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My Classical Conversations Story – Robert Bortins

It was a beautiful, sunny day at Clemson University. I was in my sophomore year and had just dropped off my tuition check at the registrar’s office when I got a phone call from my mom, Leigh Bortins. We all have those moments in life that we remember so vividly. Typically, it’s something really life changing. My mom said, “Robert, your dad is thinking about getting you a car for college. He changed his mind, though, and quit his job. He is going to homeschool your younger brothers, and I am going to try to make Classical Conversations a real business. You’ll have to pay for the rest of college, yourself.” So, I went to the co-op office and asked what jobs they had available for the next semester.

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How Challenge Challenged Me as a Student

The Challenge program is so named because it makes students accomplish difficult things. It is not easy. If you’re wondering whether or not the Challenge program is right for you or your student, perhaps this personal testimony from one of our very own Challenge students might clarify your decision.

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Trace, Draw, Copy—Becoming a Math Person the Naturals Way!

Earlier this spring, a small group of CC tutors gathered with Leigh Bortins, CC’s founder and developer of The Math Map, and Kirsty Gilpin, the lead mathematician for this K-12 math curriculum currently under development. For several days, this group made personal connections, shared table fellowship, laughed, worked, and engaged in math conversations with one another. Their struggles, enjoyment, and study highlighted four ideas, and CC is responding with an invitation.

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God is the center of everything. 

Although this was a shared assumption before coming together, it cemented and became manifest in the math conversations that occurred. Following her experience with The Math Map, one tutor expressed her deep appreciation and delight. It affirmed that being a Christ-follower and being intellectual or intelligent is not divided. She shared her joy about how The Math Map does not separate intellect from Christianity. She is a Christian, intelligent, and increasingly capable with math!

Math requires an understanding of its grammar.

CC parents know that before you understand any topic, you must know the grammar of that topic. Take, for example, the following terms: Obi and Rei. Those sound like fantastic Star Wars® characters, don’t they? But a karate martial arts student will learn that an obi is a belt, and rei means to bow. Thus, beginning karate students spend as much time learning the words (the language) of the art as they do tying their belts and bowing to their classmates.  

Similarly, math has a language, and it requires time and attention to learn it. But we all know how it is—students often skip this fundamental study of math’s language in favor of just completing the calculations. This does work for some time, but as the problems grow in complexity and detail, understanding the language becomes ever more critical.

After its grammar, math requires fluency.

Once a student and their teacher get to the stage in math studies that includes greater complexity and detail, there is no avoiding the big reveal. Students and their teachers fluent with the language of math continue to delight or at least press on in its study. By contrast, students and teachers who have moved too quickly past math’s essential grammar face the unavoidable. Math becomes a struggle.  

Redeeming education and math fluency are positively correlated.

“I feel like I am just now being invited into a conversation from which I have before been excluded!” said another tutor who took part in The Math Maps gathering. Years of progressive schooling had conditioned her to believe that she was not a “math person.” Her comment marks the moment she realized everyone can enjoy, understand, and converse about math. All one needs is the tools!!

Leigh has long said that “We’re all math people!” As CC’s founder and chief visionary, she affirms CC exists to fulfill its mission by curating curriculum, providing services, and training parents to build flourishing homeschool communities. Of course, this extends to equipping parents to learn the grammar of mathematics! She knows that as parents develop math fluency, their confidence to lead their family in great math conversations will flourish. Through language and problem solving, parents’ math education will be redeemed!

CC wants all its families to be “math people”—your invitation to The Math Map Naturals beta.

Classical Conversations and The Math Map are releasing some materials from the Naturals level with parents this year to build their math vocabulary, increase their fluency, and join the ongoing math conversation! The Naturals level of The Math Map is designed to introduce the mathematical words, symbols, and images that will be used for the K-12 math curriculum. This beta release includes delightful images and thought-provoking quotes to accompany its lessons. You are invited to trace, copy, match, and color to build your math vocabulary and become acquainted with this classical Christian approach to mathematics at this introductory level.

CC desires parents to accept this invitation to the math conversation. We want parents to delight in the Naturals level as they work through the materials this year, reclaiming their math education. We hope you will find out just how much of a “math person” you are as you prepare to use The Math Map curriculum with your student(s) and to have fluent math discussions in your home!

I Accept!

Father's Day Blog

Happy Father’s Day, Men!

Happy Father’s Day, men! Today is the day you get to kick back and relax, maybe enjoy a steak with family and watch some golf. Whatever your favorite pastime may be, I hope you’re to rest, recreate, and celebrate. I realize reading an email from the CEO of Classical Conversations probably wasn’t high on your list of things to do this weekend, so let me get right to the point.

Explorers Digital Camp 2021: Save 10%!

Last year, we released our first Explorers Digital Camp, a series of engaging online videos and fun activities families could enjoy together while sheltering in place from the pandemic. This year, thanks to more time available for planning, we produced a brand-new series of Explorers Digital Camp videos and resource packets to release beginning June 2.

Happy Mother’s Day from CC!

To all the homeschool moms out there, we at Classical Conversations wish you a Happy Mother’s Day! We hope it’s filled with much-deserved rest and, of course, with loved-ones and family.

You have spent the past year teaching your children to recognize truth, beauty, and goodness. You have encouraged them to love learning and follow their interests. And you have set for them an example for what it means to know Him and to make Him known.

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Finding Meaningful Work as a CC Director

Fresh out of college, brimming with life purpose and dogged by student loans, I took a job. My student loans, although modest by any standard, were a responsibility I carried seriously. Their weight meant I was hungry for a paycheck. Meaningful work was the last thing on my mind—I just needed a job. With the full support of my college’s career services department, I started pounding the pavement, sending out resumes, optimistically expecting a “good” job would materialize. 

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Community, Belonging, and Ministry with CC

A potential and difficult challenge any homeschool mom may face is isolation. I am tempted to personify that term—Isolation, written like a name or proper noun. Make it a character as in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, like Obstinate, Prudence, Faithful, or Talkative. Their name messages their impact, character, and role with a clear signal if the companion helps or harms Christian on his journey to the Celestial City. Isolation isn’t necessarily that forthcoming.

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My Experience Directing: Overwhelmed Homeschool Parent to Licensed CC Director

I was not the new kid on the block. A seasoned homeschool mother and teacher, I had heard of Classical Conversations and had been intrigued. Having already purchased my own private library worth of books and classical curriculum, I was drawn to CC’s comprehensive experience and resources. But I tucked all that in my back pocket because there were no Classical Conversations programs near me.

My family grew along with my skills as a classical educator. And my life expanded too. Buffeted by an economic recession, my husband was convicted of the need to make a fundamental shift in our lifestyle. Twelve years ago, we took a financial blood bath on our suburban home’s sale and bought the farm, literally.

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Defending Host Churches Against Anonymous Letters

 

Several years ago, about 2500 churches that support and host Classical Conversations communities received anonymous letters demanding they disband their CC communities or else fear losing their non-profit status. In an article for The Federalist—an online magazine reporting on politics, religion, and culture—writer Jenni White argues against the claims of the anonymous letters, defending the thousands of churches who graciously support their local communities by providing homeschool families with a place to meet and educate their children. Below is a brief excerpt from the article:

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An Easter Message From CEO Robert Bortins

Think back a year to last Easter. To say these 12 months have been difficult is an understatement. People have experienced tragedy like never before. Depression, anxiety, and loneliness are the norm for many worldwide, causing some to seek any sort of escape just to make the days bearable. Even the most faithful of Christians can understandably have moments of doubt during these times, moments of questioning.

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