Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Getting Started with Classical Conversations

Currently, I know at least five families who are starting with Classical Conversations in the fall. I am so excited for them since, as I have mentioned before, our family has been so blessed by our involvement with CC. Each of those moms I mentioned before have asked me for advice about starting out with CC. I definitely don't have all the answers, but we have been in CC for four years, so I can give my opinions on what has been helpful for our family, and what I would recommend for a first year CC family.

What do you need to buy:

1. The Foundations Guide: We use this weekly, and sometimes daily. You will use it each week when your community meets. I bring a pencil along and jot down notes next to each subject. For example, if the tutor shares a clever tip, trick, or song to help my kids remember a certain subject, I scribble a little something to help remind me when I'm home and reviewing with them later. Besides the weekly facts that (you and) your kids will be learning, there is also fabulous information from Leah Bortins, the founder of CC throughout the book. This is a must for every CC family.
Sam and his buddy, Luke, playing the tin whistle in their class

2. A tin whistle: Each child will use one for six weeks each year, so this is another must. I am tutoring this coming year, so we now have three tin whistles in our home. Since we've been at this for a few years now, the practicing isn't so painful anymore...except when the little ones get their teeny hands and mouths on the whistles! 

If you are working with a tight budget, this is absolutely all that you will NEED to do Classical Conversations as a part of your homeschool journey. If you intend to follow the model set forth by CC, they recommend you supplement what you are learning each week with your community with a math curriculum, a language arts program (this usually includes: spelling, phonics, grammar, and handwriting), and lots of reading. The first year it is vitally important that you take a deep breath and try to just soak up the information with your kiddo(s). Don't give in to the pressure to do everything out there. Start simply and if you feel led to add in some way, maybe dive deeper into some of the memory work. I have found going deeper to be more rewarding than trying to go "wider" and cover more things in a more shallow way. 
Reading the best book, his Bible
That said, our family has used the following curriculum at one point or another:
Math: Saxon Math
Phonics: Explode the Code, Phonics Museum (Veritas Press)
English Grammar: Shurley English
Handwriting: Handwriting Without Tears, and more recently CC's Prescripts

We've supplemented with many books from the library that correlate with our science and history and the time period that we're studying. 

If you can invest a little more, and it is important to realize that it is an investment, here are a few more of my favorites for doing CC at home. Each year that we have been involved, I have taken the plunge a little more and bought a few more CC products to help us here at home. I have listed them below in the order of their value to me. In my opinion, if you start at the top of this list and add on towards the bottom, as your budget allows, you will be better off for it.

~The Audio CD's: these are SO helpful. We listen in the van all the time. Also, the timeline song is played each night while the kids load the dishwasher. :) They are worth every penny in my opinion!

~CC Connected (or C3): this is a subscription to the online file sharing part of the CC website. So many talented and creative CC parents have shared worksheets, songs, lapbooks, review games and more. For $6 a month, you have access to all of it. We use the worksheets and songs weekly! A word of warning, it can be overwhelming...somewhat like pinterest, more ideas than you could possibly use in one household. However, it is very helpful if you take the time to sort through and find what will work for you. I am considering posting what I am planning on having my kiddos do this coming year in another blog post, and I will list the specific files that we hope to use there. (so subscribe or come back later for that!)
Reviewing CC by playing Trivial Pursuit Family Edition and substituting CC facts for the questions
~Geography Trivium Tables: These were invaluable for us last year in reviewing the geography facts. I bought one for each of my boys that were doing CC. (If you're joining me here and don't actually know me, welcome! I have four kiddos: three boys ages 8, 6, and 3, and one little girl who is 18 months old.) These maps are laminated and very durable. We use these several times a week in various ways-label things with dry erase markers, tape a piece of tracing paper on top and trace things, ask a child to point to a place, etc. I have bought other maps, but these are made specifically to coincide with the geography for Classical Conversations and are such a great addition to our review time. 

~Memory Flashcards: When we first started with CC, I thought to myself, "Why would I pay $30 for those when I could make them myself?" Then I started writing the information on index cards and laminating them...I didn't get very far before I decided to buy the CC cards. They are smaller, neater and to me, worth the money if you can spare it. I stick them in my purse or bag and we can review on the go. Now that both of my older boys can read, they can quiz each other, too. We love these, and use them several times a week.
Jon and Sam organizing the History Cards (aka Timeline cards)
~Classical Acts and Facts History Cards: These cards will be used every year. We use them to review the timeline information at home and to go a step further with learning the information. If you are starting with CC and have only younger students, you might wait on these if money is tight. I highly recommend them, but my younger ones have little interest in them. As my boys have repeated the timeline, different facts have caught their attention and peaked their interest, and by just flipping the card, we can dig a little deeper and extend our learning. We've used these cards in many different ways in the past: hung them in the school room; sorted them and put them in order; kept them in a binder to flip through; and kept them in a basket for easy use.  We use these almost daily.

~Prescripts: Copy work is encouraged in the classical model for many reasons. I love that CC has come out with their Prescripts series that combines handwriting practice, copy work and CC memory work review all in one! Both of my boys have used Prescripts and enjoy it more than I expected--they are boys and it is writing! ;)

Additionally, I do own and use the Classical Acts and Facts Science Cards, and they are used weekly for review. And I will probably purchase the new Classical Acts and Facts Artists and Composers Cards to help me with tutoring and reviewing at home. While not necessary, these can be great to assist you in reviewing at home if you want something that your kids can actually hold onto and use on their own or with your assistance. 

Honestly, I have yet to buy a product from CC that has not helped me here at home. Any product that you can find in their store will be worthwhile, in my opinion. I hope that my compilation here will help someone out there to understand better what might be helpful when you are just starting out. I'd love to hear feedback from you and welcome any questions either in the comments section or on Facebook. 

If you found this helpful, you might enjoy reading Why We Choose to Homeschool or a post about our schedule, What This Homeschooling Thing Looks Like for our Family. Also, I have a post about copywork and how we review for CC here.
There are some great CC blogs: A Stick and Sand, And Here We Go, Classical Conversations at Home, Half-a-hundred Acre Wood, Homegrown LearnersMt. Hope Chronicles, and Running with Team Hogan are the ones that I have bookmarked at home, but there are many more. In fact, if you blog about CC, please let me know! I'd love to glean wisdom from others on this journey!

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