I recently introduced a homeschool boy and his mom to PACES by recommending that Austin do a few Geometry PACES to supplement his Algebra course and turn it into an honors course. I gave him the PACES and keys and explained the procedures of goal setting, working through pages, scoring, and doing Check-ups and Self-tests. When he came in this week for another tutoring session he sat down at the table to start working and I was appalled to see him breaking all these rules! He’s not a rebellious kid, so I quickly re-evaluated and took the blame myself for having not made these procedures more clear. I reviewed them again with him and pointed out the things he should allow while working through PACES.
Here are eight things he was doing wrong, homeschooling with the PACES:
1. Doing pages but not scoring.
He had several pages completed but hadn’t scored for a week. Research has proven again and again that immediate feedback on student answers helps them learn the concepts correctly. They should mark the answers wrong, then go back in the PACE to find the correct answer, replacing the wrong answer with the correct one, then rescore.
2. Leaving blanks with the excuse, “I couldn’t find it!”
It may come as a shock to learn that students have a tendency to be lazy and if an answer is hard to find it is easier to skip it then dig deep or ask for help. But learning takes place as a student grapples to solve a problem or find an answer. Don’t accept blanks! And certainly don’t accept copying the answers from the scorekey.
3. Circling the X at the same time as making the X when scoring.
Austin literally told me that he does that all the time! He said it saves him time to mark it wrong and then just circle it so he doesn’t have to look it up later to correct it. The danger is that a student may not correctly “correct” those answers and since he’s not checking it against the scorekey he won’t realize that and will therefore learn wrong answers.
4. Having the score keys out on the desk or table while doing pace work or correcting.
There is just too much of a temptation to copy answers if the keys are laying right there – which would be cheating. Scoring should be done in a separate location and with a red pen only. Pencils should never be used around the scorekeys. “Avoid all appearance of evil” and remove the temptation to copy answers. Learning comes through “thinking” and “grappling” – not copying.
5. Working through the PACEs without setting goals first.
Austin told me that he would just do “some work” in the PACE until he got distracted or bored and put it aside. That explains why he is 2 weeks behind where I expected him to be at this point. Setting specific goals ahead for a week or two is a very valuable time and project management skill that will help students be prepared for college and life after school. Parents should help their students set the long-term goals (like when PACE tests should be taken) and have their child set daily goals to get them to that deadline on time.
6. Starting a check-up or Self-test without having everything scored and corrected first.
It is so important to have everything correct and scored so that the right content is being reviewed for the tests. A good rule to implement is that a check-up or Self-Test cannot be started without a supervisor initial. The supervisor (parent or teacher) should look back over all the preceding pages to be sure required work was done and all corrections made. It is also wise to verbally quiz the student to be sure they are confident of the right answers for the test. For science and social studies, I require that students show me a study guide that they have made.
7. Looking back while doing a check-up or self-test.
Check-ups and Self-Tests are TESTS – there should be NO looking back once started. I recommend homeschool students do them in a well-supervised area under “testing conditions” (quiet, supervised, etc). Some choose to clip or staple the pages shut so that a student cannot flip back.
8. Just reading the PACE and doing the tests without doing the work.
Austin wasn’t doing this but I’ve heard of students who’ve said, “I already know this stuff!” and try to avoid doing the PACE work and just do the tests instead. These students are short-circuiting their learning. Review and repetition are built into the curriculum and are an important part of strengthening the learning.
9. Skipping assignments that are to be done on separate paper, writing assignments, etc.
English PACEs often have writing assignments that need to be done on notebook paper, and Geometry often has proofs that must be done on separate paper. Before allowing a student to do a check-up, the parent or supervisor should look carefully for any “Supervisor-initial” spots on the bottom of pages and then check that the assignments were indeed completed and scored. Once the supervisor starts allowing students to “skip” assignments, those exceptions quickly become the rule, and before long students are skipping all the extra assignments.
10. Last but not least, leaving the PACE test stapled in the middle of the PACE.
The PACE test should be removed before issuing the PACE to the student. That is your “proof” that your student has learned what the PACE is emphasizing and has studied. Leaving the test in the PACE makes it too easy to short circuit the full learning and is paramount to cheating.