Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What Is Classical Conversations and Why We Chose It

Imagine that you are building a house. What would be the first place that you would start (assuming the land has already been cleared and permits are pulled)?

The foundation.

In education, having a strong foundation is critical to building upon in the future. If the foundation is weak (facts are not memorized, dates and people are abstractly learned, and each subject is seen as being completely separate and on its own), future information will be harder to grasp and eventually the foundation will fall apart leaving a very frustrated student.

As Christian homeschooling parents, having a God-centered curriculum was our main concern. Having a curriculum that reinforces our faith, beliefs, and would help our children critically understand why we believe what we believe AND give them the strong foundation in academics was hugely important to us.

That is why we chose to use Classical Conversations as our children's curriculum, not just for this year but, Lord willing, for the rest of their education.

From K4-6th grade, children are given a strong foundation. In fact during these "Foundations" years, children memorize 7 pieces of information per week (24 weeks per year) through songs and rhymes:
  • Timeline
  • History
  • Math
  • Science
  • English Grammar
  • Latin
  • Geography
They also memorize a passage of Scripture in Latin and the English translation, the books of the Bible, and the Presidents of the United States. While they are learning all of this information, they are also learning how God, His hand, or plan can be seen in each and every subject.

There are 3 cycles in Classical Conversations, with each year covering one cycle. Every three years, children relearn the same information solidifying what they learned previously and allowing the child to learn more the second or 3rd go around.

For example, right now we are in Cycle 3 which focuses on American history. We are reading a few biographies on the people we are learning about, watching videos and movies based on the historical events we are memorizing, and reading historical fictions based on times periods we are in. In three years when we are in Cycle 3 again, Addie will be in 5th grade and able to be assigned biographies to read on her own while I read to Ian at the level that he will be at.

Which brings me to another aspect of CC I love. Both of my children will be learning the same exact information, but I can take it to the level each child is at. For instance, next year Ian will be required to join CC because he will be four and on campus. I will only be having him memorize the information as best he can.... with no pressure.... and if he wants to listen in on what I do with Addie, he can.

Right now, my daughter will learn over 500 pieces of information this year alone. Do I expect her to understand fully everything she is learning, grasp every concept, and be able to explain everything she has memorized? No, and neither does the founder of Classical Conversations. That is why children cover each cycle at least 2 times in elementary school. Each time they review something, a little more will stick, a little more will be understood, and their foundation will be that much stronger.

Does my daughter understand everything she has learned? Almost! She amazes me with everything she has absorbed so far. In fact, I love that as she is going through her day and hearing something completely unrelated to our schoolwork, she relates things back to what she has learned on her own. For example, she was reading a storybook and in it the author wrote out each of the five senses without naming them as such. She gasped and shouted, "Mom! Those are our five senses!" (which she had just memorized for science a few weeks prior)

When my children reach 4th grade, they will enter a new phase of the program called "Essentials." This phase of the program spans 4th-6th grades, and English grammar becomes the focus of their educational program. They will have a huge text book that they will work through each year from beginning to end. The first year is meant to familiarize them with the information. The second year  things in the book begin to make sense and pieces fall into place (now that they and you are out of shock from the first year of Essentials and the intensity of the program). The third year, essay writing becomes easier and all of the grammar information they have learned now is completely understandable in their minds (per kids in our co-op who are in their final year of Essentials).

Because of what Addie is memorizing for English Grammar in Foundations, she will not have to learn parts of speech and how to use them simultaneously. She will have memorized what the parts of speech are, which words fall under each part, and what sentence parts are. I am not bothered that she will not know how to use them until she reaches 4th grade. I know that when the time comes, having a strong foundation will benefit her when it is time to build a structure on her foundation.

As they leave Foundations and Essentials, my children will reach the Challenge stage. In the Challenge stage, literature, critical thinking, and expressing their thoughts correctly in persuasive, thought provoking ways becomes a huge focus of their education. Speech making becomes a frequent assignment, giving them the skills to think critically on their feet before an audience- a skill many adults do not have.

During the Challenge phase, parents are encouraged to begin allowing their students to work independently and to become a resource instead of being an instructor. This teaches students responsibility and time management. 

Addie is loving CC. I love seeing her love for learning bloom in a way I have never seen before. The child asks to study! She has us all humming her memory songs along with her randomly throughout the day. She asks to listen to the "Timeline Song" (which she is up to date with in her memorization). She randomly starts skip counting as she is walking through the house or folding laundry. One day, for fun, she sat down and began drawing out the human body complete with simple skeletal, muscular, digestive, and respiratory systems and then proceeded to explain to us why people get heartburn.

I am so thankful to God for Classical Conversations.

I am linking up at: Happy and Blessed Home, The Pin Junkie, The Homeschool Nook

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