Classical Conversations – An overview and why we are giving it a try

Classical Conversations – An overview and why we are giving it a tryfeatured

Classical Conversations. To know God and to make Him known.

This mission statement for Classical Conversations (CC) is the biggest reason I was drawn to this form of homeschooling.  But it hasn’t been an easy decision.  Before I get into the details of why we decided to give this program a try this coming school year — and why I was totally against it last year — I will write an overview of this homeschool community to give you a basic understanding of how it works.

There are many different forms of homeschooling.  Traditional, classical, Charlotte Mason, unit studies, unschooling, and electic are a few.  If you can’t tell by the name, Classical Conversations is based on the classical education approach.  The focus of classical education is how a student learns.  The following information has been adapted from the Classical Conversations Foundations Guide, written by Leigh A. Bortins, the founder of Classical Conversations.

Classical Conversations is not really a co-op, but a community. The communities are broken up by ages, so the classes are small. All Classical Conversations’ communities meet once a week for 24 weeks.  There are three cycles.  Every student, of any age, will be learning the same material.  Just at their own level.  Which makes it tremendously helpful when you have multiple children learning at home.

Classical Conversations (and classical education) divides learning into 3 stages: the Grammar stage, the Dialectic stage, and the Rhetoric stage.

Classical Conversations Programs

Grammar Stage

The Grammar stage is not ‘English Grammar’. It is the time in a child’s life where they learn by memorizing facts.  The age for this learning is around K4 through 6th grade.  In Classical Conversations this program is called Foundations.  Here tutors (CC moms who are paid to to lead a community group) help load facts from a variety of interesting subjects.  I know more about the Foundations program because of the age of my kids.  I won’t be able to go into detail on the community day for the other CC programs.

Each week during community day the students review previous memory work, get introduced to new memory work, practice public speaking, complete a science experiment, and work on a form of fine arts (art work and music-playing the tin whistle, or learning about classical composers).

Dialectic Stage

The Dialectic stage is when the student learns how facts relate.  This CC program is called Essentials, and is around the 4th through 6th grade age.  From what I’ve read and been told, here the students really start to focus on writing. In the Foundations Guide, it says “the tutors model the grammar and dialectic tools of learning in English grammar, writing, and math drills. [The students] develop mental skills to sort and classify facts and learn the tools they need to become effective writers.”

There is a second program in the later years of the Dialectic stage (7th and 8th grade) called Challenge A and B. Here the students become much more independent, and the material becomes more challenging.  They focus more on group discussions as they learn logic and debate.

Rhetoric Stage

The Rhetoric stage is where the student begins applying the facts they’ve learned in the grammar and dialectic stages.  This CC program is Challenge I, II, III, and IV, and the age is 9th-12th grade.  Since I really only have young kids, and not much experience with CC in the older years, I am going to quote the Foundations Guide again.  The students “not only discuss, but learn to lead discussions.  Students can fully express themselves in creative, meaningful, and practical applications of subjects”.

The Bible even acknowledges these stages. In Proverbs 24: 3-4, they are referred to as knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

Classical Education - Stages of Learning

Now, that most of the basics of the classical education has been explained, I will start talking about our idea of it.

I first learned about CC when Tanner just turned 3.  I thought the idea of a community was awesome, and I loved the idea that CC put God in the center of all the different subjects.  But there were a lot of things about Classical Conversations that I didn’t understand, and due to that misunderstanding, completely pushed me away from wanting to join. There’s lots of memory work.  And it seemed odd to me to make a child memorize so much stuff, but not really learn it.  Also, they learn Latin.  LATIN!  Is that crazy to anyone else?  I also figured I could put my own curriculum together.  You have to use separate Language Arts and Math curriculum anyway.

The turning point.

It was almost like God was leading me to this.  It happened fairly quickly. I was struggling a bit trying to figure out how to put my own curriculum together.  I wanted to make sure I covered what I needed to but didn’t over do it.  I was literally searching for a book to help me learn about gathering my own curriculum when I took a Facebook break.  And while I was scrolling through my newsfeed a homeschool mom shared a blog post from Family Style Learning about Bullet Journaling.  I didn’t really read the title, I just glanced at the pictures and saw how cool it was ( I love journaling).  So I clicked on it and began reading it.  Which lead to me being blown away by what the upper level Challenge students do.  Which then lead me to do more research on Classical Conversations.

After a few days of researching and reading, I finally understood how the Classical model works.  How the memorization in the younger years is NOT actually a waste.  I learned how the three cycles work well for the students.  For an example, Tanner will start cycle 3 this next school year.  Then he will be in cycle 3 again at age 8/9.  He will re-learn the information in a completely different way at that time. He will start asking more questions about the material because he will remember it from the first time.  So we will then be able to dive deeper with learning the material he is most interested in.

After learning more about CC,  I even realized that THIS IS HOW I LEARN!  My mom would help me memorize skip counting when I was younger, and I still remember it to this day.

Let’s give it a try!

So, I figured this was the best time to figure out if this will work for us.  If it does, I want the boys to have as many years as they can with this form of learning.  If it doesn’t work, it was only one year, and a kindergarten year at that.  Also, we don’t just have to memorize the Foundations memory work.  If there is something Tanner is interested in, we can dig a bit deeper with more activities.  There is CC Connected online where other CC parents and tutors create and post activities and printables for the students to use.  And Pinterest, of course.

This next school year is cycle 3.  Tanner will be learning about the USA in History and Geography, and Anatomy and Chemistry in science.  All of which he loves.  With CC you have to choose your own language arts and math curriculum, both of which we already have. I’ve heard that you either really like CC or you don’t. So why not give it a try?  I’m really looking forward to this community.  I, personally, need a community of other experienced homeschool parents.

This was a crazy long post.  But there was a lot of information I wanted to share.  Next week I will be attending the 3 day Classical Conversations Parent Practicum.  It will help me understand this program, and classical education, much more.  I am planning on sharing my experience after I complete it.

What about you?  Are you interested in Classical Conversations?

 

 

 

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