Saturday, March 26, 2011

Classical Conversations- Pros and Cons

This semester we joined Classical Conversations. Ultimately for our family we decided that Classical Conversations would be a postive addition to our home school experience by providing a supportive home education community and by scheduling the survey topics of science and history so that I can focus on the mastery subjects of reading and math.

There are numerous reasons for and against joining Classical Conversations, but here are my top 6 reasons for and against joining a CC community.

6 Reasons to Join Classical Conversations

The Support Group- If having a group of people working on the same material helps you to stay on track, then CC may be for you. If having a group of people to support and encourage you while you all travel a very similar homeschool journey makes you feel more confident and comfortable, then CC may be for you. If you want to be able to ask questions of a veteran homeschooler who has BTDT with the exact material that you are wanting to teach, then CC may be for you. There are a number of if, then statements related to a support group that can be a real help to a homeschool family.

Schedule of Topics- If you have other things going on with older students and would like a schedule of topics for your younger just to remove some of that responsibility from plate, CC may be for you. If you are burned-out on hs and need a year to get yourself energized without losing ground academically, CC may be for you. If you have a family member with medical or other issues going on, etc and want your child to continue on a classical education path, but don't have the time to devote to planning and scheduling, then CC may be for you. If for any reason you would really like a schedule of topics to follow, then CC may be for you.

Inexpensive Tutorial- I keep hearing about the cost, but, when compared to other tutoring services like Kumon or Sylvan, a private tutor, or even the other mom taught tutorials in my area, $13 a week for Foundations is cheap- dirt cheap.

Motivational for the Child- A child can't complain that he is the only child in the world learning XYZ if every week he sees a whole group of kids learning the same material. Also, if you have a competitive child, he will really be motivated to know the material.

Presentations- Every week your child will have the opportunity to stand in front of a group and speak. This is a skill that is best learned young, so that the child doesn't develop an irrational fear of public speaking.

Classical Material for a wide range of learning styles and abilities- Unlike TWTM, CC is doable even for children with reading delays, lower IQ, and a myriad of other learning differences. Auditory learners will really enjoy all the songs and memory work chants. Kinesthetic learners will enjoy all the movement in the timeline song and the speed of the class with all the getting up and sitting down (sit and draw geography, up for science, up to front for presentation, down for snack, move around for arts). Visual learners have not only the material presented in class, but tons of printed material that they can read at home.

6 Reasons NOT to Join Classical Conversations

The Group- If having a group of people working on the same material causes you to continually compare yourself and/ or your child to other families in such a way that is detrimental to your or your child’s home education experience, then CC may not be for you.

Schedule of Topics- If you are the type of person who loves to design and schedule your own materials, then CC is going to be frustrating. At first this was one of the deal breakers for me. When CC first began in my area, I couldn’t fathom letting go of one of my favorite parts of hs in order to follow someone else’s schedule of topics. After all, couldn’t I do it better? Didn’t I have a better handle on what my child needed to learn and when? Isn’t this a huge factor in my decision to hs especially in the K-6th grade years- the same years as Foundations?

Tutorial, Cost vs Participation- Although I do not think of CC as expensive, for some people it can be a real turn-off to pay for tutoring that they (the parent) then must also attend. For me, I tend to think of CC material as being like Kumon and Suzuki violin. My little man does Kumon and violin, and I must be there with him. My involvement is crucial to the way these programs are designed. It is my role to continue with and build on what has been presented by the CC tutor, but I know that for many families the thought of needing to be at a program for which they have paid someone else to teach is a real deal breaker.

Upsetting for the Child- If you have a child who feels overwhelmed by the amount of material, the group setting, having an instructor other than you, or being in a classroom for several consecutive hours, then CC may not be the best option.

Memory Work Issues- Initially another deal breaker for me was the CC memory work. Most of my issues with the CC memory work fell into these 3 categories:
  1. Out of context- Unless they find it interesting or useful my children simply do not remember things learned out of context. They may as well memorize a list of random names from the phone book, because unless it is interesting, useful, or in context they will not remember it the day after they stop reciting it. When we started CC this semester, I knew that I was going to need to spend time at home doing further exploration of the material or resign myself to the fact that we were wasting our time.
  2. Choices of memory work- For example- Why in the world would a child need to skip count for 6 or 7 years unless they had no idea what they were saying therefore it was out of context and they didn’t remember it?!?! Also, for young children I find it more appropriate to memorize things like Mother Goose and other poetry that exposes them to a broad range of vocabulary and syntax.
  3. Accuracy of memory work- I am not a scientist or historian and looking at a few of these makes me scratch my head and feel the need to explain, alter, or add.
Classical Material- Unlike TWTM, CC is light classical. CC just doesn’t have the meat that you will find in other classical programs, particularly in 5th through 8th grade.

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