Tag Archives: CC Cycle 2

Ice, Ice Baby (aka “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?”)-Free Printable

21 Feb

Vanilla IceYou are a child of the 80s if you know who this gentleman is. Oh, come on! You know you remember! He is famous for ONE song that has been my anthem this week.

“Ice, Ice, Baby. Alright stop, collaborate and listen…”

And…I could go MUCH further into the song lyrics, but I don’t want to embarrass myself  and give you any inkling of how much of the song I actually remember! Ha!

So, this week in good ol’ Music City USA we have enjoyed a week of being snow and ice. Therefore, the words of Ice, Ice Baby have been continually on my lips, and these poetic 80s words pretty much summarize the weather that we have enjoyed for the past week. (And…as a side note, my hat goes off to those of you who live in the Northern regions of the United States. Snow on the ground, all winter-this is your reality. Wow, just wow! You are my heroes, beloved.)

Because my children have NO IDEA who Vanilla Ice is AND because my singing invokes eye-rolling and “M-O-M!” I decided to identify with this younger generation and bust out a song that they can recognize and sing along with. Fast forward to 2015 and a winter-themed chorus that is known and loved by children everywhere, “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” (I am secretly laughing on the inside because can’t you just picture 25 years from now? This generation will have children of their own and their posterity will “eye roll” and gasp in horror when Frozen songs are jubilantly sung by their parents. What goes around comes around, right? But, I digress…) This musical masterpiece, thank you, Disney, has been more palatable for them when compared to Vanilla Ice, and I can’t imagine why! 🙂

So, if you’ve been frozen in all week and looking for a way to build a snowman without venturing out in the snow, or, if you need another winter-themed song to get “Ice, Ice Baby” out of your head, THIS, my friend is your lucky day!


I drew this Olaf picture for use in my Classical Conversations class during Review Game time. (See below for how I used this in my CC class.) I scanned the drawing, and you can download it here to print and use at your casa. Your Frozen fanatics will have fun with this one, I hope! AND, it’s a great way to build a snowman while staying WARM! Download here: Olaf Printable. Here’s the final product!


For those of you who are in Classical Conversations and are curious about how I used this as a Review Game, here’s what I did. 🙂 I printed and laminated two copies of Olaf. I divided my class into two teams, and each team was charged with building a snowman! For each question answered correctly, they got to add another snowman piece to their team’s Olaf. The kiddos seemed to really enjoy it!

Egg Carton Multiplication & Skip Counting Game (FREE printable!)

15 Sep


I thought I’d resurrect this post from the archives. This is a Multiplication/Skip Counting Egg Carton game that I came up with two years ago during our first year of CC. Read the original post for detailed instructions about creating your own game at home! I made my skip counting numbers out of construction paper. After reading my post last year, the marvelous Brandy Ferrell created a FREE PRINTABLE to share with everyone for the skip-count-cards. If you don’t feel like cutting up teeny tiny construction pieces of paper, download this free printable, “Control + P” and you’re done!

Tutors, I have used this in class to do a massive “skip counting” review during our Review Game time at the end of our CC day. I had 3 stations and a parent at each station. Each station went through 2 or 3 different skip counting numbers, and then, we rotated to the different stations.

Here are a few pictures of this inexpensive, stick in the sand game. If you are not a Classical Conversations family, read the original post and know that you can use this same game at home with your kiddos to practice and review multiplication facts. Also, here’s a FABULOUS Usborne Lift The Flap Time Tables book that is another great way to review multiplication facts! (You know how I love Usborne!)


imageEgg Carton Multiplicationimage

Repost: Year 1 vs. Year 2 as a CC Parent

31 Jul

I am reposting this article from early May. Our CC Community has doubled in the 60 days that have transpired since first writing the post. I am confident that many other communities have as well, so I wanted to share it again.Classical Conversations Parent

I can’t get you new-first time-CC Mommas off my heart and mind. I tremble when I think about our first year–all the pressure that I put on myself due to an incorrect understanding of the Classical Model, the extreme level of fatigue and burnout I felt at the conclusion of our first year. I made so many mistakes that first year! WHEW! Don’t follow–I plead with you–in my “Year 1” footsteps!

New CC Moms (and Dads) this post is for you. I wish I had known these things going into our first year. Just know that you don’t have to have everything “perfect” and all together to have a successful first year of CC! (I’ll let you in on another secret–you don’t have to for your second, third, or fourth year either!). RELAX, take lots of deep breaths! Take advantage of the gift of community; glean wisdom from “seasoned” CC Moms in your community. Enjoy learning WITH your child/children this year, have fun discovering GOD in math, science, literature and ALL things, and  most of all–PRAY! Let your CC year wash over you…and spend your first year knowing Him and making Him known.


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 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 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.

Olympics, World War II, and Classical Conversations

7 Feb

I just finished watching the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics. For my CC readers, I realized how much I learned our first 16 weeks. As Olympians from countries like Estonia and Latvia entered the arena, I smiled knowing that two months ago I would not have been able to locate these countries on a map. Also, I almost embarrassed myself as I screamed at our television when they showed the map of Greece, which was the first country to enter the Olympic Arena. “It’s the Balkan Peninsula! Look, boys! It’s the Balkan Peninsula. See it?!?!” (Yeah, I kinda love and freak out about maps and all-things-geography.)

As we gear up to look at World War II in Classical Conversations over the next couple of weeks, I wanted to highlight a couple of  Olympic/WWII tie ins since the Winter Games will be running parallel with our WWII studies.

I am a HUGE fan of missionary/Christian hero biographies (particularly this series, Christian Heroes: Then and Now), and I love reading them with my boys. We read about Eric Liddell two  years ago when we were gearing up for the Summer Olympics. Eric Liddell is well-known and remembered for refusing to run on Sunday for the 100m race in the 1924 Olympics. I knew that tidbit of information about him prior to reading the book. However, I learned that he became a missionary to China after his Olympic running shoes were retired. His life was directly impacted by the events of World War II while in China due to Japan’s actions on the Eastern front. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I am going to omit the details. Please, go read it.) 🙂

One of my favorite books in high school was The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. If you don’t know the story, STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING RIGHT NOW and read this book! It’s a memorable, captivating story of courage and God’s protection. The first time I read it–I literally read it in 3 days; I could not put it down. It’s the story of Corrie’s family who lived in Holland and helped Jewish families escaping from Hitler’s Nazi Germany.  There is a Corrie Ten Boom version in the Christian Heroes: Then and Now series that I mentioned above. Again, I am not going to go into elaborate detail of the events of Corrie Ten Boom’s life because I want you to read it!

Also, if you’ve not heard of the Imagination Station series, which is by the Focus on the Family and similar in concept to the Magic Tree House series, there is a book focused on Corrie Ten Boom, called Escape to the Hiding Place. Can you tell I love the story of Corrie Ten Boom?!?! So many different books that you can read about her! Any of them would be an excellent way to gently introduce World War II and the Holocaust to children.

This movie is another Olympic-themed resource. It has NOTHING to do with World War II but rather the Cold War. (You could tie this in with the respective Timeline Card, CC readers.) I watched this movie several years and did not previously know the story of the 1980 Winter Olympic gold medal hockey game which pitted the USSR against the United States. It gave me insight into the Cold War and the intense animosity between the two countries during that period of history. I’m sure the Hollywood glitz on the film is generous, yet the events actually happened. I was awestruck at how one game–USSR vs. USA–personified the political climate and events simultaneously transpiring between the two countries. A nail bitter this one was!

Do you have any great Olympic-themed and/or World War II reads? If so, please share them with us!

CC Tutor Tidbit: The grammar of Physics

19 Jan

If you are a Tutor for Classical Conversations, you are very much aware that these next 6 weeks of science experiments focus on Physics. I took Physics in high school–circa mid-1990s–and I have only a few recollections of the class. I wanted a “refresher” course in order to review and understand the grammar of Physics particularly relating to the science experiments for Weeks 13-18. I stumbled upon these two gems from my library and wanted to pass them along.

The Science of Music (by Melvin Berger)This book was geared for middle/high school, so I don’t recommend this for class reading. 🙂 However, it was a helpful refresher on sound, sound waves, pitch, frequency, how our ears hear and detect sound (fascinating!!) for this Tutor! 🙂 This book is an excellent book in preparation for our 6 weeks of Orchestra! It goes through the Orchestra sections–percussion, woodwinds, strings, brass–and details the mechanics of how sound is produced by each type of instrument. I will most definitely reference information from the instruments section of this book for Weeks 18-24 of the Orchestra! I loved the unifying of subjects in this book–science and instruments!

Rubber-Band Banjos and a Java Jive Bass (Alex Sabbeth)The subtitle to this book is aptly named, “Projects & Activities on the Science of Music & Sound.” This most definitely is geared towards elementary learners. There are wonderful, most simplistic definitions and introductions to sound, sound waves, frequency and how sound is taken in by our ears. There is also a section dedicated to instruments–strings, woodwinds, percussion–and how their sounds are made. This book is almost identical to the content covered. Both books are excellent, yet being geared for younger children this one is the simpler of the two to digest and understand (at least it was for this grown up!). It includes multiple activities to make and do with the concepts/ideas covered, and even has “instrument making” as several of the projects!

I know my Physics teacher, Mr. Wilson, would be so proud to know that I’m brushing up on my Physics. 🙂 Happy Physics learning in Weeks 13-18 of CC!