I have been getting more questions lately about Classical Conversations (CC) so I thought I would just share my experiences here, in case anyone wants to read about what we are doing. Grab a cup of coffee...this got long!
Let's start with the basics...Why do we homeschool? We began educating at home in 2007 when C was starting 2nd grade. We were simply wanting to teach him on his level. Oklahoma doesn't have any homeschool laws, besides that you have to teach the same number of days as your district, so we unenrolled from school, joined a local co-op, and off we went. It was so great to have the support of a group and fun to learn about how everyone else was homeschooling. At home, we were using a wide variety of publishers for our curriculum, including (but not limited to) Math-U-See, Singapore Math, Bob Jones, Spelling Power, Apologia, etc, etc, etc. We did this for two years, changing things up as we went. Then in the spring of 2009, we went to an information meeting at the local library about Classical Conversations. I had never really studied classical education but we were very interested after this meeting. A friend attends CC in Tulsa and had tried to talk me into joining up the year before. I didn't understand what it was and thought it was awfully expensive for a homeschool group. Guys, I had no idea what I was missing out on. I am kicking myself now for not starting that first year. Yes, it is expensive for a homeschool group, but it is so much more than just a group of homeschoolers hanging out and going on field trips together. Really, I just had no idea.
So, what is CC? CC was started in NC in the home of Leigh Bortins. She began with a few families and it has grown to over 30,000 students and has campuses in almost every state. (I just heard that we are up to 13 communities with about 1000 students in OK!). Once we learned about the classical model, it just made sense to us. Classical education is based on the trivium that consists of 3 stages: grammar (learning the facts...putting in mental pegs that they will later hang more information on but it will be organized because of these original pegs), dialectic (arguing logic...relating the facts they have learned in the grammar stage to each other), and rhetoric (applying those facts...debating). They spend time teaching the kiddos how to think...something that isn't taught anymore and so important. The mission of CC is to know God and make Him known. How exciting to be part of a group of people with this mission! CC is divided into three groups that are based on the trivium: Foundations (roughly ages 5-12...This class meets for 3 hours a week in classes of no more than 8 kiddos per tutor. This is where they learn those pegs that I mentioned above. They are presented with their weekly memory work, do an art and science project, presentation, and review previous work.), Essentials (roughly ages 8-12...this class meets for 2 hours in the afternoon after Foundations, and teaches English, Writing, and does Math fact drills - I have tutored this for the past 2 years and love it.), and Challenge (roughly 7th-12th grades...There are 6 different Challenge classes. Our campus is having a Challenge A class in the fall and I can't wait to learn more about it. Challenge classes meet for 6 hours and have all subjects.)
Can you do CC at home and not pay the fees? The short answer is yes. Most of the information is available for anyone to purchase. Some things you must be enrolled in a class to have access to. The longer answer is yes, BUT....the thing that makes this program so great is the community. I love meeting with like minded people and having the weekly accountability to push myself and our kids to the max. Classical education is hard. Really hard. They learn 400-500 facts a year at CC, some that are almost a paragraph long! But by breaking it down, week by week, it is very doable. Each week in class, the students are presented with the weeks worth of memory work that includes a History, Science, Math, Geography, English, Latin, and a section of the 160 point timeline. Every week they do a science experiment and a fine art project (big selling points for me to not have to do these things at home!!). They learn to play the tin whistle. They give weekly presentations to their class. They have lunch and recess with friends. The community makes the program. Also, I think the price of the program is important. If you don't invest in something, it isn't as valuable to you. Each of us has had to make sacrifices to be in this program but it is worth it. I went to a director training meeting yesterday and it was brought up that people only complain about the cost the first year. Once they see that they ARE getting their money's worth, they are eager to sign back up. We have well trained tutors that teach each class and a great national support system through our state manager and the CC website. It really is an amazing program.
CC is one day a week. What do you do the other days? Eat bonbons and sleep in. Ok, that is only half correct. We do sleep in...we aren't really morning people...but we don't daily eat bonbons. That would be crazy. During the week, we take the information presented in our CC classes and expand on that. For example, this year one history sentence they memorized was about WWI so we checked out books on WWI from the library, watch DVDs on it, read those sections in their history books, journal about it (handwriting and writing and art for the little two that draw about what they are writing about), read fiction and nonfiction books about that time period, etc. We learn all we can about each subject each week. Now, does P understand all about WWI by the end of the week? No. But she call tell you who were the Allies and Central Powers. She knows the leaders during that time and some important facts. She has a peg. T knows a a few more facts that just those in the history sentence, but still mostly just facts as he is still in the grammar stage too. C, on the other hand, is entering the dialectic stage and is questioning why WWI was started and wanting to know more about it (or whatever we are learning that week). He will do more in depth studying during the week and have to think a little more. Same with science...we take the science memory work and learn more about them. The first week of the year, we learned the 7 types of biomes. I checked out books on each one from the library and we discussed and journaled about where they live, where they would like to live, who can live where, etc. In addition to CC work, we do separate math, spelling, phonics, handwriting, and reading. C is getting an excellent English and writing foundation in Essentials. I am amazed at what the kids learn in there (and not just saying that b/c I am one of the teachers - lol). We also do gymnastics one day a week and karate another day. They play outside and ride bikes and get plenty of "PE" time :)
Will you homeschool through high school? We began our homeschool journey saying no way. We were going to take it year by year and see. Now that we have found CC, Lord willing, we are in it for the long haul. The CC high school program is unreal. When we first were at that information meeting learning about CC, we joked that our kids will hate us during high school but love us during college. Seriously, college, and anything else in life will be a breeze for these kids. After completing this program, they will know how to learn anything. It is pretty exciting to think about what an amazing life they will have. Another thing I like about CC goes back to that mission statement above: To know Him and make Him known. We have no idea what God has in mind for our kids to do when they are older but we want them prepared for whatever that is. I love teaching the kids a Biblical worldview. I like being able to show them how God is in everything and not a separate subject to be learned about.
What is your role in CC? As I mentioned above, I have taught the Essentials class for the past two years and will continue in that role this fall. I recently also became the Foundations and Essentials Director for our campus. I am really excited to be with this great group and honored to be trusted with leading it next year! We have a great campus filled with wonderful families. If you are interested in more info about CC or our campus, let me know. Or if you have any more questions, I'd be happy to answer those as well.