3 out of 5 stars
If you’ve been looking for an honest review of Classical Conversations, you’ve come to the right place!
We enrolled my oldest in Classical Conversations last year, and I’m sharing it all: what worked and what didn’t work for our family.
I do want to start out by saying any complaints I make about the curriculum are not directed towards our community but instead at the creators of the curriculum itself.
We are blessed to be in a community with an extremely dedicated director, and we had a very loving and patient tutor last year who did an amazing job with our group. I have nothing but respect and admiration for the people in my CC community.
Now the curriculum on the other hand… well, let’s dive in.
What is Classical Conversations?
According to the Classical Conversations website, Classical Conversations exists to, “Share the love of learning through a Christian worldview and fellowship with other families. Our families thrive using three keys to a great education: Classical, Christian, and Community.”
There are three stages to a classical education: Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric. The Foundations curriculum (ages 4-12) explores the grammar stage with Essentials (ages 9-12) covering dialectic and Challenge (ages 12+) pioneering through the rhetoric stage.
The Foundations program is based primarily on memorization. Each week your child memorizes facts (usually one sentence long) in 7 different subject areas: math, Latin, science, English, timeline, history, and geography. Students enrolled in Foundations also experience an oral presentation, science projects, and fine arts (either art or music) each week.
You are encouraged to supplement this curriculum with a separate language arts and math curriculum at home on the days you do not meet in your community.
Scope and Sequence
The Foundations program progresses through three different cycles of information. Each cycle lasts a year and focuses on a different period of history.
- Cycle 1: Ancient Kingdoms
- Cycle 2: Medieval to Modern
- Cycle 3: U.S. History
You don’t have to start with cycle 1; you can jump in at any cycle (we started Classical Conversations at cycle 3).
The year’s curriculum is broken down over 24 weeks-12 in the fall and 12 in the spring. The dates for your cycle are determined by the director in your community.
If you begin your child at age 4, they will experience each cycle 3 times, each repetition providing extra preparation for their studies in the Challenge courses.
The Foundations Curriculum book gives you suggestions for how best to incorporate the curriculum into your school day based on your child’s age and how many times they’ve experienced the cycle.
What do I love about Classical Conversations?
There are many aspects of Classical Conversations, or CC for short, that I love. My three favorite parts of CC are the community, the weekly presentations, and the science projects.
By far, the best part of Classical Conversations is my community. I couldn’t imagine going on this homeschooling journey without this group of amazing Christian families by my side.
Although there’s major value to being able to do school with Annalee one-on-one at home, I think there are huge benefits to having her also experience learning in a small group of children. They get to discover new things together and share in the awe and wonder of acquiring new knowledge.
I will never forget the camaraderie she has shared with her peers, especially during the science projects. There’s something special about experiencing an awesome science experiment with some of your best friends.
The benefits of the community don’t end with Annalee; they extend to me as well. I gain so much from meeting each week with fellow homeschooling moms. Homeschooling can feel so lonely, and having a group of people to check in with each week helps me feel connected to the homeschooling community at large.
I get to hear tips from experienced homeschoolers and sympathize with other moms who are struggling that week. Our CC community is what keeps us coming back week after week.
I absolutely love that every child gives an oral presentation each week. We had a fantastic tutor our first year who was encouraging and patient with the children in Annalee’s group.
I was afraid that there would be an unattainable standard set for thoroughly researched presentations with prepared visual aids every week, but that wasn’t the case.
All presentations, regardless of how complex or polished, were welcomed and praised in Annalee’s group of 6-8-year-olds. Some weeks Annalee would go a little more in-depth and present a short, researched presentation, but other weeks she would present on her favorite stuffed animal.
I loved that her tutor met us where we were. It was all about personal growth and overcoming the fear of public speaking. There was no comparison to other classmates. This was the perfect environment for Annalee’s confidence to grow, and boy did it!
I cherished witnessing Annalee become more and more comfortable speaking in front of her classmates, her nervous ticks slowly disappearing.
This is something you just can’t replicate at home by yourselves, and this is also something we weren’t getting in private school. Weekly oral presentations are a huge benefit for choosing Classical Conversations.
Although I don’t think the science component in Foundations can be considered a complete Science curriculum, the science experiments and projects presented each week by the tutor are engaging and educational.
I love that this component of CC is hands-on. I think children learn so much more when they can experience what they’re learning about. Seeing a chemical reaction is much more impactful than merely reading or hearing about one.
We looked forward to the science experiments each week. And a huge perk was I didn’t have to prep anything! We just showed up and got to benefit from the tutor and director’s hard work!
What are the parts of Classical Conversations that don’t work for my family?
There are aspects of Classical Conversations that I absolutely love. Unfortunately, using rote memorization as the primary teaching tool for the weekly grammar and the way the tin whistle unit is set up doesn’t work very well for my family.
I think rote memorization has its place in elementary education. Rote memorization is necessary for learning your math facts, parts of speech, and Bible verses. I even love using memorization in other subject areas. However, I don’t think rote memorization is effective in long-term retention when it is the only means by which the student is learning new information.
For some children, memorizing the 7 new facts each week is effective. I’ve seen children who can recite all of the facts from the entire year. It’s very impressive! Unfortunately, this has not been the case for my child.
We did our best working on the sentences each week, listening to the songs, and repeating the information every day together, but most of it just didn’t stick. It was a lot of work to try and get her to memorize all this information with very little success.
It also felt like we skimmed over a lot of information but didn’t really dig deep into anything. I’d prefer taking a week or two to memorize a science sentence partnered with other activities that provide context and dig deeper into the content area.
In my experience with my child, she remembered much more when we memorized a sentence AND took a week or two to learn about that topic with reading, videos, discussion, and hands-on activities. Only using rote memorization to learn the new grammar each week does not work for long-term retention with my child.
I have a music education background, and as a former music teacher, music education is very important to me. I was really excited about the fine arts aspect when we enrolled in CC, but then I quickly realized that the fine arts portion of this curriculum is purely supplemental in nature.
Do not expect your child to *actually* learn how to read music or play tin whistle with this curriculum in its current format. Skimming over music notation and barely taking time to actually teach fingerings resulted in loads of frustration for my daughter. She so desperately wanted to be able to play her tin whistle properly, and she became very discouraged during this portion of our year.
I ended up working with her outside of CC, and she eventually was able to play a short piece on her tin whistle, but if I didn’t have my music education background, it would have been a massive struggle getting to that point.
I think this part of the curriculum is seriously flawed. Providing limited instruction and then expecting the children to be able to play Yankee Doodle (the tin whistle song for cycle 3) by the end of the unit is unrealistic.
It appeared as if many viewed this portion of the curriculum as a joke. Oh, it’s the tin whistle part of the day – cover your ears!!
But it doesn’t have to be this way. In six weeks, you could teach a simple song to the students with fairly decent results if you spent much more time modeling proper hand placement and correct fingerings and used different songs for different ages.
The older groups should have the option to play more difficult pieces and the younger children should be offered MUCH simpler pieces to learn. I know many homeschool families want to be able to have the ease of all their children learning the same thing, but in this specific case, differentiated instruction would yield much higher success.
Am I using this curriculum again?
Yes, we have enrolled in Classical Conversations again for the 2021-2022 school year. Although this curriculum isn’t my favorite for my daughter, our community is worth every penny we spend on tuition. Meeting with a group of like-minded, homeschooling families each week keeps both my daughter and I feeling connected.
I love the friends my daughter has made through attending, and I would be lost without the support of the moms in my community. I highly recommend finding some type of community to join if you are homeschooling, whether it’s CC or something else.
Next year, when my daughter is old enough for Foundations and Essentials, we will have to revisit whether or not we can afford to continue attending Classical Conversations, but for now, sticking with CC is what is best for my family in our current season.
There are many aspects of CC that we love and some that don’t work well for us. I LOVE our community, the weekly presentations, and most of the science and art projects.
On the flip side, the scope of the weekly grammar doesn’t work well for our family. I would rather dig a little deeper and focus on covering less information each week. I also don’t love how the tin whistle is presented in this curriculum.
For these reasons, I’m giving Classical Conversations three out of five stars.
My goal for this next year is to treat CC as an amazing supplement to what we do at home. We won’t stress about memorizing everything; instead, we will focus on building friendships, delighting in the science and art opportunities, and strengthening our public speaking skills. Anything else that she learns from the weekly grammar is just gravy at this point.
Have you used Classical Conversations as your primary curriculum? I’d love to hear about your experience!
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