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A Classical Conversation

Join the conversation! An eclectic group of folks have joined in to carry out the classical conversation; some of these folks may share or represent views we don't hold. We need them to be dialectic and have a classical conversation, and they need us too! So thanks for being patient with us and our fellow participants.

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The Question

Posted by Leigh
Leigh
In an age when many are telling parents who they aren't... Leigh Bortins remin
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on Monday, 14 October 2013
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The Question, by Leigh Bortins 

 

Coming in October to ClassicalConversationsBooks.com!

 



“In college, my classmates were often annoyed with me; I kept asking questions, so the professors kept talking, sometimes beyond the bell. One day, there was an audible groan from my classmates. I turned around and said, ‘Look, I’m paying good money to ask this guy questions. Just leave if you don’t want to stay late.’ The professor gave me a C in the class. (He did not like me, either.) I asked so many questions because the professor insisted on an existential response, in the tradition of Nietzsche, to everything we read. I did not even understand what he was talking about, but I was sure he was wrong. So, I kept asking him to explain how what he said could be true. He did not ask questions to lead an exploration of ideas. I was being told to think a certain way, and he couldn’t adequately explain or defend his bias.

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The Power of a Question

Posted by Lisa
Lisa
Lisa Bailey, a homeschooling mom from North Carolina, has served Classical Conve
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on Friday, 11 October 2013
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May I ask you a question? As a mom, I am good at that:

 

“Are you up yet?”

“Do you need some help?”

“Why did you leave that here?”

“Is your throat sore?”

“When will you be back?”

“Do you call that clean?”

 

As a homeschool mom of two for more than a dozen years, I have discovered that questions have immense power. Questions can identify the most important concept under discussion. Questions can guide a student as he processes a new idea. Questions can propel a student towards a new thought or application. As I have learned to ask better questions, my own students have become more able learners. The power of a good question, aptly posed, is valuable at every stage of the trivium.

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Why Does Classical Conversations Encourage One Teacher for All Subjects?

Posted by Matt
Matt
Matt Bianco is married to his altogether lovely high school sweetheart, Patty. T
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on Thursday, 10 October 2013
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Timeless Thursdays: Revisiting Some Archived Articles that Have Not Been Lost, but May Have Been Forgotten and Are Worth a Fresh Read

 

 

I remember an incident that occurred when my children were somewhat younger; I happened upon two of them in an argument. One child was angry with the other because a toy had been claimed that he wanted. Rather than resort to diplomatic measures, such as no-fly zones and trade embargoes, to encourage the sibling to return the toy, my son began yelling at the top of his lungs, demanding its return. I stepped in and demanded that he stop yelling, and I told him that yelling was not the way to resolve issues—all at the top of my own lungs. With my words, my rhetoric, I taught him that yelling, just because one is angry, is an improper response. With my actions, the volume of my voice, I taught him that yelling was the exact response demanded by one’s anger.

 

At that moment, I did not realize the discrepancy between my words and my actions, and I certainly would have tried to justify my actions had I been confronted with it. It was not until sometime later, when a pastor mentioned such discrepancies in parents as they discipline their children, that I was able to think back on my own actions and recognize what I had been doing and promoting.

Thoughts on Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child

Posted by Beth Watson
Beth Watson
Beth Watson graduated from Cairn University (formerly named Philadelphia Biblica
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on Wednesday, 09 October 2013
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In Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, Anthony Esolen writes an "indispensable guide to overcoming today's treacherous trends in parenting and education—and the overwhelming banality of contemporary culture." Esolen's scope is broad, but my focus was narrow. I looked for how these cultural shifts, which Esolen strongly argues are negative, have impacted my home, my parenting, and my family. How have these effects shaped my parenting? Have I bought into a line of thinking and pattern of behavior that is not only mentally sterilizing, but also spiritually halting?

 

I want to raise intelligent, strong, and humble men who seek God first. I want a creative daughter full of beauty who loves God and loves people. I know to place my children into God's hands, but am I blocking their view of Him through the works of my hands? Is how we are spending our time limiting their time with Him?

The Two Best Hours of the Week

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Tuesday, 08 October 2013
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Feeling guilty seems to be a permanent condition of motherhood. It is often magnified for homeschooling mothers: it seems impossible to finish the “perfect” lesson plans we have made; if we participate in too many activities, we worry that we are overloading our children… if we do not participate in enough activities, we worry that we are ruining their social skills. One pervasive fear is that we are not spending quality instruction time with each child: if we spend a lot of time with our oldest, we may never get the youngest child reading and writing… if we spend too much time with the youngest, the oldest will not be prepared for high school and college.

 

I am homeschooling children from age four to thirteen. It is a constant juggling act. Early on in the year, I spent more time with my eldest, as Ben encountered challenges in Algebra I. Now, he is back to self-study, with the occasional question. The same proved true in Formal Logic. Ben needed assistance with this new—and often strange—subject, but he has now found his “logic legs.” My current goal is to spend quality time with him discussing issues, particularly in current events, debate, literature, and theology.

"Silent Cal" Speaks

Posted by Ruth Holleran
Ruth Holleran
Ruth and Robbo, her husband of 25 years, live in a house they built in Vermont.
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on Monday, 07 October 2013
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Calvin Coolidge’s father, a notary, administered the oath of office to our thirtieth president in their home when President Harding suddenly died. They had neither electricity nor telephone, so that night when the news arrived at the telegraph station, the operator had to drive up the mountain and wake up the Coolidges. By kerosene lamplight, Calvin Coolidge became president. I love that story. Coolidge’s inauspicious childhood on a Vermont farm, in a deeply Christian home, prepared him for greatness.

 

Smeared and dismissed by admirers of the progressives that followed him, Calvin Coolidge has been forgotten for nearly a century; but oh, this man has wisdom for those who still hold tenaciously to the founding principles of this nation! In addition to serving wisely in office, he spoke eloquently on education. Of his writings and speeches, four examples will suffice to show his views on a classical education: the necessity for poetic knowledge; for math, Latin, and Greek; for student persistence; and for faith.

 

Calvin Coolidge advocated classical education in an era influenced by the pragmatism of John Dewey. While Dewey stressed a scientific approach to learning, Coolidge found education incomplete without poetic knowledge. This is what students experience when they engage with what they are learning on a sensory-emotional level. They do not merely learn about a plant through anatomy lessons; they hold it, ponder it, plant it, and watch it grow. The Odyssey becomes more than a name on a list of Greek books; it becomes the journey every man makes as he battles his way home to wife and child. Youth need stories, heroes, and ideals. Coolidge says:

The Common Topics and the Universe

Posted by David Bailey
David Bailey
David Bailey is the founding pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Stokesdale
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on Friday, 04 October 2013
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OK, I am like a kid with a new BB gun. I do not really know how to use it, but it looks like so much fun. In that spirit, please allow me to wield Aristotle’s common topics. I just hope I do not shoot somebody’s eye out.

 

Aristotle’s common topics of invention serve as a series of lenses through which we can look at any given subject. In doing some quick research, I was reminded that the word ‘topic’ comes from the Greek topos, which means “place.” Suddenly, I understand Aristotle’s lenses more clearly. They are places in which we can look for clues for understanding anything from flowers to stars to relationships. I must also note that invention is only the first of Aristotle’s five canons of rhetoric: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery.

 

Being the ambitious type, I would like to point this gun of invention at a subject we often overlook, the meaning of life. Why are we here? Why is there something rather than nothing? How should we live? What is the ultimate authority in the universe? I am a Christian and I believe that I need to bring every thought captive to Christ. I acknowledge that it can be dangerous to probe the meaning of life, but I believe that as we pursue the truth we are also pursuing God himself.

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Beefing Up Sixth Grade

Posted by Courtney Sanford
Courtney Sanford
Courtney Sanford has been home schooling with Classical Conversations since 2005
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on Thursday, 03 October 2013
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Timeless Thursdays: Revisiting Some Archived Articles that Have Not Been Lost, but May Have Been Forgotten and Are Worth a Fresh Read

 

 

In more and more Classical Conversations communities, sixth graders start their final year in Foundations already knowing a lot of the memory work. Many of these students began Foundations sitting on mom’s lap and soaking up the timeline cards as early as age three. How do we keep them engaged through Foundations and prepare them for Challenge A?

 

First of all, we can be glad that they know the memory work, but we can also teach them to be kind and compassionate to other students who have not yet mastered the facts. Their role can become one of mentor and helper, but only if their heart is in the right place. Shouting out the answer does demonstrate that they know the material, but it prevents other students from being able to hear the tutor and disrupts the class. So, talk to your student about avoiding prideful behavior and developing self-control. Those are important skills; be glad for the extra practice.

Peace Talks

Posted by Kate Deddens
Kate Deddens
Kate was born overseas, attending International Baccalaureate schools in Iran, I
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on Wednesday, 02 October 2013
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We all know, from watching political events unfold as well as from negotiating with our children over school work, bed times, chores, and sibling squabbles, that ‘peace talks’ are a way to resolve conflict. How many of us realize, however, that the activity of conversing in itself teaches us how to be peaceful?

 

Having conversations is a tremendously important part of education! Learning how to dialogue with others is not simply working together productively, it is also a way to build fellowship, establish stable, healthy relationships, and achieve community goals. It is an important process in which, perhaps, we most consistently fulfill the highest aspects of our humanity as creatures made in the image of God, from whom the peace which passes all understanding flows.

 

Is not speech the special ability that sets human beings apart from every other creature? It is through speech—in conversation with others, with ourselves as we are conscious of our own thoughts, and with the Lord through prayer—that we learn! Learning is not an accumulation of facts, but occurs by questioning, connecting information, examining it, and articulating governing principles and truths from it.

 

Prime opportunities for learning, therefore, arise in conversation. We are essentially forced, through the need to communicate our ideas with other people and to hear and understand the knowledge and points of views of others, to ask questions, integrate concepts, study them, and draw collaborative conclusions from them. The question for educators, then—whether we are homeschooling parents, tutors, or teachers—is how best to nurture these good conversations.

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How Classical Conversations Teaches Us to Communicate Culture

Posted by Matt
Matt
Matt Bianco is married to his altogether lovely high school sweetheart, Patty. T
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on Tuesday, 01 October 2013
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“People and other creatures would be known by their names and histories, not by their numbers or percentages. History would be handed down in songs and stories, not reduced to evolutionary or technological trends.”

-Wendell Berry

 

What is culture, civilization, community? Do we live in a civilized community because we have tagged and identified everyone with a nine-digit social security number? Does that kind of technical efficiency define what it means to be civilized? Is the human soul satisfied because it can describe a person statistically: height, weight, race, religion, and gender?

 

Community is far more than these things; it is the songs and stories that we can tell about one another, about our forebears.

Math for Fun: How to Count to Infinity

Posted by Jonathan Bartlett
Jonathan Bartlett
Jonathan Bartlett is the director of The Blyth Institute, a nonprofit organizati
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on Monday, 30 September 2013
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Infinity is one of those mathematical concepts that seem to befuddle everyone. It is simultaneously easy to understand, but hard to grasp. What is infinity, how do we use it, and why is it important?

 

First of all, infinity is not really a number; it is more of a concept. It means that a set has no boundaries. The set of all integers (i.e., counting numbers) has no boundary. In other words, if you dream up a very large number, there will always be some other number that is larger than that number. There is no integer called “infinity,” but we say that the set of all of the integers is infinite because it has no boundary.

 

Additionally, not all infinite sets are the same size; the different sizes of infinity are called cardinalities. However, this brings up a question: how would you know if two infinities are the same size or different sizes? To answer this question, we actually need to forget the ways we normally compare things.

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The Dividends of a Challenge Education

Posted by Lisa
Lisa
Lisa Bailey, a homeschooling mom from North Carolina, has served Classical Conve
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on Friday, 27 September 2013
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Well here we are, six or seven weeks into this academic year. For most of us the dust is settling: we are growing accustomed to getting up and out of the house on Classical Conversations day, we are remembering what we like in our packed lunches, and everyone in the family knows where to go when we get to community day. However, in our community, I can tell the “old timers” from the “first timers” among our Challenge parents fairly easily.

 

The “first timers” hurry wild-eyed into the Challenge room, latching on to the tutor as she sets up for the day. “How are we supposed to get it all done? Does anybody finish all the work every week? Should my student already know some of this? You know we never did Challenge before, right?!” They are looking for enlightenment. They are looking for answers. They are looking for understanding. They are looking for a hug. Some are looking for hope for the future. Some are looking for a reason to quit! I want to offer a few insights that should provide hope and a reason to STAY!!

Memory Work: A Personal Journey

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Thursday, 26 September 2013
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Timeless Thursdays: Revisiting Some Archived Articles that Have Not Been Lost, but May Have Been Forgotten and Are Worth a Fresh Read

 

 

For the last six years, I have encountered some of the same questions over and over again from families who are wondering about memory work. Why should I introduce difficult concepts to a young child? Why should I teach my children to memorize and recite things that they cannot understand? Isn't it a waste of time to memorize things that they will just forget?

 

My family started the Classical Conversations Foundations program in 2005 when my oldest child was six. He has now completed each of the three cycles of memory work twice and has just been awarded the honor of Memory Master for the fourth time. Reflecting on our journey, I realized some truths about memory work that I did not understand in the beginning.

Shakespeare’s Language and the Evolution of Human Intelligence

Posted by Andrew Kern
Andrew Kern
Andrew Kern is founder and president of the CiRCE Institute, the founding author
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on Wednesday, 25 September 2013
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I was watching a bit of Brannagh’s Hamlet tonight and luxuriating in the language (some of which I understood) when my dear wife asked for my opinion: “Do you think the groundlings actually understood what was going on in those plays?”

 

I said I thought they did (that is probably a subject for another article).

 

Then she asked for another opinion: “Why do you think people today can’t understand it?”

 

I must warn you, I am about to say something that will sound caustic. You probably want to cover your children’s ears while you read this.

 

The reason we cannot understand Shakespeare or read the King James Version of the Bible or grapple with Milton or almost any poetry is because we systematically school children in our culture to become increasingly stupid. Charlotte Mason uses the term “stultify” to describe what we do.

 

I understand that sounds very harsh, so I need to defend the position.

 

First let me say that this problem is systemic and cannot be blamed on any particular teacher or parent. Those who govern American education at the highest level are highly irresponsible, do not understand the effect of systems on education, and bear primary responsibility for this folly. In addition, text book publishers have profited immeasurably from poor theory, so they bear high responsibility as well.

 

What then is the problem?

Challenge: The Icing on the Cake (How to Manage Foundations, Essentials, and Challenge at the Same Time)

Posted by Courtney Sanford
Courtney Sanford
Courtney Sanford has been home schooling with Classical Conversations since 2005
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on Monday, 23 September 2013
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I used to think that Foundations was the best time of homeschool life. It is fun to sing the songs, read the picture books, and take lots of field trips. However, now that I have two teenagers in high school (Challenge I and Challenge II) I am experiencing some payoff for all the hard work that I have poured into them!

 

I spent years training my children to develop good study habits. I modeled, coached, pleaded, reminded, and I made checklists. And now, they are applying those habits on their own!

 

Every morning since birth, practically, we have had breakfast and started math right away. It is as normal as brushing your teeth. When a student begins Challenge A, they add a second habit to their day: Latin.

 

These two habits get each day off to a great start. My high school students know to do this without having to ask me about it. This gives me time to spend with my Foundations-age student, who still likes me to work sample math problems with him, and who still needs me to keep him on track. (Actually, I could say that about every subject with a ten-year-old boy.)

Sports Scholarships

Posted by Shawn Stewart
Shawn Stewart
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on Monday, 23 September 2013
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We helped some friends of ours find a private college for their son a couple of years ago. I helped negotiate a deal with the Vice President of Enrollment. The school agreed to accommodate the amount the parents were able to spend. All that was left to do was get the two parties together.


Shortly after, I was surprised to learn from the family what a huge factor a one thousand dollar soccer scholarship had been in putting ink to paper. We knew in advance what the college’s published costs were. We knew how much would be discounted from that price to make it possible for their son to go there. Neither of those factors changed, but the college became a lot more appealing to the family when one thousand (roughly one-tenth) of the discount was labeled soccer scholarship.

I am not saying that athletic scholarships are never legitimate. However, there are certainly times when they seem a little like a trade-in allowance to me. When I am buying a car, what really matters is how much money comes out of my bank account to get me behind the wheel. The ancillaries, such as how much was specifically offered as the trade-in value of my fifteen-year-old Honda, are not so important.

Dispute, Deny, Distort, Discard: The Constitution in the Crosshairs

Posted by Brian Tonnell
Brian Tonnell
After 22 years as an Air Force pilot, God poked Brian in the chest and said, “Yo
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on Friday, 20 September 2013
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Satan tried it first1. Dispute: “Did God really say?” Deny: He didn’t really say that. “You will not certainly die.” Distort: Here’s the real truth. “God knows that when you eat from it ... you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” And the final result? Adam and Eve discarded God’s words. Dispute, deny, distort, discard.

 

Once Adam and Eve were no longer grounded in God’s ideas, what did they have to fall back on? Their own wisdom. They did what was right in their own eyes. And history continually reminds us that this is a recipe for disaster.

 

Surely we would never fall into that trap!

 

Even the casual observer will recognize that our culture is losing—more likely, has lost—its basis for Truth. There can be no doubt that our country was founded on biblical principles. During the early days of our country, the preponderance of America was Christian. Even if not all were religious, there was at least a pervading belief in the rightness of biblical principle. This foundation in biblical principle helped steer our culture down the morally right path, whether in government, the courts, the public square, business, or private homes.

Loving God

Posted by Kate Deddens
Kate Deddens
Kate was born overseas, attending International Baccalaureate schools in Iran, I
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on Thursday, 19 September 2013
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The first thing about Classical Conversations that attracted me was some of its signature verses, such as Proverbs 24:3-4 (KJV):

 

Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established: And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.

 

As classical, Christian homeschoolers, my husband and I were deeply persuaded by this biblical expression of the classical stages of the Trivium (eloquently expressed by Dorothy Sayers in her essay, “The Lost Tools of Learning”): knowledge correlating with the grammar stage, understanding corresponding to the dialectic stage, and wisdom coinciding with the rhetoric stage.

 

We understood the stages of the Trivium to reflect the learning progress of children as they grow to adulthood as well as to mirror the universal way in which people pass through degrees of learning about any new material. Thus, we saw in these verses not only a biblical confirmation of classical principles, but a beautiful vision of how applying these principles would result in a life blessed by the Lord: Knowledge of information provided the wealth, the fertile ground for growing in understanding; this in turn produced the wisdom by which a sturdy, godly house might be built.

The Right Order—slavery in a modern world

Posted by Robert Bortins
Robert Bortins
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on Wednesday, 18 September 2013
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“I freed thousands of slaves, and could have freed thousands more, if they had known they were slaves.” 
― Harriet Tubman

 

As modern day Christians we abhor slavery. We know we are born into the slavery of sin and Jesus died to set us free from sin. We have accepted Him as our Savior, because we recognize that we are slaves to sin. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Genesis tells of the creation of the world and the order in which it was created. The Bible is filled with order. The fact that the world can be known and the reason Christians and not pagans have led the world in scientific discovery is because Christians recognize this order. Sin was brought into the world by the disordering of what God had ordered. Adam and Eve did not want to stay in the order He created, but they wanted to be like God (Genesis 3:5).

 

Since The Fall there has been one main cause of sin: the disorder of desire. The Ten Commandments illustrate this point. All sin is a disordering of desire. Slavery is closely linked to a disordering of priorities, from both the master’s standpoint and the slave’s. The master would be better suited to be a leader of a free man, and a man is better off free. If not, then we do not need to be freed from sin.

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Discussing the Constitution

Posted by Matt
Matt
Matt Bianco is married to his altogether lovely high school sweetheart, Patty. T
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on Tuesday, 17 September 2013
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Today is September 17. How many of you knew today is Constitution Day in the United States? Robert Byrd, a Senator who hailed from West Virginia, established the day as a Federal observance in 2004. September 17th was chosen because it is the day the Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution in 1787. In fact, today marks the 226th anniversary of that momentous signing.

 

The Constitution is an exciting part of your child’s education for a variety of reasons. First, information such as that discussed above becomes a part of your child’s memory pegs, upon which he can attach additional information. The Foundations child will remember this as one of the historic events in his Classical Acts and Facts History Timeline cards.

 

Second, Patrick Henry described the Constitutional Convention as an event at which he “smell[ed] a rat.” What did he mean by that statement? Since education that is contextual and prescriptive provides the best education, you can ask prescriptive questions about the Constitutional Convention. Should the United States have called a Constitutional Convention? Should the United States have replaced the Articles of Convention with the Constitution? Should Patrick Henry have refused to attend the Convention? Should Patrick Henry have fought to have the Bill of Rights amended to the Constitution? These are the sorts of questions that can engender an excitement about an event like the Constitutional Convention, especially among dialectic- and rhetoric-aged students.

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