We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8

Monday, January 21, 2008

5 Questions about Classical Conversations answered

Updated April 24th, 2009

Megan (from Half Pint House) asked me to explain how Classical Conversations worked in our homeschool. Instead of posting, I just emailed her. However, on second thought (and because I've gotten some Google search hits), perhaps it might benefit others to share our experiences with Classical Conversations. So, I'll answer some common questions about the program.

Please keep in mind I am not a CC tutor or group leader and each group can be different. Please refer to the website or your local director for OFFICIAL information! This is just one homeschool mama's experience.

1) What does a Classical Conversation day look like?

We start with a group assembly (starting at 9:00) that includes: general announcements, prayer and Pledge of Allegiance. Then the tutors gather their classes and head off to thir classrooms. Once in their classes, the tutors introduce the week's memory work and lessons. These include: Bible study, Math, English, Latin, Geography, Timeline cards, History, and Science.

At noon, the Foundations class is over and we break for lunch. Those who are not staying for an afternoon session of Essentials stay for lunch or head on home.

Of course, each group will be run a bit differently.

2) What am I expected to do during my child's Classical Conversations class?

As a parent, I am expected to attend the classes with my child. Since I have three kids in the program, I float between their three classes. While in the classes, I sit and listen, help my child or others when needed, give the tutor a hand when she needs it (passing out supplies, helping a student to and from the bathroom, etc) absorb the information presented and learn some new teaching techniques from my peers (the tutors). The parents often compare notes a little in the back of the class, too.

We are expected to be there - it really isn't optional as this is not a "drop off" environment; however, if you have to be away for some reason (other kids are sick, appointment that couldn't be scheduled for another day, etc) you can have another parent act as your child's "guardian" while you are gone. Most directors are pretty understanding if you just let them know of your plans ahead of time.

Some other areas of involvement:
Our group also requires any parent using the nursery to serve in the nursery on occassion. And some of us who do not use the nursery also help out in there sometimes.

During the afternoon session (Essentials - a Grammar and Writing program for older elementary kids), parents are in the classes again with their children. Childcare is offered for younger siblings - this is fee-based.

3) How do you use Classical Conversations during the week?

What does the rest of the week look like...well, that really depends on what your goals are for your kids. Some families drill, drill drill the memory stuff. Some don't do any of it and just let their kids absorb whatever they can on CC days. We probably fall somewhere in the middle. Here is what we do (our CC meets on Wednesdays) - this does not include the basics (reading, writing, arithmatic) nor other areas of our school such as literature:

On Monday, we review last week's memory work. We briefly go over the memory sentences and facts. This takes about 15-20 minutes at the most. Sometimes we just listen to the memory CD once or twice and that only takes about 5 minutes. This is the day we do Christian Studies, so I often go over their bible memory work a bit, too.

On Tuesday, I introduce the upcoming week's lessons. Really - very briefly (because that is what we are paying CC for!) Mostly, I just want the info to be a bit familiar the next day at CC. There are two areas I concentrate on a bit more: the timeline cards and geography. We pull out the map and spend a few minutes finding the countries or geographic features. And then we look at the timeline cards and try to come up with some buzzwords to help us remember the order they go in. We shuffle and sort a few times.

Tuesday is our History and Modern studies day (thus the emphasis on geography and timeline cards). I also do some reading to flesh out the history sentence for the week. The timeline cards and the history sentence do not necessarily correspond with one another. At first it was confusing, but we've got it worked out in our brains now. We just think of them as two different things. I use Story of the World, Usborne history books, Child's History of the World...and sometimes other fiction or picture books.

Wednesday is CC. We go and come home - that is it for our school day. If we didn't have Essentials in the afternoon, I might come home and do a little more work or review in the afternoon.

On Thursday and Friday, we go over the memory sentences/facts - often just using the CD. If we don't get to that one of those days, I keep a copy of the CD in the car and we listen some there, too.

Fridays are Science days: we read more about a subject (in our books or online using an Usborne Internet-linked encyclopedia) and/or try an experiment. CC on Wednesdays to help demonstrate the science memory sentence, but I am going.

4) What does it cost?

I hesitate to answer this, because fees may be different from place to place. But I know it can help to have some idea of what is expected.

These are the fees we paid for our Foundations classes this year are: Registration is $50, Supply fees $50, Facility fee $25, and Tuition is $312. That is per child, of course. It may seem pretty hefty, but it is for the whole year and I have found it to be WELL WORTH it!

5) What do you like most about Classical Conversations?

The fellowship for the kids and me has been HUGE! They love CC and look forward to it every week. I've really enjoyed getting to know some more moms in the HS community. And it has helped me a great deal with accountability.

Classical Conversations is very adamant that YOU are the teacher (the CC teachers are called "Tutors"). I make the decisions about what we do and when we do it...and there is no pressure to meet some standard. The drill parents and the absorb parents are equally supported in their goals for their kids. But, knowing that the class is moving along in the material has definitely helped me stay on track this year!

If you have any other questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer!

Also, if you are interested, I have begun adding some books that I have found helpful at my Amazon Store. I do get a (very) small percentage of any purchases made through these links, so if you appreciate my blog, that is a really helpful way to say "thanks". And I thank you, too!

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for the candid info on Classical Conversations. I'm just looking into it and appreciate an inside look.

Nancy in CO

Megan said...

Hey again!

I drilled the gal at the CC booth this weekend about this - I'm really hoping it happens here. I have another question, though - I was planning to do Sonlight again, and choose a science and language arts. I gathered from the booth that I wouldn't need to choose a language arts if we do Elements, but would maybe want to go ahead and so my own history and science in addition to CC? Is this what you also do?

Thanks for the additional help!

Megan said...

Oh yes, Essentials. Might want to get the name right! Silly me. You answered the question. I wonder if I will miss doing my normal Sonlight stuff with the girls, though. Do you feel like your kids are getting a sufficient backing in history and science just using the CC stuff (and with the supplement you are adding in)? I'm assuming the answer to that is yes, otherwise you wouldn't be doing it.

Anyway, for us it isn't a matter of being wait-listed, but if the thing even takes off in our area. I think it will, but someone needs to step up and direct it. I was asked if I was interested (as I'm sure everyone else was), and yikes - I don't think I'm director material. So I need to begin praying someone who is director material will step up. I'm tutor material, but definitely not director material! :)

Beth said...


This was really great of you to write about what it looks like in the group and your home. Thank you for taking the time to do this! It was very helpful.

SebbieDue said...

Again, thank you for sharing so generously about CC. Is there a email list that has CC parents from all over to share and ask questions like this? I saw several on yahoo, but they were all local.

Kerry said...

Dana - You are so welcome! I'm glad it helped you to hear how CC can work in a family's homeschool. It is a good program and works well for our family. I hope it will for you, too!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your blog on CC. I am considering putting my daughters in the program as well as being a tutor next year in our local CC. I really need the acountability, too.

DebWarning said...

Great info on CC. I have been involved for 2 yrs, I tutor this year. I am starting a new program this fall, as Director.

I had homeschooled for 9 years before CC, and we were doing well, but CC has brought a renewed spark into our homeschooling, and my kids are working harder than ever.

I have 5 children, 2 of whom are in Challenge levels. More expensive than what we had used over the years, but WORTH it!

Christian worldview. Increased accountability if you tutor, and your kids will have fun learning.

Check You Tube, also, for CC demos of timeline reviews, Memory Masters.

Kerry said...

Hi, Deb! I've heard that YouTube has videos for CC, but I've yet to go look. What a great idea, though!

Thanks for stopping by the blog and leaving such a helpful, encouraging comment. I can definitely tell you love CC, too!

Keeley said...

Very helpful, thank you.

Jen said...

I was wondering if anyone has heard of used Classical Conversation materials being available?

Anonymous said...

We are going to try CC this year for the first time. We have always used Sonlight and have loved it, so I am a little hesistant. We will be doing cycle 1 the ancients. Is there a recommended book list somewhere to reinforce what they are learning in class? Thanks for any help...feeling a little lost!

Kerry said...

Thanks, SebbieDue for jumping in on that one! Anon - she's right, your CC director has access to a good list and I second Paula's Archives. :)

meymin said...

This helps me a bunch! I am considering CC for the fall but don't have a group nearby.

Hen Jen said...

this was a really helpful post, thank you for sharing. I heard about, and then joined a new forming cc group in my area- while not totally understanding what it is all about, moms sharing their experienced have helped me figure out what it 'looks' like...thank you!

Gloria said...

After a lot of consideration and prayer, I have decided to start a new Classical Conversations in South Jersey. If any one is interested, please let me know. woolwichhomeschooler@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

Can you please tell me the difference/similarities between CC and Sonlight? Thanks-

Anonymous said...

I am looking into Classical Conversations to do this upcoming fall. I was wondering if I could do the program just by buying and using the Foundations Curriculum Guide and the appropriate resources, as I cannot afford the tuition fee. Thank you for your advise!

JRT said...

What about math? Do you do an entire 4 day math curriculum during the week also? Nervous about this with multiple kids.
Jennifer in TX considering being wait-listed for CC

Anonymous said...

I currently homeschool through an online charter school. I really like the curriculum. Though it isn't Christian, I can interject my thoughts on the topics. We go to a co-op once a week with about 30 other families, most of which are Christian, and the kids do art science and history there. I am hesitant to completely change what we're doing because my daughters have made great friends and are doing well.

I am curious though, to understand a bit more. Is the "memory work" the "tools" used in later years (challenge?) in the dialectic stage? Is memory work the main focus in the elementary years and do they truly memorize the information? I'm trying to understand how the kids are "taught to learn" and "taught to think."

Also, how is Christ incorporated into the various subjects?

Finally, if I wanted to incorporate CC into my current homeschool and not completely change curriculum, what would you suggest? Any certain activities or CC products?

Thank you for your time and insight.

Kerry said...

A new "Anon" - Hi!

Let me start by saying that I am not currently participating in a CC community. We may return next year, but haven't decided. The decision was mostly financial (our eldest son started high school at a private school), but my kids seemed to need something different for a season, at least.

With that said. . .

It sounds like you have a positive learning experience your are involved in. I'm not sure I would change it if it is working well for your family. Unless there is something *you* aren't happy about...or if you are feeling the need to do something different for your children (ie just because they like something doesn't mean it is the best). So, I wouldn't be quick to change unless you really feel a need to do so.

The tools that are learned in the grammar stage, which for CC are probably most importantly fact memorization and presenting one's thoughts and ideas, are the very things that undergird the upper levels of learning.

It is often described as learning "pegs". You place the "pegs" in your child's mind through memory and then later when they learn something that relates to that "peg" they have a place to hang it.

For example, my son had been working on learning all the countries and capitals. One day he was listening to the news with me and he exclaimed, "Hey, I know where that is!" I wish I could remember what country it was, but I remember thinking it was a fairly obscure country. Certainly one that many people would have to look up to fully understand the story being reported. My son had a "peg" on which to hang that information and thus his learning was enhanced. Because he had that fact, he was then FREE to think about what he was hearing.

That is the basic idea.

And it is how we learn. We learn the basics, then we begin trying them out, then we become masters at it. I want to learn crochet. First I learn the basic stitches and their names. I memorize them. (Grammar) Then I begin putting them together, trying them out. I make a scarf. Mostly, I still need a pattern. (Dialectic) Eventually, I become a master and can create my own patterns. I share them with others. (Rhetoric) So, that is how we learn to learn and learn to think. Through the process of learning to crochet...I've learned a good pattern for learning ANYTHING else in life. But I've also learned to think up my own patters - to think. I am FREE from patterns of others, I can make anything!

But this idea is NOT exclusive to CC. It is part of the classical model of education and you could use that ancient wisdom to enrich any educational models you are currently using.

CC helps by doing a great deal of the leg work for you - gathering facts and showing you ways to present those facts in a way that is engaging to your students.

I'd suggest perusing the CiRCE Institute (http://www.circeinstitute.org/) and Christine Miller's Classical Education (chttp://classical-homeschooling.org/) websites for more information on the classical model. Both would are excellent resources!

Oh, and you asked how Christ in incorporated? Well, Christ is The Word and The Truth. So, if you are studying Truth, you are studying Him.

There is a specific scripture memory component to CC.

I hope this is helpful to you, if not, please email me!

Anonymous said...

Very helpul! Thank you, again, very much.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing how you go about CC during the week. We have registered our girls for the 2011-2012 school year. The more I read about CC the more I am convinced I made the right choice```peace of mind!

Tonie said...

Besides the fees you listed in your original article, are you paying more on top of that for materials/curriculum? Or does the money you are paying include everything you will need to participate? I am interested in the Foundations program for K. Thanks!

Lindy and Jeanne said...

I would love it if you would check out my blog. I post many CC Supplements for parents to use during the week.

Patra J said...

I know that it has been a while since you wrote this posting but it has given me some insight as to how a typical week can progress. My son is 2 years but I'm always reading CC information so that I can be as prepared as possible when we start the program.
Thank you for the posting.