If I were to sum up the ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) curriculum in layman's terms, it would be as follows: there are 6 core subjects (Maths, English, Social Studies, Science, Word Building, and Literature & Creative Writing) and a large selection of electives that span 12 subject areas. It's easy to write a finely-tuned explanation of what is included with ACE, how the procedures work, and what students can get from it... However, this isn't going to be like that. This is the story from a student's point of view. An unadulterated testimonial of my experience as an ACE student.
It was my parents who made the decision about a Christian education. I heard them talking about it in the background as I got on with my 8-year-old life, but I didn't have an opinion on it.
Initially, I went to a state school. I wasn't unhappy at school. I wasn't bullied or mistreated in any way. However, in hindsight, I realise I was one of those background kids. You know the type who quietly goes along with things and doesn't speak up even if help is needed -- a kid who just mucks through. I think that would have become more problematic as I got older.
I don't think my parents decision to move me to an ACE school was about academics. It was about conviction. They were Christians (still are), and they wanted to educate their children in a school that accommodated and encouraged Biblical values. Some may twist the nature of their reasons and use words like 'brainwash' or 'manipulate', but I fundamentally disagree with those opinions. A Christian education to my parents meant this -- that their children would get an education with ALL the usual subjects, while also learning about the character of God: Love, Joy, Patience, Tolerance, Justice, Kindness (it goes on). They believed that the state system was lacking in a way that Christian education wasn't.
So I moved to an ACE Christian School.
The ACE school was different from my previous school. The changes I noticed initially were these: I had a new uniform, I completed my work with a pencil rather than a fountain pen, and I sat in an 'office' that was entirely my own space. I liked having my own space; my mum had got me new Little Mermaid stationary from the Disney shop, and I enjoyed the fact I was able to customise my office into a place where I felt comfortable. It made me excited. I was excited about a new experience, and I was excited about the PACEs.
PACEs are what the ACE curriculum is made up of. PACE stands for Packets of Accelerated Christian Education. They are essentially workbooks that cover all the subjects. Each day I would set myself a goal to cover a certain number of pages in each subject; then, when I completed that goal, I would cross it off. It felt good to see what I was accomplishing. It was something I had not felt before at my previous school. To this day I find so much value and motivation in setting goals and seeing my progress unfold.
Another thing that differed from my previous school experience was how much individual attention each student got. I was encouraged to ask for help -- all the students were. The monitors would check our goals daily to make sure we had completed what we had set out to do. This taught me accountability and also trained me always to ask for help when I need it. Two skills that have helped me excel in areas of my adult life.
Aside from the PACEs, we had afternoon classes in Maths, Science, Writing, Spanish, and Art, to name a few. There was one unforgettable science class where the supervisor got a set of lungs from the butcher, and we inflated them with a tube -- it was gross and I loved it.
We had special open evenings and award ceremonies too. One Easter time we did a Passion of Christ Play, and my classmate and I memorised Isaiah 53 to narrate. Bible memorisation was something that was integral in the school. Every week we had a new Scripture to learn, and every week we had to stand up and recite the Scripture 'verbatim'. I would leave it all week and then memorise it in the car ride to school on the day I was supposed to recite it. And you know what? I usually nailed it. Totally couldn't do that now. I'm truly amazed by the capacity of learning the mind of a child has.
When I was 13, my family had to move to another city. My parents decided that rather than registering me and my sister at a state school, they would continue to homeschool us with the ACE System.
Moving cities was rough. It was hard to be away from friends and hearing about things I wasn't involved in anymore. I took to convincing my Dad that we NEEDED a puppy. And that brought us Sam, the Border Collie. Homeschooling was great for having a dog. It was another lesson too -- a lesson about responsibility, and some sacrifice. It also meant twice a day we would HAVE to go outside to walk the dog. Sometimes we would go for runs with him as well.
When homeschooling, one must be creative when it comes to exercise.
At first, Mum made us wear our uniforms in the house, but that didn't last long (thank goodness). We were privileged to have a spare room in our house, so Dad built two desks for us to use as our 'home offices'. However, I often found my sister to be distracting and took my work to the kitchen. I would play classical radio and do my PACEs with my dog sitting by my feet.
My sister and I would try to finish our goals as early as possible so that we could have the rest of the day free for our own leisure. I am the oldest, so my work was academically more challenging, and (annoyingly) she would often be sitting watching cartoons, or playing outside while I still had hours to spend on equations and essays.
Homeschooling worked for me because, A. I am a self-motivated introvert and B. My mother.
My mum was, and still is, a highly motivated human being. Sometimes it could be really annoying, but I can't fault her on the way she set up our ACE homeschool. She took time to complete the algebra PACEs herself so that she would be equipped to help me when I did them. She made me copy out all the English grammar instructions from the PACEs into a notebook, even though that wasn't required, AND she was so strict when it came to essay writing. I remember having to write out a 500-word essay on Hudson Taylor THREE times by hand, just because I had made some grammatical errors. Was this harsh? Yes. But I tell you what -- I ENJOYED algebra, because she was able to explain it to me. I got 100% in almost all my English grammar PACEs, and I had NO trouble at all writing essays by the time I went to university.
Looking back now, I get a unique sort of joy from knowing how different my education was to many of my peers. A private education with an alternative curriculum is NOT the easy option, but my parents made that choice because they wanted what they thought was best for their children. That in itself makes me so aware of how loved I am as their child.
My time at an ACE school taught me that I have a unique voice, that different people have different gifts, and by working together and inspiring one another great things can be accomplished. Homeschooling taught me the value of self-motivation, but most of all, family. The most precious thing I take from that time is all the moments I was able to spend with my sister, parents, and dog.
In terms of ACE, I personally see it as a tool that was used in building the foundation of my education. It wasn't overwhelming in my academic life but rather a steady stream of information that provided what I needed to learn, develop, and in time, go to university. As with any tool, ACE can be used poorly, but in my case it gave me the opportunity to have a unique and complete education experience. The most important lessons I learned were not from the academics in the PACEs but from the way the people around me used ACE as a tool. This regularly reminds me that my actions are meaningful, because they can have a lasting affect on those around me.
As for now, I still enjoy learning, and I still benefit from the things (academic and otherwise) I learned as a student using this curriculum. All in all, I believe I had a strong and successful education with ACE, and I wouldn't be bothered to change any of it even if I was given the chance.
by Michelle D. (ACE Graduate and human being)