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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.

Jennifer Courtney

Jennifer Courtney

Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as the Director of Training and Development for Classical Conversations MultiMedia. She and her husband have been home-educating their four children classically since 2005. Jennifer is also a Challenge III tutor in her local community. She is the co-author of Classical Christian Education Made Approachable and the Classical Acts and Facts History Cards. Jennifer enjoys traveling throughout Oklahoma and to other states to speak to parents about home education and the classical model.
Jennifer graduated with an Honors degree in English from Oklahoma State University, summa cum laude. She was a Rhodes Scholar semi-finalist and a National Merit Scholar. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband and four children.

Classical Education Myth #4: This is just too much to learn.

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Monday, 14 April 2014
in Articles

As I have visited with parents over the years about the classical, Christian model of education, many have been overwhelmed by what seems to be “way too much to learn.” Many people have read books about classical education and found their heads swimming with thoughts of Latin, Greek, logic, ancient literature, and history. They find themselves thinking that their students could never tackle all of these subjects nor could they guide their students through them.

 

Nothing could be farther from the truth of classical education. Let’s consider two important ideas about a classical education. First, a classical education seeks to train students in certain skills. These skills are the habits of mind that will help students learn any subject. Secondly, a classical education seeks to train students in these skills by practicing them on quality content.

One-Room Schoolhouse Math: Ideas for the Challenge Math Seminar

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, 03 April 2014
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April is Math Awareness Month. Here is an article from the archives to encourage you in your math study and instruction.

 

 

 

 

It has been said that scientists and mathematicians comprise a new priesthood. Our leaders, educators, and policy analysts are consumed with statistics for STEM (science and technology). How are our students doing in these critical subjects? The pressure to succeed in these areas causes us to make some critical errors. We focus too much on earning a credit instead of having students who spend enough time on the material to truly know it and, in turn, to love it. We put an “x” in the check box and move on before the children are ready. Secondly, we forget why we should pursue these subjects in the first place. As classical, Christian tutors and families, we want to turn the conversation so that we pursue these ideas because they lead us to a deeper understanding of who God is and how He has marvelously designed our world.

 

 

 

One of these errors was replicated in my own education. I made an A in AP Calculus my senior year in high school and was able to earn my college math credits before I set foot on the university campus, but this in no way signifies that I understood calculus. As my husband and I have discussed several times, we wish we had understood what we were doing. Instead of learning to memorize and apply formulas, I wish I had understood the amazing applications of calculus. I am excited for the opportunity to do it all over again. This time, I might just understand it!

 

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What Is Classical Conversations?

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Friday, 07 March 2014
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And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.      -- Genesis 35:18 (KJV)

 

 

This seemingly inconsequential detail reveals to us the importance of names. With her dying breath, Rachel wanted to name her newborn “son of my sorrow.” Jacob knew that a terrible legacy would accompany such a name, so he renamed his son Benjamin—“son of my right hand.” What a difference!

 

 

Most parents spend hours pondering the names for their children. We acknowledge that there is much meaning to these names. In order to understand the mission of our communities, let us consider the meaning of the name Classical Conversations.

How Blue Book Exams Get at the Heart of Assessment

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Friday, 07 March 2014
in Articles

Homeschooling parents desire to give their children a better education than the one they received. However, we often fall back on the same methods that were used in our education, particularly in the area of assessment. Instead, let us pause and think about a true education and how our assessment can serve our purposes. The word education comes from the Latin verb educere which literally translates “to lead out of.” What are we leading them out of? In classical, Christian education we are leading students out of darkness, out of error. We want our assessment to serve our mentorship and discipleship of students. How can we use assessment to lead our students out of error?

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What Is Rhetoric?

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Monday, 17 February 2014
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I am going to say the word “rhetoric.” I want you to pause for a moment, close your eyes, and then record your first impression of the word. As moderns, we often think of a sound bite, the speech of a slick politician, or even of outright lies. The word has been corrupted from its original usage. Aristotle defined rhetoric as “finding the available means of persuasion.” We are getting warmer, but, as Christians, we cannot take Aristotle’s definition wholesale. After all, Britney Spears, Madonna, and Lady Gaga are all very persuasive.

 

Classical thinkers made a distinction between sophists—speakers of questionable character who tried to convince people of foolishness—and rhetoricians—speakers of good character who tried to convince people of wisdom. As classical, Christian home educators, we want to define rhetoric as “the use of knowledge and understanding to perceive wisdom, pursue virtue, and proclaim truth.”

 

This year, at our parent practicums, we will focus on reclaiming the original sense of rhetoric, which involved three aptitudes:

Classical Education Myth #3: Classical education is just not creative.

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Monday, 10 February 2014
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Many modern educators and parents assume that classical education is as dry as dust. How could anyone possibly find it interesting to read stories about dead white guys, chant Latin noun and verb endings, or recite the multiplication tables? There is no creativity in that!

 

Furthermore, anyone who comes from this system of education would only be fit to work in the most monotonous industry. They would not be equipped to write, sculpt, or dance professionally.

 

Those who embrace this idea neglect to consider two things. First, they neglect to consider the nature of children. Second, they neglect to consider the evidence of history.

Putting the Puzzle Together: Integrating the Subjects

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, 30 January 2014
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Revisiting Some Archived Articles that Have Not Been Lost, but May Have Been Forgotten and Are Worth a Fresh Read

 

 

Do we live in a “uni-verse” or a “multi-verse?” If we agree we live in a universe governed by God’s providence, and not in a random cosmos made up of disconnected parts, how do we reinforce this idea with our children as we homeschool them and study with them?

 

When I went to my first parent practicum, one set of slides during the presentation particularly captured my imagination. I am sure some of you have seen them (if not, they have been reproduced in Classical Conversations' Classical, Christian Education Made Approachable). These were the slides which demonstrated a progression from a modern education to a classical, Christian education. The final slide illustrates the clear connections between philosophy, science, history, math, poetry, and so on.  At first, I was excited about this idea, which was fairly new to me. Then, at home, I began to wonder how on earth to put it into practice.

Rigorous Academics: Preparation for Christian Service

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, 23 January 2014
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Revisiting Some Archived Articles that Have Not Been Lost, but May Have Been Forgotten and Are Worth a Fresh Read

 

 

From time to time, when I am speaking about classical, Christian education, parents express concern that the pursuit of knowledge or academic excellence is in conflict with preparation for Christian service. These parents rightly desire to instill in their children a love of serving.  However, this is not an either/or choice. Our children do not have to choose quality academics and thus reject Christian ministry. Nor do they have to choose Christian service and reject demanding studies. A classical, Christian education prepares our children to live a full, rich life of Christian service by preparing them to be leaders in any field. So, we must consider that these two aspects of our children’s development are not in opposition. Rather, the accumulation of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom is designed to prepare them for future service in any calling.

Beautiful Treasures: The Core of Fine Arts

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, 16 January 2014
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Revisiting Some Archived Articles that Have Not Been Lost, but May Have Been Forgotten and Are Worth a Fresh Read

 

 

“Why should my children learn about painting and music when they are really not interested?” You may have had a friend ask you this question about homeschooling, or perhaps you have even asked it yourself. Studying the fine arts enriches the souls of our children and may spark an interest or talent in something unexpected. More importantly, the arts were created and established by God. If we encourage our children to pursue the arts, perhaps some of them will reclaim the arts for the glory of God. Maybe they will be part of the next Renaissance.

What Do Foundations Students Know that College Graduates Don’t?

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Monday, 13 January 2014
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A recent article in Forbes magazine claims that poor communication skills are the greatest deficit facing college graduates today. According to a high school presentation teacher: “In this era of email, texting and voice mail, true face-to-face communication is becoming a lost art. While many people are comfortable with private, individual conversations, most people are uncomfortable speaking to groups, large or small.” While I do not agree with all of the solutions presented in the article, I definitely agree with the assessment.

 

Even beyond preparing our students for careers, we should be concerned about preparing our students to be the best possible ministers of the Gospel. As Peter wrote, we must be prepared speakers: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (I Peter 3:15, KJV).

 

This summer at the Classical Conversations Parent Practicums, we will be talking about this very thing. Our theme this year is “Cultivating the Conversation: The Art of Rhetoric.” During the three-day practicums, we will spend a lot of time thinking about how we can teach our children to think and speak well. We will delve into questions such as: “What is rhetoric?” “Why should I teach it to my children?” and “How do I teach it to my children?” Preparing for this season has me thinking about all of the speaking practice children receive in the Classical Conversations program, from Foundations through Challenge IV.

Finding God in Shakespeare

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, 09 January 2014
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Revisiting Some Archived Articles that Have Not Been Lost, but May Have Been Forgotten and Are Worth a Fresh Read

 

 

"What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals - and yet, to me, what is the quintessence of dust?" (Hamlet II.ii.303-308)

 

When you read this, do you hear echoes of King David's question from the Psalms: "What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? And yet, you have placed him a little lower than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor" (8:4-5). If you find yourself asking how God can be found in Shakespeare or why Christian parents and students should study Shakespeare, then one answer is that all literature can be used to examine Christian beliefs—to find God and remind our understanding of Him. So, perhaps the real question is, "Why should Christians study literature?"

Does Your Home School Need a Fresh Start for the New Year?

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, 02 January 2014
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Revisiting Some Archived Articles that Have Not Been Lost, but May Have Been Forgotten and Are Worth a Fresh Read

 

“Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it.” This proverb is quoted by Miss Stacy in the movie version of Anne of Green Gables. I often repeat it to my children. At the start of this new year, I am thinking of painting it over the doorway to our home or maybe screen printing it on a t-shirt or perhaps tattooing it on my forehead. It is ever present in my mind because this fall has been a difficult one for our home school. There have been no earth-shattering tragedies in our home, but we have struggled to find a peaceful rhythm to our days. The pace of our lives has been too frantic and stressful. We have not found enough time to fellowship with one another.

 

So, as we approach the new year, I am grateful for fresh tomorrows with no mistakes in them (yet). I am thankful that God promises me new mercies each morning:

The Incarnation--The Right Time and the Right Place

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Monday, 16 December 2013
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At the time of Jesus’ coming, the world was roughly divided into two kinds of people—God’s chosen people, the Jews, and everyone else, the Gentiles. For hundreds of years, the Jews had been seeking the promised Messiah, but they looked in the wrong kinds of places for the wrong kind of person.

 

They sought an earthly king who would deliver them from earthly miseries. They failed to see the gaping flaws in the system of sacrifices that comprised their religion. Soon, the writer of Hebrews would tell them:

 

For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins (Hebrews 10:1-2, KJV).

 

Ask any Challenge II or III students and they will tell you that the second verse is begging to be made into a logical syllogism.

 

If the sacrifices made the sinners perfect, they would cease to offer them.

The sinners did not cease to offer them.

Therefore, the sacrifices did not make them perfect.

 

The Jews sought the Messiah and yet they did not look for the perfect sacrifice.

 

All of these things I learned in Sunday School, but it was not until I began to pursue classical, Christian education that I saw how the Gentiles sought Him, too. With my Challenge III class the last few years, I read how Greek philosophers sought the one unifying principle that would explain the universe.

 

Is it possible that the Gentiles were seeking Him, too?

Simple Celebrations: The Twelve Days of Christmas

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, 12 December 2013
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Revisiting Some Archived Articles that Have Not Been Lost, but May Have Been Forgotten and Are Worth a Fresh Read

 

 

In the bustle of Christmas, sometimes it is good to plan for simplicity. A couple of years ago, I wanted to be purposeful about protecting our family time together during the holidays, so I orchestrated a family experience of the twelve days of Christmas. In addition to the activities listed below, we read the Christmas story from Luke 2 each night, so that the children easily memorized it by the end of the season. Each evening for twelve nights, we opened a small family gift featuring a family activity.

Classical Education Myth #2: It’s all about teaching dead languages.

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Wednesday, 04 December 2013
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The most common objection I hear from my students about Latin is—drum roll, please—why do I have to work so hard to study a dead language?

 

I have two answers to this issue. The first answer is that most students quickly discover that Latin is really alive and well. I will not go into a huge amount of detail here, but it has been estimated that 80% of multisyllabic words come from Latin roots. Every week in every seminar, my students find words that were derived from Latin. It seems Latin is alive and well in the words we use today.

 

All right, you may object, a big vocabulary is nice, but that alone does not seem to justify our investment in Latin. What else can we learn?

My Giving Thanks Top Ten

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Wednesday, 27 November 2013
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Revisiting Some Archived Articles that Have Not Been Lost, but May Have Been Forgotten and Are Worth a Fresh Read

 

 

Those of you who participate in Social Media will have seen “days of joy” and “gratitude journal” posts recently. I have enjoyed these posts as I count blessings with my friends who live as far away as Japan. As I was reading aloud to my children and contemplating the meaning of Thanksgiving, I decided to create a simple Top Ten list of reasons I am thankful this season.

 

(After reading about the first American Thanksgiving to my children, I am tempted to begin with “I am thankful that my guest did not bring an extra ninety guests with him.”)

 

10. I am thankful that my children are healthy. Some of our friends have recently become involved with orphanages in Uganda. It is difficult, if not impossible, for the children to study their lessons when they do not have enough food or clean water.

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Globetrotting: The Core of Geography

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, 14 November 2013
in Articles

 

Timeless Thursdays: Revisiting Some Archived Articles that Have Not Been Lost, but May Have Been Forgotten and Are Worth a Fresh Read

 

Editor’s Note: November 17-23, 2013 is Geography Awareness Week

 

 

Raise your hand if you had a course in geography in school. I suspect that very few of us would be able to raise a hand honestly. My own encounters with geography were spotty at best. I once made a map of the state of Oklahoma out of Jell-O for an Oklahoma history course, and I remember a handful of quizzes on unconnected geography terms. The other day, I leafed through a third grade geography workbook in the home education section of a local store. I was astounded to see that the geography course was actually a course in reading map legends of imaginary cities. The student assignments were to draw maps of places in their own neighborhoods or towns. Surely we need to recover the lost tools of geography!

 

Geography was once a subject which existed in its own right and required students to memorize countries, capitals, mountains, oceans, rivers, lakes, and geographic terms like peninsula, bay, and plateau. This study has all but vanished, having been replaced by social studies courses in which students learn how to read map legends and create maps to local places of interest. Instead of teaching young children about the wonders of the larger world, they restrict them to the narrow vision of their own neighborhood.

Classical Education Myth #1

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Wednesday, 06 November 2013
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Over the years of studying classically with my children and working with Classical Conversations, I have heard a lot of myths about classical education. By myth, I do not mean the epic poems of Homer designed to present our children with examples of heroes to follow and villains to shun. I mean the common understanding of the word—misconceptions. (I could digress here into an argument that we need to reclaim the word myth, but I will save that for another day so that we can dive directly into the myths.)


Myth #1 – Classical education is just rote memorization.

 

There are two issues to address here. We need to look at whether or not memorization is bad for children. Then, we can consider whether or not this is all that they do during the grammar years.

Lessons from a First-Semester Challenge Parent

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, 17 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

 

My children and I have been in Classical Conversations since the fall of 2005. At that time, my three children were ages six, four, and one. Now, after all of these years, I finally have a student in Challenge A. During our first semester, we learned quite a few lessons, mostly regarding organization and study habits. I knew that this year would be a transition, so we began practicing last year when my son was eleven.

 

During that year, we cultivated a greater level of independence with his Essentials writing assignments. In addition, we completed a Latin program, so that he could build his Latin vocabulary and get a solid grounding in the five noun cases and the six verb tenses. We also chose to complete many of the exercises in Our Mother Tongue, by Nancy Wilson, as a final solidification of the English grammar concepts we had learned in the Essentials program.


The Perfect Game Plan—On Paper, At Least

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
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 08 October 2013
in Articles

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.

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