Monday, February 3, 2014

Classical Conversations in a Nutshell

It's that time of year when Classical Conversations communities begin accepting registration applications for the following school year. Many of you may be wondering what exactly is Classical Conversations. If you have gone to their website to try to figure it out, you likely ended up more confused. Below is my attempt to explain the program in a way that is (hopefully) easy to understand.  I'm going to focus my explanation on Classical Conversations Foundations, which is the program for elementary aged children.  I have inserted FAQs in spots where I feel they would help to provide a better explanation.

Classical Conversations (CC) is a community of homeschoolers that meet once a week for 24 weeks during a school year.  Each community follows the Classical Model for education and the same curriculum which consists of History, Science, Geography, Math, English, Latin (yes, Latin!).  For more information on Classical Education, click here to read a previous post detailing it.  Additionally, each week the students participate in a science project, study fine art (6 weeks drawing, 6 weeks music, 6 weeks fine art, 6 weeks orchestra), and give an oral presentation.

FAQ: Do I have to use the CC curriculum if I join a CC community?  Yes and no.  You do have to use the CC curriculum to the point that your child can participate in the class.  S/he would feel left out if all the other kids were familiar with the material, but your child was not.  You don't have to use the CC as your only or even main homeschool curriculum, though.  More on this later...

Each CC community hires and trains parents, referred to as tutors, to lead the weekly classroom activities. The classes are divided up by grade level from pre-K thru 6th grade, with a maximum of 8 students per class (9 in special circumstances).  Students at every grade level learn the same weekly material.  So, if you have a 1st grader and 3rd grader, they will be studying the same information. Additionally, every CC group across the nation follows the same CC curriculum schedule.  If you move from Wisconsin to Arizona during week 17, your child can jump in right where s/he left off.

FAQ:  How can a pre-K child and 5th grader study the same material?  Students across all elementary grade levels study the same information, but the information is tailored to the individual class level.  For example we recently did a science experiment to determine which material was a better insulator, metal or carpet.  For the little ones we discussed the scientific method (which they can understand!), then discussed which material we thought would feel colder.  At the conclusion we talked about which material allowed the cold to go through and which one kept the cold underneath.  The older kids went into much more detail about insulators and conductivity.  Another example is Geography.  The little ones learn the names of geographical features and point to them on a map.  Whereas each year the older kids make a step in the direction of independently drawing the features on a map until eventually they are able to draw a map of the entire world unassisted.

The CC curriculum is arranged in 3 year cycles, meaning children will have a repeat of the same information every 3 years.  Part of the CC curriculum is a 161 point timeline, which the students study every year.  CC math also repeats each year.  It consists of skip counting thru 15 x 15, squares thru 15, and cubes thru 12; basic equivalents, geometric equations, and math laws.

FAQ: Why does the information repeat every 3 years?  

As its name implies, the purpose of CC Foundations is to provide students with a strong foundation of academic knowledge.  By repeating every three years, students truly know the material.  So that by the time they are middle-school aged, they have the necessary tools to develop excellent writing skills, tackle higher math, and understand complex science, or history issues.

The CC curriculum is not a full elementary curriculum.  It does not have a reading component, and the math portion is basic, but necessary math facts--not a math program.  Parents can choose to use the history, science, geography and english as a full curriculum or as a supplement.  There are plenty of blogs out there of CC moms who choose either method.  Personally, I use CC as supplement.  My kids get really excited when we come across something in our studies that they already learned in CC.

Other FAQs

Do I have to start my kids in the program at age 4?  What if my kids are older?  Your kids can jump in the program at any time.  It may take them a bit to catch up to the other students, but they will catch up. 
My child has a learning disability, is CC a good fit for us?  Absolutely!  All children can benefit from a CC community.  CC employs the Classical Model for education, which consists of laying a strong foundation with lots of repetition (among other features).  This method of learning is well-suited for all types of learners.  In general, CC communities are full of compassionate families who are very accommodating.

It seems very expensive, why does it cost so much?  I agree that the CC tuition seems expensive, but when you look at what the money pays for and what you get out of it, I think it's well worth it.  The registration fee goes to CC, the supplies fee to fund science/art supplies.  100% of the tuition goes to pay the director and the tutors.  It may seem like the tutors and director are making out with a big chunk of change.  However, if you figured up their hourly wage, you would find that they are making just above minimum wage.  In exchange for the tuition, your child receives a day of instruction from someone that isn't you (a big plus for me!), a science and art project, and a public speaking opportunity (something that is difficult to provide at home).  In my experience, my kids are much more motivated to learn when we are attending CC weekly, and they interact with their peers who are learning the same things.  When we missed CC for several weeks during our move last year, I fought the boys every day to do school.  Another reason for the tuition is to hold parents and students accountable.  A family is much more likely to stay home on a yucky day if the homeschool group is free.  I find this to be so true with myself!  Last but not least, you are a member of wonderful support community.

How can I learn more?  Most CC communities hold open houses around this time of year.  Check one out near you!  Go to and enter your zipcode to find contact information for the community nearest you.  Many CC communities also hold FREE Parent Practicums in the summer.  These Practicums are a great way to learn more about CC and Classical Education.  There is usually some type of learning camp for the kids to go along with the Practicums. There is a charge for the kids' camps, but it is minimal.

If you have any other questions, feel free to leave a comment!!

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