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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 Right Tools for Raising a Discoverer

Posted by Matt
Matt
Matt Bianco is married to his altogether lovely high school sweetheart, Patty. T
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on Monday, 17 March 2014
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Last month, I wrote an article called, “How to Raise a Discoverer.” This month, I want to expand on that idea. Toward the end of the first article, I argued that Dorothy Sayers, Leigh Bortins, and Classical Conversations have equipped parents with the necessary tools that will help them to educate children in accordance with their nature, thereby encouraging them in their natural desire to learn and potentially leading to a new generation of discoverers.

 

 

The first tool parents are equipped with in educating their children is the art of grammar. This art is most enjoyed by our children when they are of elementary age. They enjoy the predictably (and, therefore, the order and harmony) that comes from repeated chanting and singing of facts. The art of grammar gives them the opportunity to memorize vast amounts of information related to a subject or a series of subjects without regard for their relationships. They are collecting facts at a time when they are only interested in collecting facts. Children at this age are not as interested in seeing the relationships that develop between these facts as, say, we are. This allows them to focus on the accumulation of facts without being slowed down like we are. As a result, they can memorize far more efficiently than we can. The need to see these relationships will come when their desire to see them comes as well. This tool by itself does not a discoverer make, but it does make someone who will be very good at Jeopardy.

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.

Children Who Thirst

Posted by Kate Deddens
Kate Deddens
Kate was born overseas, attending International Baccalaureate schools in Iran, I
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on Wednesday, 18 December 2013
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Hwa is thet mei thet hors wettrien the him-self nule drinken

 

Written in an older form of English, the above apparently means something like, “Who can give water to the horse that will not drink of its own accord?” Perhaps the oldest English proverb still in use today, this saying was recorded as early as 1175 in Old English Homilies. We generally use today in the form of “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.” Cast your mind’s eye on the vision it evokes for a moment: A man leading his thirsty horse to water, knowing that the horse must drink in order to function and flourish, but being unable to force the horse to take what it needs the most. The man may push and prod as much as he likes, but he cannot make the horse do what the horse does not want to do.

 

This is a metaphor for education. We can lead our children to all the vast array of knowledge we have available to us, we can speak to them, write to them, and ‘profound’ (a word my Challenge IV class and I have coined in a sort of playful elaboration of the word ‘expound’) for them, but unless they themselves decide to apply their time, interest, and talents to the endeavor, we will not succeed in truly educating any one.

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Dorothy, Doubts, and Dialectic

Posted by Cara
Cara
Cara McLauchlan’s love of words began as a teen when she dreamed of becoming the
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on Monday, 02 December 2013
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Chapter One – Why We Still Need Classical Education

 

Dorothy, Doubts, and Dialectic

by Cara McLauchlan


“Our job as parents is to restore our own education as we translate our vision of quality academics into small daily deeds. In this way, education is transformed from an endeavor rewarded by grades for short term memory into the gift of a lifestyle of learning.” -- Leigh Bortins, The Question (pg. 14-15)


I recently went to see The Wizard of Oz movie with my son at the theater. There is something amazing about seeing it on the big screen, along with the fact that I am no longer completely terrified of the wicked witch. This time, I paid careful attention to the language of the film, picking up on points I had not heard before.

Rock-solid Retention, Rigorous Exploration, and Right Decision

Posted by Kate Deddens
Kate Deddens
Kate was born overseas, attending International Baccalaureate schools in Iran, I
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on Wednesday, 20 November 2013
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In our society, we often think of skills as a set of “expert” techniques that we apply to particular activities. We classify ourselves, among other things, as “skilled” doctors, electricians, musicians, basketball players, teachers, cooks, or decorators. We tend to believe we must be intensely “schooled” in specific content in order to acquire the necessary unique, activity-related skills related to those subjects. We are wrong.

 

Well, we are not utterly wrong, perhaps, but we are mostly wrong. Specific activity-related skills do need to be acquired when we turn to highly specialized pursuits and professions (after all, we would all probably prefer a highly trained surgeon over a novice when we are scheduled for an operation), but only after we have already mastered important fundamental skills: learning skills.

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.

English to Latin…The Most Rhetorical Latin Assignments

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 Friday, 18 October 2013
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When you think about the trivium in any subject, the rhetorical level is the level in which you should show the most mastery of the subject. Latin is no exception. During the grammar stage of Latin you memorize the endings and the vocabulary. The dialectic stage focuses on Latin to English sentences and parsing; you apply what you learned in the grammar stage. Finally, in the rhetorical stage you will utilize both the grammar and the dialectic to create your own Latin sentences. An interesting facet of Latin is that in each lesson, you will utilize skills of each of these three stages. Chapters will start with the grammar and usually end with the rhetoric (I like the way Henle has several little lessons within each lesson). I thought, in the interest of those of you in the Latin trenches out there, that I would show you how I would work through an English to Latin assignment. I chose Exercise 14 because most of you have probably done it recently or are getting ready to do it (I was discussing it with fellow community members). Also, I noticed that there are some discrepancies between the answer key and the word order I would use (remember, please give yourselves some grace when it comes to word order and macrons—the important thing is that the words are spelled correctly).

 

Henle First Year Exercise 14 page 20:

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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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.

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.

How the Bible Taught Me to Study

Posted by Matt
Matt
Matt Bianco is married to his altogether lovely high school sweetheart, Patty. T
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on Thursday, 08 August 2013
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What do you think of when you hear the word ‘wisdom’? Do we want our children to grow up in wisdom? Do we want them to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves, even if that means they will be wiser than we are? I hope the answer to these questions is yes.

 

My son felt as though he was behind in math at one point, so we decided—regrettably—to allow him to complete only the even problems in his Saxon book. We thought this would help him to progress through the lessons quicker, allowing him to finish one book so he could move on to the next with the rest of his Classical Conversations classmates.

 

We created further problems for him because we misunderstood wisdom. We thought wisdom was simply receiving information one time, practicing it a handful of times (as with the even problems), and moving on. Had we been correct, our willingness to allow him to skip problems in math would have had no repercussions. We were wrong.

“See? There is intelligence there.”

Posted by Kate Deddens
Kate Deddens
Kate was born overseas, attending International Baccalaureate schools in Iran, I
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on Monday, 15 July 2013
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Recently, an accomplished youth choir participated in a workshop with an internationally acclaimed choral conductor. The workshop was aimed at music teachers and choir directors. The conductor spent several hours working with the youth chorale to demonstrate his conducting principles and techniques. Many of these techniques were highly classical, including modeling, repetition, and allowing the young singers to develop an innate musical sense and feel a deep ownership of their singing. In fact, he shared a maxim by the ancient biographer, Plutarch, which is often quoted by classical educators: “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” He applied it to music, drawing out the parallel truth that children cannot be forcefully filled with musicality from an outside source: humanity has within itself the gift of music and this sense of music must be ignited from within.

 

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The Educational Gears of Content, Skills, and Ideas

Posted by Heather
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Heather Shirley, her husband Ed, and their three children have been involved wit
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on Tuesday, 25 June 2013
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“Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled…”        - Proverbs 24:3-4a

 

Webster defines wisdom as, “the right use or exercise of knowledge; the choice of laudable ends, and of the best means to accomplish them.” (Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language 1828.) By this definition we see that it is not enough to have knowledge; we must also understand the context, something of people, and the circumstances in order to apply that knowledge. Moreover, the phrases “right use” and “laudable ends” tell us there is a moral standard or ideological basis on which we may best apply what we know.

 

How does this apply to educating?

 

At a classical education event I attended, three integrated components of education were described as:

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Which Is Better: Good Sense or Good Character?

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, 14 June 2013
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This summer, as we refresh ourselves and renew our commitment to home education, many of us will be thinking about why we pour so much time and energy into educating our children at home. It seems much easier in the summer to think beyond the minutiae of the daily grind. Did we finish math today? Did I check the Essentials paper? Did we remember to pack the tin whistles? In the season of rest from our communities, we can think about the goals of a classical, Christian education.

 

At the summer parent practicums, we will think, together, about the stages of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. We will talk about the harmony and order of our beautifully mathematical universe. We will set goals to turn our children’s hearts toward truth, goodness, and beauty.

Are You a "Geek"?!

Posted by Lisa
Lisa
Lisa Bailey, a homeschooling mom from North Carolina, has served Classical Conve
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on Wednesday, 12 June 2013
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Are you a "geek"?! Do you just naturally like to learn? If you are a learner and a thinker, what made you that way? Are you born just knowing how to think, or is this a skill to be learned? Can a "lifelong learner" be created, and if so, what encourages one to remain a learner for life?

Perhaps one of the hallmarks of a lifelong learner is curiosity; the urge to know about the world fuels learning even after graduation. How then can we help our students retain their curiosity? We can provide food for their imaginations, give them ideas to ponder, introduce them to people, places, and events, and we can make sure we never give them all the answers! As soon as we know all there is to know about a subject, we lose interest; we must keep finding new aspects to explore.

The Worst Reason Not to Homeschool

Posted by Jonathan Bartlett
Jonathan Bartlett
Jonathan Bartlett is the director of The Blyth Institute, a nonprofit organizati
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on Monday, 10 June 2013
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This article is modified from sections from the newly-released book MicroSecession: Simple Ways to Liberate Yourself, Your Family, and Your Community from Government Idiocy.

 

In recent years, homeschooling has progressed from an obscure choice made by a tiny minority to a mainstream schooling option. Although I believe strongly in home education, I realize that not everyone can choose to homeschool their children. Homeschooling allows for a great deal of independence and it can allow for a fuller education, but it can also be a drain on time and finances. The fact is, by paying taxes we already pay for schooling our children, so homeschooling is sometimes difficult because we actually pay twice.

 

While there are some good reasons for a family not to homeschool, I want to cover one bad reason which people often give for not homeschooling their children: believing they are unqualified. I want to take some time and look at this objection in depth because it is both common and problematic.

 

First, if you did not learn the material well enough in school to teach it to your children, this represents a problem with public education, not a problem with homeschooling. Said another way: if your teachers did not teach you well enough to teach your own children, why are you entrusting them to teach your children, too? 

Congratulations! You Finished Latin!

Posted by Ruth
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Ruth and Robbo, her husband of 25 years, live in a house they built in Vermont.
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on Monday, 03 June 2013
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Latin’s a dead language,

As dead as dead could be;

First it killed the Romans;

Now it’s killing me!

-Anonymous

 

Dear graduating Latin student,

 

Congratulations! A year of hard work is complete and you have turned in your final exam.

 

You know the noun declensions. You know something about adjectives, pronouns, and prepositions. You know many verb tenses. You know more about Caesar and the Gauls than you ever wanted to know.

 

This summer you may have a conversation that goes something like this:

 

Curious uncle: “So, what do you learn at Classical Conversations?”

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