Challenge Accepted!

challenge accepted

Over the past 9 years our homeschooling journey has shaped our family in countless ways. But to be honest, those first few years were about survival. Although I was a teacher by trade, I had no idea what I was doing when we started homeschooling. Thankfully our first child was Miss Independent and learning came easily to her. With a small budget and a background in education, we were able to get by with an eclectic mix of curriculum, yet I knew something was missing.
Enter Classical Conversations.

Many families that I knew and respected were involved in CC, so with nothing to lose, and some thoughtful prayer, we jumped right in. At that time we started with two children in the Foundations program, two in the nursery, and one in my belly! What a year!

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Giving birth two weeks after we started made that first year a bit of a blur, but I knew we were home. CC has answers for so many concerns I had as a parent and an educator which I talked about in my blog here, “The Top Ten Reasons Our Family Loves Classical Conversations.”

Year TWO we added another child to the Foundations program (which made 3) and now had two toddlers in the nursery.

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 With one year under our belt  we settled in a bit more and even had our first memory master! I had no idea what our children were capable of.

Our THIRD year we now had four children in Foundations,one in Essentials, and I also began tutoring Foundations. (Teachers are called tutors because the parent is the primary teacher.)

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This was the biggest game changer for me! Classical Conversations is built around the philosophy that we are learning with our children, yet it wasn’t till I began tutoring that I fully embraced this concept. Having to study and prepare the material for my class, enabled me to fully engage with my children at home which produced enormous benefits. And this year we  had TWO memory masters! To become a memory master, at the end of the year your tutor asks you these questions:

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And you give her these answers:

a4598-ccmemory2In addition, you have to point out about 140 places/features on the map. It’s really amazing!!

Year FOUR we added our fourth child into Foundations,

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We now had two in Essentials, and I continued tutoring Foundations. This year we also had two memory masters.

Lastly we come to this year, our most exciting thus far. All five kids are in foundations, (Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is 5 weekly presentations) and two are in Essentials. And in addition to tutoring Foundations, I was given the privilege to tutor Essentials.

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And just like tutoring foundations enhanced my homeschooling in immeasurable ways, tutoring Essentials has done that even more so! Previously, I was not a great Essentials parent-learner. And although parents are required to learn alongside their student in the classroom, paying attention is not my strong suit. You see, I really thought I knew English grammar enough to get by without investing much time. It wasn’t until I started tutoring the class that I realized how much I had been missing by not studying along side my children. After all, I was their primary teacher, but I had missed out on equipping myself to do just that. And not only did tutoring essentials equip me to be a better teacher to my children, it also made me a better writer and communicator in my own life.

   With this year drawing to a close, and our oldest about to enter the Challenge program, I was given another amazing opportunity to become a Challenge A Director. This would mean that I would be leading the Challenge A program our oldest daughter was about to jump into. After much discussion and prayer, my husband and I knew this was a great fit for our family.

CC’s Challenge program provides everything we have ever wanted for our children’s education.

And it starts next year in Challenge A.

  • A strong foundation in Apologetics and reasoning (my favorite!!)
  • A working knowledge of Latin
  • Total mastery of a world Map
  • Developing scientific research skills to make their knowledge of science meaningful
  • Thorough literature program with persuasive writing and discussion
  • Learning the language of math

While being a part of CC has enriched our lives immensely, it is true that there have been times I have felt overwhelmed…many times! And it is in those moments that I am reminded of a verse shared in a training webcast this past summer. Knowing I was going to be tutoring Essentials for the first time,  I was so anxious about the upcoming year, yet as I began to put the time in  to prepare I felt my anxiety lessening day by day. Then a trainer through the webcast shared this verse and man, could I attest to this truth!

Hebrews 12:11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Parenting is challenging. Directing your children’s education is challenging. Following Christ is challenging. All of these endeavors require diligence and vision led by God. Our family is taking this challenge head on with the empowering of the Holy Spirit, the equipping of a brilliantly designed educational program, and the encouragement and support from an incredible Classical Conversations Community, both local and worldwide. Yes discipline can be difficult, but harvesting the fruit from these last five years has brought such peace and joy, we happily push on with perseverance the race marked out for us!

As Christians we are entering unprecedented times in which we and our children will be required to know God on a deeper level than ever before. We will also have more and more opportunities to make Him known. Our family praises God for a program that equips us to fulfill that calling to the best of our ability.  As I look back on these last five years I am blown away with what God can do when we step out in faith. God knew where we needed to be each step of the way, and we boast in His goodness and faithfulness every day! Amen!

If you would like more information about any of our Classical Conversation programs, including Foundations, Essentials, Challenge A, Challenge B, and Challenge I , please email me at laurenchastain22@gmail.com and/or check out classicalconversations.com

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The Top Ten Reasons Why Our Family Loves Classical Conversations

  I have been wanting to write this for a long time. The problem has been that there is just too much to say! But after back to back Practicums and Tutor Trainings, I had CC on the brain! Our community meets once a week, for 24 weeks, and we split up into groups according to age. The rest of the week the studies are done at home. So here you go 🙂  (Warning: there are an excessive amount of exclamation points in this blog post. But I am just excited, what can I say?)

1. Classical Conversations is God centered and Bible focused.

 Unlike having “Bible” as a subject, with Classical conversations, Bible is infused in all of the subjects. Memorizing the days of creation is a part of science. The Ten Commandments are memorized for History.The timeline of 161 events includes the historical accounts from the Bible. And to memorize a whole chapter of the Bible is par for the course. And that is just for the Foundations program. (ages 4-11)

2. CC provides much needed community and accountability.

As I have discussed before here, we all need accountability, but I really need it! And CC really provides it! My kids want to know their memory work so that when they play review games at CC, they can do well. They want to prepare their presentations because they like to share with their peers. And this holds me accountable to help them accomplish their learning goals. CC is  about working together, building relationships, and caring for each other.The truth is that I have never been part of a more eclectic group of moms and dads, each one with different strengths from which I can learn, if I choose. And whether it is hard times or blessed times, I have seen these families surround each other in a way that “They will know we are Christians by our love for one another.” I am eternally thankful for all I have learned from each of these specials families.

3. Your family can actually study together.

We ran into a neighbor who asked my kids that question. You know the one.
“What are you guys learning about?”
 “Oh, never mind” he continued, “I know you are all learning different things.”
To which I was able to say “No, actually, we are all studying the same information….Charlie (5 year old) tell Mr. Neighbor what are the 7 biomes of the earth…. Great! Lizzie, (11 year old) tell him about World World 2………” To which they answer, and are able to help each other if one forgets. We study in the car together, quiz each other, play CC Trivial Pursuit, or Jeopardy, and the 5 year old gets real genuine confidence because of all that he is learning right along side his 11 year old sister! Hooray! No need for trophies or yearly graduation ceremonies. They are truly accomplishing a great task and becoming intrinsically motivated because……

4.They can do it! 

 They don’t memorize the info for a test. They are working to remember it for the whole year, or better yet, for life! Yes, when they study that “In World War 2 Great Britain, France and Russia, were allies, and fought Austria, Hungary, and Germany which were called the Central Powers” during week 12, they are expected to know it still at the end of the year. All these facts here:
 
The questions:

 The answers:

 But how???

5. CC makes it fun! 

That’s how 🙂 I had a friend check out Classical Conversations before I did, and she said it was boring. They just memorized facts, she said. But now I know better. They don’t just memorize facts. They do “Mathercise” while they skip count perfect squares. (1,4,9,16,25….224) They do hand motions and sing while they recount the facts of the Cold War. They listen and chant along while a puppet lists the conjugations of Latin verbs. And it works beautifully. To prove my point I will ask you one question.

When did Columbus sail the ocean blue?
Everybody?
1492!
We all know this one memory fact because it rhymed! So why, oh why, did the powers that be stop there? Why didn’t we institute this mnemonic device over and over again? Who knows! I just know that CC does. We have songs for just about every fact we study. In fact, just yesterday, my 11 year old was singing about what happened to George Washington in 1789 in NY, a fact she memorized 3 years ago. Dates in history people! Who in the world can remember dates? We can! That’s who 🙂

6. The learning stages work with our developmental stages.

Ok, here is brief overview. Stay with me.
Three stages of learning:
Grammar Stage (ages 4-11), Dialectic Stage (12-13), Rhetoric Stage (14+)
The Grammar Stage (4-11) This is where we learn the basics. Parents marvel at the fact that their small children can remember the craziest things. Spoiler alert: your child’s recall ability is not unique! (Sorry, it’s true) God designed our brains to absorb crazy amounts of information when we are young. (Side note: this is also why it is so valuable for them to be around you most of the time when they are small) So what better time to memorize, memorize, memorize!! At CC we drill hundreds of memory facts in Science, Latin, History, English, Geography,Math and Timeline with the 4-11 year old children, and they have the capacity to remember them! All!! But we don’t just memorize facts. We have weekly presentations where the children get up in front of their peers. From show and tell to biographies on presidents, these presentations prepare them to spread the gospel! No more fear of public speaking. You should see these kids after weeks and even years of practice. It would blow you away! We also have science projects and fine arts instruction. And yes, we do a lot of memory work. We are hammering those pegs in the brain, so we can reference them later and have intelligent discussions.

 Let me give you an example.

Since I love math, let’s stick with that.
In the grammar stage the students memorize all kinds of geometric formulas, like the area of a circle, square, rectangle, triangle, etc. They memorize all the perfect squares, skip count the 2’s up to the 15’s!! And even memorize math properties like the distributive, associative, commutative, and identity properties. Why? Because you need that when you go into the……….
The Dialectic Stage: (12-13) This is the “how and why” stage. This is where we start applying, using and talking about the grammar “pegs” that we hammered in because our brain is finally ready! When I taught High School Math, I was often frustrated that the majority of the students I dealt with did not have those “pegs” in their brains that could enable them to be successful.
You have to knowthe area of a circle if you are going to find the volume of a cylinder. You have to know the perfect squares if you are going to simplify a radical. You have to know the math properties if you are going to work through proofs. And that was always the problem I had while teaching. The children thought they didn’t understand math, but the truth was they just didn’t have those fundamental pegs, those tools that they needed to make their dialectic years go more smoothly.
The other problem I noticed while teaching in the public school, was that when I taught that one, tiny section on logic in geometry, the highschoolers would regularly moan and complain during these 3 days or so to which I would throw my hands up and exclaim, “Seriously?? Teenagers don’t need one tiny section on logic…They need a whole class on logic!!” And guess what the CC students study during this stage? You guessed it! Logic! A whole class on it! I only wish that this was the case everywhere. Sadly we are living in a day where we are reaping the result of millions of people that never studied logic. They have no idea how to take a statement out to its logical conclusion. But that is the topic for another post!
The Rhetoric Stage: (14+) This is where they focus on expressing and explaining beautifully all that they have learned and debated. They are taughthow to express themselves. It is an art. Teenagers are longing to express themselves, but so many just have not been taught how.

7. You are learning right along with your children.

I really just love this part! You see, I don’t even remember geography class! But now, I am memorizing the globe right along with my children, even more so now that I am a tutor and have become so much more involved in the material.  All home school moms will attest to the fact that teaching your children enriches your own education in such a meaningful way. But the difference with CC is that the rigorous memory work for the early stages, if you engage and work with your children, sticks with you too! I am singing about the Continental Congress, or Margaret Thatcher. I can rap out the definition of an infinitive or dance to Newton’s Third law. I am not even kidding people. It is amazing. Go ahead, ask me where Timbuktu is. I am for real. And I just love it!

8. This program is so important for such a time as this!

The world we are living in is totally against this Classical Christian method. They are destroying classical education at every stage.
Destroying the Grammar Stage- instead learning the definitions that have been in place since the beginning of time, they are RE-defining our terms. Or even UN-defining them. Choice. Tolerance. Christian. These are just a few words that do not mean what they used to mean.
Destroying the Dialectic Stage- These days there is very little logic involved in decision making. There is no conversation. Believe what we say or you are an intolerant, flat earther. The end. There is no room for civil debate.
Destroying the Rhetoric Stage- There is no room for researching and expressing well your views or discussing topics. You will be fired. You will lose your business. You will receive death threats if you do not agree.

9. CC enables us to have a vision of lifelong learning for our family.

Our children are learning how to memorize. They are learning how to discover. They are learning how to learn! This is not about passing a test. This is about living life to the fullest. This is about studying together, and learning together and staying together so that we can…………

10. KNOW GOD AND MAKE HIM KNOWN!!!

This is the actual mission statement for Classical Conversations, and also for our lives. It is beautiful and it is everything.
No program is perfect or without flaws. With community comes the chance for conflict. With a lot of memory work comes the need to work hard and sometimes sacrifice. But without a doubt, we are so thankful for the last four years in this program and all that God has done in our family through it, and we look forward to the years to come.
Psalms 27:4
4One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. 5 For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. 6 And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord.

What are your favorite things about CC? Let us know in the comments 🙂