This article has been updated and republished from the archives. I wrote it right after our first year with Classical Conversations on July 21, 2011. I have kept several things the same, but have included updates because our children are now three years older.
I didn’t plan on this, but I just had to write this for all of you overwhelmed newcomers to Classical Conversations:
Last year was our second year to homeschool and our first year with Classical Conversations. When we started, we didn’t plan on doing ANYTHING extra to supplement CC. After all, during our first year of homeschooling all we did was Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic. I figured if I added CC’s version of history, geography, science, fine arts and Latin (even without adding anything extra), it would be a great year. And it was!
If you are new to Classical Conversations, before doing anything else, please read Leigh Bortins’s free e-book Echo in Celebration:: A Call to Home-Centered Education. It really helped me to get the big picture and to want to just enjoy being with my kids.
[IMPORTANT UPDATE: As a new Classical Conversations parent, you need only: The Foundations Guide, the Tin Whistle, and [if possible] the Classical Acts & Facts Timeline Cards. (Library cards are handy, too!) You can build your entire curriculum around these items. Please do not spend your time, money or sanity on other things if you don’t have it. You can even find free Bible, preschool, math, and language arts programs on-line (in addition to other resources, which are not actually necessary at the grammar stage when following a classical model of education).]
We started out our year with the bare minimum. Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic, and memorywoRk songs. (I’m not even sure I wrote down anything in my planner.)
Starting at about 4 weeks into the school year last year, we ended up adding other things gradually.
Bible: Because I had previously discovered how much my oldest son enjoyed lap books, we completed one lapbook component per day (or even less than that!) using Hands of a Child’s A Devotion a Day lapbook and A Journey Through Learning’s New Testament Lapbook. All I had to do was read the devotions or information out of the lapbook. We eventually found some file folder games that we really enjoyed playing together as a family. We didn’t try to correlate what we did with Ephesians 6. In fact, we didn’t even FINISH memorizing Ephesians 6…
Memory Work: We listened to our Memory Work CDs ALL the time. I had a copy for the car and a copy for our house. We practiced our timeline with hand motions (that is after falling 9 weeks behind. I just sort of decided to ignore timeline, but then Stephen decided to become a Memory Master, so we had to catch up on 72 timeline events in addition to the new material in the spring. [This was before we had the way-cool timeline song.] By the way, I do NOT suggest falling behind on timeline.) We didn’t even really practice our memory work using several different techniques. We just sung and danced to our songs and did hand motions. (It sounds boring, but it was fun!)
That’s it. No correlation of reading topics. No games. No nothin’. I didn’t even create that new-grammar trifold board until about halfway through the school year (when Stephen decided to become a Memory Master).
Fine Arts: Aside from a couple of times when the boys took the initiative to draw something themselves, we did not do anything in this area. I think we practiced the tin whistle once. No music theory at all. Though I can play the flute, I’m NOT a music teacher. I ran away screaming from the Tin Whistle, even though it has the same fingering pattern as the flute. When we came to famous artists 2nd semester, we started an artist lapbook but never finished it. Why? Because everything was printed in black and white. It’s hard to encourage art appreciation with black-and-white printouts. Composers? Hmmm…. well, we went around singing, BAH BAH BAH BAAAAAHHHHH when we studied Beethoven. Does that count as composer study?
Math: We struggled with finding a math curriculum we liked. You can read that story here. But we ended up just doing one math lesson per day. We even fell behind on skip counting because we didn’t like it as much as history. And that, my friends, is coming from a former high school math teacher and engineer. Oh, the IRONY!
Science: We did a lapbook on ecology and on space (1 component per day, which means cut out one little piece of paper, fold it, and write something in it.) Then in the spring, we used Mr. Q’s Elementary Physical Science to do egg experiments and other fun stuff. We had sort of a spontaneous way of supplementing science, as we also do Nature Studies as we find critters on our farm.
English Grammar/Language Arts: We used Total Language Plus and some unit studies on Island of the Blue Dolphins, Nim’s Island, and Grammarland our first year. We didn’t try to correlate our readings at all to what we were studying in CC. We went with what we wanted to read.
I tried to teach David to read with Hooked on Phonics, but, although he learned his letter sounds and how to write them, he is still not reading. But he’s in Kindergarten for the coming year, so we still have a few years to get this down. The Rod&Staff ABC series worked very well with him as a preschooler. [Update: David learned to read when he was ready. He was not ready at 3 years old like his brother. He was ready at age 6. In fact, he just now started picking up books to read them by himself at age 7.]
Geography: We did a couple of unit studies on South Korea and Norway due to Gary’s work schedule (he was working there). We actually used the South Korean Unit Study as our family presentation in the spring. The rest of the time we just used our maps.
History: We did a lapbook on the medieval period and the Renaissance (one to two components per week) and made 4 paper toys. No history readings, though towards the end of the year we listened to some of Story of the World Volume 4. We listened to things like Sugar Creek Gang; Swamp Robbers instead. And we went on some trips and did some real-life learning that did not correlate with what we were doing in CC at all…
We eventually got to where I found a schedule that helped us to be more organized. It worked fabulously, and we were able to do a whole lot more with less effort. But just to let you know, we started out with planning to do NOTHING extra and eventually got to where we figured out what worked best for us. In fact, I liken it to a classical-unschooling approach to a certain degree because we followed what the boys wanted to do within certain boundaries while practicing memory work. Once I set out some possible things to do (like a file folder game or a lapbook), they would get excited and take the initiative to do those things.
And Stephen became a Memory Master in his first year of CC in the second grade. And when we went on field trips or just about anywhere, or when we were reading something randomly over the summer… our memory pegs were there. We were able to connect that piece of information into the file we had created in our brains. Classical education works!!!
REMEMBER: If you don’t supplement CC with ANYTHING but just stick to the memory work and do your separate math and language arts/phonics lessons, you and your children will still walk away with a RICH education and a LOVE OF LEARNING. After all, it’s not QUANTITY, it’s QUALITY. And the Classical Model is definitely QUALITY. Trust it! You will see the importance of the Foundations you’re setting now when your children build upon them in Challenge.
Have a blessed – and unstressed – year!