Tag Archives: Classical Conversations

Essentials Program: How To Gear Up For Your First Year (Part 2)

22 Jul

Essentials.Part Two

Thanks for joining us for Part 2 of my Q&A with Julie Largent about how to gear up for the Essentials Program of Classical Conversations. If you missed Part 1, you’ll find it here.

Today, we look at 4 additional questions related to preparing for Essentials. This will be my family’s first year of Essentials, and I have been sooooo nervous about it! However, reading Julie’s wisdom has calmed my heart and mind! I pray you will be able to say this at the conclusion of today’s post, too!


5) For first year Essentials parents who are planning to do Essentials a second and third time, how do you suggest discerning how much or how little of an assignment should be done?

God Almighty has put you as their parent and He will give you the wisdom and discernment on how much can be done. I would encourage you to not push them so hard that they feel overwhelmed, but at the same time realize this program is meant to step things up and move into the dialectic stage so know your child well and be ready to stop and pick up the next day or continue on to show them they can do it. Just remind yourself, it is meant to take 3 years to grasp it…..even now I’m STILL learning and this will be my 5th year in Essentials!

6) What advice do you have for first year Essentials parents whose child will have one year only in Essentials before moving up to Challenge?

Repetition repetition repetition! Truly having a strong foundation of the English language will be extremely beneficial in learning Latin in Challenge. Having said that, don’t go in thinking you’ll have to understand everything in one year. Trust the Sovereign Lord, if He’s called you to Essentials for one year and move to Challenge He will bless your efforts. As in anything, work as unto the Lord. I’m not trying to being over spiritual:), there are just some concerns/fears we need to lay at His feet.

7) Do you have any advice to offer parents of reluctant writers?

This is one, of many, reasons I love IEW because Andrew Pudewa says it allows the young boy who would rather poke himself in the eye with is pencil than write a paragraph about what he did over the summer as well as the young girl who can creatively and effortlessly write five pages without really saying much. It is almost like a math equation because you choose from a list and fill in blanks. It’s much more than that, but it helps those brains who don’t do well with coming up with things on their own. This builds a foundation to build on and I’ve seen it over and over again that they begin to use their own brains and don’t need to simply fill in blanks. It also helps organize the five pages of creativity into a well constructed paragraph or story. I had several 4th grade boys this last year and their moms were very hesitant. I can say without a doubt, those boys absolutely thrived!!! It was beautiful to watch!

8) Now that you’ve been through Essentials, both as a parent and an Essentials Tutor, what do you wish you had known or done before beginning the Essentials program?

Honestly, you can step in to your first year and do fine having only the Foundation English Grammar memory work, but I use First Language Lessons for my younger kids. I feel it feeds nicely into Essentials. I’ve heard of others that also work well, but I’m not familiar with them**. Our very first year with CC my 4th grader was in Essentials. I was doing well to keep my head above the water so I wish I would have been more familiar with the guide before the class started….this seems like the story of my life! haha

**Before starting our first year of CC, I was wisely encouraged by seasoned CC Moms to alter the definitions for whichever English Grammar curricula you use at home to align with the CC definition. In previous years, we have used First Language Lessons and Shurley Grammar. When either curricula had a definition for my sons to memorized, I substituted the CC definition instead. This practice has worked well for our family. By pairing these various curricula with the English Grammar definitions memorized in CC, a bridge between CC and the curriculum concept was provided. This aided my sons by minimizing the confusion of memorizing multiple definitions. The CC English Grammar definitions memorized in Foundations are used in Essentials, so this is another way to prepare your child for the dialectic discussions that await in Essentials!


Thank you, Julie, for graciously sharing your wisdom with us! For those of you reading this post who have journeyed previously through Essentials, what would be your advice for Essentials “newbies?” Feel free to comment below!

Julie Largent lives with her husband and 4 kiddos in the Philadelphia area. If you’re in the Philly area, checkout their church plant!  Find Julie on Twitter: @j_largent 


Essentials Program: How To Gear Up For Your First Year (Part 1)

21 Jul

Essentials.Part One
For those of you who are avid followers of my Facebook page, I owe you a HUGE apology! I promised 10 days ago that I would have this post up on the blog. Upon just completing the busiest 10 days of my life (2 sons’ birthdays, a birthday party for both, hosting 45 family members for a family reunion, and getting ready to depart for a mission trip), time vanished before my eyes! Please forgive me, friends! This is SUCH a great post (thank you, Julie!), so I hope you’ll find it was worth the wait! :)

One of the greatest joys from this blog is getting to know other amazing women across the country and around the world! I am so blessed to have “met” Julie Largent (via the internet only, sadly! Hoping we can meet in person in the future!). She and I instantly connected as we are both married to church planters and are Classical Conversations moms! Our family will be starting the Essentials Program with Classical Conversations this fall. Julie is a veteran Essentials tutor and parent, so I asked her if she would do a Q&A with me regarding preparing for Essentials, an “Essentials-for-Newbies,” if you will. She graciously agreed! Today, Julie answers 4 questions to help us gear up for Essentials. Join us tomorrow as we will finish up with 4 final questions.


1) At the first Classical Conversations Practicum that I attended, an Essentials tutor conducted an Essentials demonstration. At the conclusion of the demo, she said, “If I can just get the parents to not freak out in front of their kids (The children aren’t freaking out; it’s the parents!) and make it through the first six weeks of Essentials, all will go well.” What advice would you give new Essentials parents to talk themselves off the ledge those first six weeks of Essentials? How can parents (and children) thrive, not simply survive, those pivotal first 6 weeks?

So true! Except I feel it’s more like the first 3 weeks. I love how Leigh puts it; this is a 3 year tour. You are not meant to grasp it all in one year. Also, the first 2-3 weeks we are showing the entire massive puzzle of the program. Then, we take it apart and rebuild it piece by piece. It’s kind of like putting your mouth around a fire hydrant and trying to drink. Just remind the parents to stick with it; it does slow down. I would encourage the parents to read the lessons each week with your student. Explain to the parents to not to get discouraged, but do their best. It does pay off!

 2) What would you recommend as “summer reading” for new Essentials parents from the Essentials of the English Language (ELL) guide and Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) guide in order to get their Essentials year off on the right foot?

Become extremely familiar with the EEL guide. Read, highlight, underline, take notes or whatever you need to on pages 3-23 of the EEL guide. If you feel your student would understand some of it, I would have them also read it, or you can simply read it together. Talk with your Essentials Tutor or other Essentials moms on how to organize your binder. There will still be a learning curve, but this will help start off well.

For IEW, I would say organize your SRN (Student Resource Notebook) with tabs in order to make it easy to find things. Become familiar with the teacher’s guide as well. I just received my ‘new’ IEW books for cycle 3, and I anticipate looking over them. The format is just slightly different than the previous years’ books, so even experienced moms might want to familiarize themselves with it. Read up on suggestions on how to organize your time through the week for each assignment.

3) What are your “must have” resources for at-home use with the Essentials program?

Must haves: EEL guide (Essentials of the English Language), dry erase markers, a spiral notebook, pens (Andrew Pudewa strongly encourages only the use of pens:), TWSS notebook (Teaching Writing Structure and Style), dry erase board, SRN, IEW Student book, the EEL tri-fold, and a synonym finder and thesaurus.

4) What does a typical day look like at home for completing Essentials homework?

If you read in the EEL guide, Leigh gives an example of what a typical day may look like (p. 19-22 of EEL guide). This depends largely on the student and where they are on this journey. For 1st year students, it may work well to set a timer for 15 minutes and stop wherever you are; start there again the next day. Another option is to copy 1/2 of the chart or every word that is in bold or in a box or everything except what’s in italics or everything including italics. For 2nd and 3rd year students, they may be able to whip through some of these charts quickly! If your student struggles with handwriting or it exhausts them, have them dictate it to you sometimes. You scale it to what fits your student. This is just one of many options of how to schedule your day at home. It may take several weeks to get in a routine and find what works best. Then, I say work on a sentence a day and do the assigned number of tasks listed in your weekly lesson in your EEL guide. It may take your 15-20 at the beginning of the year and longer towards the end. Again, this will depend greatly on where your student is and what they are ready for. IEW may look differently each week depending on the assignment. We would spend about 30-45 a day on IEW after the first few weeks.


Thank you, Julie, for sharing your wisdom with us! Join us back tomorrow as Julie answers four additional questions to help us prepare for Essentials!

Julie Largent lives north of Philadelphia with her husband and 4 kiddos. If you’re in the area, checkout their church plant!  Find Julie on Twitter: @j_largent


Tutor Tip: Classroom Management & FREE Printable

18 Jul

 I received an email from a reader who will soon be a new Classical Conversations Tutor. She asked for advice on tutoring and keeping it simple (Here’s a previous post where I addressed some of those things.), and she asked specifically about Classroom Management. Having never been trained as a teacher (my undergraduate degree is in social work and my Masters is in Intercultral Studies), I was flying blind in that realm my first year. I wanted to write up a couple of things that I have used and done in my Abecedarians class in hopes that they will be encouraging to this reader who asked the question and to others of you who may be wondering the same thing. :)


My first year as a tutor was memorable for many reasons! One memory from year 1 of being a Classical Conversations Tutor was that I had no real game plan for classroom management. I did have 2 classroom rules. They were these two, simple things as shown above:

1) Be Good To Each Other and 2) Take Turns Talking

I teach 3 and 4 year old Sunday School at our church, and those 2 rules had been effective in my Sunday School classroom. Consequently, I decided to give them a try in my Abecedarians class. I love the simplicity of these two rules because they pretty much encompass every “misbehavior” imaginable. Little Johnny pinches his neighbor. My response, “Little Johnny, was that being good to little Suzie when you pinched her? Remember we want to be good to each other. Thank you for serving little Suzie by not doing that next time. Ok? (Little Johnny nods.) Awesome!”

Or, it can be used proactively to prevent mishaps in class. I only have 4 rulers during our Science Experiment. “Boys and Girls, we are going to be good to each other and serve one another during Science today by sharing the rulers with one another. Jesus desires for us to serve one another, so we get to do that today by putting others first and sharing the rulers!”

“Take Turns Talking” helps to reinforce the importance of ‘hand raising’ during class. I help my little kiddos know that when Mrs. Suzanne is talking it is my turn to talk. If they need to talk, I let them know that we can take turns, and to take turns talking, they will need to raise a hand until I call on them.

Stoplight only

These rules worked well in my Abecedarians class my first year of tutoring. However, I had no plan of action in place in the event that one of my kiddos in class failed to uphold one of the rules. I loved my little Abecedarians, and I guess I forgot that these little angels would have moments when they would disobey! :) Without a game plan that first year, I truly was “wingin’ it” when it came to Classroom Management.

When my second year of Tutoring rolled around, I knew that I needed to make a plan and stick with it. From talking with children in my neighborhood and at church, I knew that teachers often used systems of “clipping up” or colored cards in class to promote and foster rule following in class. I decided to create my good buddy shown above–Mr. Stoplight. Each child in class started the day on green. If I had to redirect a child during class, I would do so verbally in the kindest, most gentle, trying never to shame him/her way, and I would quickly reference Mr. Stoplight. I would remind the child to obey and follow the Classroom Rule, and if the behavior occurred again, I would need to move him/her up to the yellow circle. If there was another mishap during the day with the same child, he/she would end up on red. At the end of class each day, I had a sticker chart, and each child remaining on green or yellow would receive a sticker. After they received 6 stickers in a row, I had a “prize bag” where the child would pick out some little treat. :) Mr. Stoplight was a welcomed addition to my Abecedarian classroom this past year, and he will be joining me again this upcoming year. He served our classroom well; I never had a child end up on red all year! :) Again, any redirection or interaction that I had with the child my ultimate goal was to be gracious, loving and kind with the goal of restoration. I love these sweet little kiddos and desired to model and demonstrate grace and love while also encouraging obedience. I would often remind myself of Proverbs 3:12 as I’m correcting one of my sweet kiddos because I’m often a big pushover!

StoplightLast year was a comical adventure hanging Mr. Stoplight on my classroom wall each week. The children would laugh when they entered my room each Monday. “I wonder when he is going to fall down, Mrs. Suzanne???” I tried taping him to the wall, and inevitably, he could only stay stuck for 30-60 minutes. He seemed to always come crashing down in the middle of one of those magical, the-world-stopped-because-we-are-all-happily-learning moments, and that was all that was needed to get my 4 and 5 year olds (and their tutor) off focus for several minutes. HAHAHAHA! So, this year I have hold punched the top and added a ribbon where I can hang him from the door knob in my classroom.

If you would like to have Mr. Stoplight in your classroom this year, you can download him hereStoplight

Also included in the file are the three colored smiley faces to the right of Mr. Stoplight in the above picture. These three circles can be used during Presentation time to give each child an indication of how he/she is doing on time. Green=go, Yellow=1 minute remaining, Red=time to wrap it up/stop. They could be attached to popsicle sticks or simply held in your hand. Of course, I laminated both of these because I’m addicted to using my laminator!

I hope these are helpful for you! For those of you who have Tutored previously, what Classroom Management advice would you offer to those who are first year Tutors?

CC Readers: I Need Your Help! :)

9 Jun

Are you a Classical Conversations Tutor? Have you already attended your Tutor Training this summer? If so, I would love your help!! I am a Tutor Trainer for our local Practicum at the end of the month. I would love to know what was the MOST helpful thing that your Tutor Trainer did during your training. If you would be more comfortable sending via email, you can send your answer to suzanneshares AT gmail DOT com. Or, feel free to comment here!  Thanks, in advance!

What is a Parent Practicum? This is a FREE 3 day event for parents who are interested in learning more about the Classical Model of Education and/or Classical Conversations. Find more information and locations near you on this website.

CC Tutor Resource: DIY Tri-Fold Dry Erase Board

8 Jun

Tri-fold Dry Erase Board


I could NOT have made it through my first two years as a Classical Conversations Tutor without this handy, dandy Tri-Fold Dry Erase Board! When a new Tutor asks me the first thing he/she needs to do to prepare to tutor, I immediately burst out with this, “Make a Tri-Fold Dry Erase Board!” Even if you are not a part of Classical Conversations, I would still recommend making one of these to use at home! You will be surprised how many uses you will find for it! It’s inexpensive and simple to make!

To see how to make your own and how I use it in class, read this post from the archives! Enjoy!

Hey fellow CC Tutors? What is your favorite resource(s) for class?!?!?

Classical Notebook: Cycle 3 Copywork Pages AVAILABLE!

29 May


 Example of Cycle 2 English Grammar copywork page from last year.

I have had several readers email to inquire about the copywork pages that I made for Cycle 2. I was excited to hear that many of you enjoyed those! I promised to “shout from the mountaintop” when Cycle 3 pages are available, so here I am keeping my promise. :)

Cycle 3 English Grammar and Latin Copywork pages have JUST been uploaded to CC Connected!  (username: suzannemosley) Last year we used a Classical Notebook for the first time, and it was phenomenal! We are using a Classical Notebook in the same manner this upcoming year.  (Read more about our Classical Notebook from last year here.)

English Grammar (available on CC Connected NOW)
Latin (available on CC Connected NOW) or download HERE: Latin.Cycle 3
Math I use the skip counting chart from Half A Hundred Acre Wood. I’m thinking to make copywork pages for the remaining weeks. I’ll update here if those become available.
Timeline-My sons pick a timeline card from the week’s cards. They copy the title of the card and illustrate it. Download this blank document here: Timeline Copywork & Illustration Page
Geography I’m going to copy the black line map of the United States from the back of the Foundations Guide (4th edition) and let the boys use it to trace. Please, please, please read chapter 7 in The Core by Leigh Bortins to inspire you to ratchet up your Geography practice at home. It has inspired me and hoping to be more disciplined to have my boys trace the states and places of interest this year.
History (in process. Will be available on CC Connected no later than mid-June)
Science (in process. Will be available on CC Connected no later than mid-June)
Bible Memory Work Model Do you know about this FREE resource on CC’s website?!?! It has Bible memory work for all 3 cycles. My Tutor Trainer pointed it out to us last year. I was hoping to incorporate it last year but didn’t get that accomplished. I’m going to make copywork pages for Cycle 3 this year. (in process. Will be available here no later than mid-June)

Several have asked what ages are appropriate for a Classical Notebook. You can creatively gear these towards the level of your children. You can also include other items in your Classical Notebook besides the New Grammar. Half A Hundred Acre Wood’s Classical Notebook post has helpful information about additional items/subjects that she includes. For the copywork pages I created, my intention was for my sons to trace the statements and then write the statement again on the lines below. However, that proved to be a little too much for my newly turned 6 and 8 year olds last year. I’ll see what is realistic this year as we begin the year. Also, I would love to have these in cursive as well. My oldest is learning cursive through PreScripts. I was able to find a “cursive” font to use with the graphic design program that I use to create these. However, it is a very CLUNKY font and takes lots of maneuvering and work to get the statements on the page correctly; it’s crazy weird! So, I’ll see how that goes and will update you if I am able to make those. :)

Classical Conversations Tutor: Year 1 vs. Year 2 Reflections

20 May

Classical Conversations Tutor

This is the second post in a 2 part series. Read the first post, Classical Conversations PARENT: Year 1 vs. Year 2 here.

This was my second year in Classical Conversations and my second year as a Foundations tutor. I wanted to pen my experience with Year 1 vs. Year 2 because they were night-and-day different. (Hallelujiah, says my husband!) My first year as a tutor was also the first year of our community. In May before our community launched in August, there were 3 families including mine signed up for CC. I was the only one qualified to tutor since I had homeschooled at least a year, and when weighing the options of 1) Tutor and have a CC Community or 2) Not tutor and maybe, possibly, hopefully have a CC Community, I decided to tutor. :) Two weeks later I found myself in Tutor Training, which was outstanding. Yet I had never seen a CC “school day” or was yet to be fluent in the grammar of CC. Most of my 3 days of Tutor Training involved a “deer-in-the-headlights” look on my face with a general state of “mental fog.” There was too much information for my brain to process, and because I didn’t exactly know what I had signed up for, I was unable to take advantage of asking questions of the seasoned tutors around me.

Alas, I jumped into tutoring with all my might and, in general, our family had a positive experience despite, personally, doing many things wrongly.  Serving as a Foundations Tutor was a positive experience, but I was, also, my own worst enemy. Now that I have 2 years under my belt as a tutor, it is blatantly obvious to me what worked well and what did not. As a means of comparison between year 1 and year 2, here’s how I would summarize my physical, mental and emotional state after year 1: burned out, needed about 1 week of uninterrupted sleep, exhausted brain, and relieved it was OVER. We just finished our 2nd CC year about 3 weeks ago. In contrast, at Year 2’s conclusion, I felt joy and gratitude as I thought about my kiddos, their moms, and their accomplishments. Admittedly, I was ready for a summer break but eager to tutor again next year. I was energized and ready to start prepping and planning tutoring ideas for Cycle 3. To state the obvious, I was a different person year 1 vs. year 2, and I praise God for that!

I have reflected on the causes behind the “pile of mush” tutor of year 1 and the invigorated, joyous tutor of year 2. In an attempt to avert you from making my same mistakes, I thought I would put my conclusions down on paper on my blog praying all the while that they will be encouraging and helpful for someone embarking on serving as a Foundations tutor. Enjoy!

1) Glitter and Glam vs. Stick in the Sand

I have taught, and probably always will teach, the sweet little Abecedarians! Both years as a tutor, I have had the youngest 8 children in our community. I am in my element with 4 and 5 year olds, and it is crazy fun! When I started tutoring my first year, I wanted my CC class to be fun and memorable for the kids. For most of the children, this was their first year of school, and I wanted it to be forever etched in their brains…as an amazing experience! Isn’t that what kindergarten is for?!?!? Amazing memories?? During that year, I made cute, crafty things for almost every subject during New Grammar. It was “Glitter and Glam” each week. This reality makes me LAUGH OUT LOUD now!!! Can you say, “Totally missing the point?!?!? My expectations of myself and what should happen during New Grammar were unreasonable and missed the mark! The papers, crafty things were “glitter and glam” and precious, but they were not necessary and extremely time consuming for me to prep weekly.

If you’ve been around CC for longer than 5 minutes, you’ve probably heard the phrase “stick in the sand.” This is the idea and philosophy in direct opposition to my “glitter and glam” philosophy from year 1. The “stick in the sand” method incorporates basic, simplistic, “no frills” resources, tools, and activities during New Grammar to aid the children in memorization. After reaching the point of burnout at year 1’s conclusion, I made a vow that I would scale it WAY BACK during New Grammar and incorporate more “stick in the sand” techniques for year 2. Instead of creating cutesy self-made clip art creations that suited my fancy, I used simple pencil and paper stick figure drawings for a History Statement or the “erase a word at a time” method for memorizing Latin. And, of course, we sang lots & lots of songs! The result in the classroom, you ask? My year 2 Abecedarians had just as much fun with the “stick in the sand” activities, and they memorized the New Grammar effortlessly. The result for me as a tutor? Tutoring was much more enjoyable and planning weekly felt less like an albatross thanks to the simplicity of “stick in the sand.” Please hear me that fun, creative, cutesy activities for New Grammar aren’t innately evil, but if they are becoming the proverbial tail that wags the dog, ditch them! Remember–less really is more!

2) Intimidating Parents vs. Training Parents

I think shifting from “glitter to glam” to “stick in the sand” also positively impacted the parents in my class for year 2. The first year I was concerned more with the children having fun and being an “expert” tutor. I rarely gave thought to whether or not  my classroom activities were transferable to their homes. I knew that one of Classical Conversations’ goals is for the tutor to train the parents in ways to implement the classical model at home. In fact, this was one of the reasons that drew me to CC. Honestly, though, year 1 as a tutor, I am quite confident that I was undercutting the parents’ motivation to try things at home. The activities and resources that I incorporated into class were too labor-intensive, and I’m sure that was intimidating to the parents. Very little of what I used in class during year 1 was replicable at home.

Year 2, on the contrary, I have seen the proof in the pudding that less is more. I had many of the moms tell me how their time at home was spent practicing songs, drawing their own stick figure cards for history statement and reviewing the hand motions from class. Honestly, before they told me, I knew that my Moms were reviewing with their children at home! It was blatantly obvious each week during Review Game time. My little 4, 5, and 6 year olds remembered the New Grammar from week to week! Without even realizing it, my “scaling back” to “stick in the sand” was training the parents in my class. The simplistic methods and activities in class empowered them to try those same things at home. I was elated and felt so humbled to see my classroom spilling over into the homes of my sweet Abecedarians! As Foundations tutors, we have a wonderful opportunity to further train and encourage the parents in the ways of the classical model. What a joy and privilege! As I gear up over the summer for Year 3 of tutoring, I will continue in the ways of Year 2–intentionally seeking ways to encourage my parents in class.

Explaining vs. Drilling
One of the greatest lessons that I had to learn as a Foundations was this- every piece of New Grammar introduced weekly in class does not require an explanation. I know this will be my propensity each week in class; I always desire to explain to my Abecedarians why, why, why. However, in those moments of temptation to teach, I remind myself that the explanations and discussions I desire to have with them in Foundations will come during the later years of the Challenge program. In the words of my past 2 Tutor Trainers, who were both amazing, “As a Foundations tutor, you are the Drill Sergeant. Drill, drill, drill!” and “As a Foundations tutor, your goal is not to explain. Your job is to train the brain to retrain.” Here’s a great article that expounds on this idea in greater detail written by my Tutor Trainer from last year. (Yup, the lady behind Half A Hundred Acre Wood was my Tutor Trainer last year. Yes, she is as amazing, humble, and fabulous as you gather when reading her blog!) When you find yourself wanting to explain in detail the week’s New Grammar, go back and read this article! Drill, drill, drill, Miss Drill Sergeant! :)

Planning the Night Before vs. Planning Days Ahead

One shift for me in Year 2 was an intentional effort to do the majority of my planning earlier in the week. Our CC Community day is Monday. During Year 1, there were many Sunday nights when I kept the midnight oil (or later!) burning while I put the finishing touches on the week’s New Grammar, Fine Arts, Science Experiment, and Review Game. My goal this past year was to not make that same mistake twice!  :) Year 2’s plan was to write the New Grammar for the upcoming week on my Tri-Fold Dry Erase Board by Thursday. By doing this work on Thursdays, it gave me a couple of days to mull over, think through the New Grammar and how I would teach it to my Abecedarians. This worked much better than Year 1!

Also, to help with planning in advance, I highly recommend CC Connected for any tutor (and non-tutoring parents, too, honestly!) CC Connected is an online file sharing program. CC participants from the world over upload their resources for the varioius cycles and New Grammar subjects here; it, truly, is amazing! It is, hands down, worth the monthly fee ($3 for tutors, $6 non-tutoring parents). My CC Connected subscription has also helped me tackle planning multiple weeks in one sitting, which helped me in Year 2 curb my procrastinating habits of Year 1.

Another way to get ahead of the game as a Foundations Tutor is to use your summer to prepare! :) As I mentioned previously, I was a hot mess at the conclusion of Year 1; I was burned totally out! It took me the entire summer between Year 1 and Year 2 to recover. However, since I scaled down my “glimmer and glam” approach to tutoring in Year 2, I am entering the summer looking towards Year 3 rejuvenated! Therefore, I am hoping to get a massive chunk of my Cycle 3 plans done this summer!

Tri-Fold Dry Erase Board Is My BFF

As a tutor, I would be remiss to mention my BFF–my Tri-Fold Dry Erase Board. One of the other tutors in my community mentioned this to me during the summer prior to Year 1 of tutoring. Wow! I can’t imagine tutoring without my board! Read this previous post on how I use it in class and how to make your own at home with little effort! You won’t regret it!

Being a CC tutor has been a great joy for me, personally. It has stretched me, given me the opportunity to be engaged with what my sons are learning in their CC classes, and allowed me the opportunity to learn a lot (that’s an understatement!). I pray that God will use the role of CC tutor in your life to give you a greater understanding of who He is and all that He has created for His glory! This is was of the greatest gifts I’ve received as a tutor; I pray it will be for you as well!

What is the greatest lesson that you’ve learned–good or bad–as a tutor that you can share with readers? Comment below! I look forward to learning from you and gleaning from your wisdom!

Classical Conversations Parent: Year 1 vs. Year 2

19 May

Classical Conversations Parent

This is the first post in a 2 part series. Read the second post, “Classical Conversations TUTOR Reflections: Year 1 vs. Year 2″ here.

Our Classical Conversations Community had a Mom’s Night Out this past week, and many of the women present have just joined CC. Their families will be starting in a Foundations class this fall. Many of the “newbies” asked questions that I asked 365 days prior. Our first year of Foundations was the first year of our community; 99% of the moms in our community were also “newbies.” I didn’t have many “seasoned” CC Moms that I could talk with and ask my litany of questions. So, I did as any homeschooling mom would do! I jumped in and navigated our first year of Foundations to the best of my ability.

For my family there were a few successes our first year; this led us to sign up for a second year of CC. However, there were many, many choices that I made, which I never wanted to replicate. The consequences of those decisions my first year left me in a state of complete and utter burnout. I took the summer “off” in between year 1 and year 2 recognizing that I was burned out. I was in such a state of physical and mental exhaustion that, honestly, I was not completely “back to normal” when we started our 2nd year of CC four months later. However, God was so gracious! He sustained me, restored me physically and mentally, and led us down a drastically different path for year 2 of CC. Our second year finished about three weeks ago, and I can summarize it with these words: joyous, exhilarating, and FUN!

Because year 1 and year 2 ended in such different ways, I have spent the past several weeks reflecting on why. I decided to put my reflections down on paper so that I can re-read them later in the summer and throughout the months of our family’s third year of Classical Conversations. I hope and pray they will be encouraging to those of you preparing to start CC for the first time.

1) “Let Your First Year of Classical Conversations Wash Over You.”

“Let your first year of Classical Conversations wash over you.” One of the CC moms shared this at the Mom’s Night Out this week. She was given this nugget of wisdom by a close friend who is a CC Challenge tutor. As soon as she said it, I looked at her and said, “Wow, that is so true! I wish someone had told me this our first year of CC!”

I was not classically educated as a child, and I knew little about how to practically educate my sons according to the classical model. My classical model “learning curve” our first year was the size of Mount Everest. Instead of taking our first year to soak up CC and to learn more about the classical model, I was intent on implementing it! Can you say, “cart before the horse?!?!”

I think it’s safe to say that you can not implement what you do not know. So, if this is your first year of Classical Conversations, drink deeply from all 24 weeks. Yes, you may feel like you are drinking from a fire hydrant, but take lots of deep breaths along the way as you immerse yourself in CC. The other beautiful component of Classical Conversations is repetition. Even though our first year was treacherous and exhausting, I knew that we would do CC again the following school year and most likely three years later when Cycle 1 rolled around again! If you have “gaps” in your Classical Conversations learning your first year and plan to do CC in the future, know that those gaps aren’t permanent. They can be filled in during your subsequent years. Your depth of wisdom, insight, and understanding will increase with each year (and with each week of CC your first year, for that matter!). So, take a deep breath and repeat after me, “I will let my first year of Classical Conversations wash over me.” There! You feel better already, right?!!?

2) Seek To Understand the Classical Model.

I have a confession to make. We just finished our second year of Classical Conversations, and this is the first year that I’ve made it my aim to do an in-depth study of the classical model. I am just finishing Echo in Celebration (FREE download) and The Core both written by Classical Conversations founder Leigh Bortins. My first piece of advice for a new CC mom is “Let your first year of Classical Conversations wash over you.” My second piece of advice is to read Echo in Celebration and The Core. These books will give you a breadth of understanding regarding the classical model and why CC is created and mapped out in its particular way. On a personal note, I felt “freed up” after reading both of these books. Many of the expectations that I was placing on myself as a home school mom and my children, my students, were obliterated after reading these books.

Also, if you have already purchased your Foundations Guide know that it is a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips! Make it your task this summer to read pages 8-40 in the Foundations Guide. The logic and reasoning behind the structure of Classical Conversations is presented, which may prevent many “Why does CC do it this way?” questions your first year. Another question that I am always asked regarding CC is, “What curriculum do I need to buy?” If this is your question, read, “The Classical Model at Home” article on pages 31- 37 of the Foundations Guide. Leigh Bortins. Her encouragement is: “1) a rigorous language arts program that progresses with your child’s ability, 2) a complete math program, 3) memorization to train the mind, and 4) lots of reading, writing, discussing and relating centered around the best God has to offer” (page 32-33).  I also loved the simplicity of her encouragement to “remember to focus on language arts and math until your child is an excellent reader” (page 33), which is the place where I am currently with my sons. Isn’t that wonderfully liberating?!?!?

Leigh Bortins also shares how her family breaks down their school day into 4, one hour segments. The discussion begins on page 33. This 4, one hour segment approach was eye opening and invaluable to my family this past year. I plotted our 4, one hour segments over the summer in preparation for the 2013-14 school year. We followed the 4 segment approach this school year, and it was glorious! I especially loved how the 4, one hour segment approach served as a “budget” for me regarding what curriculum we did or did not use this year. If a curriculum did not fit into one of the 4 segments, I omitted it. I am notorious for having too much to accomplish in a day or a school year. The 4 segments aided me in trimming the “fat” from my curriculum list and focusing on the essentials that my sons needed. The curriculum that I had already purchased to use for the 2013-14 school year prior to reading the article (like Apologia Astronomy!) I was forced to shelve. I decided that we’d go through the additional pieces during our non-CC weeks or during the summer.

3) No, You DO NOT Have To Read A Book About Every New Grammar Fact Your Child Memorizes.

Just thinking back to our first year wears me out. I think I’m still recovering from it! HA! The root cause of this was my effort to find a book to read about every factoid that my sons were memorizing each week in New Grammar. For the sake of all that’s good in the world, please don’t make this same mistake as I did! I made this error in judgement because of my lack of understanding about the classical model. The Foundations level of Classical Conversations is based on the Grammar stage of the classical model. This is the stage where a student memorizes the “grammar” of a variety of subjects (in the case of CC, the 7 subjects of History, Timeline, English, Latin, Math, Science, and Geography). I assumed that my boys needed to completely understand every factoid that they learned during the 24 weeks of Foundations.  However, this level of understanding is associated with the second stage of the classical model, the Dialectic stage (see Foundations Guide page 27). My boys are ages 8, 6, and 4 and no where close to the Dialectic stage; they are purely Grammar-ites these days. Their desire and ability to understand the “why” and “how” behind the grammar that they are memorizing will come with age. (For more information on the freedom of the Grammar Stage, read this article by Brandy from Half A Hundred Acre Wood. I promise you will be freed up even more after reading it!)

At our Mom’s Night Out this past week, one of the mom’s asked me, “Do you just go to the library and pick out books related to what your kids learn in CC that week?” My first answer was an emphatic, “NO.” Follow the lead of your child. If he/she wants more information about a piece of New Grammar, he/she will ask you. When they want to know more about a History Statement or an event on the Timeline Card, look on the back of the respective Timeline Card and read it to them. If he/she is curious about this week’s Science question, read the “Science Snippet” for that week that is accessible on CC Connected or the CC App. Or, sometimes a one word answer will do.

Son: Mommy, who was Franklin D. Roosevelt?
Me: He was one of the Presidents of the United States.
Son: Oh, okay! (He scurries off to build again with Legos.)
Me: I release a huge sigh of relief, realizing that he wasn’t asking for specifics of the New Deal. ha! :)

It is okay to check out books at the library about the week’s New Grammar. Don’t get me wrong! Just know that a successful Foundations year is not based on your child’s ability to explain each piece of New Grammar  in dissertation-like form.

4) A Classical Notebook is my BFF

One tool that we used in year 2 that we did not use in year 1 is a Classical Notebook. I learned about a Classical Notebook from Half A Hundred Acre Wood’s article last summer. The Classical Notebook serves as a means of built-in review for the week’s New Grammar as well as handwriting practice, and it is an independent activity that my sons can accomplish. All of these reasons had me “sold” on the idea of a Classical Notebook before ever using it! I made documents for our Classical Notebook over the summer, and off we set on this new adventure. Our CC school year is over now, and I am happy to announce that the Classical Notebooks were fabulous! After only a couple of weeks, my sons were in the routine of doing their Classical Notebook each day. Their favorite days were Wednesdays and Thursdays because they got to illustrate a Timeline card and the History statement. I enjoyed watching them flourish with independent work. Also, I loved knowing that they were reviewing New Grammar while also cultivating discipline and self-control; the Classical Notebook required them to sit for an extended period of time at our school table. (Now, my boys can always use extra practice with that!) We will definitely use a Classical Notebook again for year 3 of our CC adventure!

5) Give yourself grace, your child is learning a vast quantity of information (probably more than you learned at this age)

When I first started homeschooling, I had idealized views of what a typical school day looked like. In those visions of grandeur, my sons were joyous about each moment of each subject, they never complained about learning, and the 3 boys and I got along splendidly during each school day. Then, my visions of grandeur melded with reality, and school days transpired very differently. :) The majority of our school days involve accomplishment of what needs to be done for “school,” but it’s not always with a “happy heart” (theirs or mine :) ). Most school days are pleasant, even fun, but there are those days when our sinful flesh results in broken relationships where confession and repentance are required. Then, there are some days when, honestly, life happens and little appears to be “accomplished.” In those days, the guilt and self-doubt creeps into my brain. “Am I doing enough? Are my sons learning anything?”

The beautiful addition of CC to our home school has allowed me to give myself grace in the midst of self-doubt. I can look self-doubt and guilt in the face and scream, “YES, they are learning; they are learning a lot!” After 2 years of CC, I am flabbergasted at the quantity of information that my sons have learned! (This includes my 4 year old, who has yet to be in a formal CC class but has learned as much as his brothers through our review time at home!) If I accomplish nothing in a school day except reviewing the CC New Grammar, I have done a lot! This is helping hammer the memory pegs of the New Grammar even further into their little brains. If your child only remembers the New Grammar from any given cycle, he/she will still be ahead of the curve! So, if you are having a challenging home school day, give yourself grace! Take a few moments to review the New Grammar and then, go spend the rest of the day at the park! Rest in knowing that your kiddos are learning more than you realize!

Enjoy your first year (or 2nd, 3rd, or 4th) of Classical Conversations! Enjoy learning with your children and finding God in all things! Here’s another post from the archives that offers encouragement to those of you beginning Classical Conversations!

Are you a seasoned Classical Conversations parent? What advice and wisdom would you offer to a new Classical Conversations family? Please post your sage words in a comment below. We will all benefit greatly from what you share! Looking forward to reading it! :)

Classical Conversations Reflections: Year 1 vs. Year 2

18 May

Classical Conversations.Year 1 vs. Year 2 series

I’ve spent the last several weeks evaluating my experiences as a Classical Conversations Parent and Tutor. Our family just finished year 2 of Classical Conversations, which means my second year as a Foundations is in the books, too. Our first year of Classical Conversations was positive; we signed up for another one! However, I flubbed up in its implementation as a parent and tutor in year 1, which resulted in burn out, major burnout. With year 2, I had significant changes planned for implementing CC at home and in my Abecedarians class. Would they be beneficial? Would they prevent a second year of burn out? By God’s grace, they did! Over the next 2 days, I will have series of posts dedicated to my Year 1 vs. Year 2 reflections as a Classical Conversations Parent and Foundations Tutor. Join me back here tomorrow and Tuesday to read more.

Crayola.com–FREE Cycle 3 Geography Resources

16 May

Tennessee coloring page

From my Pre-K and Kindergarten homeschooling days, Crayola’s website and I became bffs. Anytime we learned about a new country or new state, I would head straight to Crayola to find a FREE coloring sheet about a particular state or the flag of the country we were studying. For those of you who are involved with Classical Conversations, these coloring sheets would be a fun, FREE resource for your students as we work through the United States geography!

All 50 states are included on Crayola’s site. Each state’s sheet includes pertinent information about the state: its capital and some of the official state items (tree, insect, bird, flag, etc.). These would be a great resource to add to your Classical Notebook each week.

Traveling to different states for summer vacation? I also recommend using the Crayola website to print copies of the states that you’ll visit and compiling them into a Travel Notebook for your children. The Travel Notebook can include coloring sheets of the states you will visit and a printed map showing the route of your trip. Fill your Travel Notebook with other coloring sheets/games to entertain them while you travel. We made a Travel Notebook on our big trek north last year to Wisconsin and Illinois. The Travel Notebook kept our sons entertained for hours. 

US State Flash Cards - Tennessee coloring page

Another great resource on Crayola’s website are the State Flashcards. You could print Crayola’s State Flashcards for each of the 50 states and have your child decorate the flashcards of the states studied each week during New Grammar Geography. I would recommend printing on cardstock and laminating them (You know how I love my laminator!!!) after your child beautifies the cards with crayons, markers, or color pencils. You could hole punch the cards, add a metal ring and have your child’s very own homemade set of 50 States Flashcards!

U.S. President George Washington coloring page

Crayola’s website also has free printable coloring sheets for each of the 44 presidents. This would be a fun resource to use throughout the year, particularly in Classical Conversations Week 24 when the children learn all of the U.S. Presidents!

I am so excited about Cycle 3 and American geography and history! What other free resources for Cycle 3 have you found to share?


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