candjmmastersThis past month marked the conclusion of our second full year of participation in a Classical Conversations Community. Although current CC members are winding up their community days, many families are at the beginning stages of their homeschool journey. They have decided to enroll in this program for the next school year because, even on the surface, they can see the benefits that CC can bring. But, there are questions. What studies do we add alongside the CC program? Is there a need for a grammar program before my child starts Essentials? Is the Foundations memory work really enough for my younger kid? How about my older kid? Will this be too rigorous for my children?

There may be some reading this who have been a part of a CC Community for a year or two, and are thinking about pulling out for one reason or another. Maybe the Essentials program seems too overwhelming and daunting at first glance. Or, maybe you feel as though the Foundations program isn’t rigorous enough. What if there are some concerns about the community you are a part of?

These are valid questions and considerations, and I have asked and contemplated many of them myself. We all want what is best for our children, and it is a good practice to step back, evaluate, PRAY, and seek God’s guidance.

So, here is a question for all of us. Are we praying and seeking God’s guidance?

Are we allowing the Holy Spirit to guide our decisions, or are we falling prey to fear? Okay, that’s two questions. Please understand that I am not pronouncing judgement, but am speaking as a fellow sojourner who is learning so much through my own mistakes. And believe me, I’ve made them!

Here are a few further questions I have asked myself:

  • Am I relying upon what is said in social media groups to determine my course of action? How much do I allow those posts and comments to influence my decisions?
  • Am I comparing my own homeschooling with other CC families?
  • Have I spent time in God’s Word meditating and praying about what it means to educate my child at home?
  • Have I sought the counsel of those who have “stayed the course” in CC for more than 5 years?
  • What books should I read that would give me a better understanding of a Christian Classical Education?
  • Are there courses or classes I could take in order to deepen my understanding?

Lessons Learned

Here are a few lessons that I have learned over the past couple of years. I’m certain I have many more lessons to learn, but I thought I’d share what God has taught me in the hopes that it will be an encouragement to anyone reading this.

#1: We Need Christ EVERY Single Moment
#2: We Need the Council and Teaching of the Leaders of the Christian Classical Education Renewal
#3: We Need Each Other: Homeschooling in Community is an Integral Part of Classical Education
#4: The Goals of a Christian Classical Education are Not the Same Goals That Our Society and Culture Embrace

 

Let’s dive into each one of these separately…

 

#1: We Need Christ EVERY Single Moment

Homeschooling is hard. We need Jesus. He is the way.

(I hope you Essentials mamas appreciated the three short staccato sentences!)

All kidding aside, this is absolutely foundational. I’ve tried homeschooling in my own power and belief system and it doesn’t work well. The result is usually anxiety and fear due to comparison. But, when I infuse my homeschool day with prayer or praise and consistently stay in His word, the supernatural occurs. And when the going gets tough, His peace and wisdom are always there for the taking. His wisdom is not the wisdom of this world. We will have to make some adjustments on our part (see point number 4), but submission to His way is always the better choice.

I’ve learned that if a way forward seems fuzzy to me, I need to spend more time with Him. When I spend more time, it’s easier to submit to Him and depend upon Him. Consequently, I school in a different way and am reminded of my touchstone and the core reason we began this journey of home education.

You know what? If I took the time to look at my CC Memory Work Board at the beginning of each day, and meditate upon the truth that God is at the center of all that we encounter (history, math, grammar, music, art, geography, science), then I would be inspired to lay out this feast of learning before my children.

#2: We Need the Council and Teaching of the Leaders of the Christian Classical Education Renewal

Classical Insights Blog   Classical Academic PressEarlier this year, Classical Academic Press put their yearly subscription to ClassicalU on sale, and I decided to take the plunge and purchase it. ClassicalU is a site where homeschooling parents and Classical teachers can get further training in what it means to be a Christian Classical Educator. Christopher Perrin, who is the founder of CAP, gives several of the online lectures, and in one of them he makes this point: fully understanding the Christian Classical Model is a lifelong journey. He has been at the head of the Christian Classical renewal in this country and recognizes that even after fully submersing himself in this philosophy for 20 years, he has much to learn. Andrew Kern of the Circe Institute will make the same statement, as will our own Leigh Bortins.

So, if these men and women, who are considered the lead mentors in this field are making these kinds of remarks, shouldn’t we be immersing ourselves in books, lectures, podcasts, and conferences written, given or recommended by them?

Did you know CC has a podcast? Andrew Pudewa, the founder of IEW has one as well. I have fallen in love with the Circe Institute’s Podcast Network (especially FORMA, Ask Andrew, and the Mason Jar). It’s as simple as listening while you wash the dishes or fold laundry.

Are we attending CC practicums? These are FREE for the parents and can offer so much insight into the philosophy of a Christian Classical Education.  CC also offers free parent webinars.

I probably shouldn’t even mention the books! There is an abundance of books on the true, the good, and the beautiful. My own reading list is so long, it will probably take me a few years to get through them all! I will list a few favorites at the end of the post.

There are so many wonderful resources at our fingertips that will help us better understand this philosophy of education. The more we learn of it, the more we will be committed to seeing this through the Challenge years. If, for some reason, this idea is new for you, I implore you to seek out these resources. Read. Listen. Attend. Discuss with others what you are learning. I just cannot stress enough how learning from the masters has enriched my own teaching and outlook about education. I am more restful and resolved to see this through than I ever have been before. You can be too!!

#3: We Need Each Other: Homeschooling in Community is an Integral Part of Classical Education

eyspracticeeveroneLet me get right to the point on this one. We are created to be in community. We are in community with Father, Spirit, and Son.  We are also in community with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Point number two: communities are made up of flawed human beings. No community is perfect. Every community will have ups and downs, disagreements and tensions. Some communities meet in churches and others in gyms, but where two or more are gathered in His name, He is present. His power can be at work in us to work through the hard times and come out stronger on the other end.

One of the courses on ClassicalU is titled : “An Introduction to Classical Education.” It is a series of twelve lectures on the definition, reason, history, and implementation of the Christian Classical Model. In one lecture on the history of the CE model, I was delighted to hear Dr. Perrin say that community was considered an integral part of a child’s education–even “way back then.” Classical Conversations has got this one right, y’all! Embrace it. Go deeper in it! Love on those families in your community. Pray for the director, tutors, and other families in your child’s class. If there is a disagreement between yourself and another person, go talk to them about it, as our Lord commands. Sure, it’s hard, and I’m not saying I’m perfect at this. I’m preaching to myself. But, it is so worth it!

Let me also suggest this. Do the program. Throw yourself completely into it. Encourage your kids to memorize the memory work like they were going for Memory Master. Make sure your kids have prepared a presentation each week. Of course we all have weeks that are tougher than others and things have to slide. We also have different kids with different learning challenges. But, if we as the teacher are fully engaged in the program, our kids will follow our example and THEY will see the benefits memorization can bring. I cannot even begin to tell you what memorization has done for my children. That is another post entirely, but trust me–the Latin maxim “repetitio mater memoriae” (Repetition is the Mother of Memory) is a truth! To watch and learn more on that listen to Christopher Perrin’s talk or Andrew Pudewa’s talk on the subject. These talks will inspire you to commit to the CC program!

#4: The Goals of a Christian Classical Education are Not the Same Goals Our Society and Culture Embrace

Oh reader, if we could get this through our heads! I would wager that over 80% of us grew up in the progressive educational system. There are remnants of the Classical model present in schools today, but even these are not employed as they were originally intended. You see, the current goal of our society is to produce workers for certain jobs. I am not saying that this is the goal of every school, and I know that I am over-generalizing a bit. But, that being said, this was not the goal of a Christian Classical Education (which developed in the Middle Ages). If we are to stay on this ancient path, then we are going to be counter-cultural in every way possible.

My absolute favorite definition of Christian Classical Education comes from Andrew Kern, who is the President of the Circe Institute. He says:

“Christian Classical Education the cultivation of wisdom and virtue by nourishing the soul on truth, goodness, and beauty by means of the seven liberating [liberal] arts…so that, in Christ, the student is enabled to better know, glorify, and enjoy God.”

Wouldn’t you say that is pretty counter-cultural? In a recent conference, Dr. Kern added the following statement: “The goal of a Christian Classical Education is to be a good friend.” If those definitions speak to you in any way, then it is imperative that a self evaluation of thoughts and beliefs about education and how they are being implemented in your homeschool, take place. When I filtered my own beliefs and habits through this beautiful sieve, a large amount of dross was strained out. Coming out of a progressive tradition is HARD. I think that is why so many homeschooling families struggle for the first few years they homeschool, and why there is such consternation expressed in homeschooling Facebook groups. Getting to a place of rest and knowledge in how to truly educate a child is like going through the process of refining gold. We have to be stuck into that fire time and time again to burn away the impurities. Only then will we be able to see education for what it really is. And believe me, the Christian Classical Model is golden and worth the pain we might endure as we shed past beliefs that have been ingrained in us since our own childhood.

When we embrace the above definition, we encounter math as an art, not a subject to check off of our list. Not only that, but we don’t go onto another concept until that mathematical truth is mastered or understood. If my child can teach it back to me or teach someone else, she is ready to encounter the next Truth. My oldest has gone from a kid who absolutely despised math to someone who just last week said, “I’m enjoying this mom!” Furthermore, the importance of music and art within our education is of utmost importance. The fact that most public school administrations view their performing and visual arts as secondary to other “subjects” shows us that our society has rejected these ancient paths. In fact, I would argue that the classes that most reflect what school is supposed to be about are the visual and performing arts classes. I realize this argument could be a post of its own, and I probably just ruffled a few feathers, so I will stop there.

Final thoughts…

Ultimately, the point I am trying to make is that Classical Conversations may not be a perfect program, but it is a beautiful one. Through it, our children encounter truth, goodness, and beauty. From 4 years old through 18 years old, they will have experienced the seven liberal arts. They will have seen how all the arts give freedom and point to the Creator, who inspires awe, wonder, and praise. They will have done all this in community–through laughter, tears, prayer, fellowship–through conversations. They will participate in the great conversation of human history. What an extraordinary gift! Will it be easy? No. Will there be some weeks where Essentials class seems daunting and unattainable? Possibly, unless we are looking at it with a broader lens.

I’ll finish with a short list of excellent resources.

resources infographic

 BOOKS

I am not an affiliate with any of these companies. I just love their offerings.

BETTER UNDERSTAND THE CLASSICAL MODEL

Leigh Bortins, the founder of Classical Conversations, has written four books that will shed light on the Liberal Arts and how they are employed within the Classical model: The CoreThe QuestionThe Conversation, and Echo in Celebration. I don’t have the time and space to go into these in detail for this blog post, but I will say that if you are a CC parent and haven’t read these, you would benefit greatly from doing so.

The other book that I would HIGHLY recommend is The Liberal Arts Tradition by Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain. The metaphor of the tree that was created for this book will bless you and inspire you to go deeper. These two men lead a course on ClassicalU and anyone would be richly blessed by their teaching and example. By the last session, I was in tears and forever enraptured with this thing we call Christian Classical Education.

Introduction to Classical Education: A Guide for Parents

IF IT IS HARD FOR YOU TO LET GO OF MAKING YOUR HOMESCHOOL LOOK LIKE A PUBLIC SCHOOL

For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School

Teaching from Rest

Mere Motherhood

GOING EVEN DEEPER

C. S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man

David Hicks’ Norms and Nobility: A Treatise on Education

Douglas Wilsons’ Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning

Richard Gamble’s The Great Tradition: Classic Readings on What it Means to be an Educated Human

Richard Turley’s Awakening Wonder: A Classical Guide to Truth, Goodness, and Beauty

ONLINE LECTURES/COURSES

FREE:

The Eight Essential Principles of Classical Pedagogy given by Christopher Perrin (8 separate lectures)

Teaching from a State of Rest given by Andrew Kern (6 separate lectures)

Nurturing Competent Communicators given by Andrew Pudewa

Circe Institute’s Free Audio Library there’s a wealth of wonderful free talks/lectures here!

PAID:

ClassicalU

ClassicalU consists of Three Levels of Mastery. The Beginning Level: Apprentice has 16 different courses you can take, from an introduction to classical education, to how to teach Latin, reading Homer, teaching the great books, and SO MUCH MORE. Each course consists of about 12 lectures of differing lengths. It is totally worth the tuition. Just one course is worth the tuition in my view. You can go at your own pace and watch them over and over again.

Circe Institute Conference CDs and Audio Downloads 

Can’t afford to attend the outstanding Circe yearly conferences? You can purchase all the talks/lectures from conferences dating back several years. These are so inspiring and life changing.

PODCASTS

The Circe Institute’s Podcast Network: FORMA, Ask Andrew, The Mason Jar, Good Reads

IEW’s Podcasts

Classical Conversations Podcasts

Read Aloud Revival Podcast

Your Morning Basket Podcast

Homeschool Solutions with Pam Barnhill Podcast

 

I hope that these resources will bless you and will help answer the concerns, questions, and fears that come as you traverse this homeschooling journey. It is not an easy journey, but it is transformative. It builds within us and our children wisdom and virtue. Other than knowing Christ and making Him known, there is no higher calling.

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