This summer I talked to Nicky McIlwrath from Northern Ireland and learned more about how they use the ACE PACES in a “Homeschool Cooperative” setting there. A “co-op” is like a cross between homeschooling and a small Christian school. She said this year they meet three days a week, Tuesday through Thursday. The students are expected to do more school work at home on Mondays and Fridays.
In Ireland it is very difficult for small Christian schools to exist – there are many legal hoops they have to jump through, and they have to be reapproved every year. In comparison, homeschooling is unregulated and is also not very common yet in Ireland. Nicky pointed out that in some parts of the United Kingdom there are limits on how much time a student can be in a “Co-op” before that Co-op has to be registered as a school.
A typical day in the Co-op
In a typical day in the Co-op, the students start with devotions about a missionary and then they have a time of prayer requests. The preschool age children attend a program for the “tinies” so the whole family can be at the Co-op. There is one Learning Center for all the students doing the PACES and they set goals, score, take tests, and do their work until noon. After lunch there are extra-curricular activities like art, music, current affairs class, a geography class, and wood working for the older boys. (The photo above is from their Learning Center.)
Why the PACES work well
They really like the ACE curriculum because it allows the students to work independently, get help when needed, and make steady progress at their level. Another reason they use PACES is that the ACE curriculum has been accredited for University acceptance. That is actually a very big deal I am beginning to understand. A major study was done to benchmark the PACES against the government standards, and it is the only Christian high school curriculum to have the distinction of being accredited.
Students in grade 8 on up work on earning their Certificate of Christian Education and have to submit tests, some projects, and other assessments to the ICCE. (We have a separate article explaining more about the international process of getting a college or University accepted Certificate which you can read to learn more; it is very different than the process we follow here in the United States.)
What Nicky’s boys like about the Co-op
Nicky has four “lads” of her own in the Co-op this year, ages 17, 13, 12, and 7. They like being with friends during the week, yet having the independence to work on their own Mondays and Fridays. They like some of the classes for boys, like woodworking. When they get stuck they appreciate having more of a network of “teachers” available to give help.
Nicky also mentioned that they discovered the PACESuccess website and have started using the various resources, like math videos, Physical Science lessons, English videos, test tips, and articles, which they have found to be helpful!
Other C0-op Options
Some of the Homeschool Co-ops that I know of here in Pennsylvania are mainly focused on extra-curricular activities like choir, drama, foreign language instruction, etc. Another one near us offers many academic options. Families find it helpful for their teens to take chemistry, for instance, with a knowledgeable teacher who also oversees labs and grades the tests. Another popular mini-class in many co-ops is a writing class where the teacher explains the writing process and then marks-up the students’ papers to give them feedback, culminating in a major research paper with end notes and bibliography.
Teens in general like social interaction and a co-op gives them another opportunity to be with select peers. Students also benefit from the accountability to an objective third-party, outside of the home. Boys especially benefit from that.
A co-op might meet just one day per week, or more, as does the Co-op in Ireland. The idea of a co-op is very flexible and can be molded to meet the needs of the families in the group. PACES are a great curriculum of choice for the core academic courses and add continuity and structure for all the students involved in the co-op!