Sometimes I hear parents complain that the Elementary PACES seem too easy. I won’t disagree with that observation. Some of the multiple choice answers don’t even make sense, so a student could just easily guess the correct answer. Students tend to finish their academic work in just a couple hours of focused work each day. Parents may feel that their child is not being challenged enough.
But when I hear these objections from parents in our school, I give them these explanations, which seem to help.
1. The PACES start off easy in the lower grades to help students learn the system. At the early elementary level students are learning the procedures for scoring, setting reasonable goals, testing, etc. This curriculum is also used in many other countries where English is a second language, and so the easier content helps teach and reinforce the English vocabulary.
2. Helps students be successful. When the work isn’t too “hard”, students are more likely to get all the answers correct. The effect of that is a sense of accomplishment and success. Nothing breeds success like success! Is it wrong for students to not feel frustrated with school, but instead develop an attitude of liking school? I think that is a positive thing!
3. Helps students learn independently. The philosophy behind the PACES is that students should be able to work on their own without a parent or teacher needing to answer questions and give a lot of direction and instruction. If the work is relatively “easy” then students can work on their own. And they are learning. As they find the correct words and have to write them in, and then get tested on them later, they are being exposed to solid content that has been carefully planned and controlled for that level.
4. Helps you identify learning struggles. For some of the multiple choice questions the “distractor” words look like the correct answer (same letters and same “shape” but a totally different word.) If your child chooses one of those words, don’t get upset with him and make him feel like an idiot for choosing it. Instead, realize that your child may have dyslexia or another learning difficultly where they are not sounding out the words carefully but instead are looking at the shape. If you notice this happening with your child, you might want to reach out for some help and guidance.
5. Introduces terms and concepts that will be built upon in later years. As a high school supervisor I have looked through some of the elementary science and history PACES and noticed that many of the terms and concepts that the teens are studying are being introduced in a simple way at the elementary level. As students progress through the years, they get a little more and a little more, and keep reviewing and building on that foundation. That is actually a very good learning method!
6. The PACES are easier at the elementary level than public school, but around junior high they get harder. When a child gets to 6th grade on up, they will notice each year getting significantly more challenging. The answers are a little less obvious for the questions. The test questions are reworded for students to supply a different word than they had to on the Self-Test. The application problems take more thought and understanding.
7. The PACES are at or above grade level in 8th grade onward. It has been observed that students doing PACES in elementary may score a little below the national average on standardized tests, but around 8th grade they catch up to the national average, and by the end of high school have surpassed it and excelled.
8. Designed for students to start and continue. The PACE program works best when students start early, and continue all the way through. They will not experience gaps that way, and they will have a strong foundation. Though parents can choose to select a course or subject here or there to use PACES for, the ideal is to consistently stick with the program and not jump around.
9. If you find it too easy, supplement or enjoy the flexibility – don’t jump ship. If your elementary child is done by lunch time, that’s fine! You might consider adding some extra courses, like Bible Reading, Animal Science, and Literature and Creative Writing. Start your child learning a foreign language or learning keyboarding skills on the computer. Watch some educational videos or borrow some good resources from the library to supplement.
10. The BEST thing you can encourage your elementary child to do . . . is to READ! Read, read, read! Go to the library often and get good books. Do oral reading with your family. Help your children fall in love with books! Earn stickers on a reward chart for pages read, or minutes read, or books finished and then have a reward system that motivates and encourages your child. Research has consistently proven that reading is the single best tactic to help students improve academically.
In conclusion, I would encourage parents to stick with the PACES and allow their child to adjust to the gradually increasing difficulty. If you are schooling more than one child, you will appreciate the manageable work load. On the other hand, if you “jump ship” in the lower elementary years after one trial year you will find the adjustment to another curriculum to be difficult and it will leave a bad impression about ACE, making it harder to come back in the future. Your child will be much better off staying with one consistent curriculum than jumping around from year to year looking for the perfect curriculum. Be sure you read Renee Ellison’s article about this important topic and why she recommends ACE.