Monday, June 20, 2011

Classical Conversations--My Way

I first heard about Classical Conversations last year when I was "thinking" about homeschooling.  I did what I always do.  I went online and researched everything about Classical Conversations (CC) for several hours until my eyes were bloodshot.  I have to admit--I was enthralled with the structure and the material.  I wasn't, however, so keen on the pricetag.  Tuition for Foundations was $312 per child.  Tuition for the afternoon class, "Essentials" was also $312.  This didn't include the $20 supply fee, the $50 art supply fee, and the $100 in registration fees to be involved in Foundations and Essentials.  All of this is PER CHILD and due IN FULL before the year begins according to their website.  We knew we were looking at almost $1600 per year for our two children to attend the weekly sessions, something I wasn't ready to do.  Admiring the program as I did, I didn't want to enroll my two boys for a year, have them love it, and then have to pull out for financial reasons.  Keep in mind:  Homeschooling means that one parent has to give up their salary and be prepared to give it up for the next decade or more.  My husband supports us fabulously, but I try to be mindful of our expenses when it comes to curricula, field trips, museum passes, and extra programs.  It all adds up, and you know as well as I do, we want our kids to have EVERY opportunity that presents itself.  It's hard to make it all work.

Be aware that CC is not a full curriculum.  Instead, it is an supplemental enrichment program, designed to work alongside the things you provide at home:  mainly math, science and literature. 

So, I ordered the Foundations Curriculum Guide for CC off of their website for $50.  This provides the structure of the Memory Work for the three 1-year cycles.  I was pleased to see that Cycle One dealt with memory work from the Ancient Civilizations, which we were studying at the time.  So, for starters, I began posting on chart paper a memory sentence, a science sentence, and a skip-counting chart for a particular multiplication table.  The boys copied the memory work in their notebooks on Monday.  Then I introduced a song, chant or some sort of motions to help them remember their facts.  We would repeat it throughout the school day, at dinner for Dad, in the car, at bedtime--just randomly shouting it out.  Because we made up crazy songs and silly motions, they never balked about practicing their memory work--it was just another wacky thing that they did with Mom.

For example, Cycle One, Week 4 uses the following as a History Sentence:
     "The 7 Wonders of the Ancient World are:   Colussus of Rhodes, The Great Pyramids, The Mausoleum, The Temple of Artemis, The Hanging Gardens, Pharos Lighthouse and the Temple of Zeus".

Here are the motions we made up for this week: 

Classical Conversations sells audio CDs of memory work that you can listen to in the car or at home.  Mine was on back-order so we had to get a little creative and make up our own for the first few weeks!  Go to YouTube and search "Classical Conversations Science Memory Work" or whatever your working on.  There will be several CC students shown there singing their memory work.  It's a great place to start, but don't get locked in to their versions.  Making it your own is going to make it stick for a lifetime and that's really the whole point. 

Another vital piece of their memory work includes the beautiful--and I mean GORGEOUS-- history timeline cards from Veritas Press.  Really, everything from Veritas Press is of the upmost quality and beauty.  I even want some of their products that my children have long outgrown!  Any-hoo, the timeline cards are a great tool for memorizing the order of major historical facts.  Starting with Creation, and going all the way up to modern times, your children can learn the events in order, but also flip the cards over for more details and see other books they can read to expand their knowledge of that topic.

Veritas Press sells these cards in 5 different sets according to historical periods.  Or you can order just the Bible cards in different sets.  If you order the history cards, the Bible cards will be included as they pertain to history.  The first thing you will want to do is get them laminated!  They can be used, well basically, forever and you'll want to keep them in top-notch condition. Check with your local school board's professional development center.  I was pleased to find out that any teacher (including homeschool teachers) can use the heavy duty laminating machines for a tiny cost.  The 5 mil weighted machine (which is the seriously heavy lamination that you'll want), was only 60 cents per foot.  I got all 150 cards laminated for $15.00!  Cutting them apart will take you a whole night--but don't complain.  You got a steal of a deal!  Then, just get some oversized metal rings and thread them through the cards into 5 distinct sets.  Voila! 

The curriculum guide will also tell you which experiments they use from "201 Awesome Experiments" by Janet VanCleave.  I happened to already own a copy of this book, so we plan on doing many of these projects through the summer!

Classical Conversations uses the Institute of Excellence in Writing (IEW).  I found a used copy at a curriculum sale for 1/3 the price!  I was planning on using it anyway for the upcoming year.  So looking forward to this!

The Geography portion is a great guide to your study of the world.  We use Tapestry of Grace and its Geography section is very thorough as well.  As we study a place, we map it and label it using Amy Pak's phenomenal Ancient Maps.  Check out her products here!  My kids love doing mapwork because everything looks like a treasure map.  I've even let them burn the edges of a few to look like authentic archeological finds :)

We are skipping the Latin grammar portion right now and focusing on Greek and Latin root words.  Plus, we live in Florida and have got to get started with Spanish (even though my heart is in French--sigh).

It is helpful (and I believe healthy) for your child to share written essays or oral memory work that they are proud of, to an audience.  This can be done at quarterly unit celebrations with family and friends, publishing in your group's newsletter, student blogs, Teacher Tube, etc.  This is something that CC advocates at their meetings and I wholeheartedly agree.

So, don't be discouraged if Classical Conversations is a little out of your budget right now.  You can still incorporate some of its beauty into your regular homeschool week.  Just be sure to do in-depth study for some of the things that you memorize--at least somewhere down the road.  Memory Work is only good for so long--it is lost unless it is expanded upon, in my opinion.  Again, I am in no way discounting the quality of Classical Conversations.  Most of the people that I have talked to that have gone through the program love it.  This is just another road to a similar destination.  And you'll be left with a little extra pocket money along the journey. 


Kim Moscatello said...

Thanks for this! I really wanted to sign my kids up for next year, but the price for both kids was not exactly in the budget. Would love to come and take a look at everything and talk more with you and get some other ideas! Thanks Kim.....loving this blog!!!

April said...

Great post! I've heard of CC but never pursued it. The price tag certainly would have sent me in another direction. Love that you found a frugal way to do it with your kids!

Visting and following from the Crew...


Lightning Bug Literacy said...

Visiting and following from TOS crew!

The Buckner Family said...

Just visiting from the TOS crew! :) We went and took a tour of classical conversations but it just didn't seem like a good fit for us (and it is pricey). I'm excited to be a new follower of your blog and see how this works!

Julieanne said...

I was also interested in Classical Conversations a couple of years ago, but wow! The price! Shocking. People in our county just don't make that kind of money unless both husband and wife are working full time. So, we said no, and so did all of the other interested families. They started their own little co-op, and that has worked out pretty well, although we didn't join because it was mostly very young kiddos, ages 4-8 or so.

Other families joined a public school classical charter school program where they drive an hour and stay at the school all day once each week, and then do the rest of their schoolwork at home the other four days. That's worked out for many of those families as well.

I investigated many of the CC curricula and even borrowed a parent/tutor/teacher guide and looked through it. We liked the concept of chants and memory work, but not memorizing 3 million history dates. Not my cup of tea! But if you love it, go for it!

I like your website, and thank you for coming by to visit my website this week, too. I'm on the TOS Crew with you!


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