- Classical Conversations for Beginners (or How to use Classical Conversations as a “Spine” or Core Framework for Homeschooling)
- How to supplement CC on a shoestring
- How to organize everything, click here and here
For all of our Classical Conversations Cycle 1 Posts, click here.
For all of our Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Posts, click here.
For all of our Classical Conversations Cycle 3 Posts, click here.
The following information is taken from various blog posts I’ve written in the past.
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 stages of learning.
Each Classical Conversations community meets at a weekly tutorial for 24 weeks during the school year. All parents participate in the program either as helpers or tutors.
So what does a day in the life of Classical Conversations look like for a K-6 student?
9:15-9:30 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 Large Group Time, 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.
|What a tutor’s whiteboard might look like at the beginning of the morning…|
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!
|Memory masters class learning U.S. Presidents|
|Apprentice class (age 6-7) learning new history sentence|
or going outside to make a sun print,
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.
|Presentation on numbers 1-10.|
|Classmates enjoy a snack during presentations|
Then we dive into Fine Arts, which cycles through four topics over the course of the year:
1. Drawing Techniques
|Completed by first year Foundations student (age 7)|
2. Music Theory & Practice (with Tin Whistle)
|Abecedarian students (age 4-5) learning the Treble Clef|
3. Great Artists
|Using the techniques of Degas to create a chalk painting|
4. Orchestra & Composers
|Students learning about orchestra|
After Fine Arts, we review the grammar that has been previously introduced using games and other activities.
|Reviewing memory work using red-light green-light.|
Memory masters reviewing geography using a coded legend:
Cycle 1: Ancient through Modern World History; Geography of Africa and the World; 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 2 material studied during the 2010-2011 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 2010-2011 school year will repeat Cycle 2 material again in Fourth Grade. The emphasis during the grammar stage is memorization of key facts before advancing into the dialectic stage 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. The unique EEL approach takes students beyond “the worksheet” and the ubiquitous fill-in-the-blank method. 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.
The Classical Conversations Challenge program provides Classical Christian community for home school families with students in grades 7th-9th. The Challenge Program meets once a week for fifteen weeks in the fall and fifteen weeks in the winter/spring months. Challenge A/B curriculum includes Saxon Math 8/7 or Algebra 1/2, Geography, Newbery Award Literature, IEW’s Bible-Based Writing Lessons, Clear Reasoning It Couldn’t Just Happen, and Don’t Check Your Brains At the Door, Nature Study (Fall Semester), Biology (Spring Semester), and Latin. This curriculum is led in a weekly classroom time with a trained Challenge Director/Tutor.Challenge I-IV
Our Challenge I program provides Classical Christian community for home school families with students in grades 9th-12th. The Challenge Program meets once a week for fifteen weeks in the fall and fifteen weeks in the winter/spring months. Challenge I curriculum includes Saxon Algebra I, Apologia Physical Science, American Literature, Debate, Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew (Drama), American Government, Economics, and Latin. Students develop and strengthen the life-long learning skills of grammar, exposition, debate, logic, rhetoric, and research. This curriculum is led in a weekly classroom time with a trained Challenge Director/Tutor.Many parents feel inadequate to home school their students through the high school years. Challenge programs 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.
For more information on Classical Education, I highly recommend Leigh Bortins’s Echo in Celebration, a 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.
Classical Conversations at Home
I offer this as one idea, but take note that our “Classical Conversations at Home” approach has shifted over the past couple of years. To see how it has shifted, visit Classical Conversations at Home, Revisited and Plan vs. Reality.
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. 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. We also complete handwriting and penmanship practice during this time. 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.
|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.
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM: Language Arts. Until students can join the Essentials program (Grade 3 or 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.
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!
Visit our Classical Conversations: Cycle 1 posts for ideas on Cycle 1 supplemental materials.
The following is an excerpt taken from What do Memory Masters Memorize? written during Cycle 2 during the 2010-2011 school year, our first year in Classical Conversations and our first year to work towards the Memory Master achievement.
It’s been loads of fun for us to come across things we’ve learned this year – in books, in movies, in museums – everywhere! At supper one night, Stephen was talking about how his plate was like Europe. And the gravy was like Germany during WWII:
“It’s invading everywhere but there’s a spot it didn’t get to yet- that’s Denmark. It’s going to be invaded later.”
He would NOT have said something so funny a year ago – he didn’t know this geography or history, nor did I.
Did we learn anything else beyond the facts? We learned how to step up to a challenge and see it through even when it gets difficult. We’ve learned patience, self-control, diligence, patience, failing together, patience, succeeding together, courage, edifying one another, and in the end, humility. I thank God that my child took me on this little journey of discovery! God has made Himself known to us many times throughout this journey, and our goal is to use what we’ve learned this year to make Him known to the world around us.
If you have more questions, please feel free to contact me using the “Contact Me” button at the right of this screen. I’d love to answer your questions!