Monday, February 16, 2009

Homeschool Resource Review: Classical Conversations

A couple of weeks ago I took the kids with me to visit the local Classical Conversations group. Lily spent the morning attending their 4 and 5 year old class, and I spent the morning observing. For those who are not familiar with the program, Classical Conversations sponsors weekly group classes designed to supplement a classical christian education. The classical model they follow is similar to that outlined in The Well-Trained Mind, in which the elementary years (grammar stage) are spent learning the underlying facts and rules of various subjects. These are covered in CC's Foundations program, which is designed for children in K-6. Foundations is followed by Essentials (middle grades) and Challenge (high school) programs. I will limit my review to the Foundations program as it is the only I observed.
Classical Conversations uses a 3-year rotation in the Foundations program. I can't quite remember the cut off dates, but I believe year 1 covers creation through the middle ages, year two is probably Renaissance through modern, year 3 focuses specifically on American history. Science also follows a 3-year rotation, while math facts are repeated every year. Classical Conversations is essentially a memorization program, with new "memorization sentences" being introduced every week.
The week we visited, the children were introduced to the following history sentence (note: this is as I remember it, of course my memory may not be completely accurate...): From 1820 to 1930 more than 37 million immigrants came to America seeking freedom and to increase their personal wealth. The sentence was introduced with pictures and a recorded song. A new math sentence was also introduced: The area of a circle is equal to pi times the radius squared. In science, the elements of the periodic table were being taught, along with their atomic weights and numbers--we were introduced to Hydrogen, Helium, Lithium, and Beryllium.
So what did the kids get out of all this? I'm really not sure. In fact, I have serious doubts about the usefullness of teaching these particular facts to 4 and 5 year olds. Lily, for example, may have remembered the song for the history fact, but I'm sure she doesn't know what 1820 means, or 1930, or immigrant, or 37 million... As for the area of a circle, what is area? The tutor held up a pi plate with the radius labled and the numbers 3.14. The kids might memorize the formula, but without any concept of what it means. Ditto for the elements of the periodic table--at least in the class we attended there was no real explanation of what an element is, or the particular properties of each.
The class also included a scientific exploration time, which seemed somewhat more age appropriate--the tutor poured sprite from a can into a glass, then weighted a strip of paper towel with a paper clip and lowered it into the glass. The children observed the bubbles. They tried using an unweighted strip of paper towel, and observed that it did not sink. I'm not sure there was any specific scientific concept taught, but the kids enjoyed making observations. After this came art time in a different room. The children learned a little about a particular artist (sorry, I can't remember who) and painted their own picture in the same style. Of course they enjoyed painting.
Back in the classroom, the tutor reviewed history timeline cards (these are nice cards produced by Veritas Press) with the children. The timeline cards are separate from the history rotation program--I was told that the entire timeline is taught every year. They also practiced a few words of a scripture in Latin--I don't remember the specific verse, but I believe it was from the book of John. The tutor said they have been working on this scripture all year, first learning it in English. The children then worked on an outline map of the united states, outlining states and bodies of water.
So, would I sign a child up for this program? Based on what I have seen, probably not, at least in the early elementary years. For a supplemental program, it is relatively expensive--yearly tuition and fees come in a little over $400 per child, and required materials adds another $160 or so (the program runs 24 weeks). Of course, the monetary commitment probably makes for a high level of participatory commitment; tuition is non-refundable, so families who sign up for the program are likely to continue throughout the year. The mothers I talked to seemed enthusiastic about the program and their kid's participation, and the kids seemed to be having fun. If you are following a neo-classical education model, and are looking for a coop type experience for social reinforcement, Classical Conversations might fit the bill. Do remember, though, that it is not meant to be a complete curriculum, or even a curriculum core, but functions mainly (at the Foundations level) as a memorization program. Is it effective as such? Probably. The tutors seem to use a variety of methods (visual representations, gestures, songs...) to make the material presented memorable and fun. I was however disappointed in the lack of meaningful experience attached to the memorization facts. I personally question how effective these memorized facts will be as "hooks" on which the children can hang future knowledge, if they are simply isolated facts without real meaning. I think the children will learn more about, say, immigration in the 19th century, by reading a stories or biographies about immigrants. They can learn about geometry by building with blocks. We can explore the world with them, read to them, do science experiments together...and they will all the time be creating their own personal mental "hooks" from which they can build.

33 comments:

Kelley said...

Good review. I haven't heard of Classical Conversations, though I like the premise behind The Well-Trained Mind. I'm ready to bring Matt back home so we can start homeschooling again. I miss it, and it's only been 6 weeks since I put him in school.

nikia said...

", but I'm sure she doesn't know what 1820 means, or 1930, or immigrant, or 37 million... As for the area of a circle, what is area? The tutor held up a pi plate with the radius labled and the numbers 3.14. The kids might memorize the formula, but without any concept of what it means. Ditto for the elements of the periodic table--at least in the class we attended there was no real explanation of what an element is, or the particular properties of each."

I've had my 5 year old in Classical Conversations for 2 years. You are absolutely correct - the children (young & old) do not comprehend the details of what they are memorizing. But that is the glory of the program! By taking advantage of a young child's sponge like mind, you can fill the storehouse with data. The young child is in the grammar stage of learning. Their minds are capable of memorizing vasts amounts of information that they are not yet capable of understanding. A time will come in a few years where they will begin to make connections & understand the wealth of knowledge stored. When I began the program I had the same concerns that you do, but I was analyzing the program from my adult - rhetoric - mind. Our children do not process information the same way we do! Please don't think that we just force our children to memorize! We do add details and explain what they are memorizing, but that mostly occurs at home. The position of the tutor is to introduce the new memory work & REVIEW, REVIEW, REVIEW the previous weeks of memory work. The program is beautiful. I've been able to watch what the older children are accomplishing and writing in the high school Challenge program. Sorry for the lengthy comment...

chamiga said...

We stared Classical Conversations this year and I cannot express how pleased I am with this program. As a matter of fact I have been so grateful to live in an area of the county where they have CC, because I feel like in the "mormon" community we are lacking more co-ops like this one and this is definitely the right fit for our family. For more explanation see: http://web.me.com/keithprescott1 and read my posts about homeschool and a tribute to two wonderful women.
The scope of classical conversations is so vast it would be really hard to understand the reasons behind rote memorization until you observe the Essentials students and the challenge students (high school) where they are then taking all the information that they memorized in the foundations stage and applying it. It truly is incredible to see and something I sincerely hope my children can do during the high school years. As we will possibly be moving to Idaho in the future, my dreams may be shattered there, but I have a desire to create my own co-op much like CC but with some of the Book of Mormon facts integrated into the time-line?
Sorry this is so long, but it's on my mind constantly and I wonder if there is more interest out there to create a CC environment with LDS memorization worked in??

Keeley said...

I came to your blog after searching for "classical conversations review" - I'm trying to decide whether it's something my 4-year old would be interested in.

Anyway, so I'm scrolling down, enjoying your excellent review which brings up some of the same concerns I have, when all of a sudden I notice a face off to the right side.

And I think, "Holy cow! That's Marjorie Pay Hinckley!" And only then do I notice you're LDS too.

How awesome is that? =) Made my day. Those stinkin' Mormons are everywhere. =) =)

Anonymous said...

Rhetoric is not a developmental "stage," and neither is grammar. Because the trivium and the quadrivium work well as an educational approach does not mean that their respective components actually correspond to developmental stages.

If you talk to Montessori professionals, for example, they will tell you the same thing: that their developmental system is far better than anyone else's -- and that's a system which does not endorse rote memorization. Yet their kids seem to learn pretty well too.

If you ask me, I would certainly prefer the neo-classical system, with some revisions. Be flexible: do not idolize the trivium and the quadrivium (those methods were developed in the Greek-speaking world during the Hellenistic period, i.e., circa 300 BC -- 50 AD, and are certainly not given by God, as some CC people will try to tell you). Treat your child as a thinking human being and not a computer (the idea of the human brain as a huge database is, to say the least, post-1980s). Memorization is a great thing and very useful, but apply it on your child in ways that would make sense to him/her, so you can multiply its effects. Present the material for memorization in some kind of consistent order (not in random bits and sentences), which adds up to build a coherent picture of the subjects you are teaching.

And by the way, "rhetoric," as the ancients understood it (and they are the ones who developed the educational method to begin with) is the production of practical oratory and, by extension, the fluent production of any kind of discourse. (Now, there is a whole philosophy on how to best teach that, as well as what speaking well really means). "Grammar" was understood as the teaching of literature, writing, plus as lots of what we would call "special subject" information, adjusted for the kid's age.

Thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...

You probably weren't comfortable at Classical Conversations because it is clearly a Christian biblically based program.

Paula said...

In response to the Anonymous comment stating:
"You probably weren't comfortable at Classical Conversations because it is clearly a Christian biblically based program."
I have to say, the Christian aspect of the program doesn't bother me at all. As a Christian who seeks to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and looks to Him for my salvation, I tend to gravitate towards Christian programs. I believe in and teach my children the Bible. I use a variety of Christian curricula--Apologia science and Tapestry of Grace are two favorites--and participate in Christian programs, including American Heritage Girls, which I love, and a local coop. I simply found that my personal educational philosophy for young children did not mesh with the Classical Conversations program. At that stage, I lean more toward Charlotte Mason methods. Remember, I was attending the 4-5 year old program. I don't know very much about how Classical Conversations works for older children, my own children are all young. I will likely reconsider the program at a later stage, as I expect to start incorporating more of the Classical as my children get older.
Now, I recognize there are differences between some of my beliefs as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and those of other Christian denominations. I expect and respect those differences, I do not see them as divisive. I prefer to focus on what we hold in common, while ensuring my own children learn and understand the fullness of the gospel as we believe it has been restored to us through modern-day prophets.

Keeley said...

Beautifully stated! What a wonderful response to what could have been an excessively offensive remark. My hat is off to you. =)

Tami said...

I've been told by more than one LDS person that they were told they were not welcome in Classical Conversations, once their faith became known. While those of us who are LDS do not have a problem associating with other Christians who do not share our particular brand of Christianity, often it's not mutual.

Anonymous said...

Hello Everyone,

I have appreciated reading these posts. However, I will say that unless you understand the Classical Model of Education, you will not understand the ways of Classical Conversatons. The Well Trained Mind is not the best representation of what CC is like. Teaching the Trivium is a better example of what they are modeled after. When children are of the elementary age they are not designed to be able to fully understand and comprehend everything they are learning, and that is okay. You have them memorize and study scripture yet they will not be able to fully comprehend it until they are much older, and sometimes not they are adults. But you still have them memorize it, right? This is the same with the memory work of Classical Conversations in the elementary age. Classical Conversations is designed to teach the children the skills and tools of learning, that is what has been lost in our children. Teaching them HOW to learn any subject, anytime, anywhere is the main goal of the classical model of education. I have had the priviledge of seeing the long term perspective of the program with a daughter now in 8th grade having been through the first two developmental stages of life and seen the benefits of the memory work. I can list several examples of these connections being made, but will not do so simply for space reasons. However, I will say the connections are made with children and when they are it is so exciting to see. Also, CC is meant to be a complete core curriculum with exception of math and phonics in lower elementary grades. In upper elementary they study formal grammar and writing equipping them well for the middle school school years which are structured much differently than the elementary. You read many history and science books at home that correspond to the cycle of history they are studying that year through the program. I have full confidence in this program and know my daughter is more than prepared for high school, and even college. As for being mormon, all fatih and religions are welcome to participate in CC and if a director told you otherwise, you should report it. That would be the director not following protocol, not a CC issue. However, CC does make it known and is not apologetic in their Christian values, so if a family of a different faith is okay with that, they are welcome on any campus. So, just in order to participate any religion is welcome. I hope this clarifys things a bit adn offers a perspective from someone who understands the classical model, has participated in the program, as well as is able to see what the program looks like as it reches the different levels. It is unfair to judge a program without understanding how it works or having been a part of it before.

Paula said...

Hello Anonymous,

You bring up some good points, including the differences in classical approaches. I like the Bluedorn's philosophy as outlined in Teaching the Trivium very much, but I don't think they would necessarily espouse Classical Conversations methods in the early years. Chapter 11 in their book addresses their recommendations for the early years, up to age 10 or so. This quote expresses well what I felt about what seemed to be the model of fact memorization embraced by Classical Conversations: "Bare facts, divorced from their contexts, can become a drudgery. Facts are best planted as seeds in the fertile context of their story." (p. 314) They do strongly encourage the memorization of scripture and of literary passages, both in English and in Greek or Latin. The memorization of lists of facts (historical dates for example) is actually much closer to the Well Trained Mind's recommendations for these early years. The Bluedorn's recommendation of memorization of literature, oral narration, and copywork for these early years fits well with Charlotte Mason's educational philosophies, which I also like.
Most of the people I know who really love Classical Conversations have older children--upper elementary age or higher. If older children are participating and benefiting from the program, of course it makes sense to extend it down to the younger levels so the whole family can participate. But I don't personally feel that what it has to offer is necessary at these levels, so for someone like me whose children are all young the benefits of the program are more limited.
Certainly the best way to learn if a program is for you is to give it a test run--and anyone can contact the nearest Classical Conversations group and request to come to an open house or sit in on classes one day. When I attended an open house the director knew my religious affiliation and was very welcoming, I did not personally encounter any problems in that area.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post. You are gentle in your approach and seem open to dialog. I do recognize Classical Conversations is not for everyone and that is okay for that is one of the beautiful aspects of homeschooling. We can personalize their education, right? As a homeschooler of 10 years I have enjoyed the individuality and tailored education tremendously. I have read Teaching the Trivium numerous times and do not see any direct conflict between CC and Teaching the Trivium's philosophy in the early elementary years, nor would I presume to know their opinion about the program. I have actually held seminars on their book and if you reference the chart in chapter 11 titled, Ten Things To Do Before Age 10 (page 339), you will see there is not any conflict with what we do and what they recommend with exception of delayed math (Teaching the Trivium does not believe in beginning early formal math). Also, if you notice in the chart, it is again about teaching the children the tools and skills of learning, not solely academic content. Again at the early elementary age CC feels it is important to teach our children the skill of memorization; not the cramming in of as many facts as possible isolated from or void of context. This is not the idea of CC, nor the classical model. CC wants to help children love and be excited about learning while partnering with parents in their homeschooling endeavors. CC does not view our children as little factories which are simply to be filled like a bucket full of facts. As a participating parent in Classical Conversations with children in both early elementary, upper elementary, and 8th grade, I nor anyone in my program view education or our precious gifts in the aforementioned way. I have found the learning taking place to be natural, gentle (in elementary), and fun, while teaching my children the skills and tools they will use for a lifetime.

In reference to the quote in your earlier post, the children are not learning bare facts divorced from context. Though they are memorizing facts, these facts are not taught in isolation because at home you are elaborating on these pegs as you sit down and read your books at home the remaining days of the week. I have found the litte ones love this because as you reach a topic in a book that relates to what they have memorized, they get so excited because they feel they already "know" something about the topic. It is so precious to see their little faces light up as the connections are made at home as you spend time snuggling on the couch reading, or taking walks outside trying to help them identify, sketch, and journal the various types of seed plants they learned about at CC that week. That is not random facts divorced from context. You as their parent provide the context at home the remaining days of the week since in early elementary the children only meet for three hours.

In my opinion, it is a fun atmosphere which meets once a week where you, as the homeschooling parent can choose what happens the remaining days of the week. It is only one day a week and I have found through experience, it is a fun and gentle way to learn in the early elementary years. What child wouldn't like to jump, and sing, and dance in order to learn something. I find Charlotte Mason and the Classical model philosophies not in direct conflict with one another, though there are differences, but one can easily compliment the other.

I appreciate you allowing me to post my thoughts on Classical Conversations and hope judgements are not made based upon one visit. Please, I would encourage further research to see how the philosophy unfolds. Though philosophies may differ, I find in my home CC is vital to our homeschooling and I highly recommend it to anyone. Both Charlotte Mason and Classical Education philosophies are used in my home and compliment one another very well. Blessings to you all, and happy reading! :)

Anonymous said...

This is my firs year with CC, and I have found that the memory work merely highlights what I teach at home during the week. For example, we memorized the history sentence on Ghandi, at home I read to the children the biography of Ghandi. Same with other sentences. For science, we read about the functions of the parts of the cells which we memorized that week.
Having homeschooled for 6 years, and having loved the Mason approach to learning, I find that CC helps spark the desire to persue knowledge.

Anonymous said...

This is a super helpful conversation, thanks for sparking and hosting it.

Marsha said...

I really enjoyed reading this post, thanks everyone for sharing their insights and experience. I found this blog by doing a google search for "Classical Conversations Reviews." I live in Virginia and have known many people who have participated in CC. I have a friend who did it for 2 years and loved it at first but doesn't do it anymore. I have 2 other friends who were excited initially but "burned out" after a few months. I know other people who have done it for 3 plus years and want to continue forever. The bottom line is that it suits some and not others. I've been trying to decide for the past 2 weeks which category we fall in. My children enjoyed the program quite a bit at the Open House we attended and I've been very tempted but I think I would like to go at a slower pace and add a little more meaning to the memory work. Also, the cost is about $600a child out here (with supply, facility, and registration fees) and I need to put the money elsewhere. I borrowed a "CC Foundations Curriculum book" from a friend and I really loved what the author had to say and what she was trying to create with this program. I am going to buy that book along with some of the CD's to use at home. Some of the history tunes are really great (some are not but they still helped me remember the information). By the way, I am LDS too (so surprised to stumble upon this website). I don't know any other LDS people who have participated in CC and I was wondering if that would be an issue. At the Open House they said all religions are welcome although I'm not sure they would allow me to be a tutor. The CC director knows I'm LDS (I think) and she was very friendly, nice, and welcoming. I don't think it would have been a problem. I have run across a few Christians who are not so kind because they don't understand us but I also have several strong Christian friends who are absolutely wonderful. (Yes, I consider myself Christian but I realize some Christians don't think of me that way).

Anyway, thanks again for the review and insights!
Marsha

Anonymous said...

I too have enjoyed reading these posts. We have just this week sent in our applications for Foundations/Essentials for the first time. We feel that our very intelligent, but under-motivated 11yo will benefit from the friendly peer competition. It is not the fact memorization that charms me most about this program. It is the idea that my kids will learn a Christian worldview in the history, govt, and all other classes and at the same time will be learning how to present and defend these beliefs intelligently. Part of the program is weekly presentation and oral debate. In today's world, where so much of the population and even our own government does not trust in the Lord and would cast Him out of all affairs, our kids NEED to know what they believe and how to present and defend that.

Akilah said...

I too have really enjoyed the discussion!! I attended a CC 3 day parent practicum in Maryland and my dh and I fell in love with the program. Due to financial concerns, we were unable to register our 3 out of 5 children, (the oldest was attending a home school 2 day tutorial and the youngest is only 2)

Instead, a friend allowed me to borrow her foundations guide and history timeline cards in order for us to do it at home. Even though it has been a challenge to do CC at home with various age differences (ages 2, 4, 6 9), the kids have retained so much. My 4 and 6 year old can name the states and capitals we have memorized so far and their faces light up when they hear them mentioned outside of our class time.

To be honest, at first I was skeptical of spending all that money and not having a "curriculum" to use the other days of the week. I thought that I would have to purchase more curr to use on the "off days". Now I have learned to use the library to fill the space around the pegs of knowledge that we have memorized that week. (although I sometimes balk at the idea of having to do "one more thing" like find the needed materials, it usually doesn't take that long)

Two questions that I still need to find answers for are:
1. Why have the kids memorize the whole timeline if we are only studying a specific portion of that time line in the history sentences that year?

2. Will CC work for a dyslexic child in the Essential stage?

Thanks for allowing such a rich discussion. I have learned a lot and I continue to seek the Lord for His guidance for our family's education.

IIIJohn4Mom said...

I just ran across this thread as I, too, am researching CC. There is not a community in our area, but a group of ladies will be gathering next Tuesday at our Co-op to discuss the possibilities. I'm trying to get ready w/knowledge of pros & cons. This thread has been SO helpful! TTT has been my mainstay for the last five years or so. We began homeschooling 3 yrs ago - have an 11 yo dd and twin 6 yo dds. Questions:
1) It sounds like we'll need to forego our existing Co-op classes in order to do this. True? Seems two days away to participate in classes is too much, and after a brief email exchange w/our Co-op director, I don't think we can do it in conjunction with existing Co-op classes. I had a vision of Co-op classes and CC classes co-existing on the same day at the same place (approx 200+ kids). Is this unrealistic?
2) It seems to me that those of us who like to include other subjects and CM style learning (which of course can be integrated w/classical) could do so on non-meeting days. True?
3)Is there a discount for Tutor only, and not Director?
4) What other subjects/skills do you practice with your 7th - 12th graders? In other words, are there subjects you study at home that are NOT a part of CC?
Thanks!

elizabeth said...

Good conversation--thanks everyone for sharing their thoughts/philosophy.

Anonymous said...

I might be able to answer some of your questions, IIIjohn4mom. I have been an essentials and a foundations tutor this year. I have 7 chidren, 4 of which have participated this year (ages 5,6,8.amd 12).
It would be almost impossible to have a co-op going on the same day as CC. Foundations is only from 9-12, but Essentials is in the afternoon (1-3) and Challenge is an all day program. We do offer something fun for the little ones in the afternoon who have siblings still in class. Ie: music, or drama. This is just done by a parent volunteer.
There is no "discount" for tutors or directors. However, both get paid for their services. I get a monthly check for tutoring...thus part of the expense. Believe me, the expense is still a lot for our family. But, it keeps us coming. And, the pay, keeps the tutors working hard to do their jobs, I think.
You can do whatever you want on the "off" days with the younger children. We have just been reading Story of the World, and finding other library books about the Ancients this year. Of course, you will want to practice their memory work, and if they are in Essentials, they will have writing assignments.
Next year my 13 year old will be in Challenge. The only thing that I will add for him is...maybe a different foreign language. I would also require him to read more in the summer. It is a full program. From watching a friend's child do it...it keeps them quite busy throughout the week. Most people don't add to it, unless your child is older than the typical child in that class. Ie: Challenge A says it is for 7th-9th. If your child is in 9th and you put him in A, I would add more science and do a higher math than listed.

God bless!

Hannah said...

All this sounds great! For those that tutor and even directors- how much are they compensated? Do they usually have children part of the group? Thanks for any info!

Anonymous said...

Since there are several comments related to LDS families, I wanted to comment on that portion. The other posters are correct that any faith is welcome to become part of the CC community. Some faiths will be more comfortable than others due to the fact that it is a Christian community from a Biblical perspective. However, to tutor or direct, you must be a Bible believing Christian. They have a statement of faith that you can read on the bottom of their website www.classicalconversations.com . So although LDS, Catholic and other faiths are welcome, they would not be able to be leadership because they would not be able to be in complete agreement to the statement of faith as written. I know that LDS families believe what is in the statement of faith, but some of the terms used have different meaning to LDS than they do for non-LDS families. I hope that explanation has been helpful.

Anonymous said...

I start CC this week with my 4 year old and I have to say I was bored and stressed the whole time as it is impossible to expect a 4 year old to stay seated for 3 hours. Memorizing things she doesn't understand felt like a waste of time. I know she is supposed to "store" it in her memory until the Jr. High years, but that is a LONG way away. The last hour of class she was asking me if she could go home now. This type of teaches just doesn't make sense to me, although it may for others. I feel like she should be finger painting, learning to read, learning to recognize numbers, ect. Normal preschool stuff! I felt like I was in a 6th grade level class. Sorry but that's my opinion and if I decide to pull her out, I am out hundreds of dollars and have to live with the regret of my poor decision.

Anonymous said...

I have to add a response to the statement that a Catholic could not tutor a CC class. This is blatantly incorrect. I participated in a program last year with a Catholic tutor. Each tutor must read the faith statment and determine if she truly agrees. It breaks my heart to see the division within the body of Christ that comes from claiming other denominations are not Christian. If you believe in heart that Jesus is Lord and confess that he was raised from the dead you are saved. That is the scriptural test I know, found in Romans. While sitting in church doesn't make you a Christian any more that sitting in a garage makes you a car, I don't think Catholics are any less likely to be saved than Baptists, Lutherans, non-denominational Christians etc.

TheMuffinMom said...

Thanks for a great review!

I am LDS and am allowed to work in the nursery for our local CC group, but I am not allowed to actually teach because I could not sign CC's statement of Faith (which says--in part--that "the Old and New Testaments, is a complete and unified witness . . . is the supreme and final authority on all matters on which it speaks.")

Still, I have purchased CC's materials and am using them with my children after school because the context-free memorization that you you saw at CC has actually proved quite helpful to my children! Sort of like when a toddler memorizes their ABC's or their numbers for the first time--they don't understand that each letter has a phonetic sound and can be used to make words, nor do they understand that each number represents. They just love filling their minds with new data and chanting them to parental applause. But that memorization is more than fun for them--it is exercising the mental muscle that strengthens their ability to finally absorb those contexts when they come in later grades. And the proof is in the pudding: after three years of classical training, my children returned to public school while I was in grad school and they not only cruised through school with Straight-A's, but were offered slots in the gifted programs and constantly praised by their teacher's for their excellent memories and study skills.

So I swear by this classical method of focusing on memorization in the early grades. Even though the Classical Conversations organization itself won't let me fully participate in their program, I remain a die-hard fan of classical education!

Anonymous said...

I thought the initial review was quite well done. I am not religious, but use WTM with my son. I think that an organization that is so overly religious(CC) might feel comfortable for some parents, but at what price? When the "homeschooled children are sheltered" argument comes up... how can you be sure that your children are being exposed to a diverse set of viewpoints. I worry that having children work with only people of their own belief system might narrow their experience, which is the antithesis of what a truly classical education stands for. Is it likely that they will be encouraged to grapple with the hard questions?

Marcene said...

"how can you be sure that your children are being exposed to a diverse set of viewpoints. I worry that having children work with only people of their own belief system might narrow their experience, which is the antithesis of what a truly classical education stands for. Is it likely that they will be encouraged to grapple with the hard questions?"

After having classically homeschooled my children without CC, we joined CC and they are in Challenge Level (middle school on up), and I can tell you that this is absolutely not a problem, so the comment is specious, and is certainly a straw man, at the very least. (Was the person asking that question actually a homeschooler?!? If so, and if this is a genuine concern then the writer should put her or his children in CC just so they can be exposed to practicing Christians and not "work with only people of their own belief" or have too "narrow" an educational experience.

First, that writer assumes a level of uniformity of belief which is impossible in one church (let alone a denomination), thus equally so for a co-op! As for a "diverse set of viewpoints" and grappling "with the hard questions" the Challenge level student study advanced logic, rhetoric, and research current issues which they then debate, with at least two sides being represented, and each week they have to switch and take the other side. The Challenge levels are incredibly rigorous, and the average homeschooler (let along a private or public school student) would rarely experience such a challenging intellectual and academic environment; don't go into those levels lightly!

Tracy said...

I have several friends with children a year older than my son, he is in Kindergarten, who started CC last year. I was a bit skeptical when I heard those memory sentences and what they were doing.

Then one friend mentioned the memory cd was half price. I ordered it and we listened to it on drives. There are two cds for each cycle, one divided weekly and one by subject. My son LOVES the subject CD, especially the history. Honestly, I learned SO much from the CD. And no, he didn't know everything he was learning and singing. However, he would periodically ask me to pause it and ask questions. Several times I was so thankful my husband the history buff was there to answer him. We have had the most wonderful conversations during that CD. Another wonderful side effect, he now perks up when he recognizes names of important leaders and is interested to learn more. I still can't believe all that he has learned from the CD.

Anyhow, we are looking at a co-op for 1st grade. We are doing SOTW Ancients this year and Saxon. I amaze myself that I think CC might be a perfect fit for what we need. We are about to move and I wanted to join a co-op to help us get connected. I think CC will be a compliment and support to what we are learning at home where we can make friends and have fun.

So I think you need to know your approach and what you want to do at home. CC may match those goals and it may not.

LBHolc said...

Please remember that all of the material that is heard in the tutoring class at CC is meant to be an introduction of each bit of information. It is intended for the parents to teach this information as in-depth as desired...at home...each week. Tutors demonstrate a number of methods that parents should find useful. CC gives a great structure for families to work with. I am amazed, each and every week, with how much my 5, 8 and 10 yo daughters retain and how much CC has helped to encourage them to explore in all of the different subject areas.

MomOf3 said...

I have just attended a CC Practicum this past week. I have yet to be involved in the program but was encouraged enough at the practicum that I signed my 10yr old and 6 yr old up for the program. What I liked was that the tutors/directors are moms. They want their children to be successful but they also want yours to be too. The tutors had great ideas for making the 1 day a week classes FUN!!! Which is so important for any student. They were very aware that not all children learn the same way so they come up with ideas to support the auditory learner, visual learner and the kinesthetic learner.
What I found most encouraging was that as the parent, I get to decide how (and even IF) I want to teach that the rest of the week. I know my children and I can tailor the material to their needs at home. I am hopeful that this WILL be what works for our family. Any avenue of homeschooling is a daunting task until you find what click for YOUR family. That's the tricky part. All the best to all of you for a great year no matter what you decide.

Candi said...

We're LDS too, and have been following the CC curriculum at home for 4 years. We dropped out at the end of our first year (in a CC community) due to religious issues, but we still LOVE the curriculum. This last year we had 3 other families join us- but we did it in a Co-Op style, (without charging money for tuition.) I would like to have more families join us (like a community).

I am thinking about having 2 or 3 families get together (or on your own) each week, and then quarterly have a get together at a community center, or park to review the material, and feel like we are part of a bigger CC community. (Up to 24 families?) We would do our Parent Nights each Semester all together also- allowing for a bigger audience for our kids, etc.

It's important to keep asking others to join, as each year things change. Keeping 3 or 4 families coming regularly was challenging at times, (sickness, surgery, death in family, business emergencies, etc.) so it would be nice to have a larger pool to draw from- with others doing it at home.

A few friends have called stating their worries about using the Classical Conversations name when I send emails, etc. One example shared was "Having a restaurant that sells McDonald's hamburgers, but it's not called McDonald's." I'm thinking if they buy all of their curriculum from the CC website, it should be okay. I changed the name to Classical Education Co-Op to be on the safe side.

Does anyone have any suggestions on the legal aspect of forming a CC community- without tuition. Or, in the future if I wanted to charge tuition, would that be okay? I just really want to use the CC Curriculum, in a group setting, as it works really well that way- only I can't justify joining a group again when I don't agree with the faith statement they currently have.

Anonymous said...

Overall this post was helpful. I have a friend who is doing CC and I had the same concerns as the original author... is education really about just cramming as much information in their heads as possible? So to hear that in the older years they do assimilate and apply it helps. However, I still don't know if it's going to be the right fit for our family... especially since the closest CC is over an hour away. Is there any way to purchase CC curriculum used and just see how we like it?

Paula said...

To the last commenter, yes you can often find CC materials used, try anyplace that sells homeschool materials (including ebay). I ended up buying the foundations guide and the memory CD's, and just incorporating what I liked from those into our homeschool routine.