What Classical Conversations Looks Like In Our Home

img_8283 My children starting school on a recent morning!

If you came into my house right now and asked Lena, “Hey Lena, can you tell me about the Hundred Years War?” she would sing:

“Yes! During the Hundred Years War, Joan of Arc and King Charles VII led the French to defeat England at the Battle of Orleans. In the late 1340s, fleas on rats carried the Plague, which killed one out of three Europeans.”

“Can you tell me about how animals react to environmental change?”

“In reaction to environmental change, animals will adapt, migrate, or hibernate.”

“What about skip counting by 2s?”

And she would sing a clever little ditty to the ABC tune that ends with, “Would you like to hear some more?”

And at that point you might or you might not like to hear some more, but she can go on for a long time!


All of this information comes from different things Lena has learned in Classical Conversations. In my last post, I discussed our kindergarten curriculum, and I mentioned that we joined Classical Conversations as well. Deciding to join was a big decision for us this year, and I think we’re still adjusting. There is a lot to get used to!

For those who are unfamiliar, Classical Conversations (CC) is a homeschooling support organization. Communities or campuses are everywhere, including overseas. Last year, as we were considering homeschooling,  I learned a lot of my friends were attending the weekly “schoolhouse” meeting and loving it. Since the closest CC community meets just four blocks from our house, and because we already knew half the group, it seemed a shame not to join! We have enjoyed it a lot, but it has also been challenging. (More about this at the end of my post.)

Every Tuesday we meet with the other homeschoolers at CC for three hours. Lena is in a class with other 5- and 6-year-olds, Gil is in a nursery/preschool room, and Forest hangs out with me — which is challenging because I am required to be with Lena the whole time and help in her class. This ain’t no drop-off program! Parents are involved in every aspect.

img_6310 Some of our CC Timeline Cards on display in our dining/school room.

During those three hours, Lena and the eight other kids in her class are taught by a fellow mom, called a tutor. Lena learns the new “grammar” for the week (one item from history, math, English, science, Latin, and geography, and seven new points on the timeline), participates in an art project and a science experiment, does a 3-minute presentation on an assigned topic that she has prepared, and spends 30 minutes reviewing information she learned previously in the year.

It’s like drinking from a fire hose. A fire hose that never turns off!

That said, I have found a lot to appreciate about CC. I love that she is learning history and geography, that she is learning alongside other kids (they have so much fun!), that I am not her only teacher, and that she already is learning good public speaking skills.


And now — how do we “do” Classical Conversations in our home? I think there are about four main ways:

  • Displaying the “memory work” for the week
  • Review games and questions
  • Timeline cards with the song
  • Dry-erase maps
  • Songs from CC Connected and the CC cds

img_8558 Displaying the “memory work” for the week: This is a pretty basic thing that I think every CC mom does, but I am actually not very faithful at doing this! I am learning.

If it’s a good week, on Monday morning I will print (or write/make, but that doesn’t happen as easily) the history, geography, math, science, and English facts for the week and display them in our dining/school room alongside the seven timeline cards for the week. (CC moms, I mostly find these on CC Connected under “File Sharing” and by searching for “Tri-Fold” downloads for the week we’re on.)

A lot of moms have tri-fold or bulletin boards that they tape everything to, but in our current house I don’t have a good space to display one, so I just use painter’s tape to attach things to the wall.

img_6318 becca-garber-classical-conversations-homeschool-review-book-jpg Review games and questions: This little photo album of the weekly CC information has been so helpful for me. I made it at the beginning of the year by using downloads I found on the CC Connected file sharing. (CC moms, I searched for username “barledge” and “4×6 Flipbook,” printed all the files as photos at Walgreens, and put them in a 48-photo album I found on Amazon.)

Lena and I use this review book when we knit together on the couch, or when we play Candyland. If Lena lands on a red square in Candyland, she has to answer a science question because the science questions are red in the review book. If I land on a blue square, I answer an English question, and so on.

If Gil wants to play… well, we don’t get very far in our review!

fullsizerender-3 Timeline cards with the song: Each week we learn seven new points on the timeline, which starts with “Age of Ancient Empires” and ends with current events. Each point on the timeline has a laminated card (see above), and I keep all of them in 5.5 x 8.5 binders with page protectors.

There is also a timeline song that we use to memorize all the points on the timeline. We even learn hand motions for each point! (Well, we try… those are hard for five-year-olds.) The video above includes the entire song if you’d like to hear it. Lena and I sing the song as we flip through the timeline cards, stopping to ask questions about different ones.

fullsizerender-2 Dry-erase maps: Another thing we do is use these laminated maps to review geography. I’ll ask her to find Portugal or the Aral Sea or the Scandinavian Peninsula, and Lena will check each location with a dry erase marker. We also occasionally use our globe instead, which I purchased with charter school money.

Songs from CC Connected and the CC cds: CC has put a lot of the material children need to learn to song, such as the timeline song above. This is so helpful with memorization! The kids and I listen to songs I’ve downloaded from the CC Connected file sharing. Today they were singing about pints, quarts, liquids, and plasma with me in the kitchen as we made cookies.

We also listen to the CC cds when we drive in the car. We spend very little time in our car, though — maybe 30 minutes total every week — so this isn’t a great way for us to memorize and learn material. This is the “disadvantage” of living in a walkable community!


One question you might be asking is, “Does Lena get it? Is all this memorization worth it?”

I think the answer is NO, she doesn’t get it, but YES, she is learning, and by the end of the year she will have grown exponentially in her knowledge of history and geography. (The English, some of the science, and a lot of the math facts will be over her head for a while yet.)

If we stick with CC, Lena will learn almost all new information each year for three years. (The timeline and some of the other information stays the same every year.) Each year, the tutor in her class will introduce the material at her level and expect more of her, as will I at home. After three years, she’ll repeat all three years. This way she’ll get this information twice over the course of six years from Kindergarten-Fifth Grade. It takes some of the pressure off of this year for sure.

Is all this memorization worth it? I think so, at least to some degree. She will not remember everything she learns this year, but it’s ok. There are no tests. She might remember it in three years when she repeats all this information, but in the meantime she is exercising her memory muscles, learning so much about the world and her place in it, and gets a sense of pride and accomplishment from working hard and learning the information. These skills are worth a very great deal.

Do I love CC? Will we stick with this for all of elementary school, or all of our homeschooling years? I have nooooooo idea. I do think one of the greatest gifts of CC is community. It is hugely encouraging to hang out with other families each week, to eat a picnic lunch at the park together after class (every week because this is Southern California and the weather is always gorgeous!), and to talk and be inspired and be refreshed every Tuesday.

However, if I were presented with another homeschooling co-op with awesome classes and friendships, I am not so sure I’d do CC. I think this is because I am more excited about the community than about CC itself. I like the approach CC takes a lot, but I was also homeschooled K-12 myself and then went to a public university and had an incredible experience with like-minded believers there, so I know there are many, many ways to do homeschooling and do education in general.

I think our bottom line is: we’ll just take each year at a time, evaluating thoughtfully how each of our kids are doing, how we are doing, and what educational approach would fit our family and our kids best. We’ll stay humble, we’ll stay flexible, we’ll all keep learning together.


What do you think? Would you ever do CC? Why or why not?

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18 Responses to What Classical Conversations Looks Like In Our Home

  1. Katherine January 27, 2017 at 5:32 am #

    We looked at classical conversations a few years ago, when my oldest was entering kindergarten. Ultimately I just felt too overwhelmed by the undertaking. I think I was pregnant with my fourth at the time and the wrangling and the outside work was more than I could rally for. It was the right decision for us at the time, but a hard one because the concept is pretty compelling.

    • Becca January 27, 2017 at 2:34 pm #

      I think that’s a wise decision! You might like it now, though, when your kids are older and more independent. I enjoy have structure so I know what to teach and introduce. However, there is so much more out there — this is just one option, as you well know!

  2. Poppy January 27, 2017 at 7:31 am #

    Love it! Especially when Lena reminds me of things I’d forgotten long ago. It’s fun to see her face light up when I ask her a question that she has studied. So much fun to watch all this happening.

    • Becca January 27, 2017 at 9:26 pm #

      We love having you here!

  3. Grandmother Margaret January 27, 2017 at 8:18 am #

    Hi Becca, I think what you are doing is just wonderful what a great way to be able to teach your children. love you all

    • Becca January 27, 2017 at 9:26 pm #

      Thank you so much, Grandma Margaret! I love to hear from you. I hope you are doing well! Much love!

  4. Jeanna January 27, 2017 at 11:30 pm #

    Bec- Now Im inspired and want to join CC with C and G so that I can go back and re-learn history, math and sentence structure:) So proud of you for sticking with it!

    xox

    • Becca February 3, 2017 at 10:44 am #

      Yes, I’m so excited to relearn so many of things that I have forgotten! It’s hard to pass on to children, though, who just see it as a lot of overwhelming work when they would rather play or relax. It’s challenging to pass on a love of learning and a good work ethic. I know you’d be so good at it! Can’t wait to see you soon. xo

  5. Paty January 27, 2017 at 11:41 pm #

    I love reading what you write Becca.
    I still use the translator for some words but I understand better and better what I read.
    Less easy for me to write.
    You make a very good work with your adorable children.
    A bientôt de te lire.
    Paty

    • Becca February 3, 2017 at 10:42 am #

      So good to hear from you, Paty! I hope all is well. Thank you for encouraging me.

  6. kristin January 30, 2017 at 11:41 am #

    we are going to repeat our cycle of cc next year. i’m really looking forward to it because it will be interesting to see what my boys have retained over the last few years. my oldest has been using some of the math that is introduced right now (the geometry stuff) and it is clicking so much faster for him than if i had to explain it. i think i like that although they don’t -know- everything that they are learning right away, they are getting a vocabulary that could help them for the future.

    that being said, we are taking it yearly as well. the boys are in love with homeschool, especially since the neighbors are gone from a bit before 9am until 4-4:30pm daily while they are at school. obviously not every moment is taken up with learning, but i think they like the flexibility to take a break and play outside, go on adventures to the zoo ;) and slow down. my oldest went to public school through 1st grade, and he appreciates being home. my 3rd is super sad he never got to ride a bus to school, and wishes that he got to go to school for that reason (note to self: we need to ride a bus somewhere soon!).

    thanks for sharing how CC works for your weekly routine. i’m always curious! and also for the previous post about all the stuff you’re doing. so fun to learn what other families enjoy- and explore if one of my kiddos might benefit from a tweaking in a subject.

    • Becca February 3, 2017 at 10:41 am #

      This was so interesting and helpful! Thank you for sharing the details of how things have gone for you as you have matured and taught older children, too. I hope Lena and her siblings appreciate homeschooling as much as your boys do!

  7. Abi January 30, 2017 at 12:19 pm #

    These past two posts are invaluable to someone like me, who has wondered what homeschooling looks like in practice. It is something we are considering for our family, so it’s nice to have a peek into a couple of the options that are out there. We still have a year until our eldest will be in Kindergarten, but I know I need to start doing my research now if we are going to go that route. I’m definitely going to share these posts with some friends who are considering homeschooling as well! Thanks for giving your honest opinion! And I am seriously impressed by the stipend you get in CA! We don’t have that in Virginia, do we??

    • Becca February 3, 2017 at 10:40 am #

      I don’t think so. :( I’ll certainly try to find out all the free money I can get when I move there! BUT being connected to a charter gets more complicated as your kids get older and the regulations become more intense. So ultimately it may not be worth it. I felt like it certainly was, though, for a kindergartner, new mom, and just one year in California.

  8. Amanda E. January 31, 2017 at 12:00 pm #

    We are CC dropouts, but we did love our time there while it lasted. :) My kids started to really desire going deeper on most everything and the skipping around on the surface frustrated them (and me too). We still do some of the memory work at home but I’ve been so much happier going at our own pace, doing a four-year history cycle, picking an actual science topic/s each year to delve into, all the nature study and living books our little hearts desire, without the hefty price tag. That said, we do have an awesome co-op we’re part of because we all loved (LOVED!) the social aspect of CC, as you mentioned. Looks like you’re doing really well keeping your head level and future-focused!!

    • Becca February 3, 2017 at 10:38 am #

      This is where I am, I think. I am frustrated by dumping all the information on Lena each week, and she’s like, “Huh? What is a bomb? And you’re making me learn about atomic bombs and Nagasaki and Hiroshima? Newton’s law of motion? Huh???” It’s all too fast and too much information for a kindergartner/5yo! But she will mature into it… so I don’t know what we’ll do next year. We’re open and flexible right now.

  9. JN February 25, 2017 at 11:49 am #

    I think you are doing a fantastic job but just wanted to share an observation about the flash cards – they list “Ivan the Great” there but since I know a little bit about Russian history I think they just “combined” Peter the Great with Ivan the Terrible ;) Hope it is only one mistake that they got on the cards but just letting you know before all the kids learn about that “Ivan the Great” guy.

    • Becca February 25, 2017 at 11:49 pm #

      Thanks for this info! I’ll look into it. Russian history is NOT my specialty at all, so I appreciate hearing this from someone who knows much more than I!

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