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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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How does the Essentials program prepare students and parents for Challenge B Latin?

Posted by Christina
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on Monday, 07 April 2014
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The Classical Conversations Essentials program, geared toward fourth through sixth graders, is a program that focuses on the structures and patterns of language. The primary goal of the Essentials program is to give students a firm grasp on the grammar of language and a core set of dialectic skills for analyzing and understanding language. The Challenge B Latin program is generally geared toward eighth graders and uses the Henle Latin: First Year Text. The primary goal of Challenge B Latin is to build upon the English grammar learned in Essentials and the Latin forms, basic syntax, and vocabulary they master in Challenge A while reading and translating simple sentences. The Essentials program is therefore a solid stepping stone to Challenge-level Latin—it provides the basic learning skills, basic grammar skills, and basic dialectic skills that will be applied not only in Latin, but in all areas of study.

Essentials to Challenge I Latin

Posted by Chelly
Chelly
Chelly Barnard has been homeschooling for over twenty years. As her youngest son
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on Monday, 07 April 2014
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One of the things that first attracted me to the classical model of learning was its emphasis on language skills as a tool to develop thinking skills, because words are the building blocks of ideas. Those who have a mastery of words have a greater ability to master ideas.

 

Understanding the structure of language is a key component of the language mastery which is the foundation of sound thinking skills. Remember Helen Keller, before she understood language? Because of her frustration with her inability to communicate, she behaved like an animal. Once Anne Sullivan finally got her to understand that everything has a name, it became apparent that she was brilliant. In the end, she could read five languages and one of them was Latin.

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“The Wood where Things have no Names”: A Story of Latin and the Essentials Program, with Apologies to Dorothy Sayers

Posted by Leslie
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on Wednesday, 26 March 2014
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“. . . if I were asked what, of all the things I was ever taught, has been of the greatest practical use to me, I should have to answer: the Latin Grammar. An early grounding in the Latin Grammar has these advantages:

 

 

1. It is the quickest and easiest way to gain mastery over one's own language, because it supplies the structure upon which all language is built.”

 

 

 

—Dorothy Sayers, “The Greatest Single Defect of My Own Latin Education”

 

 

 

Normally, I would be the last person on earth to even whisper a contradiction of anything said or written by Dorothy Sayers. But to her quote above I would add, with all due reverence, the caveat that this mastery over one’s own language is assumed only if one has mastery over the grammar of said language. The lamentable truth is that this was not the case with my first-ever Classical Conversations Challenge class. With the advent of a Classical Conversations community to our western corner of the world, my students and I leaped, catapulted, surged, and hurtled mad-dashedly (you get the idea) into Challenge II. Yes, Challenge II was to be our first experience and introduction into Classical Conversations. Not Challenge A, B, or even Challenge I. No Foundations, and especially no Essentials.

 

Essentials isn't just for writing!

Posted by Amanda Butler
Amanda Butler
Amanda and her husband, Ryan, reside in Cedar Park, TX with their two beautifull
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on Wednesday, 26 March 2014
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“Men’s natures are alike; it is their habits that carry them far apart.”

Confucius (551–479 BC)

 

 

Habits are not set in an instant. Instead they take weeks, months, or years to form. Taking the time to develop excellent habits of the mind blesses the thinker both personally and publically. Mathematics trains the mind to think serially at first, and then to branch out into creative problem solving. Literature study, the study of humane letters, enables the mind to ponder virtue. Latin combines the best of mathematics study, problem solving, and literature study, allowing students to ponder virtue by translating difficult texts from Latin to English. As students wrestle with parsing and contextual translating, they are also considering the thoughts of Cicero, Caesar, and other great rhetoricians.

 

 

Classical Conversations students prepare for this exciting Latin journey by embarking on a three-year in-depth study of the English language in licensed Essentials programs. After Essentials, students begin applying what they have learned in licensed Challenge A programs, exploring foundational Latin paradigms and vocabulary. The Essentials program equips a student to enter a Challenge A Latin seminar in three ways: mastery of English grammar vocabulary, exposure to grammar skills, and development of excellent habits.

 

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Fire Safety for Parents and Educators

Posted by Jennifer Greenholt
Jennifer Greenholt
Jen Greenholt was an early participant in the Classical Conversations Challenge
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on Friday, 10 January 2014
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“Don’t touch that! It’s hot.”

 

This Christmas, I spent the holidays with my sister and brother-in-law and my young nephew. My nephew is just learning to stand upright and lunge from surface to surface like a trapeze artist. While I was there, he attempted to place his hand on the living room heater, prompting a firm rebuke.

 

Entranced by the flickering colors, small children find it difficult to believe that fire is not a toy. Adults have more experience; we know why the phrase, “playing with fire,” means taking dangerous risks. And yet, is it not a quandary that, even as we warn children away from heat and flame, we also want them—eventually—to learn how to cook on a hot stove and build fires to keep warm in the winter?

 

Knowledge is like that, too. A famous quote about education says, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”1 Sometimes, presenting a child with knowledge seems just as dangerous as giving him a lighted match. Once you spark his curiosity, the risk—but also the desired outcome—is that it will begin to burn on its own.

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Finding Freedom in the Grammar Stage

Posted by Brandy Ferrell
Brandy Ferrell
Originally from Lawton, OK, Brandy graduated with a Bachelor's degree in enginee
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on Tuesday, 31 December 2013
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Once upon a time, I attempted to find a craft, worksheet, and online activity or video to flesh out almost every subject of every week of Foundations memory work.

 

When we entered a year of overwhelming challenges and setbacks, I desperately struggled to keep a firm grip on my lesson plans, but our circumstances forced me to let go. At first, I wrestled with dreadful feelings of inadequacy and failure. However, during that humbling year, I made a simple yet liberating discovery: Whatever may befall us, we can simply rest in the classical method. Our children will learn without crafts, videos, and worksheets.


I discovered that as a classical educator all we need at the grammar stage are the four Rs :

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.

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!!

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.)

Classical Education Is like Making a Cheesecake

Posted by Lisa
Lisa
Lisa Bailey, a homeschooling mom from North Carolina, has served Classical Conve
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on Friday, 13 September 2013
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I recently asked a group of young children at Foundations Orientation if they wanted to learn how to make cheesecake. Always ready for an adventure and primed to have snack time sooner rather than later, they enthusiastically agreed. “So, what do we need to get started?” I asked. Answers were abundant, and eventually we sifted through them and decided that, first, we needed a recipe. The ingredients suggested might surprise you: cheese (cheddar, maybe?), crackers, ketchup, and candy bars, along with the more expected eggs, sugar, and butter. We also determined we needed some tools, such as a mixer, a spoon, a measuring cup, and a pan.

 

“Ok,” I said, “So now that we have all our “stuff,” we are done making cheesecake, right?” A chorus of groans greeted this assessment. They protested that we had not DONE anything yet! We had not used the tools and the ingredients had not even been mixed together. So, I assented to the notion that we still needed to work a bit more; we should definitely use all the tools and mix the ingredients. Then we would be finished. But no, it appeared my sous chefs thought we needed to bake the cheesecake in order to really finish the process. Therefore, I asked, “After we bake it, then we are done, right?” Well, here is the thing: These guys had been thinking about cheesecake for quite some time. You might say they were really invested in the cheesecake; they did not just want to make it and bake it, they wanted to eat it! One little guy said, “What’s the point of making it if we don’t get to taste?!”

 

Actually, parents, this is the question I would ask you: What is the real point of Foundations if you are not going to stick with it through Challenge?

Man in the Moon, God in the Sun

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 Wednesday, 11 September 2013
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On the flight into Raleigh to deliver my son to Mandala Fellowship, I shared with him the printout of a poem I had just discovered, “The Church-porch,” by George Herbert (1593-1633). It is the first of three parts of a larger work called The Temple. My son was impressed no less by his insights than by his manner of delivery. When we came through the gate in the Raleigh airport and saw 2nd Edition Booksellers, we stopped on a whim to check out the poetry section. To our astonishment, we found it! It became my parting gift of wisdom to my quadrivium-bound son.

 

“The Church-porch” counsels the young adult how to handle himself in the world. Herbert wrote it specifically for those who flee from didactic preaching. Poetry, Herbert said, may find its way to the heart of one who cannot or will not hear wisdom preached. The verses are rich in jewels of apt analogies. You can find the entire piece here. I have taken three counsels to heart: to feed on the true, beautiful, and good; to avoid common errors of parenting; to learn how to educate for nobility.

 

I direct my reader’s attention to stanzas 16 and 17:

Reflections on Tutor Humility [by a Recovering Engineer]

Posted by Amanda Butler
Amanda Butler
Amanda and her husband, Ryan, reside in Cedar Park, TX with their two beautifull
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on Thursday, 16 May 2013
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What is the most important attribute of a classical, Christian tutor? Mastery of academic material, expertise in classical pedagogy, and the expression of natural charm or charisma in the classroom characterize a desirable tutor to some parents. Extraordinary biblical knowledge, administrative excellence, and clear communication skills define a highly sought-after tutor to others. Some would argue humility in the life of a tutor is required while others believe humility is an incidental benefit. Individually, humility in the nature of a tutor is hard to obtain. Humility in the life of a classical, Christian tutor is imperative for three reasons: humility allows tutors to support families in a mentoring relationship, humility permits honesty to permeate the lessons in the classroom, and humility invites the Holy Spirit to do His work in the lives of the tutor, students, and parents.


The Passionate Voice (How and Why We Teach Passive Voice)

Posted by Courtney Sanford
Courtney Sanford
Courtney Sanford has been home schooling with Classical Conversations since 2005
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on Friday, 01 February 2013
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During week fourteen of Essentials class, we learn about passive voice. We practice taking a sentence in active voice and making it passive, and we take some passive voice sentences and make them active voice. From this point on, Essentials students will be rewriting sentences in passive voice for homework each week. A mom met me in the hall after Essentials class, wanting to know why we teach passive voice at all. She had been taught in high school to never, ever use passive voice. It was evil. Okay, she d'dn't really say that it was evil. But like many of us, she had gotten the idea that using passive voice is always wrong and should be punished with a deduction of points. She wanted to know if we teach it only so students can avoid it.

 

How to Teach a Roman to Read

Posted by Kathy Sheppard
Kathy Sheppard
Kathy Sheppard has a B.A. in Latin from the College of William and Mary and a M.
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on Monday, 24 September 2012
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I love studying the ancients and comparing their world to ours. The Romans, specifically, were very similar to us. In Classical Conversations, we study with a classical, Christian method. Once in a while, I will google Classical Conversations reviews to see what people are saying about us. Some people say that we cannot have classical, Christian educational methods because something cannot be both classical and Christian. Yet Classical Conversations uses the same methods which the Romans utilized throughout the Augustan Age. Christian Romans would have used the same methods we use!

 

Roman schooling began at birth, just as our homeschooling does. Parents took it upon themselves to train their children especially in moral development. A quote from one of my favorite books, Harold Johnston’s Private Lives of the Romans, states: “Much of the training came from the constant association of the children with their parents, which was the characteristic feature of the home training of the Romans as compared with that of the other peoples of early days.” Until the age of seven, students stayed at home and learned language, math, and the elements of basic reading and writing from their mothers.


Essentials

Posted by Robert
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on Friday, 16 December 2011
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Made it! The first semester is done. I survived. I had a lot of fun. I just got four tickets in my Essentials class for four very short sentences!  I learned a lot in Foundations this first semester, but I really took to Essentials. I knew going into this year that I was not as good a writer as I wanted— or needed— to be.

After going through the first semester, I believe the Essentials program is aptly named. It is essentially what I missed the first time and it is essential to be a good writer. It still is not easy, but I feel that writing is not so scary now.  Microsoft Word does not give me the dreaded red line for “incomplete sentence” nearly as often as it used to, and when it does, I can figure out how to fix it. I spent the year writing by hand, then editing on the computer, and then rewriting by hand. The computer helped, since I did not have my Mom to help me. The hardest part of it was my hand strength. At the beginning of the year, I could not write for more than five minutes without needing a break. I made a decision to practice my handwriting by writing the paper by hand. I also, did not want to replace my ink cartridge.

Tags: Essentials

Back to School (IV): I have fallen behind...

Posted by Robert
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on Tuesday, 08 November 2011
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Nationwide Insurance has a tag line that says, “life comes at you fast”—and it does. I must confess, I have fallen behind in my Foundations memory work. I had to go out of town because of work for a couple of weeks in a row, and it really threw me off. I would say I am a good two weeks behind, but I am not too worried because…

1.) Homeschooling is flexible:


I have winter break in which to make up for lost time, and I can also devote more time between now and then to catching up. Yes, it will be more difficult, but one of the benefits of homeschooling is that you can always do better than you did yesterday, and you do not have to worry about others around you.

Tags: Essentials
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Back to School (Part 3)

Posted by Robert
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I am now preparing for the sixth week of Foundations and Essentials—halfway home for the semester and a quarter of the way done! I think the hardest part for me so far has been keeping up with consistently practicing the memory work. The weeks when I work consistently thirty minutes a day practicing the Foundations material, I have much more confidence than during the weeks when I skip practicing. I also do not have a CD player in my car; if I did, then I would have the Audio CD’s and would be able to review memory work in the car. I think that would help me with the timeline—boy does that timeline get long fast!

This past week our usual tutor had a family emergency and our group had to be divided up into other classes for the day. The seven boys were split up and added into three all-girl groups. Now, not all campuses spilt up into male and female groups. My campus was not divided like this last year, but it just happened to work out that way this year. So, we had to sit with the girls. Queue the horror music. We managed to survive. It was fun for me to see how another tutor presented the material. The focus and style were different, but the material was obviously the same. Both tutors do a wonderful job, and you can tell the children are learning a lot—which means the parents are doing what needs to be done at home.

Tags: Essentials
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Back To School

Posted by Robert
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As you may know, Classical Conversations began when I was in High School. I was a student in the original Challenge I, II, and III programs, with about 11 other students. It was just shortly before that time when my Mom heard about Classical Education, so I missed the Grammar stage and the start of the Dialectic Stage as far as education style is concerned. However, I still went through those stages mentally. I went on to attend Clemson University, complete 2 years of Co-op at Ethicon, and graduate with an Industrial Engineering degree in 2006. I worked as a logistics engineer for UPS for almost a year and then moved on to become a Plant Engineer for 3 years at a small manufacturing company. In 2010, I joined Classical Conversations in a full-time role.


In 2011, I’ll go back to the grammar stage and attend a Foundations and Essentials program in South Carolina. The purpose is twofold: First, to try to recapture the education I missed, and second, to have in-depth knowledge of these programs.

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Essentials Served Family Style

Posted by Courtney Sanford
Courtney Sanford
Courtney Sanford has been home schooling with Classical Conversations since 2005
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on Tuesday, 28 June 2011
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Not only will Essentials get a beautiful new guide and two new Trivium Tables for this fall, classes will also go Family Style.

As the Essentials programs grew, and communities had more students than they could fit in one room, we began dividing the classes by age. Why? Well, we didn’t do it consciously--we did it because that’s how most of us were educated. It caused Moms to have to bounce between classes, students came home with different writing assignments, and the children were singing the memory work to different songs.   Mom’s life actually got harder instead of easier.


The solution is to group students Family Style. Siblings will stay together with Mom. Foundations Directors and Essentials tutors will sit down together and divide the classes according to how much experience each mother has had with Essentials. The most experienced moms will be grouped together, and moms who are new to Essentials or have less experience will be grouped together. There may be a gray area, a middle group which could go in either class, but with tutors and directors looking prayerfully at the families, they can decide on the best spot for each family. Parent input and family circumstances may also be taken into consideration in deciding where to place those families that fall in the middle.



How will this change class time? For the better! Classes will have a family atmosphere. Older kids can be paired with younger kids to parse sentences together. Younger students will benefit from hearing the older students’ papers while the older students learn to praise and encourage the younger students’ efforts. Students can be grouped for math games according to ability, not age, giving a young math whiz the opportunity to compete against older kids or enabling a younger student to learn from an older student as they work cooperatively.


Tutors will serve up big bowls of grammar and writing during class. The older kids and moms will take heaping servings, and the younger kids will take smaller servings.


Tutors will demonstrate and explain new topics as deeply as they can given time and student ability. Moms will decide what is expected of the students at home. For example, when the tutor teaches the class about nouns, he or she will teach lots of information about nouns and have the class think of examples or even play a game with the information. At home, the mom will decide how much of the noun chart each child will copy each day. Practice sentences can be parsed (Quid et Quo) together as a family on the white board at home with the younger student giving as much input as he or she can. Then the older student will be given a turn to fill in as much as he or she can.  Finally, Mom adds any details the students left out. Moms now will have one “Essentials Family Time” at home which will involve all the students working cooperatively.


During class, tutors will demonstrate an IEW topic in class, work with the class to create a keyword outline and then brainstorm some ideas for that week’s take-home assignment. At home, Mom decides what the children should do according to their abilities. One child may start fresh by making his or her own key word outline (KWO) and writing an entire paper independently.  Another child may just use the class KWO to write a few sentences and add dress-ups with some help from Mom or siblings. Students may or may not complete every paper—what they complete is totally up to Mom.


Tutors will not grade the students or quiz the student in class; Mom can do that at home if she chooses to do so. Class will be cooperative, encouraging, and richly academic.


This is a different model than most of us were brought up with. Leigh Bortins, founder and CEO of Classical Conversations, is leading us back to the classical path. The Family Style Essentials classes will be closer, more supportive, and will ultimately result in a better education for the students and parents. This places Mom at the head of the table – firmly in charge of her child’s education, which is exactly where she ought to be.

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