Monday, March 25, 2013

Why I Love Classical Conversations

I never got around to Day 5 last week in my survey of a week in our homeschooling life. Last Wednesday was day 5. Wednesdays are Classical Conversations (CC) days at our house. School is fairly simple on those days. We go to class. The kids have rest time/book time in the afternoon after class, but that's about it. We drive an hour to our class, so we leave around 7:30 a.m. and get home around 2:30 p.m. It takes up most of our day, and we love it.

I didn't always love it. 

I questioned whether the drive was worth it. The relationships were slow and hard to build with the distance. The memory work was hard at the beginning. While I would wholeheartedly agree that the program was good, I wondered for most of the year if it was really something that we would want to invest in long-term.

And then February came.

In February, a few things happened that changed (forever) how we feel about CC. I was asked to tutor the 4 and 5 year olds for the final 6 weeks of the year, and Hunter and I decided to pursue "Memory Masters."

I have loved tutoring and would highly recommend it for any parents who have children in the class who have a little extra time and energy to give to tutoring. It's not too much extra time or else I would never be able to do it. I have loved how tutoring has forced me to engage in the material my kids are learning so much more. It makes me a better educator at home for them and fuels my own passion for learning (which is not always an extremely strong flame if I'm being honest).

Let me explain a little about Memory Masters. It's an honor given to any CC student who can "master" all of the year's memory work. The memory work covers the following:

  • 161 events and people in a chronological timeline from creation to the present
  • 44 U.S. presidents
  • 24 history sentences that add depth to the timeline
  • 120 locations and geographic features in Africa, Europe, and the "Old World"
  • 24 science facts (including classifications of living things and each continent's highest mountain)
  • 5 Latin noun endings and their singular and plural declensions
  • English grammar facts (including 53 prepositions, 23 helping verbs, and 12 linking verbs)
  • Multiplication tables up to 15x15, common squares and cubes, as well as basic geometry formulas and unit conversions

Hunter has to be "proofed" on the work 4 different times by four different people. Each "proof" requires a higher level of mastery. Once he passes proof four, he earns the honor of "Memory Master." I don't even know if there is an award to go with it, but it has been neat to see him commit to this goal and pursue it.

Did I mention Millie (age 5) has learned all of this too? It's taught in all classes from age 4 - 6th grade. She isn't going for Memory Master this year. We are doing our own little version she calls "Mommy Master" where she will recite portions of the memory work for me and receive her own little honor.

Tonight Hunter passed his first proof with flying colors. He only missed one thing. One. He's allowed to miss three per subject in Round One. He missed one thing overall while skip counting the 14s. I was really proud of him.

Now for the obvious question: So what?

One of the criticisms of a program like CC is whether or not all of this memory work is truly beneficial to a 4 year old or an 8 year old or even an 11 year old. I have wondered that myself sometimes. Let me share how we have seen immediate benefits this year. As the year has gone on, I actually feel like I see real life benefits almost daily.

Take today for example...

Today Hunter and I went downstairs to do his math lesson. It was a lesson on multiplying using the expanded form of a number (e.g. 4 x 604 = 4 x (600 + 4) = 4x600 + 4x4). Once I looked through the lesson a little, I realized that he was applying the distributive law. How do I know about the distributive law? It is not because I am an algebraic wizard. It's because week 23 of CC memory work introduces the distributive law. And, finally, I see it all play out in real life. They learn "a(b+c) = ab + ac" by rote memory. Then, when it intersects with real life, as it did today in Hunter's math lesson, he has some small framework and familiarity to tackle this new math concept.

Multiplication has been a breeze this spring...because he spent the fall learning to skip count the 1s through the 15s (up to multiples of 12).

History was a blast this morning, as their eyes lit up to hear more about the Magna Carta which appears in the Middle Ages portion of their history timeline. They just pulled that familiar name off the mental "peg" they hung it on when they memorized it, and enjoyed learning more about it.

Classical Conversations has offered us more than the memory work. Through the program the kids have been exposed to drawing techniques, introductory music theory and tin whistle, 6 great artists and related projects, intro. to orchestra and 3 classical composers, 12 science experiments, 12 science projects, and 24 oral presentations. Their experiences in the class have given so much that I would just never get around to offering at home.

We'll just say at this point that I am a big fan.

By the way, you don't have to tutor or go for Memory Masters to get all that CC has to offer. Those have just been two of the vehicles the Lord has used this year to propel us into a greater love and commitment to the program and the learning process there.

So that was our Wednesday last week. I encourage anyone who is considering a classical model of education to check out Classical Conversations in your area. We love it.

Next time you see Millie, ask her to tell you about Confucius or the liberation of South America. Ask Hunter to list the presidents (one of his personal favorites) or tell you the associative law of algebra. We all love learning more than ever, and I attribute a lot of that to our involvement in Classical Conversations.


Kristy Stith said...

I totally agree, Kim. My kids love CC, too. I feel like I am even getting the education I never really received.

Mrs.NatClem said...

I am so glad you shared all this! Excited to share this with my husband, too :) Oh, I must admit as well that learning isn't a roaring passion of mine, but I keep seeing glimpses (like this) of how exciting it can be! Thanks for letting us see your journey!