I thought today that I would share my opinions on the School of Tomorrow curricula. I have some background in using it in three ways. The first is that in the late 70’s I was a student in a school that used the program and I graduated using it. Second, before homeschooling my children, we enrolled them in a school using the program from which my oldest graduated. And finally third, I taught in the high school and then elementary level at that school using the program. However I do not use it any longer teaching here at home.
Basically how the program works is that for each subject the student is given a booklet called a PACE. There are 12 PACEs to be completed for each subject per year except for some of the high school electives of which there are 6. They work through the PACE, which includes the required learning information, questions to answer, mostly in the fill in the blank form, check-ups to test understanding and a self-test at the end of the booklet. After a student works up to a ‘score strip’ they check their own answers with a score key. They return to their desks, correct their mistakes and re-score. A test, which the teacher/parent has removed from the center of the PACE prior to giving the booklet to the student, is then given. In the schools where I was, the student was required to score an 80% or better in order to proceed to the next PACE. A lower score required the student to repeat the PACE until a satisfactory grade was earned.
There are no lesson plans to prepare. The student sets goals for themselves to complete the PACEs in a certain amount of time, usually 3 to 4 pages a day in each subject. It is a ‘self-taught’ program except naturally in the Learning to Read phase. This program relies heavily on good reading skills. If a student has difficulty with reading and comprehension, they will struggle. When a student has trouble finding answers, I found it extremely simple to give help in because the program uses what I call a ‘hunt and peck’ method for filling in the answers. When all else fails there are the score keys.
There is a Scripture verse to memorize in every PACE based on the character traits of Christ. The text gives all Glory to God and there are many lessons through out based on missionary lives.
I have found that the program is easy for a very a visual learner and a self-motivated student. However, I decided that it didn’t supply the necessary challenges for self-thinking in the earlier grades. I saw that when a student in the elementary grades worked through the program to the high school level they lacked the skills to think outside the box and formulate their own answers. They struggled with essay questions and mathematics seemed to become much more difficult for them. In the earlier grades math is a lot of drill pages. In the upper grades it uses more applied math that they don’t seem equipped to handle.
While I feel that my son and I received a good education using the program we both had had some schooling elsewhere prior to using School of Tomorrow. The reason I choose not to use it at home is not the basic principle of the program itself but what I thought that it lacked. My younger children had it set in their minds that learning stopped when all the answers were filled in and the goals for the day were met. There are very few challenging outside projects. The ‘hunt and peck’ method did not give them the chance to express their own opinions and ideas. I did not like the disconnected way history and science was presented. English dealt mainly with mechanics and the absence of writing skills in the earlier grades. I felt it left them unprepared for high school. When it came to the testing, if the student was good at memorization they did well. It seemed to me that they weren’t learning the information, just memorizing facts. This was not what I wanted for my children. More than anything I want them to learn how to learn.