Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Change of Seasons: From CC to Tapestry of Grace

Updated March 7, 2012: This post is in no way meant to be critical of CC--on the contrary, I hope to give a fair assessment of why it did and didn't work for our family, and why we have chosen not to continue. We had a great CC season. It was a valuable part of our educational journey. The season, however has shifted, and so we must move on, taking what we have learned and putting it to good use in the next.

Many people have stopped by the Accidental Homeschooler searching for information about Classical Conversations (CC). Last year I wrote about what I called "coming full circle" with CC, and in this and future posts, I want to expand on that information and write about why we decided this year to make the switch to Tapestry of Grace. I have said before that "the right tool for the job gets it done." For three years of our home school experience, CC did help tremendously in "getting the job done." Nevertheless, there were a few drawbacks to using the CC method which I will delineate in this post, which is Part 1 of "Why the Switch."

First, let me identify the ways in which CC has helped us. First and foremost, meeting together with other moms was a very important part of our week. It provided a venue for fellowship and community, support, and even friendly competition. Secondly, it helped me figure out how to best organize and carry out our day-to-day lesson plans. Because there was a weekly framework of material to be covered, I could pull together resources which would support what was being presented each week. I learned in CC that my two kids are crazy about history and geography. We squeezed everything we could out of the weekly material. CC also kept me from completely dropping the ball on studying science, which I am prone to do since we all share such a love for the other subjects. Also, it was very convenient to have both of my children studying exactly the same material, allowing me to adjust the presentation of it according to their ability.

Taking all that into account, what follows are the reasons I decided that our CC season had come to an end. From the beginning I could really connect with the Well-Trained Mind approach to framing our school years with a four-year plan, using history and geography as a spine from which to generate our studies. CC uses a 3-year cycle, and this is just a bit too fast for our family, who really enjoys digging into history and taking a bit more time with it. The first year cycle takes a geography-centered approach to world history, and a very brief overview of the history of every continent is touched upon. The second year cycle begins with the Middle Ages and moves quickly through history to the modern times, and geography studies are focused on Europe. The third year emphasizes U.S. History and geography. All of these cycles have their strengths, and one of the things we enjoyed the most about them was learning the history sentences set to music. I find the kids still singing them from time to time, especially when something we are talking about or studying stimulates their memory. Even so, I prefer a more linear 4-year approach beginning with the ancients and ending with modern times.

Another aspect of CC became a challenge for us to manage, and that is the emphasis placed on the "Memory Master" achievement. You can read about what a Memory Master is here. We found at the beginning that the memorization of the material combined with our supplemental studies was done easily. However, as the school year progressed and we were reviewing and drilling more and more material, there was less and less time to dig in to our reading, writing and hands-on projects which were intended to give life and dimension to the very facts that we were memorizing. When it came time to test for Memory Master (MM), we spent two weeks primarily preparing for the examination, not getting much of anything else done. I will say that the value in this exercise was that my boy learned how to push himself beyond what he would normally do and to challenge himself. It was rather exhilarating in the moment, and I am not sorry at all that we did it, but I learned that a more evenly distributed pace of learning throughout the year is preferable for us.

 Lastly, because of the pace at which we moved through history, it was impossible to dig in to all of the areas that the history sentences touched on. This may work well for someone who has little to moderate interest in history, but for my history-ravenous son, I felt I had to keep moving him through the material before he was ready. Knowing just a little about something was not enough to satisfy him. In science, it was fine--the science questions were sufficient since that is not where he gravitates. He enjoys science, but he is not hungry for it.

I was also beginning to look ahead and study the Challenge program. I had friends who had kids in Challenge A and B, and I was observing their experiences closely, not to mention studying the curricula that the students used. Again, the four-year history cycle is not present. This is not to say there is no "method to their madness" because I believe that there is, and it clearly works well for many people. But as I looked ahead at the program, I could not see our family flowing with that approach. Again, I would like to see a 4-year history cycle, and out of that study related literature, geography, church history, fine arts, and even science. Furthermore, the Challenge program is different from Foundations in that it ceases to follow the cyclical nature of Foundations. With the age span of my children, I recognize that it will be difficult to keep them "on the same page" through their whole school careers, however, middle school was a little too soon (to my mind) to have one child studying an entirely different course from my younger child. I wanted to be able to study the same topics with them, at different levels.

In Part 2 of "A Change of Seasons" I will discuss the ways in which Tapestry of Grace has satisfied the very things that I found to be either lacking or challenging in the CC method, as well as a review of the curriculum up to this point.


12 comments:

  1. Kelly-
    I am jealous of the curriculum you are able to cover with M & M. I too, love history and geography and would love to cover some of this stuff with my own students. You are well aware of the limitations that public school places on me as a teacher. Makes me even sadder that my own child is also prevented from learning this until H.S. because of "the system." I love reading your blog, even though I am not homeschooling, and will continue to live vicariously through you! Many blessing to you all,
    Patti Barker

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  2. As another former CC-er, I'd say you described CC's advantages and disadvantages very well. Aisde from trying for MM (we did not try for it), our experience was exactly as you described it. Even without trying for MM I was torn between using the rest of the week the way we wanted vs. encouraging our children to "perform" the memory work well. I agree with your thoughts about Challenge as well. CC IS a great community. As you said it has its pros and its cons.

    Thanks!

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  3. Kelly,
    I googled "quitting CC mid-stream" and found your post from a few years ago on the Well-Trained Mind board. I immediately felt better, more at peace. I came over here to read your other CC posts on your blog -- about your return, then your decision to move on. Thank you for sharing your story.
    CC does indeed provided fellowship/community, and there are pros/cons, it works for some and not for others. Ultimately, it was throwing me off balance from our core program at home, and even though we were using it as a supplement I was left feeling scattered (felt like we were constantly falling behind, which goes against my entire educational philosophy and why we chose this homeschool path in the first place.) Thanksgiving week will be our last CC week, closing out the session with big hugs and thanks, and looking forward to getting back to what works for our homeschool. Your posts were a helpful reminder to trust your inner voice.

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  4. Thank you for thinking this through and confirming our leaving CC. I had 3 children in CC and we enjoyed our time but it wasn't for us. My daughter went from 1st year Foundations student to Challenge A. It is so true...I became completely disconnected from her studies...completely. I liked the fact that she was learning, but it so divided us, and due to the demands of workload, it took from our Bible time and music. We quit CC this year (she would have been in Challenge B), and I can see that I have my daughter back where she needs to be.

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  5. Just came across your blog this morning. What a blessing it is to find. Thanks for posting this and sharing your journey. So good to know I'm not alone....I'm in No.Va., too. Can we talk a bit? I have some questions for you.

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    1. Sure...I am sending you an email via your profile page.

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    2. I am in No.Va., too, and have just had to leave the CC program. This thread is a bit old, but I was wondering if you two are still in NoVa? :)

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  6. I appreciate your review of CC. I am in the midst of deciding whether or not to continue with CC with my teenage son next year. He is currently doing foundations and essentials as a whole day program. Next year he would be in Challenge A, although he is old enough for 8th grade or even high school material. He is a reluctant student, but has gained a lot from the essentials class in developing his understanding of grammar and writing skills. He just doesn't care all that much for it. Math is his strongest subject, and there isn't a lot of reinforcement in CC for that, other than games and drills. There is no math class perse, at least not until they reach Challenge A apparently. I would love to see my son flourish in CC and be content with CC as it gives him another social outlet for his learning, but right now we are still helping him with his personal organization and study discipline. We're not sure CC is for us next year. We'll look into Tapestry of Grace. Thanks.

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  7. To Anonymous - My eldest son is half-way through Challenge A, and aside from about 20 minutes of math drills and formulas each week, math is not taught in this program. The main reason is that the 8 children in his class are all on different levels; only 3 of them are in Saxon 8/7. That's fine with us; my son is an independent learner--all he needs is the Saxon textbook and the Teaching Tutor DVDs with a little KahnAcademy supplementation and he's good to go. He has been stretched and grown so much this year in Ch A. Up til this year, I felt our CC Campus was *perfect*. We had none of the problems I've read about on other campuses. However, one of the moms at our campus recently became area director and our campus is changing, and not for the better... It's very sad to see legalism from corporate killing off the beautiful community that we once had. Our eldest will be in a co-op next year instead of Ch B, and we are praying about what to do with our youngest 3 next year. We have gone back to doing My Father's World for the spring semester, with just 15-20 min a day on Memory Work, and my boys are *so* happy. There is a more relaxed, joyful atmosphere in our home. I had forgotten how fun homeschooling can be...

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  8. I was researching for a blog post I'm in the middle of writing about why we, too, are leaving CC and happened upon your site. I completely understand where you were coming from when you wrote this. I'm currently feeling the same way.

    Funny that our blog names are similar and that I'm also a CrossFitter :-) I'd like to pick your brain about TOG. Right now it looks like we may do MFW for the next school year, but TOG has been on my mind as well. Could we exchange emails?

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    1. Of course...there is a link to my email in the sidebar. Feel free to send me a personal note.

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    2. Thank you, Kelly! I will be emailing you shortly. It's nice to "meet" a fellow Christian homeschooler/CrossFitter. Oddly enough, in the past month, I've meet three other families of the same combo. You're number 4!

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