Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Homeschool Series Part 3 - Classical Conversations

The Homeschool Series - Part 3

Hi Friends!  Well, we have certainly been in the growing phase of a new school year around here.  It took a little longer than I thought to get each one of us settled into the new "norm" that will be school this year.  If anyone knows how to "fix" 2 then please let me know.  Seriously, 4 can't get here fast enough, if you know what I mean. #allyeiamtalkingaboutyou

Today I am going to cover Classical Conversations (CC).  I found out about CC through the homeschool group I was a part of our first year. I would highly encourage you to click through to their website and read everything that is there.  I could never do justice to what they so eloquently explain and teach through their website.  The link can be found below. 

What it is About

"The real mission of Classical Conversations is equipping parents to be great educators at home." --CC Website

Where to Start

1.) Go to an information meeting.  In our area, I first went to a meeting one evening at the church our community met at.  The Director hosted and gave an overall view of CC and answered questions.  Lots of questions.  I recommend that you start with this type of visit.  Try to be child free so that you can truly take it all in and feel fully informed when you leave.

2.)  After the informational meeting we went to an Open House.  These are days set aside toward the end of a CC year where they invite the parents to come with their children and let the children participate in the age appropriate class and the parents observe.  My girls did not want to leave!  They wanted to come back the very next week.  They were very disappointed when they had to wait 5 more months.  This is a very common reaction that I have witnessed many times over now.

3.)  Attend a Practicum.  Look to the CC website for specific dates and times.  Each summer, between April and September, a three day learning session takes place in cities everywhere.  As stated on the website, "A significant portion of our time at these conferences is spent actually practicing using the classical model, hence the name, Practicum. Morning sessions focus on the classical model in general and afternoon sessions delve deeper into a particular subject.  We offer academic camps for children during the Practicums so your children can learn while you do! There is a charge for the student camps, but parent training is absolutely FREE. We hope you’ll join us this summer at a Parent Practicum near you!" 

 **  If you miss these visits please contact the Director personally.  I have not met one Director that was not willing to spend all the time it took to answer questions and talk about CC.  Just remember that they are mommas too and that always comes first.  Those I know typically set aside a certain day or time of day to make these return calls and emails.  Be persistent.  It is worth it. ***

What Does Your Child Learn ?

There are three stages of learning in the classical model called the trivium.  1. The grammar stage (memorizing facts).  2. The dialectic stage (discovering how the facts relate). 3.  The rhetoric stage (applying the facts).  Click here for a thorough explanation of these stages of learning.

 Both of my children fall into the grammar stage, known in CC as Foundations.  They will remain in this stage through sixth grade.  Beginning in the fourth grade Olivia will dual enroll in Foundations and also begin the dialectic stage (known as Essentials).  It gets a little hairy after that so just go to the site.  There is learning all the way through grade twelve.  Since Foundations was my experience I will speak to that. 

There are three cycles of learning in the Foundations program.  Your child will complete one cycle a year.  If your child were to begin this journey at age four and attend through grade six, they would cover the same information almost three times each.  That might seem repetitive but that is the point.  They hope to bury these facts so deep in their minds that they are hiding there and can never be forgotten.  Kind of like riding a bike.  You never forget.  Once they have them "pegged" and buried in the brain they will slowly pull these facts out and begin to expand on that knowledge, challenge it, and dissect it.  

We started CC with Cycle 2 

* TIMELINE - We learned the Timeline of history from Creation to the Rising Tide of Freedom (September 11, 2001).  This calculated to 161 events on a timeline.  The coolest part of it all?  It is learned as a song.  Each week the girls learned 7 points along the timeline until they sang the entire timeline.  Makes for a great Thanksgiving table moment.  :)  Even Allye sings along now!

* HISTORY - We learned 24 history facts that were about people, places, events, and time periods.  These are also set to a tune and many tutors (the name for the "teacher" of each class) teach them with hand motions too.  It goes something like this.  "Class.  Tell me about Charlemagne."  Then the class, once taught, will respond in tune with, "In 800 AD, during the medieval period, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Holy Roman Emperor of Europe."

* GEOGRAPHY - Each week the kids are taught 5-7 places on a map.  They are taught the locations using many different techniques, depending on the tutor.  This year our girls learned 122 locations ranging from bodies of water, to continents, and then rivers.  When quizzed they should be able to locate the position when asked or identify it if the tutor points to it on the map. 

* ENGLISH - We focused on definitions of certain parts of speech this year, specifically pronouns.  Several others we learned the definition for and will expand on later.

* LATIN - Cycle 2 spent twenty-four weeks teaching 1st Conjugation Endings.  Set to recognizable tunes, like Happy Birthday and others, the kids learned the endings for Present Tense, Present Perfect Tense, Imperfect Tense, Pluperfect Tense, Future Tense, and Future Perfect Tense.  We spent two weeks on each set for twelve weeks and then repeated them again in the spring.  

* SCIENCE - There are two parts to science in CC.  One portion is the experiment portion.  Each week the kids will observe or participate in a science experiment.  The Scientific Method is reinforced with each experiment and the student fills out a worksheet that has a space for each step of the method.  These are always a big hit!  The second portion is the new grammar portion.  This is when the kids will learn straight facts about something specific.  For example, I would ask my kids, "What are the seven types of biomes?"  They would respond, "The seven types of biomes are grasslands, deserts, scrublands, tundra, deciduous forest, coniferous forest, and tropical rain forest."  I chose to teach all of my science facts with hand motions.  So, for the above question, each time they stated one of the types they were doing a hand motion to represent that as well.  Also, part of CC and the Classical Education is that you always answer in a complete sentence.

* MATH - Each year, for every cycle, math is the same and begins with learning the times tables.  When complete, each child can tell you the answer portion of the times table starting with 1 times a number up to 12 times the number.  We learn these from 1 to 14.  This is a very awesome tool when you begin to teach multiplication.  It happened in my home last year.  Although we learned the tables front and back for many months (we go for mastery around these parts) there were times where she just could not remember.  It was so awesome to watch her face the first time I said, "Hey, sing the 7s."  Then I told her those were the answers!  Of course, I did not tell her that on the front end.  She would have only wanted to use that method.  :)  After the tables the children learn measurement equivalents to include liquid, linear, and metric, areas of shapes, and the associative, commutative, distributive, and identity laws of math.

* FINE ARTS - The fine art portion is broken up into four six week segments.  Four different areas are studied during those segments.  Each class will spend six weeks in the following areas: drawing, orchestra and composers, tin whistle, and great artists.  The drawing teaches the elements of shapes, mirror images, abstract art, upside-down images, perspective, and a final project.  You would truly be amazed that with little instruction what even the youngest child can accomplish in this area.  Orchestra and composer fine arts focused on what makes up an orchestra and we studied some famous composers and their works through readings and listening to their music.  The tin whistle is probably the most challenging of all of the areas.  The kids l.o.v.e it!  The tutor and the parent are apprehensive, scared, you name it.  The small children want to just blow that thing as hard as they can.  It is not a pretty noise.  and they struggle with finger placement as their fingers are not quite long enough.  That does not stop them.  The older children, from what I observed, can make beautiful music with these instruments.  You must try it yourself to truly appreciate that it is not easy to be in tune.  Whew!  But, the final two classes when my kids had mastered playing the scale we worked on for those weeks, I wanted to jump for joy.  The pride on their faces was worth every ear deafening moment.  For the great artist segment the kids are taught about one great artist each week and then get to re-create or practice that artist's form.  

So, each week your child will learn new grammar in the areas of the Acts & Facts Timeline, History, English, Latin, Math, and Science.  They will learn all of the facts I mentioned above in one thirty minute segment.  The tutor will have them state (sing, hand motion, dance, hop, etc...) each area at least five times and move on to the next subject.  It is fast.  The child will spend another thirty minutes each on the science experiment of the week, the fine art, another fifteen or so minutes focused on geograpahy (actually learning to locate the places), offering a presentation to the class, and participating in review games. 

 Let's touch on the last two for just a minute.  Each week the child comes to class prepared to give their classmates (approximately 6-7 other kids) and tutor a five minute or less presentation.  Some tutors assign the topic and some allow the children to choose.  I had younger children so I allowed them to choose every week but one or two.  On those weeks I had them share a favorite holiday tradition (right at Thanksgiving), nothing too hard.  Once I had observed the kids for a couple of weeks I spent more time having the parents practice certain qualities of a good speaker.  For example, I would email the parents and ask them to please focus on having the child speak loudly and clearly for that week.  Over time, the children became naturals.  It should also be noted that each child begins their presentation with, "Hi.  My name is Lindsey Bouchard and today I am going to talk about ______."  They end with, "That is the end of my presentation are there any questions?"

  At the end of each day the child will enter into thirty minutes of review games.  This is the time where the tutor will have a game prepared that will be won/lost or just enjoyed based on the knowledge retained by the children.  Each tutor chooses their own age appropriate games.  But, the common denominator is that the game's questions are all things the children learned that day or in weeks past.  Ah yes, weeks past.  How many you may wonder?  That would be six.  So, if it were week eight, I would ask them questions from weeks three through eight.  That is where continued practice at home shows through.  I will say that all ages feel much better during this time if they know the information.  Even my little five and six year olds would get so upset if they couldn't remember and let me say, that wasn't often.

How To Use CC at Home

Every home is different.  Let's start there.  I use CC to supplement what we learn at home.  Because I teach using the classical method many of the things we learn in CC are directly beneficial to our home school.  For example, because I use Story of the World, when we come to each new lesson it typically relates back to one statement from the timeline.  So, we pull the card we have for that topic and use it as we study, which typically leads to singing some timeline facts on either side as well.  Here is a great benefit that happened since we started school this year.  Addison's first grammar lesson was "What is a noun?"  I didn't have to spend much time teaching the definition because she learned it at CC.  Lesson one done.  Less than a minute.  Moving on.  See how nice that is?  Now, some parents use CC just for their child to have a concentrated time with children that are in their same school situation.  Others will teach their child on a daily basis mostly on what is taught at CC that week.  They will go home and thoroughly teach all seven timeline facts with library books and articles for example.  As far as choosing curricula because you are in CC here is my answer to that.  You must first focus on the best curricula for your child.  If it happens that your child is successful with classical materials, great.  What I am told is that children who use Shurley English are very well equipped for Essentials (begins in grade four).  The big question everyone asks is about math.  Here is what I know.  Classical Conversations "endorses" Saxon math.  I use the word endorse because there is a link on their site to purchase Saxon and no other math curriculum.  I would suggest that Saxon most likely follows the classical method with strong repetition and math grammar.  It is absolutely not necessary to use either one of these to be successful in CC.  My personal plan is to switch my kids to Saxon at the fourth grade level based on my own research and what I think is best for my girls at this point.  It really doesn't have anything to do with CC.

To Be or Not To Be...A Tutor

I came to be a tutor when the Director at the time emailed all of the parents with a need for several tutors.  I did not respond to the first request as I thought others would step forward.  It was when the second email came that I sat up and paid a little more attention.  I could not stand that there may be kids who would not get to attend CC because of no tutor.  I had no idea what a tutor did, but I signed myself up anyway.  I had only seen CC in action one time.  I had no idea what I was really in for.  After attending tutor training I was a lot more apprehensive.  Not their intention at all.  Experienced tutors raised concerns that I never thought of.  For example, how to handle certain types of parents in your classroom.  Oh yeah, if you didn't know, the parents stay in the class each week.  Remember?  We are equipping them to be the best educator for their child.  I never considered that a parent would step out of line.  Yep.  I got one of those.  Basically, I got one of every type they talked about that day, not all necessarily a bad type.  I made some wonderful friends!  After the initial shock and making it clear that I would be happy for them take over any time they would like, things settled down.  I was very polite, but direct.  The hardest parts for me in class were a.) the students who were taught ahead b.) disciplining the children effectively at times.  I had one student who was always telling me they had already learned "that" or asking if I knew there was a song to "that".  It was very hard.  Discipline was our other adjustment period.  I did not offer these children a reward for acting good, as many tutors did.  You know, the treasure box type thing.  I was raised that you are not bribed/rewarded for good behavior, it was an expectation.  Now, don't get me wrong, of course, I have bribed rewarded my kids at times, but that is in extreme situations.  You know, life or death, you better keep it together moments.  It is my own belief that children have been taught to behave and they should use self-control and do as they have been taught.  We are not talking perfection but work in progress.  I do not teach my children to behave just so they can get that sucker.  No.  The reward of good behavior in life is acknowledgement from others with a compliment, more responsibility, and the opportunity to experience more things when we show that we can do as asked.  The other side of the discipline issue was who was doing the disciplining.  Ever had to discipline someone else's child and they were sitting right there?  It's not easy.  The biggest struggle I faced each week was to learn all of the new material.  I was having to learn how to pronounce all of these things (I speak Southern Ya'll), locate geography points, come up with games, figure out ways and techniques for them to remember the facts, art projects, review the ins and outs of the science experiments, it went on and on.  Now, let me say this too.  I am quite sure I probably went above and beyond but I don't do anything half you know what.  Folks, I won't lie.  It was tiring.  I was exhausted physically and mentally each week only to pull up my boots a day or two afterwards to begin all over again.  This really hurt my kids in CC.  They ask that the children not see any of the material before going into class, which I honored.  So, I was up late at night trying to sing it, read it, memorize it, after they went to bed.  I couldn't listen to it in the car because they were always with me.  After all of that I just didn't have much interest in quizzing them throughout the week although we did listen to the CDs in the car, from the weeks they had already learned.  I finally smartened up and put my husband on duty getting the presentations done each week.  Then I took that back over too.  Well, because I am me.  We will leave it at that.  In all, it was a rewarding experience.  I love those kids!  To see them learn and retain so information at such a young age was so fun.  I fell in love with each of them and will always cherish that time.  I hoped I would be a blessing to those children, but I was most definitely the one blessed in that situation.  Final answer?  I would not recommend a first time parent to tutor.  I feel like you will enjoy it more and feel more successful if you have been an observer first.  The Directors wish I wouldn't tell you this.  Ack!  I will go on to say that I really don't think that an established community should even ask or allow a first time parent.  I would think you would want to grow that parent first so that the children get the most benefit once they tutor.  It is also very hard to come in and the six year old knows more than you do.  Let me repeat, this is just my opinion.

Helpful CC Websites  

As a tutor and parent I used a couple of websites repeatedly and thought I would share those.  Everyone in CC knows about the first one, well the second one too.  :)

Half A Hundred Acre Wood 
You will get lost for hours in her site.  It is very well organized with link up parties to other people's sites and tons of tips, tricks, games, etc.  Really....YOU.MUST.GO.TO.IT!

I think this one goes without saying but I will say I had a hard time finding a lot of information here.  It was great for art ideas and tin whistle.  After that I really didn't find too much in a great quantity, like Pinterest is known for.  I do have a CC board that you are welcome to look at.  Just click the Pinterest board to the right and it will put you through. **In review for this portion I noticed that Brandy, from Half A Hundred Acre Wood, has a Pinterest board.  Maybe we should all just follow her and we would be set?

Underwhelming I know, but the first site is so magnificent you just start there and explore her site and click through to other sites.  Simple as that! 

Wrap Up

I sincerely hope I have answered most of your CC questions here.  I have tried to give a more personal look into CC leaving the majority of the fact finding to be yours on their site.  CC is a wonderful gift to our family.  It is not a free gift, but it is worth every penny.  I would strongly encourage anyone who asked me to try CC, if you felt your child would enjoy this type of learning.  It is a truly magnificent moment when you see your child learning and having so much fun!  These kids form bonds with each other and love to be together!  It is a safe environment for your kids to grow and you can feel comfortable that all of these children are coming from like minded homes.

Learn On,
The Homeschool Mama



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