Friday, May 18, 2012

Homeschool Review: Program for Achieving Character Education (PACE)

Program for Achieving Character Education (PACE) by M. Monica Speach, a program for Catholic schools and homes

update 8/7/16 - PACE has a new website, and it (currently) includes a quote from this post!

I read about this program on the Mater Amabilis Yahoo group emails and was immediately intrigued. I wasn't looking for a character development program. If I had thought about it at all, I would probably have said I expected our readings of the saints, history, myths and fairy tales to guide the children to naturally develop virtues like honesty and perseverance. As I considered the idea, though, I thought "studying" a particular virtue might allow us to delve further into each one and more explicitly address behavior, particularly between the children. So I found a little extra money in last year's budget to purchase the book.

It's a spiral bound book, which makes it very easy to leave it open while planning my lessons. I also liked being able to flip the front pages all the way around so I could hold it while writing on our virtue paper, which is just a sheet of newsprint I tape to the wall for notes on our current virtue. (It lists the definition, some examples and notes on people or stories First Son and First Daughter can name that highlight the virtue. We add to it throughout our study.) I did feel like the spiral binding kept working its way off the pages and I'd have to spin it back down into place. That was a little annoying, but it didn't really hurt anything.

In the note to teachers in the beginning, Ms. Speach recommends a schedule to work completely through the book in one school year: 10 virtues in 10 months including self-discipline, work, perseverance, faith/trust, compassion, friendship, courage, loyalty, responsibility and honesty. I opted to spend six weeks on each virtue, skip Advent when we have so many other additional lessons for the liturgical season, and instead cycle through the virtues every two years.

A sample lesson with explanations is included in the front of the book to give a good starting point for the teacher.

The PACE program uses stories from The Book of Virtues and The Moral Compass: Stories for a Life's Journey by William J. Bennett as well as other books to highlight each virtue. I was lucky enough to already have these on the shelf and pleased to find a way to rather easily incorporate them into our studies. The program book includes sample quotations (for memory work or copywork), a definition, recommended stories for different ages from The Book of Virtues and The Moral Compass, relevant Bible stories, meditations or stories of Mary and the saints that exemplify the selected virtue, picture books or other books for different ages, example discussion questions, example writing prompts for older students, enrichment activities (music, art, nature, and classroom projects) and examples of ways the children can practice the virtue in their own lives.

We would start our study with a definition and discussion of the virtue, during which I like to include ideas for the children to practice the virtue. Then, over the course of six weeks, I would read out loud two stories from The Book of Virtues and The Moral Compass (or The Children's Book of Virtues or The Children's Book of Heroes which we had also received as gifts), one or two Bible stories, and one or two stories of the Saints (mainly from Once Upon a Time Saints, More Once Upon a Time Saints, or Saints for Young Readers for Every Day). I also always chose at least one picture book, usually from the lists Ms. Speach provided, but sometimes one I happened to know myself. I often included at least one activity in music, art or nature study, but I considered those optional. I always encouraged the children, especially First Son, to watch and listen for examples of the virtue in our other readings as well. They often came up in our regular saint readings.

One of the things I like best about this study is how robust it is with ideas for all ages. I can see us using this as a spine for character education for years to come, all studying the same virtue over and over again but with different readings and levels of understanding. I'm looking forward to continuing our virtue studies next year.

I did not receive anything in exchange for this honest review. I do not receive any compensation if you follow the link to Sacred Heart Books and Gifts (where I purchased this book). If you follow other links to and make a purchase, I do receive a small commission.