As we began homeschooling several years ago, I looked around at all the different homeschooling methods, and found that the one that resonated with me the most was the classical approach. One of the great programs available to support a classical approach is Classical Conversations. Here’s why we love it:
It is no fun to homeschool in isolation, and the weekly fellowship with other like-minded parents and kids is priceless. A big focus of the CC founder is creating supportive communities of homeschooling parents.
FOUNDATIONS – Age 4 – about 6th grade
The core of the CC Foundations program is the memory work. Kids’ brains are especially geared for memorization during their early years and it’s rather astonishing what they can retain. The kids (and parents!) memorize new material every week in 8 subject areas: timeline, history, science, geography, English grammar, Latin, math, and Bible. The tutors introduce the memory work, adding hand motions and songs to help with memorization, and then we review it at home through the week. Part of what I love about the classical model is the wholistic approach to learning history. One of my favorite parts of the memory work is the timeline from Creation to Present. It gives kids a great framework to fit all the history they learn into. They also memorize the US Presidents in order.
Some complain that the information is taught just as surface facts with no context, but its the job of parents to provide the context during the week. As we review the memory work during the week, we take the “kernel” of information and expand on it in various ways.
Each week, the students prepare and present on an assigned topic. They learn basic public speaking skills from the youngest ages, so they are never fearful of it, as so many adults are. These presentation skills will serve them so well in life, whether it’s giving their testimony in church or presenting at work.
Hands On Art and Science
Each week, they do either a hands on art project or some kind of fine arts activity, such as learning about the orchestra or learning to play the tin whistle. They also do hands on science every week, including things like science experiments, anatomy projects, geology, etc. This is particularly nice for us since I am weak in the hands on stuff, being a more “bookish” person myself.
ESSENTIALS – Age 9 – Age 11 or 12
Essentials is the grammar and writing part of Classical Conversations, and it also includes some time for math games designed to strengthen speed and accuracy with basic operations of arithmetic. The writing portion uses the Institutes for Excellence in Writing program, which is an amazing method for teaching writing. The grammar portion is simply the most thorough curriculum for English grammar I have ever seen.
CHALLENGE – 12 years old – 12th grade
We have not yet participated in the Challenge program, but I love that it goes all the way through high school and students end up with a complete transcript. Challenge is a program that helps kids learn to be self-motivated and brings every kid to their highest potential.
I could go on and on…. but I won’t. If you are interested in the classical model and have a CC community in your area, they have open houses every Spring. There are several great books discussing the classical model of education and that give suggestions as to how to implement it. Below are several of them, but be careful as you read them and remember that almost no one does everything in these books!