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A Classical Conversation

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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.

Memory for the Master

Posted by David Bailey
David Bailey
David Bailey is the founding pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Stokesdale
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on Tuesday, 10 December 2013
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I have never worked very hard on memorizing. With varying degrees of memory success, I have carried around little Bible memory cards and even worked on long passages of scripture. In high school, I memorized Macbeth’s speech about the petty pace that creeps on. And I have also memorized untold volumes of useless content in the form of advertizing jingles and sitcom title sequences. “Fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more…”

 

I have the capacity to memorize. It happens even without effort. However, I have operated under a flawed understanding of memory. Until very recently, I have thought of my memory capacity as similar to an electronic music player. Memory is limited, so I must be careful what I store. My seventeen-year-old daughter recently spent hours carefully deleting photos and music from her uncomfortably cramped eight-gig iPod. In order to add more music, she had to delete something.

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.

Is There Any Scope for the Imagination in S-p-e-l-l-i-n-g?

Posted by Courtney Sanford
Courtney Sanford
Courtney Sanford has been home schooling with Classical Conversations since 2005
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on Thursday, 07 November 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

 

 

Once Classical Conversations seminars wrap up, I have a chance to tackle whatever I think is a weakness in our academics. It is usually s-p-e-l-l-i-n-g. Latin, logic, history, and Memory Master testing all seem to demand my attention during Classical Conversations, so spelling does not quite receive the energy and attention it deserves. A list of unrelated words lacks any scope for the imagination, as I am sure Anne of Green Gables would agree, but words need to be spelled correctly so I do my research and try to inspire my children to love words and to value precision and correctness. This is a hard sell once they learn to type and discover spell check, but I am persistent—if nothing else—and I am tackling the subject with the best classical methods I can devise.

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.

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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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.

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.

How to Study a Latin Verb

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, 16 September 2013
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I admit it has been many years since I studied a Latin verb for the first time. However, I recently had the opportunity to work on Greek verbs in the present tense with one of my friends. It reminded me of two things: first, Greek is so much easier to learn after knowing Latin and learning the Greek alphabet and second, one must have a plan in order to study successfully.

 

Here is how I go about teaching Latin verbs (and also a handout). First, I always start with the English because we always want to start with what they know. I review definitions such as transitive and intransitive, principal parts, tenses, and conjugations of English verbs (I love, you love, he/she/it loves, we love, you all love, they love). Verb persons are always a bit tricky to describe. Students, however, love to discuss point of view in novels and the fact that first person point of view has a narrator in on the action and third person point of view has a narrator who is apart from the action. Principal parts are like verb DNA and show us how we can form every form of the verb (over 300 forms). After I am certain students have a working definition of a verb in English, we move on to Latin.

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.

Taking a Summer Break without Taking a Brain Break

Posted by Beth Watson
Beth Watson
Beth Watson graduated from Cairn University (formerly named Philadelphia Biblica
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on Friday, 26 July 2013
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We find ourselves in the midst of summer. For us, summer offers a much-anticipated break from our usual routine. The weather begins to warm just as our endurance for schoolwork is wearing thin. We start the countdown to days full of play and rest. This year, for the first two weeks of our summer break, we did just that—we played and rested. Unscheduled downtime was just what we needed—for two weeks. Then it started to feel staid and I became a bit concerned about what we would lose if we did not continue to practice. Plus, I really believe learning is not just for our school time, but for all time. I thought about what is important to our family and I designed a simple plan to ensure our summer break was not also a brain break.

Confessions of a Thirty-Something-Year-Old Memory Master

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 Wednesday, 22 May 2013
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At the beginning of the year, our Foundations Director, Stephanie Ross, posed the question, “Are there any mothers who want to be Memory Masters?” As someone who is a lifelong learner, I secretly wanted this. Besides the fact that I love challenges, I wanted to experience the process for myself because my daughter would be doing it for the first time this year.

 

Make no mistake, IT IS HARD! I earned my undergraduate degree from the College of William and Mary and my masters from George Mason University. The Memory Master test was the hardest test I have ever taken! I nearly did not make it because I could not remember the word “shelf” in continental shelf and I nearly forgot the card “Immigrants Flock to America” after “The Missouri Compromise.” My director was very patient with me, because she knows that I am in the rhetorical stage rather than the grammar stage. I understand now why it was easier for my eight year old: she did not let things she already knew get in her way! If I tried to think too hard, I had trouble remembering the facts. My director had to remind me not to think so hard because I did know the material. The only block in my brain was my brain trying to think much too hard.

 

Here are some pointers I gleaned from this experience:


One Child's Memory Master Journey

Posted by Nancy
Nancy
Nancy Casari Dayton graduated from Pennsylvania State University and earned a Ca
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on Wednesday, 08 May 2013
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During the first week of our family’s homeschooling journey, I taught this verse to my children: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7, NIV). It is a wonderful day when a parent can see the fruit of his or her instruction.

 

On May 3, 2013, our Roseville, California, Classical Conversations community held our End-of-Year Celebration and Open House. At this event, the director honored six students who had earned the title of Memory Master. My ten-year-old son was among them. What an inspiring journey this has been!


Language Arts, Spelling, Handwriting, and the Brain

Posted by Matt
Matt
Matt Bianco is married to his altogether lovely high school sweetheart, Patty. T
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on Friday, 09 November 2012
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This article is based on a recent interview: Leigh! @ Lunch with Andrew Pudewa. In the interview, Andrew Pudewa and I discussed many things, but the following information really stood out as good, practical thoughts about language arts, spelling, handwriting, and the human brain.

 

I want to know why a third grade student, for example, is able to master spelling tests, but unable to transfer that to writing? Why does he freeze as he tries to write spelling words that he had mastered? Andrew Pudewa responds:

 

That is not uncommon at all. It’s not something to be too seriously concerned about, and the reason is—I’ve studied this for years—spelling is not actually a language function of the brain. We tend to think of spelling as one of the language arts. But, as far as the brain is concerned, language is about forming an idea, translating that idea into words you do know, putting those words into a grammatical sequence, and putting grammatically correct sentences or ideas into a logical order. That’s what the brain does in the language area of the brain. Spelling, on the other hand, really has nothing at all to do with any of that. Spelling is the correct retrieval of sequentially stored information: You learn a word, you learn the letters, you put them in the right order, you drill yourself—either verbally, on paper, or through some form of practice—so that you memorize the sequence.


Two Simple Tools: Revolutionize Your Homeschool

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, 19 October 2012
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In our quest to recover the lost tools of learning, we must delve into the rich tools of memory and imagination. We often have the mistaken notion that our memory is simply the storage unit for information. This is true in the very early stages of learning, but our memory later becomes a rich treasure trove for nourishing the soul. When coupled with imagination, this tool of education can lead to a rich and full life lived to the glory of God. What else could inspire missionaries to travel to unknown lands? It is the combination of their memory of Scripture and their sympathetic imagination.

 

Every once in a while, the daily discipline of homeschooling comes together in a shining moment of wonderful conversation which is appropriate to family members of all ages. These conversations demonstrate the power of memory and the imagination. One morning this month (October 2012), I rose with a hopeful feeling about our day. We began the morning in the same way as always—reading Scripture. We finished the New Testament in our children’s Bible last spring, so we started this fall with the Old Testament again.

 

This particular morning, our Bible reading landed on the story of Joseph sending his brothers home from Egypt to fetch Benjamin. My children were astounded to read how Joseph’s meeting with his brothers confirmed that God had a plan for their family which was accomplished by Joseph being sold into slavery. Two things enabled their recognition of the importance of accepting God’s plan for our lives—memory and imagination. Because they have heard the story many times, they remembered the details of the plot. Thus, their minds were not focused on processing the details of the story, for these details were already familiar. They were free to imagine how Joseph felt as he was reunited with his brothers and how he understood that the dreams God gave him as a child had been fulfilled.

 

The Joy of Foundations

Posted by Courtney Sanford
Courtney Sanford
Courtney Sanford has been home schooling with Classical Conversations since 2005
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on Monday, 06 August 2012
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One of the benefits of using the classical model of education is that it is the most efficient way to educate. That is because we are following the nature of a child: the model that follows God’s design. Read through Proverbs and you will see these three words over and over: knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Knowledge and understanding are foundational, the Proverbs proclaim, for wisdom which is the goal of education. Modern education models often skip to the final stage and emphasize creative output at age 6, and then deal only with grammar level knowledge in many subjects at age 17. (That was my personal experience anyway.) That will lead to frustrated young children and bored teenagers because their brains are not wired to do those things at those stages. If you understand and follow the model, learning will be joyful.


A Father Takes Up Latin

Posted by Admin
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on Thursday, 31 May 2012
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Homo doctus in se semper divitias habet.

(A learned man always has wealth within himself.)

 

My life is littered with failed attempts to learn foreign languages. If there is such a thing as having a “knack” for learning languages I do not have it. As my wife, kids, and I try to bring Latin more fully into the folds of our homeschooling adventure, I have discovered I am about as adept at learning Latin as a stump─though I think the
stump may have me beat. But I am still hopeful, not so much because of what I see in me, but because other ordinary people like me have struggled with learning Latin and have succeeded. And though you should take everything I say with a grain of salt, I do believe three things about learning Latin:

Memory Work: The "Four Rs"

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, 31 October 2011
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Most of us are familiar with the “Three Rs”—reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic—but how many of you know the “Four Rs” of memory work?  These four might be less familiar, but they are critical to a classical education. The “Four Rs” are: read, research, record, and relate. They can be applied to Foundations memory work in order to build on the recitations of the community day. Older grammar stage students are able to flesh out their science and history memory pegs for deeper understanding, but do not underestimate the little ones; with the “Four Rs” they can do more than you might at first imagine. I have begun to follow the “Four Rs” with my six-year-old, and we are experiencing excellent results. (For another explanation of these skills, see pages 103-105 in your Classical Conversations Foundations guide.)   

The “Four Rs”

Read! 


First, read about the Foundations history sentences. There are plenty of sources for supplementing the Foundations memory work, especially the Cycle 3 American history facts. Choose something that works for your family based on your goals, your time constraints, and the ages and abilities of your children. Your Classical Conversations director can supply a list of history textbooks and read-alouds for each week of the year. Below, I have listed some of the suggestions which are working for my family this year. 

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Memory Work: The "Four Rs"

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
User is currently offline
on Monday, 31 October 2011
in Articles

Most of us are familiar with the “Three Rs”—reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic—but how many of you know the “Four Rs” of memory work?  These four might be less familiar, but they are critical to a classical education. The “Four Rs” are: read, research, record, and relate. They can be applied to Foundations memory work in order to build on the recitations of the community day. Older grammar stage students are able to flesh out their science and history memory pegs for deeper understanding, but do not underestimate the little ones; with the “Four Rs” they can do more than you might at first imagine. I have begun to follow the “Four Rs” with my six-year-old, and we are experiencing excellent results. (For another explanation of these skills, see pages 103-105 in your Classical Conversations Foundations guide.)   

The “Four Rs”

Read! 


First, read about the Foundations history sentences. There are plenty of sources for supplementing the Foundations memory work, especially the Cycle 3 American history facts. Choose something that works for your family based on your goals, your time constraints, and the ages and abilities of your children. Your Classical Conversations director can supply a list of history textbooks and read-alouds for each week of the year. Below, I have listed some of the suggestions which are working for my family this year. 

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Sarasota Memory Master

Posted by Robert
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on Monday, 18 July 2011
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Sarasota: Mackenzie Burch Earns "Memory Master" Title

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