ACE: Not “Autopilot” but Co-Pilot

“I want to put my teen in PACES because I am busy with work and keeping up the house and don’t have time to supervise my child who is homeschooling. I want him to be able to teach himself. If I just give him the PACES and scorekeys, he can learn on his own, right?”

I just had a homeschool parent recently ask me this. Is this a reasonable expectation? Can teens teach themselves and go on “autopilot” while the parents take care of all the duties of running the home, taking care of younger children, and even working a part-time job, with little to no direction and supervision of their teen doing PACES?

Yes and No. I would agree that much of the teaching and education that takes place in the ACE curriculum does not require parents to be preparing lessons, teaching, writing tests, and grading a lot of assignments. The parent is not the Pilot – the student is. But the parent needs to be the Co-Pilot.

Just like a pilot, a student (particularly a teen) takes great responsibility for his own flight-plan and actual flight. In an ACE homeschool setting the teen should set goals, study for his check-ups and tests, do his own scoring, and be finishing 12 PACES per year per subject.

But like a co-pilot, the parent should be nearby, taking an active role in double-checking those plans, signing off that required steps have been taken, and certifying that the flight-plan and actual flight go according to rules and plans. This prevents flight delays, dangerous or risky situations, or possible crash landings.

What are the minimum roles a parent-supervisor must fulfill to successfully homeschool a teen? Here are seven important functions you need to embrace as parent-supervisor:

1.      Master-planning.

You need to know what courses must be completed each year in order to graduate on time. There may be special electives you want to consider including to meet your child’s unique needs or interests. Once you have ordered the PACES and curriculum for the year, involve your teen’s help in using a school-year planner or calendar to schedule when tests should be completed (at least plan each quarter – 3 PACES per nine weeks). Your teen should then set daily goals on his own to reach those milestones. Allow your teen to be the “pilot” in these planning exercises, and you be nearby as “co-pilot.” Teens are more motivated to do the work when they have a voice in setting the goals, and determining what subjects to do in what order.

2.      Daily goal checking.

A very important part of staying on track is for the parent-supervisor to check every day that goals have been set for the new day and that the previous day’s work was done. Don’t assume they did it just because you asked and they said it was done. Flip through every page in every PACE to see that every answer was filled in, scoring was done, and answers are reasonable. This daily check should only take 5 minutes per day, but if it is skipped regularly, I can confidently prophesy that your child will start taking short-cuts, skipping assignments, and having gaps in his learning. Ever heard this maxim? “Students don’t do what you EXPECT. Only what you INSPECT.” So inspect every day. If daily goals are not done, there should be meaningful consequences.

3.      Security to prevent cheating.

Scorekeys and Test keys need to be kept under parental supervision and even locked up. The “just git ‘er done” mentality of immature teens will motivate them to copy answers from the scorekey without putting the effort into reading and finding those answers. Some have even found ways to copy answers from test keys and “pass” PACE tests without doing any work or learning and mastering the content of the PACE. They’ve learned to cheat. Don’t be an accomplice to developing that character flaw in your teen. If you have to be gone while your teen is schooling at home, lock up the keys until you come home. Likewise, PACE tests should be hidden away and never seen by the student until they sit in front of it to take it. I have an entire article about preventing cheating and dealing with it.

4.      Accountability for Check-points.

Throughout the PACES there are key places where a supervisor needs to look carefully at the student’s work and grade some assignments. Look for “Supervisor Initial” boxes at the bottom of pages with instructions to check a specific answer, or look for work to be done on separate paper. Read the directions for pages and see if your child followed them carefully. Look for maps that should have been shaded or labeled.  Don’t ignore these, or before long your student will be skipping them too! Make it a practice that before your student does a check-up, they have to get your permission (and initial). Look back at the preceding pages to be sure scoring and correcting was done. Look for supervisor initial spots. Quiz your student about the content on the check-up to be sure they are ready.

5.      Scoring PACE tests.

Only a parent-supervisor should score the PACE tests. Then record those grades and average them at the end of the course to have the grade for that course. Note if the key indicates how many points to be taken off for each “question” or each “answer”. Sometimes there is more than one blank per question, so partial credit might be taken off. For example, a test may have 40 questions at 2.5 points per question. But one question may have 2 parts to the answer. If a student misses one blank in that case but has the other correct, I will take off 1 point. Other tests may have fewer than 40 questions, and each blank is actually worth 2.5 points. Parents also can exercise discernment to know if spelling should count or not for a given answer, or if an answer is “close enough” to the correct answer to count. Don’t let your teen grade their own PACE tests. It should only take you as a parent 5 minutes to score a test so make it a priority to do that scoring the same day — students benefit from the immediate feedback.

6.      Teacher.

Though the PACES generally do a good job teaching concepts, there will problems along the way where your teen needs some help and input. Your role as parent-supervisor is to make sure your student is actually learning and understanding, not just “doing” the PACES. When your teen hits a hard spot, try to help her find the answer by looking back in the PACE (not the score-key). If you have a friend at church or in a forum who is an “expert” in that subject, maybe they can offer some help. Check the resources here at PACESuccess to see if there’s a helpful download or video lesson. If you’re still stuck, send a request via the contact form above. Teens in general are less concerned about really wanting to understand something than just getting it done, so you have to be proactive in making sure they are indeed learning and mastering the content. Along with that, if your student fails a PACE test, don’t just move on. Take it seriously. If at all possible, order another copy and have them redo the entire PACE. At the very least, take the time to figure out what the problem areas are, and work through them again together, striving for understanding and mastery. Be on the lookout, too, for scoring violations that may have led to the gaps in learning.

7.      Motivator.

Your teen will benefit when he knows that you are taking an active role in overseeing his progress. Consider implementing privileges or a merit system to reward good PACE audits, high scores, especially well-done assignments, etc. I have an entire article explaining the privileges and merit store system referred to in the PACES.

Many of these supervisor-roles can be fulfilled with minimal time investment each day, and can often be done at a time convenient for you. But you dare not ignore these roles and think your teen can educate himself on “autopilot.” He needs you as Co-Pilot.

Have a safe and successful flight!

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