs to be completed in. Once I have a rough idea of how many pages must be done each day, I look at it a bit deeper and assess the difficulty and decided whether to give fewer or more pages for the day. I then set out these pages for each subject for each of my children.



I would say that this process takes me about an hour, perhaps a little longer. Moving on from my planner…



* Once I have set the weeks work, I then fill out a goal card for each of the girls and pop that as well as all their PACE’s into their work-boxes ready for Monday morning.

I hope that post shows how you can take a boxed curriculum and make it work for you. I think that as a homeschooling mum you have every right, indeed, you should, tweak it to work for you and for your family. If something is not working change it before throwing it out in favour of something ‘better’. Often the ‘better’ is no better at all really – just different.

Blessings in Christ,

Shirley

(8) Comments

  1. Jessica says:

    Thank you this is so very helpful for when I start. I don't think that I can "adjust" until I see how someone else has done it and I end up giving up or yelling because it is not working with us. These tweaks may help us also. Tahnk you Jessica

    1. Shirley-Ann says:

      Hi Jessica, I know what you mean. It really can be overwhelming, just take it one day at a time and don't be afraid to make the curriculum and system suit your own needs. If something needs changing – then change it 🙂

    2. Jessica says:

      😊

  2. Jo says:

    Hi Shirley, can I ask- did you get the TEACH membership or do you just buy the paces without the membership? I have tried ace in the past and feel so guilty cause I love CM's methods but am failing to implement in a big way and well past burn out…. But money is a huge issue here too and with 4 kids now …. In the past when we tried ace I found it so expensive but I did get the teach membership- but I felt like I was reporting to a "school" all the time and not in charge of my own home school – how have you handled it?

    1. Shirley-Ann says:

      Hi Jo,

      I totally relate to how you are feeling. Been there – done that!
      I was registered with TEACH but that was only when we were intending to get the ICCE certificates. The minute we decided that we were not going to pursue their route I cancelled our membership.
      But quickly – I am by nature quite an eclectic homeschooler. So I LOVE to gather various resources and use them. For example Llatl has always been a favourite for language arts, A.C.E for Maths, etc. I too love CM's methods and tried to implement Ambleside Online's Year 9 with my daughter. Let me tell you we hit a wall. It was just not working for her, so I have had to go back to the drawing board. I've gone back to my eclectic ways and we are all a bit more at peace. Don't feel guilty about not using CM's methods – I find that our 'real live' home-schools are different to our 'dream-in-our-heads' home-schools. When we try to force real life into dream image – we risk burnout.
      My eldest has just been accepted onto a media course at college. For the course they required 5 GCSE's. She has ONE. We had used Llatl only when I had a panic moment and decided she needed to sit a GCSE in English otherwise it was tickets for her chances of further education. This was 3 months before the exams. We focused on past papers and then off she went. She got a C pass. when we applied for the college course I went in with the scores of the A.C.E paces that we had done a year ago (this gave them an idea of what type of student she is) as well as a written assignment they required and a transcript of what she has been doing. They offered her an unconditional place. She is writing her maths IGCSE this week – only because we don't really want her to worry about doing maths alongside her media course.

      Here's what I've come away with – remember I still have another daughter to navigate these last few years.

      A) You don't need to jump through all those TEACH hoops. There is another way
      B) Look at what the course requirements are and meet those requirements. So we know that Maths and English are a must in England – use good resources such as Llatl and Institute of Excellence in Writing (my own personal choices) and teach your children to read, extract and think on what they read. You are teaching them the SKILLS they need to answer the questions in the English exam. For maths we are simply going for the foundation paper because that's all they want – a pass in maths. This advice would not suite of course if your child wanted to be a doctor or engineer etc. Literature is quite prescriptive but we have found their set-work options varied and have chosen things that we really enjoy doing. So we are working with that.

      On the ACE thing – yes I found them expensive too. The work load is also unrelenting at the General and Advanced certificate level. Too much so I feel. They are having to prove that the qualification is on a par with the national qualification but it means endless work we found. As a result I too felt like I was reporting to a 'school' and was not in charge – not good. I still use their maths for my youngest dd and the maths has prepared my eldest very well for the foundation maths paper. If she had completed all the maths paces for the general cert. level I'm sure she would have been fine in tackling the higher tier maths paper. So basically I just buy the maths from TEACH, use Llatl and IEW for English, use the Edexcel books for Literature, psychology and biology. I then still do nature study and will continue to plan in seasonal field trips and activities.

      If you children are still young I would recommend getting them each a level appropriate maths and English program and then do unit studies with all of them together. It might help you through this burn out period.

      But short answer on how I handled TEACh and A.C.E – I ditched them 😉

      Xx Shirley

  3. Mamma42 says:

    Thank you so very much for your post, I too am on the fence and thinking that I may use ACE for a few subjects to help lighten my load so I can be a more relaxed Mommy. However, I am confused on your above post, you have ditched ACE for all except for Maths?

    1. Shirley-Ann says:

      Hi Mamma42,
      Yes, we no longer use A.C.E except for Maths. My girls enjoyed using it, we had decided to use it at a time when I really needed to have my own load lightened. Previously I was the one pulling it all together and teaching it. For most of our homeschooling that has been fine, but we got to a stage where I was feeling really burnt out and needed something to take off the load and so that I could be a more relaxed mother too. The plan was to use it all for about a year. That brought us to a stage where we had to start considering our high school options (we live in the uk). At that time we had to choose to go either the GCSE exam route and therefore use the national curriculum which I didn't want to do or to continue with ACE and get their certificates which are equivalent to the GCSE and A levels certificates. We decided to go with the latter. However, since then my eldest daughter has secured a place on a media course having only obtained two GCSE's which she had sat prior to using ACE. The process really made me re-look at things in our home. For us we have decided to take a different route with our youngest daughter as she really wants to go to uni and I've been hearing lots of things about the ACE certification here in the UK. It seems a safer bet to go the more traditional route. I wouldn't have changed if she hadn't expressed a specific desire to go to uni. Changing route means that she only has to concentrate on 4 – 5 subjects as opposed to the 9 through ACE. We are continuing with the ACE maths because it has prepared my other daughter fairly well for her maths exam -so I know it works. However for my youngest daughters other gcse's (lit, eng, psychology et) I can use other things, resources that have been firm favorites with us across the years, to prepare her – except for psychology, she needs to use the national curriculum for that.

      I guess it's just about navigating your way as you need to in your own homeschool. I have very few problems with ACE, and those that I do have I managed to overcome because we are a home school not a school. The work load is incredibly high when you are working towards the certification here in the UK and the joy of learning was being squelched to be honest. But – I have to say that at that point of burn out it was a blessing. No thinking and constant researching, teaching etc – it all just ran like clockwork and kept my girls up to a good standard. It is definitely something that I don't regret doing and would do it all again if I had to make the decision again. Burnout is a nasty thing to beset a homeschooling mum! You have to do what you have to do to stay in the game.

      I love the fact that in America mums seem to be able to chose from different curriculum providers for different subjects and still meet their state requirements. It's all a bit different here in the UK, and because we only immigrated here 5 years ago I have to say that I have found understanding the way they do things here tricky. So it's all been a bit of a hodgepodge for me. Now that our eldest has successfully secured a place on her chosen course I am able to see the way forward a bit more clearly with dd2.

      I hope that that makes some sense to you? If ACE in a few subjects is going to help you be more relaxed then I say go for it! It's not an awful curriculum and you can tweak it to suite your families needs.

      X Shirley

  4. Mamma42 says:

    Thank you so much for post. I too am on the fence with ACE. I am thinking of using it for just a few subjects to help lighten my load a bit so I can not be so burnt out, however, in reference to the above, have you completely ditched ACE for all children except for maths?

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