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

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Year Without Classical

The subject of Classical Conversations has been quite absent from this blog in the past year...and even then it was a mere mention.  I think a number of my subscribers were originally brought here by a CC post back early 2008 and I am amazed they've stuck around for so long when I have lately offered them so little of what they originally sought.

I haven't talked about it much on the blog, but we have had a "year without classical conversations".  Well, not exactly a year, but a long season.

Our eldest has been attending a small, private Charlotte Mason-based school for his first year of high school.  In order for us to afford the tuition, it made sense to have the other kids at home and save the CC tuition.  They seemed to need a break from CC...or perhaps just a season at home after so many changes in their lives (adoption, best friends moving away, a pending move, divorce in the extended family).  And they have enjoyed this "season at home".   We all have.  It was definitely necessary as we adjusted to a new schedule with one out of the house each day.

A couple of weeks ago those two at-home kids asked, "When could we go back to CC, Mama?"  So, we are considering a return next year.

As I said earlier, our eldest has been attending a private school.  We'd thought he would be there for his whole high school program.  We were all very excited about that, but it isn't looking likely.  He's had a good year and it has been a positive experience for him.  However, for a number of reasons, he'll be returning home next year.  Thus, he will most likely return to the Challenge program next year.

Around the time we began considering all these issues, I received a comment on that original post ("5 Questions about Classical Answered").  The commenter had some great questions and I hope my answer was helpful.  As I finished writing my response I thought it pretty well summed up my thoughts on CC.   Perhaps you are one of those readers who has wondered when I'd post about CC again.  Maybe this will give some food for thought about CC.

She asked:
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."

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.

I answered:
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 and Christine Miller's Classical Education websites for more information on the classical model. Both are excellent resources!

Oh, and you asked how Christ is incorporated? Well, Christ is The Word and The Truth. So, if you are studying Truth, you are studying Him.  (In retrospect that was a bit of a flippant answer.  But I do stand by it.  I think I was just running out of steam.)

There is a specific scripture memory component to CC.

What are your thoughts on Classical Conversations?


Jessica said...

Kerry, thanks for the link to your original CC post; it answered a lot of my questions. We're going to a CC open house tomorrow; I'm looking forward to it!

~liz said...

hi kerry!
we had our first ever Foundations class this week and i must say that i was incredibly impressed with the program. we hope to grow more (we are at full capacity) to add Essentials in the fall.
i'm so eager to hear from parents who have students in the Challenge program and how all this knowledge that they're gathering and storing away helps in the Essentials and Challenge years.
thank you for blogging about it in the past, being my introduction to CC.. :)

never-tease-a-weasel said...

I've been trying to find your post where you posted the match up between Tapestry and Cycle 3, but I can't find it anywhere! Can you direct me to it? I'm trying to start planning for next year, and it would be so helpful to not reinvent the wheel!
I just love your blog....I want to spend all day reading!

Kerry said...

never-tease-a-weasel - I've removed the post as I only had the first semester's file posted and when I went to post the other part today I realized it had been lost in a computer crash a year or so ago. I've had some recent interest in the post and with Cycle 3 coming up this year, I suspect I will continue to do so. I decided I wanted to update the file a bit, too. So, check back (or subscribe). I hope to have it up in the not-too-distant-future.

Thanks for understanding!

Anonymous said...

I found your article based on the 2008 lesson plans which were very helpful. Also wondered about if you were still doing CC...thanks for the update. I am new to it and doing it at home. God bless you!

Kerry said...

Anonymous - We have returned to CC this fall. My kids are in Challenge 2, Challenge A, and Foundations.

How is it going at home?