Our homeschooling family has been in a Classical Conversations community for over eight years now. I wanted to provide a little glimpse into what a Classical Conversations community day looks like for those who may be wondering, “What is this homeschooling cult that some folks rant about and some other folks rave about?”
If you’d like an inside scoop on how and why our family ended up homeschooling and why we chose to do so with Classical Conversations, then swing on over to this page. It includes a bit about my struggles and shortcomings as a parent (that’s always fun to hear, right?), along with what I hope remains an encouraging story of how God can use someone as flawed as I am. So, first…
What is Classical Conversations?
Classical Conversations is a national program designed to equip parents to provide their children with a classical Christian education. It provides a framework for education using the classical tools of learning, focusing on the grammar, dialectic (logic), and rhetorical arts of learning.
Each Classical Conversations Foundations (Ages 4 through 12) community meets at a weekly tutorial for 24 weeks during the school year. All parents participate in the program either as helpers or tutors.
A Day in the Life of a Classical Conversations Tutorial
So what does a day in the life of Classical Conversations look like for a K-6 student?
9:15-9:30 Opening Assembly (Large Group Time & Family Presentation)
9:30-10:00 New Grammar Introduced (Science, History, Latin, English, Time Line, Geography, Math)
10:00-10:30 Science Experiments or Projects
10:30-11:00 Student Presentations
11:00-11:30 Fine Arts
11:30-12:00 Grammar Review
During Opening Assembly, we have family presentations, which have ranged from family interviews and demonstrations to music and singing.
During the morning classes, the tutor introduces new memory work in timeline, history, Latin, English grammar, geography, science and math.
A variety of multi-sensory techniques (kinesthetic, auditory, visual) are used to help students of all learning types. In other words, we have FUN while we’re learning new material!
After new memory work is introduced, we go to another area to conduct science experiments or projects. During this time, you might find us constructing bridges with straws,
or learning about heat transfer by conducting a simple experiment,
or watching demonstrations performed by a parent or tutor.
(Science experiments for Classical Conversations Foundations classes are taken from Janice VanCleave’s 201 Awesome, Magical, Bizarre, & Incredible Experiments.)
Then we go back to our rooms for individual oral presentations to learn public speaking skills. For the younger classes, this is simply “show-and-tell,” whereas older students learn more formal presentation skills.
Then we dive into Fine Arts, which cycles through four topics over the course of the year:
1. Six Weeks of Drawing Techniques
2. Six Weeks of Music Theory & Practice (with Tin Whistle)
3. Six Weeks of Great Artists
4. Six Weeks Orchestra & Composers
After Fine Arts, we review the new memory work that has been previously introduced using games and other activities.
Memory Masters class labeling maps using a coded legend:
The Content in a Nutshell
- Cycle 1: Ancient through Modern World History; Geography of the World with emphasis on Africa, Middle East, Asia, and South America; Biology & Earth Science; Verbs & Prepositions; Latin noun endings; Exodus 20; Renaissance & Post Renaissance Artists; Baroque & Classical Composers
- Cycle 2: World history from pre-reformation to modern; European and World Geography; Ecology, Astronomy, and Physical Science; Pronouns, adverbs, conjunctions; Latin verb endings; Ephesians 6; Impressionist Artists; Classical & Romantic Composers
- Cycle 3: U.S. History & Geography; Anatomy and Chemistry; Participles, verb tenses, & clauses; John 1:1-7 and corresponding Latin translation; American masters artists; Romantic and Modern Composers
Across the nation, each Classical Conversations Foundations tutorial studies the same cycle of material for all grades (K-6), with Cycle 1 material studied during the upcoming 2018-2019 school year. Homeschool families with more than one child really enjoy being able to study the same material with all children!
During the grammar stage (K-6), students cycle through all of the material at least two times. For example, a child in First Grade during the 2018-2019 school year will repeat Cycle 1 material again in Fourth Grade. The emphasis during the “parroting stage” is memorization of key facts before advancing into the dialectic arts of learning where debate and logic are used to assimilate and analyze the information they have previously memorized.
At the close of each year, students have the opportunity to earn the official Memory Master title for the current cycle. Students who become Memory Masters can recite times tables to the 15s, cubes, squares, unit conversions, geometric formulas, and algebraic laws, 160 timeline facts in order, the 44 U.S. Presidents in order, 24 history sentences, 24 science facts, 24 English grammar lists and/or definitions, 120 geographical locations/features, and Latin words or endings. Each cycle, we memorize over 400 pieces of information!
Is memorizing worth it?
Imagine the surprise when you or your child recognizes an explorer’s name or an historical event while at the museum, or a fact that is mentioned in a Presidential speech, or a geographical location while listening to the news. It has made life more engaging and meaningful for our family to know about the world around us and to discover more about God’s creation as we strive to know Him and make Him known.
What else does Classical Conversations offer?
For grades 4th-6th, Classical Conversations builds upon the Foundations program by offering an Essentials program, which is used in conjunction with Institute for Excellence in Writing to provide a rigorous upper-elementary language arts program. Meeting in the afternoons following Foundations classes, a trained tutor helps strengthen the “essential” subjects of language arts and structure, writing and arithmetic. With a focus on the history & geography learned in Foundations, students learn how to organize their writing and employ stylistic techniques, building upon a firm foundation of memorized vocabulary, rules, and lists from The Essentials of the English Language (EEL) Guide (which are also memorized in the three cycles of Foundations). The writing portion of Essentials is based on the method of the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) by Andrew Pudewa and makes writing not only possible, but enjoyable for new writers. Click here to read more about the Essentials program.
Many parents feel inadequate to home school their students through the high school years. The Challenge program can help by modeling how to school with confidence during these very important years. Being involved in the Challenge program also helps direct you through your transcript and college preparation needs, by keeping you well-informed and providing the tools you need for your record keeping. The Classical Conversations Challenge program provides Classical Christian community for homeschooling families with students in grades 7th-12th. The Challenge Program meets once a week for fifteen weeks in the fall and fifteen weeks in the winter/spring months. Seminar day is divided into six strands covering subjects such as math, logic, composition, debate, geography, Latin, Shakespeare, Newbery American, and British Literature, Economics, Government, Music Theory, and Physical Science, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. This curriculum is led in a weekly classroom time with a trained Challenge Director/Tutor. Visit this page for a Scope & Sequence of the entire Challenge Program.
Classical Conversations at Home
I offer this as just one way to do CC at home, but it depends on each family’s particular circumstances and dynamic. Even our “Classical Conversations at Home” approach has shifted over the past couple of years. At one time we correlated several crafts and activities to our memory work (check out our list of links for Cycle 1, Cycle 2, and Cycle 3). Other times we’ve opted for Homeschool in the Woods unit studies (which are some of our most favorite learning experiences as a family!). Over time, we’ve come to focus more on reading great stories aloud together. In other words, no matter your family’s particular bent, you can use CC as a framework for your homeschool year.Let’s start with what I consider a “bare bones” schedule…
This year, our family’s schedule often (or sometimes?) looks more like this (okay, okay, at least it’s what we’re aiming for!):
You can read more details about the above schedule here. And if you’re puzzling over the “loop schedule” reference, be sure to check out our explanation of a loop schedule. Loop scheduling has been a wonderful way to incorporate the beautiful things into our homeschool days!
Below I’ve included an overview of what CC at home looked like for us when our oldest was in 2nd grade. (He is now in 9th grade. Really, time has passed all too quickly!) I’ve included curricular updates to hopefully prevent others from using the trial-and-error methods we used in selecting and settling on particular curriculum.
What does Classical Conversations look like at home?
Well, if you scan through our blog, it hopefully will answer that, as almost everything we use simply builds upon the framework offered by Classical Conversations. So you know, I think of myself as a Classical Educator with a touch of Charlotte Mason and a whole bunch of eclectic-ness thrown in to boot. (That narrows it down, eh?) When I first started homeschooling, though, I defaulted to the only method I knew, which was the traditional method of using worksheets and seatwork. It was not a good fit for the boys or me, although in our home math lends itself to traditional methods (model and repeat) fairly often.
So, since Classical Conversations only meets once per week, what do we do the rest of the time? Here is what our schedule looks like most days:
Our Schedule on a Utopian Day:
9:00 AM – 10:00 AM: New memory work; Review previous memory work; penmanship. Mostly we sing and dance our way through the 8 subjects (Bible, Timeline, History, Science, English Grammar, Geography, Math), but we sometimes play games (such as homemade Trival Pursuit) and draw or label maps. I make worksheets of our Bible memory work and timeline using the Print Handwriting Worksheet Maker. The focus is to practice penmanship (and learn letters for our pre-k children) and strengthen fine motor skills. I also make handrwriting worksheets of their names, our address, or any other information I want them to learn or practice. [We now have an entire penmanship program as a result of creating so many copywork sheets for my children for so long.]
|Our weekly memory work. We use page
protectors on a tri-fold board.
10:00 AM – 11:00 AM: Math. Though Classical Conversations contains math memory work that includes times tables through the 15s, squares, cubes, geometry, unit conversions and algebraic laws, a separate math curriculum is needed. We use Saxon Math, along with Times Tables the Fun Way & Addition/ Subtraction the Fun Way for the rote facts, and extra worksheets on geometry and statistics using MathKEY. For additional details, see our previous post on Math Curriculum. [We now use Singapore Math. It’s a solid program and more enjoyable than Saxon for our children. Another curriculum we recommend is Christian Light Education.]
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM: Language Arts. Until students can join the Essentials program (Grade 4), a separate Language Arts program is needed to supplement Classical Conversations. Because our 2nd grader has been a strong reader, we tackled a couple of the Total Language Plus workbooks, which you can learn more about on our blog post What Language Are You Speaking. We like doing unit studies and lapbooks, so literature studies were a good fit for us this year, though now we are simply using Rod & Staff Grade 3 curriculum. We have used a couple of different programs for spelling as well. A phonics or reading program is also needed to supplement Classical Conversations until your child advances to Essentials. [Over the years we’ve changed things up a bit to assist each of our children in spelling and reading. Our favorite reading program is All About Reading. For our 9-year-old, we use Spell to Write and Read (which can be tough to figure out for new parents but I feel is worth the upfront time investment), along with some occasional tools/techniques from All About Spelling. Our struggling speller (the 6th grader) uses IEW’s Phonetic Zoo. It’s the only program that has helped him to retain his spelling long-term. And for grades 4-6, we use Essentials for English Grammar and writing.]
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM: Lunch.
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM: Finish Language Arts. Because Language Arts includes oral reading, spelling, grammar, and writing, we usually split it up into two hours. Our pre-k student works in his Rod & Staff A-B-C Series books, and we practice our calendar, and he writes on his writing cards. He uses http://www.starfall.com/ and http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/ to practice pre-school activities. We also use a Hooked on Phonics program for reading and phonics. As a side note, reading is not something we do only during Language Arts. We read A LOT.
2:00 – 3:00 PM: We split up our other subjects as follows:
Art & Music
Science Study & Experiments Lapbooking
After 3:00 PM: Finish anything we didn’t complete.
Tuesdays are our Classical Conversations meeting days, so on Mondays we spend some time putting together presentations. For our pre-schooler (in the Abecedarian class), this usually consists of me trying to figure out which toy he wants to “show-and-tell.” Most of the time he takes a book that he knows and reads it to his class, or he takes his Legos to explain how to count to 10, or he talks about a field trip we took using a toy as a prop. Our 2nd grader’s presentations are more formal – we put together note cards or other helps for him. I give both of them quite a bit of freedom in this area, as it is simply a skill that we want to practice and gradually refine as they get older.
This schedule is general, as sometimes we start earlier or later, but we still allocate about an hour’s time for each subject. Because the boys usually finish each of our scheduled “hours” of tasks before the end of the hour, they have a break for the remainder of the time. (This means that our two-year-old’s breaks are longer than our 5-year-old’s breaks, which in turn are longer than our 7-year-old’s breaks.) And we also incoporate nature study into our school days. Everything tends to go much better if we go outside every day to enjoy God’s creation!
How do we “build” upon the Classical Conversations curriculum?
Our 7-year-old loves lapbooking, building things, and making crafts. I usually find a way to incorporate these to learn more details regarding our memory work. For example, this year we studied six weeks of astronomy facts. So, in addition to this, we completed a rather large Astronomy Lapbook (see our previous post). We did the same thing for the Medieval and Renaissance Periods. Because much of the material we studied during the spring has been about world wars, history was not a focal point in our extra work this semester (it’s an emotional topic for young children). However, we watched and discussed The Sound of Music, listened to the corresponding Story of the World audiobooks, and completed some unit studies on South Korea and Norway. Our favorite sites to find additional free activities are: homeschoolshare, crayola.com, currclick.com, papertoys.com, and thetoymaker.com. To be honest, there are so many free resources out there. Select something your child likes to do and go for it!
Parting Thoughts & Resources
For more information on Classical Education, I highly recommend Leigh Bortins’s Echo in Celebration, a free book full of encouragement and insight. For additional information regarding Classical Conversations, go to the Classical Conversations website, or click here for an informational flyer. For additional photos, videos, and links to some audios about Foundations click here.
Resources to get the “big picture”:
- Foundations Flier
- Essentials Flier
- Challenge Flier
- Echo in Celebration by Leigh Bortins
- Dorothy Sayers’s “The Lost Tools of Learning”
Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood Resources & Posts on Classical Conversations
- Our Classical Conversations Cycle 1 Posts
- Our Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Posts
- Our Classical Conversations Cycle 3 Posts
- Our Essentials Posts
- Our Challenge Posts
- What do Memory Masters Memorize?
- Classical Conversations for Beginners
- How to supplement CC on a shoestring
- How to organize everything: click here and here
If this is your first time visiting our website, please visit our Welcome Page to orient yourself to what you can find here! And… as always, feel free to contact me by leaving a comment or by sending me an email!