Saturday, July 21, 2012

Why CC (Classical Conversations)?

My explanation for why we chose CC also covers why I decided on the classical model.

For those of you who prefer the abbreviated version:

I like that it is based on the history of the world and how God's Glory is evident throughout history.

I like that it empowers students to take charge of their own learning and see the reward in working hard for their education.

I like that my son will have to present in front of his peers every week.

I like that my son will receive instruction from someone besides me once a week.  It gives us all a break and him a chance to interact with peers.

For those of you who prefer the longer version:

My journey to joining CC began with me building an argument against it.  I knew a little bit about the program from a couple of friends who were involved.--It's a lot of memorization and by the time kids get to high school they will be able to defend an argument.  Now, as a former 1st grade teacher--where I spent every day trying to make learning fun and engaging--rote memorization was completely contrary to all my teacher training.  Plus I didn't like the fact that reading and math were merely sidenotes, not the bulk of the curriculum (so I thought).

Once I made the decision to homeschool, I began asking more about CC.  I highly respected the moms I knew that were involved and valued their opinions, but I just couldn't understand the attraction of CC.  Then a friend of my mother-in-law, who leads a CC group, invited us over for a bar-b-cue to discuss CC.  I knew I would have to have my facts straight before then so I could tell her exactly why CC was not a good fit for our homeschool.

Reason #1:  Latin

I thought the idea of learning Latin seemed like a ridiculous waste of time.  I looked into why Latin?  There is a full write-up on CC website here (p. 29 of the catalog), but below is my condensed list.

Students who study Latin...

--Do better on standardized tests, including college entrance exams.

--Have an easier time learning any Latin-based language (Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese).

--Learn discipline, precision and to focus on details.

--Have an advantage if they go into a medical or legal profession.

Finally, nearly all US Presidents studied Latin.  You get the idea, studying Latin doesn't seem so bad after all, especially since we can devote as much or as little time to that portion of our school day as we want.  It will probably be on the low end for us, as we will focus on Spanish, but I feel like a little exposure is a good thing.

Reason #2: Rote Memorization

As I mentioned earlier, I'm not a fan of rote memorization, well that's putting it lightly.  It seems pointless to fill a curious child's mind with meaningless facts without building on or exploring the information.  However, after looking into the reasoning behind all the memorization, it began to make sense, even sound beneficial.  The theory behind it is the basis for Classical Education, the trivium.  The trivium consists of the three stages of learning: grammar, logic, and rhetoric.  The grammar stage usually lasts until fifth grade and is the time period when a child's mind can absorb an enormous amount of facts.  The logic stage spans the middle school years and is when children are able to sort through all the information they have accumulated.  The rhetoric stage covers the high school years when students begin effectively communicating what they have learned.

Anyone who has been around children can attest to the fact that their brains are little sponges.  I can still remember geography facts I learned as a kid.  In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue...  Classical Education aims to fill the student's brain with as much information as possible, history facts, math facts, science facts, etc.  After the facts (pegs) are stuck in a child's brain, you can then expound upon that information (hang it onto the pegs).  It is similar to learning a new word.  At first you memorize the word and meaning.  After you learn it, you suddenly begin hearing and seeing the word all around you.  You begin to develop a feel for the word and its exact connotation.

If you're like me, the picture you have in your head of Classical Education is of a very serious teacher with a collar buttoned up to her chin, drilling a row of neatly sitting students.  But implementing a classical model and the memorization portion does not equal dry, serious education.  There are ways to make memorization fun with songs, dance, and whatever projects your imagination (or Google search) can dream up to drive in the memory pegs.

Reason #3: Not reading and/or math based (so I thought)

Although Classical Conversations does not provide reading/phonics instruction, reading is the foundation for Classical Education.  It is the avenue by which you understand the history, science, literature, etc.  Parents enrolled in CC have the freedom to choose whichever reading or math program works best for their child.  There is also a slight bit of math and grammar as part of the memory work.  Even though math and reading instruction are not a part of the CC curriculum, I've never met a homeschooler who only used one curriculum that covered all subjects.  I'm really not even sure there is such a thing!  If you find one, and it's good, please let me know!!

After thinking about it, I realized that having history as the base is logical, especially from a Godly point of view.  It makes sense to start at the beginning with God's creation and work through time exploring all the wonder, beauty, and even mistakes of humankind.  It is our nature to put events in chronological order, so why not study history in sequence rather than random chunks, as is often the case in public schools?

I soon discovered that all my arguments against CC were based on misconceptions.  I had already decided that the classical model was a great fit for us.  The hard work, discipline, and focus on reading as the primary means to gain information were very appealing to me.  CC combined all that with a religious foundation and peer interaction, which is eventually what sold me.  However, I am viewing this year as a trial year.  If we get into it, and it just isn't working, we'll explore other options.  It's great to have options!

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