Back in February, Kristi P. shared some information about the classical approach to homeschooling. This is now the approach our family uses to homeschool our daughter in kindergarten, but we came to it somewhat backwards.
This time last spring, I was looking into different homeschooling programs around the Midlands. I knew we could do it on our own, but I craved the support a community of other homeschoolers could offer. We also wanted our daughter to have some opportunities to build friendships and learn alongside her peers.
I looked into some excellent programs, including Arrows Academy and Excelsior Academy (more about those and other Midlands homeschooling resources in the near future!). However, those programs were a longer drive than I wanted from our home and were drop-off programs, which made me unsure of how well I would get to know other parents.
Then someone told me about a Classical Conversations campus that was a mere ten minutes from our home in Northeast Columbia. When I inquired more about it, I learned that the group met one morning a week, and parents were required to stay on campus and participate in the learning experience with their children. One campus visit introduced me to this unique community, and I was captivated – but also clueless. What was Classical Conversations (also known as CC) all about?
The Classical Conversations website states that they are not a school, but a “support organization to parents who home educate their children.” The weekly meetings are intended to provide an opportunity for experienced and trained parents to model classical education methods for other parents – which is why parents are required to participate and not just “drop and go”. For twenty-four weeks (twelve weeks each semester), students in CC communities meet once a week to go over the CC memory work, conduct science experiments, participate in art and music projects, and give brief presentations.
Foundations, for ages four through twelve (going along with the grammar stage), meets one morning a week, with an additional two hours of the Essentials program in the afternoon for ages nine through twelve. Challenge programs (for the dialectic and rhetoric stages), for ages twelve through graduation, meet one full day a week.
The Foundations program is the one we are a part of, and the curriculum we use is housed in one book, the Foundations Guide, 4th Edition. There are three yearly cycles, so a student beginning the program in kindergarten will go through each cycle twice. Students are divided into classes by age and are led by another parent trained by CC to model effective classical education techniques that other parents can use at home. Games, music, hand motions, and movement are used to make learning memorable and fun.
Our morning schedule consists of Assembly and then our class time: New Grammar, Review, Fine Arts, Science, and Presentations. The New Grammar and Review time covers memory work in seven content areas: history, geography, math, Latin, English grammar, science, and a world history time line. Fine arts consists of a different instructional emphasis each quarter: drawing, playing the tin whistle, famous artists from the period of history we are focusing on, and famous composers. Science experiments go along loosely with the science memory work. Presentations begin like show and tell with the little ones and gradually get more academic as students get older. After our morning lessons conclude, we all eat lunch together, which gives parents time to talk and exchange ideas and homeschooling stories while our children talk and play together. (This is my favorite part of the day!)
At home, we use the CC curriculum to guide our science and social studies lessons, supplementing our memory work with books from our home and the public library, as well as information we find online. We chose a math curriculum (Saxon) and a phonics/reading curriculum (Abeka), and that is it. Some families choose to make CC supplemental to an entirely different curriculum, but we went with simplicity, and it is working for us so far.
There are ten Classical Conversation communities within fifty miles of the 29205 zip code, one of which I will be directing next year. There is also a full private school based on the classical model, Covenant Classical Christian School.
If you are interested in learning more about classical education in general, or CC in particular, Classical Conversations sponsors a free three-day parent practicum every summer – free to any parent, whether or not you are part of a CC Community. Maybe I will see you there!