Sunday, August 03, 2008

On Classical Conversations

I'm so excited...I just ate an ice cream cone and didn't even taste it, I'm so excited. Spunky linked to my blog! I'm almost famous! But what makes the deal even sweeter is that she linked to us in reference to Classical Conversations. Apparently Spunky attended a one-day parent practicum in Ohio. Parent practicums and training events are one of the cornerstones of CC. They serve to inspire and educate parents who are interested in educating their children following a classical model.

I have to admit that my reasons for joining CC were not all clear to me at the time, since I was just starting out and had no idea what "philosophy" of homeschooling I would eventually adopt. I didn't attend a practicum and sort of went into the school year cold. It was first grade for us and I really had no idea what I was doing. However, after the first class, I called my husband at work as I was driving home and through tears of relief said, "I think I can do this, honey...I really think I can do this!"

"Classical Education" sounds so lofty and unattainable, but truthfully, it is the simplest, most natural approach to teaching children that is available. The painfully slow demise of our school system is happening in large part to the total abandonment of just such a simplicity. However, I had the opportunity to hear Leigh Bortins (the founder of CC) speak at a 3-day practicum held at Great Wolf Lodge, Williamsburg this spring. I sat through the two days that she spoke, and with each point she made I felt more inspired and more convinced that this is the way to go for our family. She pointed out that when things get crazy and complicated and there seems to be no way to convey what needs to be taught, it comes down to this: If stranded on a desert island or living in a third world country, and all I had was a stick and dirt, how would I educate my child(ren)? This point resonated deeply with me. We tend to think that teaching our kids is so complicated. The truth is that they are equipped with everything they need to learn, and while we do somersaults trying to explain concepts and encourage them to be creative writers, they're happy just memorizing the ad jingles they hear on tv, memorizing their phone number, memorizing all the new words they hear, memorizing the letters that make the words that they like...memorizing is what kids do best. CC helps parents to lay a foundation of facts that children learn. These become the building blocks for later when they are ready to integrate, ask why, and then produce their own creative thoughts on a given subject. (see Susan Wise Bauer's The Well Trained Mind for a great education on understanding the trivium.) Nothing is wasted. I use every bit of curriculum that I buy in connection with CC, because the trial and error has already been done. I feel I am equipped to do the business of educating, and I'm not "playing school." Did I mention that my son loves it? It gives him a bit of classroom time with me there supporting him, as well as clear direction for lessons during the week.

The other thing that makes CC such a blessing in my life and that of my children is that it provides a natural community for our family. The other mothers who attend with their children are all on the same page in terms of educating, we sort of speak our own "language" with regards to the system that we use, we struggle and laugh and share and fellowship with each other. We build relationships with each other as families, and it feels really safe. Our moms have begun a monthly night out together to deepen the relationships amongst us. It feels safe, and as our group is more and more established, so will these friendships be.

In essence, I believe that God has really gifted Leigh Bortins with an incredible vision for this organization, and the overwhelming response of home educating parents everywhere who desire this type of community is proof that there is a deep need for what CC offers.

So thanks, Spunky-hopefully people will look into this more deeply and benefit from CC as we have.