Written by Simple Homeschool contributor Heidi Scovel of Mt. Hope Chronicles
For many families, homeschooling is a much broader reality than the designation implies. The variety of educational opportunities is steadily increasing along with the realization that school isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition.
Tutoring groups, homeschool co-ops, community classes, umbrella schools, field trips, online classes — sometimes the sheer quantity of choices is staggering. And very often homeschooling families find themselves out of the home for one or more days each week.
After several years without outside commitments, my family chose to join a local Classical Conversations community this year and found it a perfect fit for our needs. When I was first introduced to the program I had so many questions, and it took a while for me to decide whether it would be right for us.
Now that we’ve been participating for several months, I can say that it has been a wonderful opportunity for my boys. I would love to share some details about Classical Conversations.
Classical Conversations is a nation-wide program that helps train and equip parents to provide their children with a Christian classical education. Individual communities hire parents to be trained as tutors through Classical Conversations practicums, who then lead small classes of children in weekly meetings.
A quick overview of Classical Conversations:
For the grammar stage (grades K4-6th), the Foundations program meets for twenty-four weeks during the school year. The classes meet one morning each week for three hours. (Leaving plenty of time during the week as well as during the year for additional studies.)
During the morning classes, tutors introduce the students to memory work in history, science, geography, English grammar, Latin, math, Bible, and the history time line. Each student gives a short presentation in front of their class to learn public speaking skills. Science experiments and four six-week fine arts studies (drawing, tin whistle/music theory, famous artists/art projects, and instruments of the orchestra/composers) complete the schedule.
Parents are required to attend classes with their children so that they observe and learn from the teaching modeled by the tutors, which will in turn help them guide their children in reviewing the memory work at home.
The memory work outlined in the Foundations classes is designed to prepare the students for the higher-level classes. CC recommends that parents teach phonics, math, and handwriting studies at home.
Beginning in 4th grade, an afternoon session is available to supplement the Foundations classes through 6th grade. During Essentials, students learn language arts and structure with The Essentials of the English Language Guide, writing through the Institute for Excellence in Writing programs, and math through challenging problems and games.
Day-long (30-week) Challenge programs for logic and rhetoric stages begin in 7th grade. These classes cover math, Latin and Spanish, literature and writing, science labs, debate, rhetoric, and geography (mapping the whole world free-hand from memory!). Students complete lessons and assignments at home during the remainder of the week.
Why I decided that Classical Conversations would be right for my family:
After some time of deliberation, I had a list of benefits this program would provide for us.
- Consistency and discipline in memory work across all subjects.
- Outside accountability.
- A social network of families interested in the same educational philosophy and goals.
- Experience in a classroom situation.
- Opportunity to make new friends.
- Learning from other adults and mentors.
- Hands-on science and fine arts projects.
- Practice in public speaking.
What students memorize during the three year-long cycles of Foundations:
It felt like Christmas the day my Foundations Curriculum Guide came in the mail. I pored over it and felt my excitement growing. It contains all the memory work for all three cycles.
Every year, Foundations students memorize all of the Veritas Press History Timeline cards from ancient history to modern times. Students also memorize the U.S. presidents yearly.
Math memory work is also the same each cycle: skip counting numbers up to 15 and other math facts such as the formula for finding the area of a circle.
Students memorize an astonishing amount of geography (new material each cycle): not only countries but also mountains, bodies of water, deserts, the U.S. states and capitals, territories, and more! The students practice tracing and drawing maps.
With new science memory work each cycle, students learn facts such as kingdoms of living things, laws of thermodynamics, parts of the circulatory system, and the definition of catastrophism.
Other memory work includes weekly history sentences (the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, the Bill of Rights, Charlemagne), Latin (declensions, conjugations, and Bible translation), English (parts of speech, participles, irregular verb tenses, and clauses), and passages from the Bible.
Each family has the flexibility of using the memory work however they wish during the week. We have used it as a spring-board for additional science and history reading and discovering, to solidify our math and grammar skills, and as a way of exploring our world through geography.
Further Links for Reading:
- The Case for Memorization by Stefani Austin at Simple Homeschool
- I share reasons why I value the Classical Conversations memory work at my blog, Mt. Hope Chronicles.
- A peek inside our day at Classical Conversations classes.
Have you participated in outside classes or homeschool groups? Have you found the experience to be a positive one?