If you separate the two words in the title of this article and define them separately you might come up with: Classical – “Standard and authoritative rather than new or experimental”. Conversation – “An informal discussion of a matter by representatives of governments, institutions, or organizations”. Putting the words back together in the context of their separate definitions would lead one to believe the title to mean “authoritative discussion”. Not far off considering other definitions of classical are: “Of or relating to the ancient Greeks and Romans, especially their art, architecture, and literature” and “Conforming to the artistic and literary models of ancient Greece and Rome”.
According to Leigh Bortins, in her book Echo in Celebration: A Call to Home Centered Education, “The Classical Model trains students to learn any information through a 3-step process: 1) Memorize vocabulary and rules (also called grammar); 2) Process new concepts (also called dialectic or logic); 3) Clearly, persuasively and logically use grammar knowledge to influence others (also called rhetoric).”
Jennifer Courtney, the Classical Conversations Oklahoma State Manager, describes Classical Conversations as follows:
The CC program serves families of students grades K4 through 12. It is a unique program in many ways. Parents are on campus, in class with their children each week – it is not a drop-off program. We meet once a week for 24 or 30 weeks (depending on the grade level) and tutors who are trained in classical education model skills present material from the CC curriculum guide. Parents then work on the material at home with their students in between classes. The goal of the program is to equip and encourage parents, while providing a rigorous classical program of study. As a Christian program, the curriculum has a Biblical world-view and the mission of CC is To Know God and To Make Him Known. During the core class time 7 subject areas are covered – math, English grammar, Latin, science, geography, history, timeline. Additionally, scripture memory work, an art project, science experiment or project and oral presentation are a part of each week’s class. In addition to the core curriculum time, we have afternoon enrichment activities – missions, music and sports – and also participate in parent and student fellowship activities like Mom’s Night Out and field trips.
There are many Baptist churches across America who founded their own, or support other, Christian private schools for grades K-12. Riverside Baptist in Denver doesn’t have it’s own Christian school but some member families send their children to various ones throughout the metro area. Other families home school.
John and Cheryl Stutts are one of these families. It was in a conversation (no pun intended, although it would fit nicely here) with Cheryl that I was introduced to the concept of Classical Conversations in the homeschool environment.
Our conversation (again, no pun) started with Stutts giving me an overview and mission statement for the program. She explained:
The Classical Conversations concept for homeschooling started in North Carolina in 1996. It’s based on the Classical model of education consisting of three stages of learning, Grammar, Dialectic and Rhetoric. The stages are roughly based on the age of the child. K-5 is the Gramar stage, Dialectic is middle school and Rhetoric for high school.
The stated purpose on the Mission Statement is ‘Classical Conversations exists to know God and to make Him known.’ Not every homeschooler uses the Classical Conversatins model but those who do have found our Christian fundamentals appealing.
In the Grammar stage the purpose is memorization. Some kids sing songs made up to help them remember facts, definitions, dates and events.
In the Dialectic years the emphasis is on applying logic skills to discover the relationship of data and facts. In other words, developing an understanding of the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of subjects.
In high school, the Rhetoric stage, the goal is to practice applying and integrating subjects. Or, as stated in the text of the model, ‘to practice recalling data and applying it correctly to grow in wisdom’.
There are several Classical Conversations communities in Colorado. We meet once a week to review what we’ve learned and go over the new grammar for the coming week.
The State Manager for Classical Conversations Communities in Colorado is Dana Fopma. Currently, the weekly community meetings are located in Ft. Collins, Northglenn, Westminster, Castle Rock, Littleton, and Monument. We are planning on expanding in other areas, including Longmont, Colorado Springs, and Grand County.
As Cheryl Stutts stated, “Our group of homeschooling leaders in the Classical Conversations community groups hold each other accountable for the teaching and training of our children.”
If you’re currently homeschooling your kids or you’re thinking about doing it in the future, you can find more information on Classical Conversations at www.classicalconversations.com or email Dana Fopma, Colorado State Manager, at [email protected] Cheryl Stutts at [email protected]
I couldn’t close this article without telling readers the conversation I had with Cheryl Stutts was “classical”. And this time the pun is intended.