Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Farewell to Classical Conversations

     To CC or not to CC.  That is the question.

     The answer is not.

     We will not be returning to the Classical Conversations, Foundations Program.  This was not an easy decision to come to.  Even writing this post isn't easy.  Classical Conversations is what God used to open the door to homeschooling for us.  It opened our eyes to books like The Well-Trained Mind and The Core.  I met my best friend there.  I enjoyed tutoring this past year.  I agonized over this decision for a few months.  I prayed about it and it was clear that I wasn't suppose to tutor in the Fall, but the decision to completely stop going to CC wasn't so clear.

     Until now.

     I happened upon a few homeschool blogs, one of which was brought up as an actual CC resource during my tutor training last year, who started out in CC but then stopped going.  Their reasons resonated with me; I wasn't the only one who felt this way and it told me it was okay to walk away.  

     Don't get me wrong.  We love the friends we've made in our CC community and we like Classical Education, but Classical Conversations is no longer for us for many reasons.  These are my personal observations and opinions about CC.  It doesn't mean that CC isn't for you or that we won't go back to it.  It's just not for us this coming year and here's why:

      Expense.  We have financial goals and I couldn't justify the price.  Yes, it's still much less than private school, but at roughly $1000.00 for both my kids, not including any CC supplies or supplements they might need, it added up.  Moreover, while my kids did the memory work, notebooking pages, activities and readings tied to the the corresponding CC facts, they were bored.  Frankly, they enjoyed the Language Arts and Math programs (an additional expense) I purchased for them more than the CC stuff, silly songs aside.  What my kids liked about CC this year was that I was their tutor!  We all love the Timeline song and History sentence songs, but I don't need to take a day from our week to have them learn those things.  That's money that could be better spent elsewhere or, in our case, to help us reach our goals.  Toward the end,  I felt like I was paying for them to socialize.  Which brings me to my next reason.

     Socialization.  Our community is full but is still growing.  However, for both my sprouts, there weren't many kids to bond with.  Let me rephrase that...there weren't many girls my daughter's age that she could connect with.  Our community had A LOT of boys and while you may think that's great for my son, well, my son's syndrome and age made it difficult for him to connect with anyone as well.  This may be the case where ever we go because of his syndrome, but in this particular community there weren't many boys for him to model and look up to.  Some of the boys were just mean.  That's the only way I can say it; mean for no reason.  I know boys will be boys but it doesn't call for personal attacks, which I observed a few times over the course of our enrollment.  I know not every CC community is like that.  This just did not sit well with me.

     It's too fast.  As I mentioned before, Foundations meets once a week for 24 weeks and every week the kids are introduced to new facts, covering 6 subjects.  One week did not give my kids enough time to really dig deeper into that week's History (or Science) fact before learning the next fact the following week.  (The History sentences were what I built our curriculum on this year.)  Yes, there were still 12 more weeks (in our state) to research and read more, but by the end of the 24 CC weeks it didn't make sense for me to go back after we had already moved on.  Sure, I could have purchased a full curriculum like I did the first year I homeschooled my daughter and then just let the CC stuff somehow make its way into the curriculum or let it be something they did on the side, but then it would be an added expense.  Remember, we have financial goals!

     CC uses 3 Cycles.  If you've ever read The Well-Trained Mind (you should if you haven't, homeschooler or not) you'd know that she suggests that your curriculum be based on History/Geography which cycle every 4 years starting from Ancient History ending in Modern Times.  The fact that CC is 3 cycles drove me nuts which is why this year I decided to create my own curriculum.  The 3 cycles wouldn't line up with any of the great Classical Christian curriculum out there and if it did happen to line up, it wasn't age appropriate for my daughter.  Almost all the Christian curriculum out there run in 4 cycles.  It was maddening I tell ya.  Maddening!

     We lost a day.  While CC only meets one day a week for 3 hours, that wasn't necessarily the end of the day.  While we enjoyed hanging with our friends at the park after class, by the time we got home the day was pretty much over and there was no real school work done.  At this point, I'd rather lose a day of completed school work to a field trip or spontaneous play date (or a doctor's appointment which is common since my have special but different needs.)

     Above all this:

      My kids have special, but different needs.  Some of you reading this may or may not know this.  Very rarely do I share what is going on behind the scenes with the challenges both of my kids face, not because I'm embarrassed or ashamed, but because it doesn't matter.  It is what it is and homeschooling is a blessing that allows me to work together with them to address those issues.  I'll share if I've found something that made a significant difference in our homeschool, especially for my son, but otherwise I like to focus on the fun, learning stuff!  Now, back to those challenges behind the scenes...there are things that I have to address on a daily basis and attending our weekly CC meetings gets in the way of that.  'Nuff said.

     Finally, I can provide a Classical Christian Education for my children.  I am their teacher.  I am responsible for learning the techniques and tools to teach them classically and then do it.  Many have done it before and without Classical Conversations.  Does this mean we'll never go back?  No.  Things change, but for now, bidding farewell to CC is what is right for us.

     Our new school year is set and planned.  I'll share our "Box Day" post in a couple of weeks once everything comes in.

     For other perspectives on leaving CC (and what they're up to now) take a look at A Nurse's Wildflowers, Nurturing Learning and The Accidental Homeschooler.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Our Summer 2015 Reading List

Accidental Teacher:
     Can you believe I feel like there's a few books missing from this particular list?  I actually have an innumerable amount of books on my Kindle and book list, but these are the books I want completed before we start school again.  Also, just FYI, while I still like cracking open an actual book; the weight of it in my hands and the feeling of the pages I also like the convenience of the Kindle.  How else would I store over a 100 books?  Now to the kids:


Little Toughie:
     They will both read Mrs. Piggle Wiggle

     These are their assigned books.  I want to make sure they truly understand what they're reading but since my daughter can't write a book report and my son has difficulties with comprehension and putting his thoughts on paper, I'm going to give them different options to share with me what they've read.

     My daughter is great at narration (it's the actress in her) so I'm going to challenge her a bit and have her write a letter to one of the characters in the book and/or draw a comic strip representing her favorite part of the book.  My son, on the other hand, is neither a narrator or actor or reader, for that matter.  Honestly, I struggle with getting him to read, so I may have to read those books aloud to him, but even that can be difficult because he's not an auditory processor either.  This is where the book How Am I Smart will (hopefully) help me.  As you can tell by his code name, he loves airplanes and I've recently discovered that he likes books with pictures that have a lot of information accompanying them.  Much like the airline magazines he reads and this recent book on fire stations.  Not picture books for kids, but books like the Usborne Encyclopedias.  I may ask him to create a magazine telling me about his favorite part of the books or what he learned from them.

     Either way, I can't wait for us to dive in.  Oh, and to make things even more interesting for my kids I created Summer Reading Bingo cards.  When they black out all the spaces they get to select a book at Barnes & Noble to take home.

Do you have a summer reading list?

Please share it on our Facebook page.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Year 2: Our Final Week!

     What a finale!  Some of the things our school year included:

  • reading and digger deeper into the first few books of the Old Testament
  • studying and reading about all the California Missions
  • memorizing a chronological timeline of 161 events and people
  • memorizing The Bill of Rights
  • memorizing the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution
  • learning (and drawing) all the U.S states and its capitals (plus geographical features)
  • learning math facts and doing drills
  • science experiments along with learning science facts, including the first 12 elements of the periodic table and the parts of the 8 body systems
  • learning Latin rules and vocabulary
  • reading 7 classic literature books which were also used for our grammar lessons
  • reading over 70 books covering U.S. History and who-knows-how-many books read for fun

     Whew!  All of it was topped off with my Little Toughie playing the part of Small Alice in a production of Alice in Wonderland.
Small Alice in her wig and costume

     As my daughter stepped onto the stage my heart swelled with pride and my eyes filled with tears.  Seeing her take the stage represented the culmination of not only her hard work for and dedication to the play, but also all the hard work of both kids during our school year, which had just ended a few hours prior.  As my daughter took her bow at the end of the show, I bowed my head in thanks to God; for guiding us through another year of homeschooling and for His hand on my daughter through her first lead part in a show.  It was overwhelming to say the least.

     What did I learn this year?  A lot!  I learned that math online for my son is not a good thing.  It was the only thing we did online and he struggled with it.  I learned that my son isn't a great reader but he does a little better with audio books or when he's being read to.  He especially enjoyed The Wind the Willows.  I learned that he likes to write in cursive more than basic print, and I have to say toward the end of our school year his work was neater and his writing had much improved!

     I learned that my daughter is easily frustrated if she doesn't get something right the first time.  She wants to learn it all and she wants to learn it NOW!  I had to point out to her (many, many times) that the more she practices the better she'll get, whether it be math facts or writing.  By the way, her printing is excellent for her age.  She thinks it can be better.

     I learned that my kids will turn anything into a competition.  Who can do their copywork the fastest?  Who will be done with math first?  Who will be done reading first?  Who can recite John 1:1-7 in Latin the fastest?  I had to remind them that I wasn't looking for it to be done quickly, I wanted it to be done neatly and correctly and for them to understand what they were reading or saying.  I have a feeling that I will still have to deal with the competitiveness in our new school year.

     My favorite thing about homeschooling is, aside from being with my kids and watching them develop, grow and mature, is being able to read to them.  That is my absolute favorite thing to do.  Whether it's the Bible, a classic book or some silly book they picked up from the library; I love to read to them.  Thus, I learned that I need to take care of my throat!  At one point during the year I couldn't read Peter Pan to them because I was losing my voice.  They had to listen to the audiobook, which they weren't too happy with but tolerated.

     All in all, it was a wonderful year.  We had our ups and downs, of course, but my kids amazed me.  There were days I felt I was either asking them to do too much or not asking enough, yet they did the work with only the occasional complaint.  I know that none of this would have been possible without God's grace and mercy.  He's blessed my hard-working husband with a job that allows me to be home with the kids.  My husband is understanding and supportive in our homeschool journey and let's me choose the curriculum, though I do seek his input and opinion.  God has blessed me with a man who has faith in me and my abilities to care for our kids, teach them and raise them up for God's kingdom.  Praise be to God!

     As I wrap this year, the new school year is already on my mind.  I tried to resist, but there's so much out there and I like to see what our options are.  I'll have our new curriculum up in late June, but for now here is our Summer Reading List.  Have a wonderful summer.  See you when we start the new school year!