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guide me in your truth and teach me,
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~ Psalms 25:4,5

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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? 

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