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"Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths,
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long."
~ Psalms 25:4,5

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Classical Conversations Homeschooling – Part 3
What do you do at CC?
Classical Conversation communities are found throughout the nation and the goal is to keep the format fairly consistent.  We heard testimony from several women at our Practicum about how wonderful it was when they moved that they could plug into a community in their new city and how the familiarity was so helpful.  

So, I’ve shared about the overarching vision.  What does the actual time together in this “community” look like!?!  As there are a Trivium in the three stages of learning (Grammar, Dialectic, Rhetoric), there are three phases of the CC program.  They are called: Foundations, Essentials, and Challenge.  I can explain more later, but for now I will explain Foundations since that is the “foundation” that begins the Grammar phase and the one we began with last year.  Foundations is for children in those Grammar years of learning, ages 4-12ish. 

One day a week Classical Conversation meets (larger cities have multiple locations, some meeting on the same day, others on different days – often times Friday or Monday).  It starts about 9:15 and ends at noon, with a 12-1 lunch/recess built in.  (Each family brings their lunch).   The format is as follows:

9:15 – 9:30 – meet as large group, have announcements, say Pledge of Allegiance, a Pledge to honor Scripture, and review the Scripture passage that all CC communities are memorizing. (This last year was Ephesians 6, one verse for each of the 24 weeks).  Then there is a family presentation time.  This is a short time that rotates through so each family has an opportunity to share a bit about themselves.  It can be as simple as just introducing yourselves and your likes or as creative as playing an ensemble together. 
9:30 – Dismissed to classes
9:30-10:00 – Learn new Foundations Grammar
10:00-10:30 –
10:30 – 11:00 –
11:00 – 11:30 –
11:30 – 12 – Review Grammar from earlier in the morning and previous weeks
12:00 - 1:00 - Lunch/Recess

The middle three half hour blocks can happen in different orders, but they are Science, Art, and Presentations.  I personally was thankful that I knew my son was getting specific science and art input each week because for some reason I just rarely seemed to get their on my own at home! 

The Science time rotates through six weeks of experiments, six weeks of something else, six weeks of something else, and six weeks of something else (this last year the last six weeks was building and testing craft stick bridges and egg drop protectors.

The Art time rotates through six weeks of drawing, six weeks learning/practicing the tin whistle, six weeks of famous artists, and six weeks of classical music/orchestra appreciation.

The Presentation time begins for the young ones as a glorified show-and-tell with the purpose being to learn how to give a presentation with an introduction and body and conclusion (Hi, my name is….and today for my presentation I am going to…That is the end of my presentation. Does anyone have any questions?)  These presentations are also exposure to public speaking in order build that comfort and skill.  There are suggested ideas each week and as the students mature, more is expected from their presentation (with a maximum of 3 minutes).  The presentation time is also later used to hone those rhetoric skills of communicating effectively and prepare them for life-after-formal education where presenting can be an influential part of the role God has them in.

The “recess” time was also such a perk!  It was an opportunity for me to build relationships with and fellowship with and learn from other homeschool families and the time to play with a group of kids was a highlight for my kiddos.

Other Foundations Factoids:

Who is teaching this material?  A Tutor.  They call them “tutors” as opposed to “teachers” in order to emphasize that you as the parent are the teacher.  The tutor comes along side you and presents the material in an organized and fun way for you to then be able to go home and practice with your child(ren).      

This sounds like a great time for me to run errands…WELL…the design of CC goes back to the “community” aspect.  The parents are learning with the kids and being modeled things like hand motions to go with songs to aid in memorization and pronunciation of tricky countries, et al.  Kids under 4 usually have a “nursery” option while the parent sits in on the class or floats between classes if they have multiple children in the program.  Some may baulk at this (and to be honest there have been times I would have preferred to be elsewhere) but overall it is enjoyable with the right attitude and when you have the vision in perspective it makes sense.  Part of our motive in homeschooling is that we want to be engaged in our child’s education and not just drop him/her off to learn from someone else, right!?!  Plus, the other benefits of our learning and gleaning from presence with community!

Class size: Each class is broken up by age and capped at 8 students (although I did hear that under rare circumstances they may have accepted 9) and each community is capped at 8 classes (or less if the facility cannot house say, more than 6 classrooms…speaking of facility, they are usually held at a church.) 

Grammar: So, you’ve probably picked up that “Grammar” is “information/knowledge,” but I can expand more specifically on what “New Grammar” looks like for the first 30 minutes of class time.  It is broken up into seven subjects...    

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Classical Conversations Homeschooling – Part 2
What is CC?
So, this “Classical Conversations Homeschooling” series was initiated because I found myself at numerous times trying to explain what Classical Conversations is.  Although I understand the concept I wasn’t able to articulate it very well.  Then last week I went to a CC (Classical Conversations) Practicum (basically a conference where we also put principles learned into practice!) in which they reiterated multiple points of the model.  I had heard most of the information before, but it was helpful to solidify it in my head.  Ironically, that model of learning is precisely what classical education is about and the articulation phase is what this Practicum focused on.  During the three day Practicum I was not only affirmed in our decision and excited about our future with CC, but also inspired to put into writing our “why’s” for CC.  In this post I am going to start with the basics of “What is CC?” before I expand on “Why CC?” although the “what” highlights a lot of the benefits that lead to our “why”J
Note: Most of this information is replicated from the conference material. 
In general, Classical Conversations is the group of homeschoolers who come together to practice Classical Christian Education in Community.  Broken down:
           Classical: Time-tested as an effective method of learning (like going back to the Greeks and Romans-that extent of time-tested!)
Christian Education: Teaching all subjects through a Christian world-view.  This reinforces what many Christian parents are seeking to implement in their Christian education at home.
Community:  Anyone can teach through a classical Christian model and even use the material created for CC.  However, it is recognized that just as God created His people to work together best through the community of The Body of Christ, coming together in a consistent community establishes support, encouragement, accountability, and the positive peer pressure that homeschooling solo doesn’t offer. 
Expanding on this model:
Classical: The Classical Education Model is based on what they called The Trivium (Latin meaning Three Way).  The Three Ways break down the three ways that we learn.  They use those three ways in relation to developing kids, but in reality they describe the process in which we learn anything.  The Three Ways are called: Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric.  The Grammar stage is the input of information.  In the Dialectic phase you are putting the pieces together.  The Rhetorical period is the expression of material learned and practice. 
         Life Example: Learning to quilt
Grammar: You learn the basic information of quilting – parts of the sewing machine, pieces of the quilt, types of stitches, how to start, how to finish and lots of other information.
Dialectic: You begin practices the cutting and piecing and stitching and fixing mistakes.
Rhetorical: You make a full quilt; you may display that quilt or begin making them for others.  After lots of practice you may become an expert that others ask questions of.
           Classical Education applied:  The beauty of Classical Education is that it takes the natural phases of learning and applies it to formal learning/formal education.  It also correlates the specific phases with the natural phases a child’s brain develops at.  Ages four-ten thrive on memorization.  Their brains are at a development stage that is like a sponge designed to absorb information/knowledge (Grammar stage).  Therefore CC uses these influential years to input lots of quality knowledge into them, even if they aren’t quite old enough to understand it, it’s memorized during peak memorization years  in order to build on down the road.  Eleven through thirteen year olds are beginning to think outside the box and question the world around them.  They want to explore and find out for themselves.  This can often be seen as a rebellious stage, but when understood and channeled (and when there has been good input to start with) this Dialectic Phase can be fostered so that the student begins to put the pieces together and understand their world from their own experience rather than just being spoon fed.  As they are in the putting the pieces together stage, if they are taught well how to process those pieces and articulate those opinions, when they are in their high school years and beyond they will have learned how to be effectively Rhetorical, expressing with refined poise.
Classical Christian EducationClassical Education through the Christian worldview recognizes that this model doesn’t just make sense, it is a mirror of how God has designed His creation.  The Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetorical phases match well with Scripture’s descriptions of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.  (Proverbs 2:6)  Above I highlighted “knowledge” with “information” in the Grammar stage and “understanding” in the Dialectic stage.  If we define wisdom as skilled living of God’s world in God’s way, rhetoric is just that – wise expression, communicating the truths of God which He has orchestrated in His world, whether that be through writing, speaking, art, or some other skill.  Classical Conversations focuses on the modes of communication through writing and speaking skills (which I’ll address later.)  Classical Christian Education also illustrates the worldview they seek to teach from which differs from Modern Education or other Christian Educational models.  The Classical Christian illustration highlights the view that all of creation, thus all subjects, are intertwined and God is the author and sustainer of each thread.  I will try to get that illustration here.  Another aspect of the CC that lives out the “Christian” aspect of the education is how they fulfill their mission: “To know God and make Him known.”  At the heart of all this learning is to know God and build a deeper faith. And at the heart of all this rhetoric is to make Him known – inspiring others in their faith, being salt and light, having conversations full of grace, and being ready to answer when anyone asks about the hope they have as a witness and influence to the needy world.
Community: The community aspect of Classical Conversations has a few avenues.  One, it offers students peers who are like-minded and learning the same thing.  This promotes positive peer pressure and creates an enjoyable learning environment – because everything is more fun with friends, right!?!  Later, this peer community facilitates the conversation and dialogue that develops their skills of articulating their understanding and wisdom.  The community is also an opportunity for parents to build relationship, have consistent fellowship with like-minded homeschoolers and nurture, encourage, support, and be resources for each other over extended periods of time.  There is also the element of the families being connected in community as they come together each week.  This has a dynamic potential and is fairly unique as far as homeschool support groups or co-ops go.  CC seeks to live out Hebrews 10:24,25 via coming together once a week on a homeschooling venture to learn about God and His world!

The next post will describe what this time looks like each week – What do you do at CC that one time a week? 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Classical Conversations Homeschooling – Part 1
Our Journey
  •   Mid-Late 90’s – When I was in 8th grade there was a girl who was homeschooled who started going to our public school (I was public schooled K-12 and had a good academic experience in a mid-sized city with a graduation class of about 400).  This gal wasn’t real social and in high school went off the deep end.  She was the only homeschooler I had experience with, therefore my perception was that homeschoolers fit the stereotype of not being social or well-equipped for the “real world.”
  •   Late 90’s – early 2000’s – I went to college in a small town (20,000) where I met quite a few families who homeschooled.  I respected the families and the kids seemed “normal,” and I was even genuinely impressed by some of them.  This broke my stereotyped perception and even opened me up to benefits of homeschooling.
  • Mid-2000’s – I was looking for a job and a respected woman at my church approached me about being a nanny for her and her five homeschooled children.  I accepted the position and learned a ton including the eye-witness of both pros and cons of homeschooling.  It seemed like each week I wavered on what I would choose to do with my future children!  I had many other families in our church that I began to glean from as well.
  • 2008 – Our first son was born and we had tangible reason to start processing and praying about what we would choose for his formal education.  (Note: we purchased our home in 2004 and one of the big draws was the good elementary school basically in our backyard.  At that time I had visions of walking our kids up the hill and waving them off to school!)
  •  By 2010-11, in his 2nd or 3rd year, when my peers were considering pre-schools, we felt led to pursue home-education, so I began basic pre-school skills with him.  
  •  Spring 2013 – we needed to decide what route we were going to take.  Who knew there were so many decisions not just of curriculum, but basic schools of thought!?!  Many of the seasoned families at church that I knew of had pretty traditional methods.  One shared a book, “The Well-Trained Mind” with me.  I began to skim through it and was immediately drawn to the model though I was still overwhelmed with the abundance of curriculum options in order to implement the model.  Another friend told me that they started with a group called “Classical Conversations” (CC) and I should check it out.  I went to an open house and liked that the kids were in small age-grouped classes and had an instructor and were learning a variety of subjects.  We decided to follow that up with an informational meeting, where I learned that the model of Classical Conversations was the model that I was drawn to in “The Well-Trained Mind!” 

Our church has a strong, long standing support group that I naturally wanted to be a part of.  Because it was just kindergarten I didn’t want to “jump in with both feet” and get overwhelmed, so I was leaning toward just doing the support group for the first year and then maybe the Classical Conversations in the future (especially since the CC community 3 minutes from our house was full for that school year).
However, my husband was encouraging me to “go for it” and jump in with both feet.  I knew it was easy to get overwhelmed in this homeschool journey and I was really trying to protect myself from that.  But the more I prayed about it, the more the LORD helped me see that CC helps alleviate so much of that because they have set up so much of the curriculum where you basically just have to supplement with math and phonics/reading. 
Another aspect that I was uncertain about was what to do with my DD3 and realized that the songs and chant learning of CC would be something that she could easily join us in.  I’ll share in the next post a fuller explanation of what excites me about Classical Conversations, but this is the basics on why we chose CC as we began our homeschooling journey!

  •  Fall 2013 was official Kindergarten start and we decided it was worth the 20 minute drive to the new C.C. location opening in our city, even though the one closest to us was full.  We don’t regret it!  C.C. was a great fit for our family this year and I am excited to continue on as long as the LORD would have us!  More details to come in the next post…stay tuned!!!...