About 10 years ago, right before I started homeschooling, I attended a homeschool conference with my friends Tamyra and Karla. While there, I was drawn to the “Trivium” table in the exhibition hall. There stood Laurie and Harvey Bluedorn ( I had no idea who they were at the time!) with all kinds of information on a method of education called “classical.” I gathered up all kinds of information from this very kind and unassuming couple, stuffed it into my bag, pulled it out later in my hotel room, and began reading about this educational philosophy and approach that seemed rigorous, thorough, and “right.” I shared this discovery with Robert, we then read Douglas Wilson’s Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, and were convinced this was the education approach we should take with our children. It is an ancient model of education, and some form of it has been around since those times, but there has been a recent resurgence of classical schools and methodology largely due to an essay written by Dorothy Sayers in the 1947. The essay is entitled “The Lost Tools of Learning,” and Mr. Wilson’s book is an expansion of that essay along with his own ideas, vision, and experience with implementing the classical model of education. Ms. Sayers graduated from Oxford, became a novelist, and was friends with many of the famed “Inklings.” (More on this in the future!)
So for the last 9 years, we have tried to use this model at home which has included LOTS of reading of classical literature (and “good” books), learning the events of history in a chronological order (as in lots of things that happened before we got here – from the Garden to the Pharaohs, to the Greek, Romans, Reformation, New World and Obama), learning the classical languages of Latin and Greek (amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant!), and much focus on math. So…Latin, math, and history have been the bulk of our learning and even how those three things overlap and intersect.
This year we are continuing with this approach, but joining with a community called Classical Conversations. It is sort of a one-day-a-week-school where the kids have a “tutor” and up to 12 other students in class with them. We were especially interested in this program for Kory, as he is considered a freshman in high school this year. (Oh my goodness!) We wanted him to have a rigorous/college prep program as well as a few peers to provide not only positive peer pressure to perform well academically, but also a place to discuss ideas, and get feedback on written and oral presentations. We also thought it would be great for him to have another teacher beside Mom for a while. (Mom was especially excited about this prospect!)
But it hasn’t quite turned out the way we desired. The only Classical Conversations community in New England at the time of our investigation was in Hamden, Connecticut – 84 miles from our house! We still felt it was do-able since it is only one day per week. We went to the parent meeting, and then took the kids to attend their open house – which is a day they allow other kids to actually participate in class all day long. Our kids were quite reluctant, but they ended up enjoying the day and making new friends. We decided to commit to being a part of that community mostly due to our anticipation of Kory having a male teacher and 6 fellow classmates.
Things changed in early summer, and we discovered that there would be no tutor for the Challenge 1 level (9th grade), but there would be tutors for the “Foundations” and “Essentials” programs which Cooper and Kayla would need. What to do? My heart was already so set on this opportunity, and the more I examined the curriculum, the more convinced we became that this was the best thing for the kids. Plus, my friend Tamyra who is a Classical Conversations director in Oklahoma, encouraged us by telling us what a blessing the program has been to their family – especially for their oldest daughter.
Can you guess how this story is going to end? We decided that more than a male high school tutor for Kory, we desired the accountability of the rigorous academic program, the record keeping services they provide for high schoolers, and the small group of peers he would interact with, so you guessed it…..Mom is the teacher yet again.
I have spent hours online filling out applications, and receiving the training required and even more hours reading some of the 20 novels that must be completed by the students in 30 weeks. (I forgot what a GREAT book The Scarlet Letter is, and I don’t think I’m a huge fan of Jack London!) I conducted my first parent orientation last night for the Challenge level families (middle school/highschool), and received my first tuition checks! (I am considered an independent contractor with CC, so tuition is paid directly to me, and I pay a portion back to the national organization.) So far, there are only 3 in the class including Kory, and the other two are GIRLS! There are a couple of boys considering the program, which would be great, but the girls are wonderful – extremely kind, gifted, and motivated, and I think it will be a really nice group!
Here are the “seminars” they will be taking from 9a.m. to 3:30p.m. every Tuesday beginning next week:
Algebra 1 (Kory will skip this class as he is doing Algebra II this year.)
Latin 1 (Henle)
Economics (1st semester) (stock market project and multiple texts)
Government (2nd semester) (learn history of U.S. gov’t and memorize U.S. Constitution!)
Debate (All public policy issues)
American Literature (20 novels, 20 papers)
Physical Science (Apologia text – in-class lab evey week, formal research paper in spring)
Drama (read Taming of the Shrew multiple times – compare/contrast ideas to Ravi Zacharias’s sermon series “I, Isaac take Thee Rebecca”)
Philosophy (read Sophie’s World, memorize top 25 philosophers, and their main ideas, compare/contrast with biblical worldview)
Guess who’s really getting educated this year???? ME!
Kayla and Cooper will participate in a morning program called Foundations where they will do a lot of memory work (“grammar” as it is called in the classical approach – more on that in a post to come!) in all subject areas, and an afternoon program called Essentials which is all writing and grammar instruction using The Institute for Excellence in Writing curriculum. Everyone will still do the bulk of their schooling at home, but will be accountable to their teachers and peers to be ready for the following week. And Cooper and Kayla will even still have to do a fairly full curriculum at home – their programs don’t offer math or much expounding upon the topics being memorized in class. It will still be up to me to provide for this at home.
So there’s the education update! I plan to post some parts of my application in the coming days in case you’re interested in the tutor requirements and further information on the idea of classical education. The application process was somewhat rigorous – lots of essay writing – but I am thankful that each tutor must go through the process. High teacher standards are a good way to start an educational program!