In one of my blog posts a while back I commented on going to an ACE school and was asked to share more.
When I was 14 my parents went to the States as a part of a pastors study group and during this time started to understand and desire education for life – not just an education. At this time we were living in a mining town in the north and I was going to a State highschool. With seeing a different purpose behind education, they sent me to a church school (on the other side of Australia!) The school only took day students, but the church had a boarding house, so it was a bit like boarding school, but a lot different.
The school was ACE. Later on mum and dad moved to Perth and the church plant that they were involved in started another church school and that is where I finished my highschool education – once again an ACE school.
The ACE way of learning suited me. For those who are not familiar with this method, it is based on small booklets for each unit of work, each booklet covers both the content to learn and the assignments to do – which are mostly comprehension type activities. You study on your own and progress through the set work at your own pace. Each day you set yourself goals as to how many pages of each subject you intend to work on.
The two schools that I went to had this type of study in the mornings and then tutorials with upfront teachers in the afternoons. I believe this was the best set up for an ACE school though in those days, I’m not sure if that was always the case. And on that, I must make note that these reflections on ACE are over 30 years old!! Things may well have changed since then.
When I finished school I wanted to become a Home Economics teacher and yet my dad was concerned about me going from a fairly restricted /limited church environment (church, school, youth group – pretty much my social life) straight into the University in Perth. So I went to TAFE. My friend and I tried to gain entry into the same course and met a bureaucrat against Christian education and used our lack of highschool leaving certificate to block our entry. My mum and my friend’s mum went into battle and pushed the fact that we were the very reason they had entry exams – so we sat the exam and spoke to a student counsellor who definitely wanted us to register. Our tests spoke for themselves. During that year of study, a position came available at my old school for administration and it included an opening for Home Economics teaching. Considering that I had written my own Home Economics programme, regardless of what the other kids were doing when I was at school, the school admin had confidence that I could do the job. TAFE acknowledge how my studies were going and gave me credit in Math, English, Typing so that I could take a part time job, and continue my full time studies with a part time load.
So I began working in the ACE school. I was mainly the administration officer, who helped the Principal with his load, but I also found myself ‘supervising’ in the classroom (that is, just watching and helping anyone who needed help with their individual studies). I helped with the reading programme – especially those who were advanced, took Home Ed, Personal Development and Grooming (for the girls), and a little PE/Sport. The job became full time once I finished my studies, and I left when my parents moved East and I wanted to go with them.
Fast track to me being married, expecting our first child and talking about our hopes and dreams for him/her. We decided to homeschool. ACE was all that we knew. Friends who had homeschooled (including my mother with my younger brother) had used ACE or similar programmes. I knew ACE as a student and as a “teacher”. I knew its strengths and its weaknesses. I felt I was well prepared to do ACE with my kids.
Then I became a parent! (Isn’t it funny the decisions we make before we have kids about the type of parent you are going to be!!)
Around the time Josh turned three I started having doubts. ACE didn’t reflect the type of parent I was becoming – the type of person I was growing into. I was creative and interactive. So not knowing of any other homeschool method or resource we decided to put our kids in school and get involved in the community that way. Then our third child was sick and we had to go to Perth for treatment. The friends who looked after us each visit were homeschooling and she showed me a houseful of resources she used in teaching her kids – they were all creative, interactive, God honouring. I started thinking about homeschooling again – and it wasn’t long before our homeschooling journey began.
My feelings about ACE? I have no negative feelings towards ACE or the school – in fact the learning that I received there has given me good grounding for all that I have done since I left school. I think ACE is one of the most mother friendly programmes available – and yet I wanted something different.
I think it is easy for us to presume that because we want the best for our kids, if we don’t choose a particular method or curriculum then there must be something wrong with it – it simply isn’t the best. This is where comparisons spring from in the homeschooling community. My choice not to go with ACE, regardless of my familiarity with it, is not about judging ACE and finding it lacking – but it didn’t fit me.
Looking back as a parent, and as a homeschooler, I look back on some of the kids in my school and they struggled. They may have had what we call learning difficulties today, or more likely the style of teaching simply didn’t suit them. I think ACE would have suited my oldest two children, but not the youngest two.
One of the strengths in ACE is that it teaches from a Biblical worldview – this is more than just the Bible verses printed throughout the booklets (because to be honest, I just skipped over those!) but it teaches each subject from the premise that God is God, and His word is truth. Though it is important to buy curriculum and resources that come from a Biblical perspective, our kids walk with Jesus has more to do with our own (the parents) walk with Jesus, and the things that you talk about, making connection with the things they are learning about the Bible with real everyday life.
Do I encourage people to consider ACE to homeschool their kids? I’m not for it or against it… it is one of the many options that parents have to choose from today. What I do ask people who talk to me about any curriculum choice is
- To consider your teaching style
- How much time you want to give to the instruction of your kids
- How much time you want to give to the preparation of lessons
- The learning styles of your kids
- How much flexibility you want in your days
I know of people who have used ACE successfully, where their children are confident self-motivated learners, with skills to translate that learning into everyday life. I have also met people who just use it to tick the boxes and they are missing an opportunity to create delight in their kids. (But isn’t that the same with every curriculum or resource?)
Any discussion on a homeschool method or resource is going to meet the needs of one family and best be avoided by another.