Classical Conversations: A Classical, Christian, Homeschool Community
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Three years ago, my then 6-year-old was introduced to a beautiful way of learning that engaged her in math, history, geography, science, Latin, English, art, music and speech. My quiet little girl was actively participating in the class, enjoying every moment! By the end of the year, she and several of her fellow students were sad to see it end. That was the day I knew this program was going to be a part of our lives for years to come.
In the fall of 2014, the first Classical Conversations community in eastern South Dakota began with just under 50 students. Three years later, the program has blossomed into three communities in Sioux Falls, as well as communities in Brookings, Watertown, Brandon and Parker, SD. These communities range anywhere from eight students to a maximum of 49. There are currently 172 students enrolled in Classical Conversations in the region.
Classical Conversations (CC) is a nationwide program designed to come alongside parents and students on their home education journey. From preschool through high school, CC provides students with a strong foundation in community, quality educational resources and the tools they need to learn any subject. One day a week, trained parent tutors model the classical method to parents and students, instructing them in the seven liberal arts through the language-centered Trivium: grammar, dialectic (logic), and rhetoric, and the mathematical sciences of the Quadrivium: astronomy, geometry, harmonics (music), and arithmetic.
Classical education develops a child’s maturity in writing, speaking and thinking. The classical method of education has produced some of the world’s greatest thinkers and leaders, such as Aristotle, Plato, C.S. Lewis and Thomas Jefferson. It cultivates a love of learning in the students by providing them with the same tools of learning that have been used over the centuries. According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, only 13% of adult Americans are now considered to be proficient in their ability to perform complex and challenging literacy activities. Classical educators seek to provide students with a well-trained mind; proficient in literacy, wisdom and virtue.
Students begin with the grammar stage, at CC this is covered in the Foundations and Essentials programs, where they are immersed in vocabulary and basic facts, repeating the information over time, until it has been mastered. When children reach middle school age, the dialectic stage, the student learns the relationships between those facts through discussion and debate. This is where CC’s Challenge program begins, with Challenge A and B.
Finally, once students are high school age and have mastered their understanding of a topic, they enter the rhetoric stage where they learn how to articulate that information well. In Challenge I, II, III, and IV numerous classical subjects are studied with the purpose of developing these six skills: grammar, exposition and composition, debate, research, rhetoric and logic.
Sample Schedule of the Foundations Program (ages 4 to 11):
Opening Assembly | 9:00 - 9:30 The group gathers together to pray, share announcements, practice group memory work (such as a Bible passage or the preamble to the constitution), each week a different family gives a family presentation. At this time the students and parents are dismissed to their classrooms. There are about 7 children in each class.
New Grammar | 9:30 - 10:00 A tutor spends 30 minutes quickly and creatively introducing the “new grammar” for the week. They learn new facts about math, English, Latin, history, geography, science and seven timeline points.
Fine Arts | 10:00 - 10:30 - The next 30 minutes are spent learning the basics about many different forms of fine arts, divided into six week stretches. This includes drawing, music and tin whistle, great artists, and orchestra and composers.
Presentations | 10:30 - 11:00 Every week the children each give their own 2-3 minute oral presentation to help build their public speaking skills.
Science Experiments | 11:00 - 11:30 Each week the kids will participate in a science experiment or demonstration. They memorize and practice using the scientific method as they learn about the different sciences.
Memory Work Review | 11:30 - 12:00 The tutor and students participate in a review game time where several weeks’ worth of grammar is reviewed.