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An Honest Review of Classical Conversations

We are finishing up our 24th and final week of our first year in Classical Conversations this week. I thought I would write up a quick review of it to help other families perhaps decide if it is right for them or not.

Our community was in its first year. I also was a Foundations tutor. My three oldest, ages 10, 8 and 6 were in it all year. We added my 4 year old at semester. My 10 year old was also in Essentials. Community Day is 1 day a week. The Foundations students, ages 4-11 meet for 2 1/2 hours. There is an hour lunch/recess. Then students aged 9-11, who are optionally and additionally enrolled in Essentials meet for two more hours. The younger siblings attended a child care on campus. You can opt to not be in Essentials even if you are old enough, and it’s possible to only be in Essentials if you don’t want to do Foundations. I would recommend you only do that, however, if you already had a good grasp of the three cycles CC goes through.

The morning flies by, with a half hour each of Fine Arts-ranging from learning about the orchestra and composers, famous artists, drawing lessons to practicing the tin whistle (similar to a recorder), Science, introducing New Grammar (seven subjects, referred to as grammar as elementary schools used to be referred to as grammar schools), Presentations and Review.

The Essentials time is divided up into basics of the English language, like diagramming sentences and identifying sentence parts, learning to write well, and math games.

When I first heard about Classical Conversation in our area, I immediately wrote it off. When I began homeschooling I read copiously about the different methods of learning and styles of homeschools. I could not envision myself as a classical teacher by any stretch of the imagination. It seemed much too structured and linear for me. I am much more of a relaxed, life learning type of person. Or so I thought then.

I watched a couple of friends dive into it and saw how it benefited their families. Last summer I attended an open house and saw a model of a Foundations class at a couple different age levels in action. I thought we would give it a try, mostly to help one of my children have a consistent peer group and to have someone ELSE be in authority over another one of my children, at least for a few hours a week. I didn’t have a real grasp of the Classical Method yet, but I thought it couldn’t hurt.

I was asked to tutor in July and attended a Parent Practicum. The practicums are three day seminars held all over the country for parents for free. This was the best thing that could have happened because my eyes were opened to what the Classical Method really was, and how it can fit into even a relaxed, unschool leaning family. I got so excited about teaching and tutoring. (The moms and dads are the teachers in their homes and the classroom time teachers are referred to as tutors)

The men walking on the moon is one of the boys’ favorite parts of our time line song. 
The children stuff themselves inside a space capsule when we visited NASA.

Students at the elementary age are hard wired for memorization. You may be amazed at how your young child can sing a song from a commercial he has only heard a couple of times or when they remember something you said a few weeks ago, but to the the child it is simple. In the Classical Conversations day, we don’t teach context. We leave that up to the parent to address how they will. But it is amazing even without any context how the content they have memorized applies to the world they interact with on a daily basis.

An example in my own life: One of the ‘pegs’ in our timeline song is ‘Otto von Bismark unifies Germany’.  I had never heard of him before or understood how key this was in the history of the world. We are of German descent on both sides. We were at our local German Heritage Museum recently and I was fascinated to discover more information about von Bismark and how his reign directly affected me because of affecting my ancestors! I probably would never have even noticed his name if it weren’t for Classical Conversations. Incidents like this happen regularly to all of us because of this program. Even my four year old will randomly point out things he is applying from learning these basics during CC, and he was only in the actual class for 12 weeks.

One of our history sentences this year was in regards to the U.S. astronauts walking on the moon.
Brielle tried it out on our NASA visit.

I have watched my children blossom through the loving attention of our tutors. It is terrific for me to see other Christian adults love on and teach my children. They have all matured so much this year, which may have happened anyway, but I do attribute a lot of it to the structure and consistency of CC. My oldest set the goal for herself to memorize every single thing that was thrown her way, and be orally tested on it FOUR different times. She has one more test to do, but I am confident she will achieve her goal. I am so proud of her striving for this challenge, and completely of her own volition!

It is hard to describe all of the benefits we have gained from being a part of CC, but I hope I have given you a good overview of what we experienced and piqued your interest so you do your own research and look into it further.

how we typically do school 
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One month since

I last posted 30 September and now it’s 30 October.

I am trying to figure out how to really enjoy blogging and make it truly work for me, without unnecessary pressure–self-induced, of course. I need to figure out what my goals are.I need to figure out what I really want.  Blogs I love to read always have beautiful pictures accompanying each post and I haven’t gotten pictures off the cameras for over a month. I’ve also not taken very many pictures either.

Facebook is a super easy way to keep many of my loved ones up to date on our lives, but it also can be super time consuming and hard to make boundaries with it. I want to post there, but then I’m drawn to check to see if people have “liked” or commented, and I want to see what my friends are up to too and then I have a few groups I’ve been heavily involved in and somehow feel the pull to check those too, and before I know it, I’ve wasted many precious minutes/hours on other people’s lives/articles I didn’t know I wanted to read/answering questions I really didn’t have time for when all I got on line for was to find a cracker recipe and “check my  news feed really quickly”. Famous last words.

I went to the Mother Earth News Fair in Topeka, KS this past weekend and the girls and my dad and I had an AMAZING time. We’re thinking about milk goats and bees. We’re contemplating making more things from scratch. We’re looking at how we can be living even more sustainably. (And then I come home to all the Christmas catalogs in my mailbox!)

I got to stay with my sister and her beautiful family and have a too short of visit with one of my besties. The kids did wonderfully traveling and it was a glorious trip.

I took a little internet break while I was gone, and now it’s been a full week. I miss it and don’t miss it. I miss knowing what my friends are up to on a regular basis, but I don’t miss all the mental and emotional clutter it brings with it.

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Today Aviana made bread for the first time all by herself. It’s not wanting to rise, so I’m not sure if she made an error, or if our house is just too cold.

Today (and yesterday) we had chicken soup with rice for lunch.

We’ve put all the bikes and riding toys and wagons in the barn for the winter. It’s staggering how tidy the yard suddenly became! Kevin is winterizing all the equipment as we are supposed to get a hard freeze tonight. He’s done combining the soy beans and has about 100 acres of corn to do. He’s rained out today. Hopefully this afternoon we’ll get to planting my bulbs and mums. I am totally a fair weather gardener.

Cadrian is having a hard time with his reading lessons every time, but then every time he makes a break through and shows me he really is ready for it. It’s frustrating and challenging to know what’s truly best for him.

Brielle played well with Elivette this morning so I could read to the boys. They’ve been into these Star Wars books we got from the library but I am done reading that drivel. It’s time to introduce them to Little House or Narnia or something. Cadrian does well listening to read alouds but Denton is still a classic interrupter.

I have plans to make some pumpkin butter this afternoon too, so I’d better be starting.

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A Day in the Life

I’m always curious about the average person’s daily life. I found an amazing video on Netflix titled Life in a Day. It is a documentary of snippets of people’s lives all over the world. It’s a bit of time capsule. It was beautiful.

It inspired me to make one of my own.

I have done this before in written form, with pictures, but never with video. It took me quite a bit longer to put the thing together than I thought it would, especially because I got sick for several days right after I shot it. I stayed up late last night and now it’s finally done.

I invite you to take twenty minutes out of your day to share part of mine. 🙂

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“First Day of School”

 Aviana Joy, age 9 fourth “grade”
 Brielle Analiese, age 7, second “grade”
Cadrian Kevin, age 5, Kindergarten Readiness
Denton LeRoyce, age 3, Preschool
 Elivette Marjory, 13 months.

Want to see past first days of school? Click here. And here. I didn’t have any from last year–at least not on the blog…recovering from Elivette’s birth took all my energy, I guess.

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What does school look like?

When many of us think of “school” we think of sitting at a desk, in a classroom. Chalkboard front and center, teacher’s desk off to one side. Teacher tells us what we need to know, and when. Rarely why. We thought we need someone big to inform us, to teach us.

I tend to disagree. Most of the learning that goes on in our home is an organic part of the day. We don’t really do “school”. I buy Sonlight curriculum because they have such. great. books. They have an instructor’s guide with guidelines of what to read when. Aviana is very much a structured linear little girl and enjoys having a check list to mark off.

Brielle on the other hand, doesn’t. And they are both learning in this home. We are helping all of our children meet and exceed their fullest potential.

We encourage them to learn about this and such, or give them lots of resources if they show interest in that and such. We answer questions, we show them, we discuss, we help them learn how to learn and find the answer for themselves.

All of the activities you see here have been completely unbidden. Brielle wanted to learn how to write using a quill, so we made one. Aviana wanted to make New Year’s Resolutions so she wrote them. They wanted to learn how to read, so they did.

They don’t learn for grades or for a test. They learn for the joy of it. They learn because God made them to be little sponges, to soak up their environment. Loving to learn and learning how to find the information they need are the skills they will need their entire lives. Sitting in an age segregated classroom for seven hours a day would suck a lot of the fun right out of learning and it would become something they just have to do.

It all falls into place. “What about math?” is a question I’m often asked. For right now, they are learning through life skills like cooking with me in the kitchen, in our home.The girls add fractions all the time. My four year old can do division. Offer him 8 cookies and it doesn’t take him long to figure out they each get two. If it turns out they need to learn calculus and trigonometry, I’ll figure out a way to teach it to them. For the record, I did well in calculus and trigonometry, and I couldn’t tell you what either is or why I learned it or what they are used for.

“What about socialization?” is another often queried question. I would rather have my children learn how to be civilized from me and other adults in our sphere than 15-20 other small not-yet-civilized people. I would rather have them learn how to stand in line when we wait at the post office or a restaurant, than to line up and march down halls for “specials” and lunch and recess and a restroom break. I would rather have them learn how to not interrupt from me than from a teacher who is trying to manage 20 little interrupters. I would rather have them learn manners from me than the kid on the playground who hasn’t yet mastered not shoving.

(totally unposed picture here, they were just doing that!)
What does school look like? It looks like an every day day. It looks like fun.  It looks like life.

(this picture credit to Jen Van Fleet)
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Girls and tools

We’re all about doing it ourselves here at the Farm Fresh Family.

Aviana (7)has had her eye on the Young Builder’s Tool Kit in one of our favorite catalogs, but it was $55!

I found a fishing tackle box the right size at Goodwill for $.88 and Kevin filled it with tools he had spares of (which thanks to his dad’s habit of ‘losing’ tools and therefore buying new ones was not much of a challenge). Ta-Da! A DIY Young Builder’s Tool kit.

Then he put together a project that she would be able to easily do. He prepped part of it by cutting two of the side lengths for her. She had to hammer them on to the base, measure and cut the other other sides, and hammer them on.

This is an abacus. She’d already made one from a shoebox, yarn and beads, following the directions from our vintage Childcraft Mathemagic book completely independently.

It turned out really cool and useful (especially as neither Kevin nor I even knew how to use an abacus until Aviana got interested in it!), but unfortunately, it wasn’t, ahem, Denton proof.

Then she had to measure where to put the holes, mark them and drill them. And then clean up afterwords, natch.

She’s got the frame painted (never mind the blue paint water spilled on my cream carpet, ahem, DENTON!), and then plans to paint the wooden beads that are going to be strung on wire through the holes she drilled.

I’m pretty impressed with her building skills (her follow through remains to be seen.)

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On another educational note, Happy Leap Day! Here is a pretty fun though fast talking video. You may want to pause and re-explain if you’re watching with wee ones.

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woefully neglected

That’s what this blog is…and a lot of other things too.

I’m reconciling myself to a month old pedicure, no nail polish, a dye job that’s a couple of months behind, toys that NEVER get properly put away, being satisfied with sending e-cards in lieu of “real” ones, laundry that is always in some state of flux, dishes that are never done, and who am I kidding, boobs that never get put all the way away either.
Meanwhile, I am getting out of the house, for which my sanity is eternally grateful. In addition to church today and last Sunday, I’ve made a MOMS group meeting and a home school picnic. I made some new friends and thoroughly relished my time with old chums too.
Kevin and I also took the wee boy on a dinner cruise. We met up with some friends and had a most enjoyable evening catching up.
Since we don’t go to a brick and mortar school, we traditionally take our “First Day of” picture on the first day of MOPS, but, alas I’m not in MOPS this year since MOMS group has to meet on the same day, and so the tradition changes. As do these children!
Brielle, age 4, pre-K
Aviana, age 6, 1st grade

Cadrian, age 2, a bit of this and that nursery school

We’ve just been living life. Trying to love life, even if I am a bit bleary eyed and uber forgetful these days. We’ve enjoyed the autumnesque weather, even if it was a tad sunny this day! :-)!
We’ve played some games. We’ve been pirates.
We’ve read. We’ve learned a lot. We’ve changed a lot of diapers and onesies and sheets. We’ve had fevers. We’ve anointed oil and prayed and healed. We’ve watched a lot of Gilmore Girls (well, just me, being the we).
I’m trying to instill obedience and not allow arguing. I’m trying to be patient. I’m trying to drink more water. I’m trying to be ok when I have to nap. I’m trying to remember that being a mama is my favorite thing in the world!
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Could you BE more biased?

Kevin came downstairs completely aghast at how an unschooling mom was treated and portrayed by JuJu Chang on Nightline last night. She was the main subject in a news story called Unschooling: No Tests, No Books, No Bedtime. I have to applaud her bravery for being a spokeswoman for this “radical” movement, which by the way, has been around for quite some time.

We are not unschoolers, nor do I agree with Dayna Martin’s philosophies of child rearing, but I am appalled that a professional news person would be so confrontative to someone about how she is raising her children.

And for the record, I was traditional public schooled all the way, at the top of my class, Dean’s List at university, academic honors, ectetera, and I have never even heard of Henry James until I watched this biased piece of impugnment that passes for journalism.

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