I discovered Classical Conversations (CC) when my friend’s daughter sang a few skip counting and history songs to me. “Where can I find those great skip counting songs?” I asked. As I looked into Classical Conversations, I loved that you can find a song to learn anything and actually memorize meaningful information! But it is the depth of the program that has kept me participating and growing along with my children.
Why Participate in Classical Conversations
Classical Conversations because it is a Christian homeschool community which utilizes the classical model.
Their byline is classical Christian community: classical means how we learn, Christian explains why we learn, and community tells where we learn. With a motto of “to know God and to make Him known”, their model is to combine a Christ-centered worldview and classical tools, and their method is to equip parents and encourage students.
Classical Conversations provides a solid classical model – teaches children how to learn – and makes it possible for families to teach their own children at home through quality curriculum and materials.
The programs of Classical Conversations meet children at each stage of development through the Trivium: Foundations for the grammar stage, Essentials and Challenge A and B for the dialectic stage, and Challenge I-IV for the rhetoric stage. These excellent programs enable and support parents in homeschooling through high school, allowing the parent to be the teacher. A friend of mine had her first child in a classical school for kindergarten, and while she was pleased with the quality of the education, she realized that with several more children in the family, they wouldn’t be able to afford private school for long. When she found Classical Conversations, she told me that it is a private school education she can do at home. By the way, one year of CC for three children is cheaper than one month at the aforementioned private school.
Classical Conversations curriculum is predictable and consistent in communities across the world.
All CC communities are studying the same information – in Foundations there are three cycles of memory work, for example, and all communities in the world study the same cycle in a particular year – so if one’s family needs to move, the family can find another community and pick up right where they left off. Also, if life circumstances are difficult for a few years (i.e. new baby, caring for a sick family member, moving) parents of a Foundations student can rest assured that if no other learning gets done, CC memory work plus a little reading and math is enough! There is not need for a lot of extra supplementation in all the subjects. So CC enables education to continue during these hard times.
Classical Conversations is an independent program and does not receive government funding and is not aligned with Common Core, so parents and students are still in control of their education.
While CC programs all follow an established curriculum plan week to week, there are many ways a parent can supplement the basic material and work hands on to the learning level and style of each of one’s children, and a parent chooses one’s own math and phonics program. Since I wanted my children to memorize something useful, and I believe that music is one of the best mnemonic devices, I was readily attracted to Classical Conversations and the memory songs of the grammar stage, but one who does not learn as well to songs will find there are many inspiring and interactive ways to memorize in the Foundations program. It is important to maintain long term vision through years of repetition of Foundations and Essentials material, for all the memory work leads to having the foundational knowledge to ask the questions and apply the memory work in the Challenge years.
Classical Conversations approaches home education through a Christian worldview.
Again, their motto is “to know God and to make him known,” which shines through as God’s character and work are recognized and emphasized throughout all the disciplines of study. By the way, this is the one true God, Jesus Christ, not just a general force or Allah or Buddha or one of the Hindu gods. In Foundations, the memory work does not talk directly about God, but God is seen in that memorizing math facts and conducting science experiments teach structure and that God is orderly, learning history sentences and a timeline show God’s hand in history, exploring geography enables children to see how big God’s world is as He cares for people from every tribe and nation, and Latin and English study prepare children to read God’s Word and communicate God’s truth effectively through spoken and written language. Also, CC recommends a Scripture passage to memorize each year in Foundations. In Essentials, most of the model English grammar sentences are about Jesus, so He is constantly before the students. It is in the Challenge level that students delve into the character and works of God in all areas of their study, discussing God’s redemptive story in great literature, his order and truth in math and science, learning logical fallacies to be able to discern truth, and comparing all to the Word of God. Since as the Westminster Shorter Catechism #1 states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever,” it is important to exalt and encounter God in all areas rather than restrict Him as if He were merely a subject to study. Indeed, “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.” (Westminster Shorter Catechism #4) As God pervades all of their learning, children will have the opportunity to know about Christ, and we as parents must trust the Spirit to work in their hearts to grant them love for God and their neighbor.
Classical Conversations is a community with sweet Christian fellowship.
It is a place to come where others hold us accountable and encourage us as we all do the same thing together. Families attend community days together in the Foundations and Essentials programs (grammar and early dialectic stages), so parents find support in adult conversations over lunch while children enjoy being with other kids. For those concerned about their children developing real “social skills,” community days offer interacting with peers and adults with adult/parent supervision (as opposed to dropping kids off at school where a parent never sees what is really going on between children) as children learn together and do a formal presentation weekly to their peers in a positive environment. Parents can deal with issues immediately and work out conflicts with other families face to face since they see each other regularly. For us moms, it is a blessing to get out of the house one day a week and have adult conversations and glean ideas from each other about parenting, resources, how to do CC at home the rest of the week, and discuss our own growth in learning with our children and understanding the classical model. We also share life and pray for each other. While it is possible to do the grammar stage (Foundations) at home, I don’t know why I would, for I would truly miss the fellowship and accountability of a Christian and classical community.
Classical Conversations may not be right for every family, but it has been an excellent fit for our family.
For more information about Classical Conversations or to find a community near you, check out: https://www.classicalconversations.com/
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The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education by Leigh Bortins
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer