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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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Classical Approach to Homeschooling: Part 1

Posted by Tori Ryan
Tori Ryan
Tori Ryan is an experienced homeschooling mother of four lively children ages se
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on Wednesday, 09 April 2014
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“You mean I’m going to do this math book again next year?” my son complained as his father and I broke the devastating news to him last spring.

 

 

“Yes, son. You haven’t mastered the concepts in this book yet and you need to have this down before we move on,” we gently explained, expecting the floodgate of tears to begin at any moment.

 

 

“Won’t I be behind?” he pleaded.

 

 

“Behind what? Behind whom? The only thing you are behind on is mastering the math concepts and paying attention to details. If you move on to the next book, you think then you won’t be behind a ‘book,’ but you will still be behind on the concepts,” we tried to explain. This was a baffling idea to him, that although he had completed the book, he had not completed the purpose for going through the book which was to master the material.

A Meal on a Plate: Demonstrating the Classical Model (Part Two)

Posted by Heather
Heather
Heather Shirley, her husband Ed, and their three children have been involved wit
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on Wednesday, 29 January 2014
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This article is a continuation of yesterday’s Postcards article, “A Meal on a Plate: Demonstrating the Classical Model (Part One).”

 

 

The characteristic mark of the dialectic learn­ing stage is the ability to think critically and to make logical connections. Using our food analogy, students try foods in new ways and develop definite opinions about what they do and do not like. These self-proclaimed culinary connoisseurs are exploring new flavor combina­tions and deciding their personal preferences. Wanting to “mix it up,” students are not quite so overwhelmed by the prospect of combining foods that complement one another.

 

Academically, students are no longer intimi­dated by abstract academic concepts. Because they are now able to see more connections and draw logical inferences between ideas and in­formation, a wider world of understanding is being unlocked and unpacked. A new layer of learning ability emerges, and students embrace deeper discussions and defining debates.

A Meal on a Plate: Demonstrating the Classical Model (Part One)

Posted by Heather
Heather
Heather Shirley, her husband Ed, and their three children have been involved wit
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on Monday, 27 January 2014
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Have you ever looked at the arrangement of a meal on a plate through the lens of the classical model? Strangely enough, I have!

 

The Grammar Stage: Culinary Compartments  

 

When toddlers are sampling different foods and learning how to feed themselves, parents often notice their children have two priorities: identify and compartmentalize. We call them picky eaters, (and they are!), but as you will see, they are in the grammar stage of food!

 

First, most young children request, and per­haps even require, food that is clearly identifi­able. Chicken must look like chicken, a potato must look like a potato, and a green bean must look like a green bean. Concrete identifiability is all-important to the young consumer’s men­tal palette. If they cannot identify it, they often will not eat it!

 

The second priority is compartmentaliza­tion, which often dictates receptivity of the of­fered meal. Each food (and its associated liq­uids) must be kept separate one from another, compartmentalized—no touching! Remember those rectangular melamine food trays in el­ementary school? Each food item had its as­signed space—entrée, two veggies, bread, a drink, and utensils.

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 :

Lessons from the One-Room Schoolhouse

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, 30 December 2013
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While teaching educators how to teach, I have realized that we make too light a matter of little things and we do not spend enough time defining the basics.

 

A Jamaican Example

 

In 1995, I taught in a Jamaican Christian mission school for two weeks. When I first walked into the classroom, I was appalled at the assignments given to the first graders. It seemed like such busy work when there were so many interesting things to cover with the students. By the end of my two weeks teaching in their school, I began to see they were right and I was wrong.

The Hobbit Retreat: What Is It?

Posted by Matt
Matt
Matt Bianco is married to his altogether lovely high school sweetheart, Patty. T
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on Tuesday, 19 November 2013
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What is The Hobbit Retreat? Some of my readers will know, some will not. In October, Classical Conversations held the first of what we hope will be many “Rising to the Challenge” student retreats. The theme of this first retreat was J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. It was well-timed, I think, because the retreat invitation was extended to Challenge I-IV students, most of whom have read or will soon read the book. It is also timely due to the recent release of the new movie, The Hobbit.

 

The retreat asked students (and the five parents or tutors who attended) to participate in two academic seminars in the mornings and two evening Socratic dialogs about The Hobbit. In the afternoons, the students were engaged in activities such as ropes courses, zip lines, dodgeball, and Ultimate Frisbee competitions.

 

We have had some amazing feedback from students, parents, and tutors on the event. These Challenge students realized how many other like-minded students there are, who care about and enjoy reading and discussing good literature, good thinking, and good communication. Many of them left the retreat with a rekindled love for learning and a curiosity for discovering truth and ideas through conversation.

Cultivating Curiosity: The Art of Asking Questions

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, 18 November 2013
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Was your own education boring? Do your kids ever complain about boredom? This is a sure sign that we are not finding the wonder and loveliness of God’s world.

 

How can we learn to look for it? By being curious and asking questions!

 

Do you worry that you can never learn everything you want to share with your kids?

 

You can reclaim your own education by asking questions.

 

Do you wish you could have rich discussions with your teens about literature, history, theology, and current events? Are you waiting because you have no idea what questions to ask?

 

In my book, The Question: Giving Your Child the Essentials of a Classical Education, I share five questions that you can ask about anything.

 

These five common topics from the classical world are a great place to start.

 

Watch my recent presentation at The Heritage Foundation to get you started.

 

 

 

 

How Revolutions Affect the Way We Teach

Posted by Matt
Matt
Matt Bianco is married to his altogether lovely high school sweetheart, Patty. T
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on Wednesday, 21 August 2013
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Foundations parents and students will recognize what we call the “Age of Industry” from c. 1760—c. 1969.1 The Age of Industry “ushered in the factory production of goods with the development of…new technologies.”2 Among these technologies were the mechanization of production, factories, and assembly lines. Factory production of goods, besides reducing costs, made it easier to create consistent products.

 

However, the Age of Industry did far more than usher in factory production of goods. It also ushered in factory production of humans. It was during the Age of Industry that schools began populating cities and the countryside, near their factory counterparts—often similar in appearance to a factory—and began mimicking the model of factories. Grade levels became stopping points along the assembly line. Letter grades were given, imitating the letter grades given to beef—think about that the next time you purchase a pound of Grade A beef! Teaching was managed the same way factory production was managed and with the same goal: consistency in production! No more the individuality of handwoven garments; no more the individuality of home-educated children.

"Altared" States

Posted by Lisa
Lisa
Lisa Bailey, a homeschooling mom from North Carolina, has served Classical Conve
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on Monday, 29 July 2013
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Summer Practicum season is often the “pause that refreshes,” as Coca-Cola would say. Inspiration abounds from speakers keen to be God’s conduit for truth. Encouragement flows freely among those who have “been there” before—and survived a certain stage of the homeschooling journey. Renewal and recommitment to the challenge are the norm for all who find their spirits refreshed by fellowship and new ideas. Moms that have spent the summer resting from their labors and reflecting on the past year are usually fired up by the Practicum, and are ready to roll again. For many, the passion for education surges anew and afresh.

 

We find ourselves eager to embrace big ideas, intent on mastering what eluded us as students, and excited about introducing our children to new ways of embracing the classical model. We are enthused about learning and we are sure that God has altered our thinking in radical ways; we are usually certain we will never be the same. We are right; and yet......

Classical Conversations Plus: a Different Kind of Dual Enrollment Program

Posted by Linda Tomkinson
Linda Tomkinson
Linda Tomkinson homeschooled her three children from grades K-12. Linda not only
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on Monday, 22 July 2013
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Dual enrollment for the mature and capable homeschool student presents a valid means of gaining college credit while in high school. With careful planning, the industrious student gains credit and experience, while starting to whittle away general education credits that are transferable upon high school graduation.

 

Note the emphasis on careful planning. Random sampling of dual enrollment credits can resemble bite-size selections of a dessert menu: little nibbles for tasting, but containing no real satisfaction or consistency. Gaining credit simply to gain credit can demean purpose and obstruct clarity. A ‘class from here’ or a ‘class from there’ can undermine the classical model and resurrect the entrée university model of education that relies on lecture and fragmentation of thought.

 

At Classical Conversations, we are all about the Christian worldview, we are all about the classical model, we are all about community, and we are all about integration. Therefore, it makes sense that we would be all about a dual enrollment program that incorporates these values. And we are.

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What My Students Taught Me about Integration over a Game of Scrabble

Posted by Linda Tomkinson
Linda Tomkinson
Linda Tomkinson homeschooled her three children from grades K-12. Linda not only
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on Friday, 24 May 2013
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On the last day of seminar, my Challenge III students convened to present remaining projects, to discuss great ideas, to work final math problems, and, especially, to party! We celebrated a wonderful year of learning, fellowship, and classical conversations about so many ideas! As students said their goodbyes and started drifting away, two remained to wait for their moms. One spied a Scrabble game on the shelf and asked if we could play while waiting.

 

What Every College Should Know about Homeschoolers

Posted by Shawn Stewart
Shawn Stewart
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on Wednesday, 13 March 2013
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In addition to the work I perform for www.homeschoolcounselor.com, I also provide consulting for college admissions departments. One of the more common questions I am asked by admissions leaders is, “How can we be more successful in matriculating homeschoolers?” Pardon my cynicism, but when I hear this question, I feel as though I am really being asked, “How can my college get a lot of homeschoolers with very little money and less effort?”

 

I am pretty sure my cynicism is justifiable because when I point out the things colleges are doing with good success through faculty outreach, curriculum, or, heaven forbid, incorporating the classical model, the conversation usually ends.

 

The easiest and most obvious response any college should have to the homeschool community in its own back yard is at least a little cooperation. Most schools do not have a lot of money, but they have a staff of professors who really love to instruct. How hard would it be to offer occasional lectures to homeschoolers and homeschool co-ops in the area? Some colleges are deeply Christian and there is a lot of obvious potential for both sides to help each other that remains inert.

A Classical Conversation at Parent Practicum: Discovering Mandala

Posted by Kate Deddens
Kate Deddens
Kate was born overseas, attending International Baccalaureate schools in Iran, I
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on Wednesday, 20 June 2012
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Music begins to atrophy when it departs too far from the dance...

poetry begins to atrophy when it gets too far from music.

-Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading


I recently attended a Parent Practicum where I had the opportunity to listen to a wonderful conversation. The discussion tied together ideas that are central to the vision of Classical Conversations: God-centered education, the classical model, the integration of subjects, and the biblical worldview. The conversation began with this question: “What makes education God-centered rather than man-centered?” One of the answers given was that the integration of subjects is critical to nurturing a God-centered education in our children.


Several themes came up, and the end result was a lovely representation of the interconnectedness the classical model so often produces—a testimony not only to its effectiveness, but also to its beauty. One of the first responses to that opening question was about studying literature and poetry and integrating them with other subjects. Someone pointed out that poetry is not simply language, but also music. The very sounds of words are musical; added to that is the dimension of rhythm:

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The Importance of Amateur Involvement in Science

Posted by Jonathan Bartlett
Jonathan Bartlett
Jonathan Bartlett is the director of The Blyth Institute, a nonprofit organizati
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on Wednesday, 20 July 2011
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Can you teach science? Yes you can!


In the modern age, it is not only professional scientists who must engage scientific ideas. Investors must know enough science to understand and weigh the merits of technology companies in which they are investing. Public policy makers must understand and weigh the scientific merits of ideas to make appropriate policy decisions. Patients need to understand the potential risks and benefits of medical treatments. In short, science is not just for scientists, it is for everyone.


The Problem of Expertise to the Public Understanding of Science

 

A recurring theme in G. K. Chesterton's works is that there are some things which everyone must do, even if they do them badly. Blowing your nose, writing your own love letters, raising your own family, and participating in your own government are all included. Regarding the English game of Cricket, Chesterton noted that the professionalization of the sport actually degraded the average Englishman's abilities in the sport.


Chesterton said,

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