Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Classical Conversations

I recently received a request to share more about our experience with CC, why we like it, what it is, etc... And, I'll admit that I am new enough to the program to be a bit nervous to do this! I want to give an accurate picture of what it looks like for us and what the program is about.

First of all, my friend and fellow CC participant - Megan, shared this great link with me that answers some basic common CC questions. You can also find a great deal of info on the CC website here.

Also, if you're new to the idea of Classical Education - it might be helpful for you to begin here.

Now, I'll just share with you a few of my thoughts and questions I've been asked about the program. Rachel and Emily are both enrolled in Foundations and Samuel attends the nursery. We meet each Tuesday from 9am-noon and then all eat lunch together and have recess outside afterward.

Here is some basic info on how this works - the Foundations program is divided into four age groups: age 4-5, age 6-7, age 8-9 and age 10-11. These are somewhat flexible according to how each Director sets up her group, but for the most part this is how ours is. Eight children are assigned to each class (my class has nine) and there is a tutor for each class.

Parents attend classes with their children. So, in my 4-5 year old class, I have nine students and four or five parents present each week. Some of my parents have multiple children so they rotate through the classes different weeks.

We begin the morning at 9am with the whole group together. This is the time for prayer, pledges to the American flag and the Bible and family presentation. Family Presentation is assigned to one or two families each week to share for a few minutes about themselves. Any announcements may be made during this time as well.

From there, each class is dismissed to their rooms. In my class - our morning goes something like this: (here is a great flier on Foundations that explains this as well)

* New memory work
* Science Project
* Bathroom Break/Snack/Presentations
* Fine Arts
* Review of past memory work

Each of those things above is allotted 30 minutes. New memory work includes Bible, History, Math, Latin, English Grammar, Geography, learning a 160 point timeline (8 cards per week) and Science. We play fun games, use hand motions, music and puppets, etc... to make these things fun for the children and also to begin building these memory pegs into them!

Our science project varies week by week. We've built a solar system outside, made small rockets, learned about the Scientific Method and more.

During Presentations, each child is given three minutes to get up in front of their class and tell their name and share a presentation on a given topic. For the little ones where I am, this is most like show and tell. I provide a topic each week and the children bring something to share on this. We've recited poems, had them bring things from a nature walk, talked about favorite Bible characters, etc... It has been fun for me to see the children already learning in this area. Some who were initially too shy to even say their name have already begun to show progress at getting up in front without mom and able to quietly do their own presentation!

Fine Arts topics are divided into six week sections. The first six weeks this year, we did drawing and now we are learning about the Tin Whistle and how to play it. We'll also study artists and composers next semester.

Review of previous memory work helps us in nailing down the information we are learning each week. We've played fun games like Jeopardy and Candy Land with questions for them to answer. Some weeks, I will have them review all of their time line cards and lay them out in a big long line in the class so they can see how the weeks connect and add onto a historical time line. And, one time - we just took about twenty minutes with our maps and reviewed all of the places we'd already learned.

One more thing we do each week is begin teaching the children how to draw a map of the world. They can begin by folding their paper in quadrants and drawing circles for each of the seven continents. We've moved past this already - but it was a great place to start out!

I bet I can hear what some of you are thinking. Why on earth are you teaching four and five year olds to draw the world? And Latin? And, the parts of the sun or where the Strait of Magellan is?

To be perfectly honest, I've wondered this at times myself - especially when we first started. As I mentioned earlier - I think this is where our view of what we are doing needs to have long term vision. We are simply using music, hand motions and our children's ability to easily memorize at this age to get a lot of information into their minds while they are able to easily able to retain it. In future years, they will learn to pull from all of this programmed data and learn about it and how to apply it.

We've already had fun seeing opportunity to pull from the things we've learned. For example, when reading a book about water where a channel is mentioned - I can ask if they remember the name of a channel they've found on a map at CC (English Channel) or when a boat crosses the ocean, I can say - do you remember any of the names of the oceans?

How does this fit in with other curriculum you are doing at home?

This is one that I get asked a lot by parents in my class. I think this can vary from family to family! CC can either be your main curriculum that you supplement with math and reading or it can be a sideline that accompanies what you are doing at home.

Here is how we use it: during the week, we are working through My Father's World 1st grade for Emily and Before Five in a Row for Rachel. We practice our memory work using the CD in the car or repeating the memory work in just a few minutes each day at home - but that is the extent of how we use it at home right now. On Tuesdays when we go to CC, we don't do anything else for school that day when we get home.

How do your girls like it?

Emily loves it - she is eating up the social aspect and has been learning a lot in the process! For one who really wanted to go to school rather than be homeschooled - this has been a great program for her. It feels like going to school one day a week!

Rachel has struggled a bit more. I think this is mostly her age. She is a young four and it shows. The length and focus required are a lot for her. CC has a requirement that if a four year old is with you at the program, they must be enrolled. And, I know that it varies child by child. But, I think I'm seeing that she is just a bit too young. It helps that I am in her class every week since I am the tutor in her class, and she is learning the material and doing great with that aspect. I'm not sorry she is in it - just trying to be aware of the challenge it is for her.

How do you like it?

I am really enjoying it! I have enjoyed tutoring and the children and parents who are in my class have been a blessing to me. At this moment, I'm hoping our family will be involved in CC all through High School. It is a great program and I am loving all the things I'm learning! I've never been great at history or geography and I've learned so much it is amazing!

It does make for a tiring day for us as we leave our house at 7:30 for the 30 minute drive, prep for my class and then participate, eat lunch and clean everything up and drive back home. We usually get home between 1:30 and 2 in the afternoon.

What is the cost?

This is another thing I get asked a lot - and I get that! It is one of those things that we all need to know about something. Personally, I find this program to be very reasonable. Of course, it may vary somewhat in supply or facility fees by group - but here is what I pay:

$312 tuition per year per child
$50 registration fee per child
$50 supply fee per child
$25 facility fee per family

A blessing for our family is that I was asked to be a tutor. This allows me to get paid for what I'm doing and then I can use that money to pay for my children to be in the program.

What have I forgotten? I know this is very meaty - I just wanted to be as open about sharing our experience with this as I could to help another mom who may be considering it. Please feel free to leave your experiences with CC in the comments or ask questions - if I don't know the answer - I'll try and find it out!


Leanne said...

I know a lot of moms using CC and they love it...
I took Latin in high school and I can tell you that it helped me immensely with word comprehension! especially when I went to college for nursing:)
I admire homeschoolers so much. We are really blessed with a solid, biblically focused Christian school in our area...and Christopher loves it. If we didn't have that option, I'm sure I would homeschool, too!
Thanks for sharing!

Kimberly said...

This is my second year of using CC on my own at home (with 6 year old) and we have really enjoyed it. Year 2 is easier once you have one round of the time-line under your belt. The first year I modeled my home program after the CC class here. This year I've simplified it into a 20-30 minute slot 1 day a week and 15 minutes of review the rest of the week. I questioned "why does she need to know this now?" a lot last year. This year I see the fruits - she is remembering things memorized last year when lessons come up. We are also doing Adventures in MFW which focuses on American History. For that reason we have skipped ahead to cycle 3 in CC which uses American history for the history sentences and it fits perfectly with what we are doing.
One of the reasons I enjoy doing it on my own is the freedom to modify the memory work to apply to what we are studying. I also have 3 children under age 4 who have enjoyed learning the songs and motions along with us and I like that they get to be a part of it.

*carrie* said...


I was interested to read more of these specifics. Glad you're enjoying CC, and hope it's a good day there today!

Davonne said...

How much time do you spend preparing your tutoring materials each week? We had an opportunity to attend a CC this year (and for me to possibly be a tutor), but it's an hour away from our home so we opted out. I have been thinking of attending in the future, especially if one opens up nearby. Also, what is the cost of child care?

Monica Wilkinson said...

Hey Davonne,

Ok - our childcare is $3.50 per week per child (I only have one using that) but obviously it depends on your group. It is not required that a director even offer childcare, ours does as a convenience to us moms.

How much time do I spend preparing tutor materials?

This is trickier to answer. We have tutor meetings once every six weeks that are several hours in length. Somewhere around that, I spend several hours to plan out the next six weeks material.

After doing all of that - I probably only spend an hour per week gathering my thoughts and solidifying the plan for the next week.

When I'm alone in the car (on rare occasion - like when I drove to Relevant) I'll practice the songs ahead and listen to the memory work cd to begin getting that info in my brain!

We had one an hour away last year that we opted out of as well, then this one that is about 25 min. away opened up and that is working out much better.

Hope that helps!

Kristin said...

Hi Monica -

It was fun to read your synopsis of CC. I've been curious how your tutoring was going. Sounds like you have a pretty good system in working ahead so it isn't a lot every week. It was also interesting to hear your take on how Rachel was doing with it. Since we are also in the youngest class for our group, the different between the four and five year olds is noticeable. But I'm sure she is getting excellent exposure to the information despite it all.

I was intrigued by the comments by Kimberly who is doing the program at home with her kids. How I would love to hear more about how she does it in a 20-30 minute time slot one day a week (plus review of course). While we love the program, this fall looks a bit overwhelming to me with a new baby and potentially another morning out of the house besides our CC day at that point as it would be Bethany's year for Faith Kids. Just considering options, but we would certainly miss the classroom side of things for sure.

Anyway, thanks for sharing! Glad your year is going well so far!

Lauren(in Savannah) said...

We attend a Christian homeschool co-op and it is a nice balance with homeschooling. My girls enjoy the social aspect and we also don't do any schoolwork once we come home. Ours is 9:30-2:30 one day a week. Our costs vary. This year I paid around $380 for 3 kids but the teachers do not get paid. They also charge more for highschool classes. My youngest who is five is very clingy so I help teach her class and while she doesn't seemed thrilled to be going like the other girls do... she is getting used to it. Also, not sure if you have thought this far ahead but my oldest who is college used to go to co-op and when I went to make her transcript the classes she took at co-op really made her look much more well rounded! I think the classes once a week are a nice happy medium for us!

Amy said...

I'm glad you shared about CC. I visited their website before and I didn't totally understand what it was about. There are 2 groups near me, but I'm not sure that CC is right for us. We are attending a co-op and enjoying it.

I'm still learning what Classical Education is and I am curious as why Latin is studied in Classical Education at such a young age and not a more practical language like Spanish? In Spanish in order to pick up the correct accent it needs to be learned young, where with Latin you don't need to learn an accent. Do they learn other languages too?

It's a Mom Thing said...

thanks for sharing, monica! i'm hoping to go to an open house and info meeting in my area in the next few months. i'm so interested in classical education and can't wait to really get a feel for cc. once i get my thoughts together, i may send you an email with some questions. i'm glad this is working so well for your family!

Erica said...

We are in our second year at our Classical Conversations community and absolutely love it. Thanks for sharing the blessing.

Kimberly said...

In response to Kristin: I hope this helps give you a better picture of how we do it:

On Mondays, I spend 20-30 minutes introducing the new memory work and we review the work from the previous week. Since this is our 2nd year in the program the math and time-line are just review. The history sentences and science coordinate with our core curriculum so I don't have to explain those in that time slot. Basically we just memorize without explanation. We repeat each thing 3 times the first day. Then I give her flashcards to help her review the work on her own during her independent study time. On another day of the week we will skip the memory work and do the fine arts lesson. I don't usually do the science experiment - instead I stick with the ones in our science curriculum "God's Design for Life."

During review time: We won't practice the entire time-line everyday. I will pick different pieces of the memory work to focus on (and sometimes explain) different days depending on how they fit in with our other studies.

I would eventually love to be a part of a CC co-op but it isn't the right fit for us as a family right now but we still enjoy using the program on our own at home at our own pace.

amber@This Mommy Cooks said...

I am new to homeschooling, and I'm actually in the information gathering phase of it. I plan on beginning in the fall. I am going to a CC open house this week and hoping to come away with a better understanding of the way they do things and why and hoping it will be a good fit for our family. I just saw that you use MFW as well. How does your day look and how do you do both things. As the kids get older, does it make sense to use both. Is the MFW mainly phonics? Since I don't have the books in front of me, it's hard to see more than their example on the website. It looks like the first couple of years it does focus on phonics, but I'm unsure of the older years. Is the MFW adequate for math as well. I know CC doesn't have a curriculum for that. Thanks!

Kerry said...

Thank you for the link!