May 29, 2013

Thinking About Classical Conversations?

People ask me all the time what Classical Conversations is all about, so I'd like to tell you a little about the program and my experience in an officially licensed community. At the end, I'll give some answers to FAQs that have come my way this year. Please keep in mind that I am not a great writer - never claimed to be. These are just my thoughts; there are many fabulous bloggers who explain this better than I will, and I encourage you to check them out as well.

What Exactly Is CC?

CC is a program designed to classically educate your children with a Biblical worldview. Click here to read my thoughts on why I chose the classical, Christian style of home education.

From the Classical Conversations website:

Mission - to know God and make Him known.

Model - classical learning and a Biblical worldview.

Note: Obviously, Classical Conversations believes in the classical method. If you don't think your little one should be memorizing facts and creating mental pegs for future learning, then this program is not for you. This is not a child-centered approach to education. Susan Wise Bauer, author of The Well-Trained Mind and The Story of the World series says it pretty well:

Classical education is knowledge-focused, not child-focused. It attempts to teach knowledge in a way that awakens the child's interest, but the child's interest is not the sole determining factor in whether or not a subject should be followed. (The Well-Trained Mind, 2004, p. 617)

Method - parents equip parents.

Across the United States, Classical Conversations Communities exist to complement your home-centered education and connect you with like-minded families. Each community is facilitated by a trained parent-director, and classes are led by trained parent-tutors who model the classical tools of learning. Tutors have the privilege of encouraging students toward becoming lifelong learners while also encouraging parents in the classical teaching of their children. (quote taken from the CC website)

Classical Conversations is divided into three programs: Foundations (K-6th grade), Essentials (4th-6th), and Challenge (7th-12th). Please click here to read more about the programs.

Sounds good, right? Okay, so what does this actually look like?

I've only had experience in the Foundations program, but here's what I know:

If you are blessed with a local CC community, you join and meet once a week for 24 weeks in small classes grouped according to ages. A campus is only allowed to have eight Foundations classes with eight students in each class (64 students total in that level). So, CC campuses in our area have been filling up quickly! The parent-tutor, who is trained by CC and paid (I love the accountability here), introduces memory work for seven seminars (subjects):

English Grammar

During class, the tutor spends approximately four minutes with each new piece of memory work. She will get the students to say/sing the material seven times during that four minutes. (Can you tell I've been to tutor training?)

After the introduction of new memory work, 30 minutes is allotted for a Science experiment, 30 more minutes for Art, 30 minutes for student presentations, and the final 30 minutes is for memory work review (lots of games!). 

Whew! I can tell you that the morning FLIES!

When the tutor dismisses class, all the families eat lunch together, followed by free playtime for the kids. This is one of my favorite parts, as I get to catch-up with my friends and compare notes while Mary plays with her friends.

Click here to see a typical CC day for us in pictures.

Mary's class made the ocean floor with Play-Doh. Pretty awesome!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it a co-op?

First, CC is not a co-op; I get this question a lot. Usually, homeschool co-ops are taught by parent volunteers, and the material is something everything decides would be good for that year (Hey, let's have a Geography class! Who wants to teach it?). While CC does have parent-tutors, they are trained and paid to encourage the students and equip the parents with the tools needed to continue the program at home. As I mentioned earlier, I like the accountability of a paid tutor. Here's what Classical Conversations founder Leigh Bortins says about the CC tutors:

The most desperate educational need in today's culture is not more knowledgeable teachers; rather, it is the presence of inspiring mentors that model how to utilize the tools of learning! If we expect and require students to learn several subjects, how do we inspire them to "own" such an endeavor? What more powerful way than through flesh and blood examples! Our tutors model learning, and by their example they inspire their students and parents to do the same. Within CC Communities, year after year, students and parents alike learn more than they ever thought possible. (Classical Christian Education Made Approachable, p. 65)

As far as the material, CC's memory work is divided into three cycles that rotate each year; it's already set in stone, and we all know what the memory work for each cycle will be every year. This past year was Cycle 1, so we spent time in ancient civilizations. This year is Cycle 2, which will begin in the Middle Ages and continue to the present day. Cycle 3, which will be the following year, will focus more on American history. After Cycle 3, we'll go back to Cycle 1 and its memory work. This is a wonderful opportunity to dig deeper with my girls as they grow and revisit each cycle! 

(Please know that I have nothing against co-ops! CC just happens not to be one.)

Is CC your homeschool covering?

Nope. Classical Conversations is not a covering - it's a program to help parents classically educate their children at home with a Biblical worldview.

Why does my young child need to memorize the commutative law or the seven classifications of living things? She doesn't understand it, and she won't use the information until she's much older. Isn't this just a waste of time?

Oh, my, I've certainly run across this a few times. First, every young child (elementary age) is in the grammar stage of development. This means that memorizing comes easy to them and they usually enjoy it. How many times have you read your little one her favorite book and she finishes the sentences? I'm sure you've heard people say that kids are like sponges, and that's true. At this young age, they're soaking things up. If my girls are going to be memorizing something anyway (because that's this stage of development, whether you believe in classical education or not), I'd much rather them store something in their brains that they're going to use one day, instead of TV commercial jingles or the lyrics to pop songs. If that sounds boring to you, I promise that it hasn't been to us! In addition to fun review games in class that can be replicated at home, CC has done a wonderful job of putting most of the memory work to music, and their timeline song is exceptional! And, in general, memorization is not a waste of time, even if the child won't practically use the information for years to come. Memorization trains the brain.

. . . classical educators consider (memorization) advantageous for two main reasons:

1. It strengthens the student's brain by straining it a little more each day, and

2. the student takes in quality content that informs an educated person.

These differ greatly from the "edutainment" offered to encourage elementary students to "enjoy" school. Classical educators prefer to prepare children to work hard at learning until the skills become enjoyable. Consider this important difference: classical teachers prefer to teach children to like memorizing quality content (such as rhyme or sonnet) so that one day they can enjoy difficult assignments. We want their self-esteem to be based on actual accomplishments. (The Core by Leigh Bortins, p. 49)

This sounds great, but can I just do CC at home? Do I have to join a CC community?

Yes, you can do CC at home; you are not required to join a community. Many people don't have a CC community in their area yet, so going through the program at home is their only option. However, if you have the opportunity to join a CC community, I would highly recommend doing so. The support and accountability from like-minded families is invaluable! The positive peer-pressure is also a nice perk (I remember one instance in particular when a five-year-old boy recited his Latin declensions perfectly for the tutor, and then everyone else wanted to do it, too! Awesome!). I truly believe that God created us to be in relationships; we're relational beings, after all. I don't want to be stranded on the metaphorical island by myself trying to give my girls a classical, Christian education. Nope, I know I need some help and encouragement (and lots of prayer support!) if I'm going to see this out. That's where my fellow CC mamas come in! Throughout this year, they have come alongside me and helped me finish strong. If you have the opportunity, prayerfully consider joining a community so you don't feel alone in this journey (because you're not).

Just as iron sharpens iron, parents who seek to recover a classical, Christian education need the support and encouragement of other like-minded parents. Classical Conversations programs and communities provide a network of support, while protecting the parents' roles as the primary educators of their children. (Classical Christian Education Made Approachable, p. 12)

Well, that's all I've got, friends! My hope is that this post has helped answer any questions about CC that you may have. If you think of more questions, please leave a comment and ask away! You can also check out CC's FAQs page and browse their site. Again, I'm no expert; I'm just a mama who found something that clicks with her family and wanted to share it with you. (To see why my family has chosen this classical, Christian path, click here.)

And if you made it to the end of this post, you're my superstar for the day! God bless you!


  1. This is a great overview! We love CC, too and I have to agree that if someone has the opportunity to join a CC community instead of doing it at home, it can be such a benefit to the whole family. Our community has blessed both the parents and children with support and friendships and that accountability you discussed.

    1. I agree, Rachel. I don't think it would be as effective doing it on your own, but I know some families don't have a choice. Thanks for stopping by!:)

  2. I'm loving your blog! This really is a great compilation of information. I think I've finally decided to NOT do CC next year, but not because I don't like what I'm hearing, solely because I'm really happy with what we are doing right now and don't want to mess with a good thing =) Thanks for another great, informative post and for linking it to Trivium Tuesdays!

    1. Hi Amy, I love your blog, too! If you've got a good thing going already, I wouldn't mess with it either. Thanks for putting the Trivium Tuesdays together!

    2. Hi Melody! Here we are, one year later, and I'm thinking about CC again =) haha. My question right now is what exactly do you add at home in addition to CC. I know math and language arts stuff, but do you do extra history, science, Latin, etc.? Or do you just expand on the concepts learned that week? I know each family is different, but I'm wondering what YOU do. I'll browse your archives too, because I'm sure I'll learn more there too. Thanks!

    3. Hi Amy! Well, I won't do any extras in history or science this year, except read relevant material (SOTW, Usborne books - of course, right?!). We have a Prima Latina for Latin, but I think we'll wait another year before introducing it. We're going to do Saxon 1 for Math, First Language Lessons for English, and continue with our IEW Poetry Memorization Program and Shakespeare memorization. And, of course, memorize Bible verses through our church's AWANA program. We'll also add French this year, using L'Art de Dire from Nallen Art, and we'll use Zeezok Publishing's Music Appreciation curriculum. I think that's it. But, as far as CC goes, we don't supplement much at all at this stage. Just learning the memory work and having quality books on those topics hanging around - easy peasy! Let me know what you decide about CC! :)

    4. Melody, thanks! That is exactly what I was looking for. My son loves to read and we read out loud a lot, so I was hoping that just reading books that tie into the memory work for the week would be enough. Then of course the other subjects like you mentioned. We use Song School Latin, have you ever tried that? It's a really fun intro to Latin =) I will let you know what I decide about CC. I think I'm going to do it, but I won't make any promises until I make the payment ;)

    5. Yes, Amy, that's all you need to do to supplement with Foundations, just memorize the memory work, read together, and enjoy this sweet time. :) I have heard of Song School Latin; it sounds great! Oooh; you're so close to CC!!! ;) Keep me posted!

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