Classical Conversations

Classical Conversations Program At Home

I’ve been wanting to give an introduction to the Classical Conversations program that we use in our home school.  I love Montessori theory, and I love making great books available to my children and reading to them, but I am also a type-A “check-list” person who wants to make sure I’m not forgetting to cover any important elementary topics.  That’s why I got interested in the Classical Conversations program (not surprisingly put together by a husband and wife team who are both aerospace engineers and are probably “check-list” people even more than me).

Basically what they did was they took all the main information that a child should be familiar with by the time they are in 6th grade, summarized it, and divided it into 3 groups, or cycles.  All the details are in this book, the Foundations Curriculum Guide.  You present one cycle a year to a child (or group of children – it doesn’t matter if they are different ages,) and after 3 years, you repeat the cycles.  So they get the information twice – and the second time through, because it is familiar to them, it is easier to learn, and you can study it in greater depth.  “Classical” education theories are all about learning important information really well – in other words, memorizing it – and they’ve found that repeating information and reciting it out loud are some of the best ways to do this.  I think the key here is that the memorization occurs naturally from repetition and interest, not the old-fashioned “memorize this word-for-word or I’m going to put a dunce hat on your head and stick you in the corner and slap your fingers with a ruler” mentality.  There’s a bit of a difference there.

So, Classical Conversations provides me with a very organized and comprehensive list of topics to introduce, in manageable chunks.  I am still free to introduce the material however I want to – using Montessori ideas, or a great book from the library, or as copy-work, whatever.  There are many cities in the US where your children can attend Classical Conversation groups once a week, where a trained tutor presents the information for you.  There isn’t a group where I live, so I don’t have to decide if I would want to partake, but I probably would.  Using the program at home is working just fine for us for now, and this is how we do it:

Each of the 3 cycles is broken down into 24 chunks of information.  In theory, you could “learn” this material over the course of one week, although there’s nothing to stop you from spreading it out further if the material is very interesting or if you start it on Monday and get the flu on Tuesday.  (In the public schools, if you miss something, you miss it, period.  Homeschoolers aren’t under restraints like that.)  I get through 24 weeks of material each school year.  We are either doing a “CC Week” as we call it, or an off-week.  (I plan for a 40-week school-year, so we have 24 weeks to spend on CC work and 16 lighter weeks to focus on other subjects and take breaks.)  In preparing for the upcoming school year, I have 24 folders prepped and filled with a variety of lists and maps and supplemental materials.

I will also have a large posterboard written out for each week, ready to hang on the wall of our classroom which will have a summary of all the information we are focusing on.  I will have a CD burned with all the material for the week, which the children listen to each day during rest time or while traveling in the van.  (These CD’s will also have their violin songs they are working on, songs we are learning to sing, poems, and hymns.)  There will be interesting books for our history and science topics, either purchased or borrowed from the library.  There will be science experiments and a variety of fine arts presentations to give each week.  My prerogative is to present the weekly information any way I see fit.  They suggest “what to teach”, I choose “how to teach.” It works for me.  Click on “Classical Conversations posts” on the right-hand column to read more.


Questions I’ve received recently: 

What size of poster-board do you use?  CC used to have resources for CC at Home on their website, but they are no longer there.  Our local CC group is not really doing what they are supposed to be doing as far as the tutoring is going.  Do you know if there are any CC tutor-training manuals available for parents to read?

Hello, thanks for writing.  First of all, I’m using standard poster-board, 28×22 inches.  I divide it into 6 sections and write down our memory work for math, English, science, history, geography, and Latin.  I hang it up on 2 nails on our classroom wall.  On Monday mornings when I am presenting new material, I cover up the material for each section with large post-it notes someone gave me, and one at a time, as I introduce the new topic, I remove the post-it.

I have never belonged to a group.  I am in my 4th year using CC basically as a guide for what we are going to study as a family each week.  I present the material in a variety of ways, using Montessori educational philosophy as my general guide.  We do a lot of review, and we try to memorize the work.  I’m sure we don’t do it ALL as perfectly as we could; the Veritas history cards, for example, we don’t work on very much.  But I’m perfectly okay with how it is all working in our family, we read a ton of supplemental books and I think that helps cover “holes.”

It is my personal impression that the CC leadership doesn’t any longer “encourage” using their program alone at home.  I hope I’m wrong about that.  They really believe, I think, that the fellowship and accountability that comes with being in a group is super-duper important.  And I agree, that for many families, it is a big bonus.  I find it somewhat insulting, though, to suggest that I can’t do it without a group.  I also disagree with their patronizing idea (which is all over their website) that parents will learn the “correct” way to teach their children by watching the tutors model correct teaching. 

So to answer your question, I have never come across any tutor training books or manuals.  I think you have to sign up to be a tutor to access all that, but if I ever find anything I’ll let you know.  There are many educational philosophies, and the “classical” version is just one of them.  If the history topic for the week is WW2, then you and your children can try to memorize the sentence (using the song on the audio CD) and read appropriate books about it and make time-lines and take field trips and whatever else you want to do.  I try to not get too caught up or worried about doing it “their” way when it is clear that “my” way is working fine.


19 thoughts on “Classical Conversations Program At Home

  1. I recently found out a bout Classical Conversations and love it for many of the same reasons you do. My favorite part is that it’s a guideline that you can follow (or not) however you choose to do so. A group is starting where I live but I don’t know if we cna handle the up front full payment this year so I love seeing how you are doing it on your own. The folders are such a great idea! Can’t wait to see updates on how it’s going for you throughout the year. 🙂

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Sarah, I’ve been on vacation this past week so I’m just seeing this now. This will be our 3rd year of CC at home, so I do have a lot of ideas and suggestions and things I’ve learned from my own mistakes! Feel free to share your ideas.

  3. I really love your 24 week folder idea! I am a 2nd year Foundations tutor and a 1st year Essentials Tutor and just love the program.

    I don’t know if family finances permit but the CCC community forum is a great place to get additional materials. KUDOS to you to pursue the program on your own. Now that is discipline!

  4. Hi, atomic momma – I wouldn’t call it “discipline” myself, because my lazy side insists on flexibility. Even if I had a CC group here to join, I would still be wanting to reinforce the topics at home. We are entering our 3rd year now, which means my prep for the following year will be simple – pull out the folders, update as needed, and grab some supplemental books from the library! Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Thanks for this post. Just reading your blog, I feel enpowered to consider doing Classical Conversations at home without a community group. I like the flexibility of doing it by ourselves at home. I also appreciate the relaxed structure CC will provide for our family. Question: Can you please give me an idea of what goes inside the 24 weekly folders? I see a map and weekly schedule from the Foundations book in the photo. Thanks!

  6. Hey penguinmom – As some background, I started off using “only” Montessori and great books in our homeschool, but I needed an organized way to do history, and that’s when I found CC and got hooked. Also, you don’t have to feel any “pressure” to do everything they suggest – for example, after 1 1/2 years of doing Latin “their way” I started substituting Prima Latina and the kids loved it.

    I’ve added a post here to describe what I have in my folders. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. This looks great and I hope to try your method, I do have a question, did you buy the Memory Work Resource CD or Audio CD, I am trying to decide between the two and can’t figure out if the Resource CD has mp3 file that I can burn to CD or if I’ll need to listen from the computer. Thanks!

    • hey, ClassicalMom, thanks for stopping by. I have purchased both. It’s a question I also pondered when we got started. The DVD is in powerpoint, and has audio icons you click on; if there’s a way to rip those audio clips, I don’t know how. The DVD’s provide all of the print-outs I use extensively in history & geography, plus weblinks and supplemental information.

      The audio CDs are for listening to on any CD player or computer, and contain MORE clips than the DVD provides. (I rip them onto my computer, then burn CD’s for each week which contain violin music, hymns, poems, and more.) We are a very frugal family, but if you’re going to try using CC as a spine, I’d honestly recommend both products. Let me know how it goes!

  8. I agree I feel like CC is a great spine for homeschool as well. In the fall it will be my first year to try CC. We are unable to afford to join a CC group so I am so encouraged to read your blog about how I CAN do it at home. I sent my two friends this link, as they are trying to decide on if CC will work for them at home. I know they will enjoying reading your words of wisdom. Thank you for sharing them with us!!!

    My kids are 6, 4, and 1 and I am really looking for a comprehensive multi-level curriculum that I can use with all their ages. I think CC is the one. Do you think it is pretty comprehensive? Will I need to supplement it with any other curriculum? I know when I visited a CC group in my area they said I needed to purchase a math program, and I know you mentioned a different Latin Curriculum, what about English, Spelling, Reading? Especially when the kids are little and learning to read like mine. I know you also use the Montessori method, I am not familiar with it, but I plan on reading it 🙂

    I also wanted to ask you if you have participated in the $6/mo on-line program that CC offers? I guess it has all the CDs and tons of extra materials on it. I am thinking maybe I should just join that to save money?

    Also what do you recommend purchasing from CC? They have new CC History cards, and CC Science cards, the Foundations Book of course, what about the Trivium cards? What do you feel is really important to have?

    I wanted to let you know that I LOVE your 24 folders. I was a school teacher for years and I love to plan out my curriculum for the year, in advance. I can’t wait to follow your lead and prepare those folders this summer.!

    Sorry I am bombarding you with questions. I’m a new homeschool mom, just trying to get as much information as I need to make the best decision for our family. Thanks for all you help so far with just having a blog, what a blessing you are!

    Appreciative Mama, Jackie

    • Hey thanks for the note, Jackie. I was a little hesitant when I first started CC at home, but that hesitation quickly went away as I saw how well it was working, how much the kids (and I!) were learning, and how much relief I felt not having to plan my history & science anymore. (Although we supplement the science a lot because my oldest loves it.) Yes you need a math program (I use Shiller.) Yes you’ll need to teach the kids how to read (I wrote about that here.) And grammar for older kids. We supplement with a LOT of great books.

      About the materials: the Foundations Guide is the only non-negotiable! For everything else, you can just focus on your Cycle 1 materials to use this fall, and if the year goes well, you can buy Cycle 2 materials next summer or next time they are on sale. (Everything goes on sale periodically.) I have only used the free online forums, I figured I paid enough already for all of my materials and didn’t need more. 😉

      I know they have a new Foundations guide – I’m not planning on buying it because I already have the 3rd edition materials for all 3 cycles. I like the science cards, not that they are particularly informative, but because they have the questions and answers on them and the kids can hold them in their hands, read them, bring them in the car, etc. I wouldn’t do this without the audioCD or the CDRom because I use both extensively. The CD I make each week is SO helpful. Get the tin whistles, you won’t find them cheaper anywhere else. I haven’t bought the trivium cards so I can’t comment on those; I did by the “memory master flashcards” for cycle2 but didn’t use them too much… might be something good to keep in the car, though.
      These are just my opinions, and a lot will depend on your budget. I know that homeschooling moms UNIVERSALLY over-spend their first year, ha! Please stop back some day and let me know how things are going for you.

  9. Thank you so much for putting together this blog post. I found your through google as I am looking for people who do CC at home. We are going to be using Sonlight this fall and I want to find a way to do CC and prepare it now/this summer.(maybe even do it year-round or just one day a week during our weekly schedule, with review each day)

    Question: Does it mater what cycle I start with? Do they only make certain materials available certain times of the year? How much time would you say it takes to do it a home? Per “session”? i.e. how much time to introduce new info and how much time a day?

    I have been reading on it for 2 days and have not been able to have the remaining questions answered easily…. off to do more reading on it! 😀

    LOVE the folder idea! I WILL be implementing that.

    Thanks again!!

  10. How can those wanting to do CC at home order the material that’s restricted to an expensive “community”?

    • Heather, CC has a bookstore on it’s website as well as a very nice catalog. Everything you need to use their program is available to everyone.

  11. Can you use CC for just English? This year we can’t afford the whole thing and we’re using what we have, but we need English and would like to at least get started on the curriculum. 6th grade English.

    • CC consists of all major core subjects, with additional fine arts. Math and handwriting are not included comprehensively and must be added. Their online bookstore has several resources for teaching each subject, but if I were you, I’d try asking around on a chat group or searching for specifically what you need – grammar? literature? writing?

  12. I love your post!! How inspiring! Truly! We are in our first year of CC and we joined a local group. It has been an awful experience! I regret it constantly. It’s a huge frustration in my life. Our tutor is highly incompetent and I paid $1000 for two of my children to attend. He basically reads the guidebook and elaborates with false information. So, we will not join again. I can do much better at home without all the frustration. You have very much lit a fire in me though with how detailed you are. Please come and set up my homeschool! I love the CC material but I do not think that a group is at all necessary. I think it’s a way to rake in money. We also belong to a local co op and we get way more out of that and it’s less than $50 a year for two children. Anyway, you are awesome and thank you for sharing. I will be implementing your ideas into this school for sure.

    • I am sorry to hear that you got locked into a program with a tutor you don’t enjoy. Some will obviously be better than others! I hope that you have found some ways to communicate your frustrations to the “higher-ups.” Again I will point out, the main benefit I had from CC was that it gave me a method of organizing my history and science plans. I’m not sure if I would use CC if I were to go back and do it all over again, but at a certain point you have to stop “planning” and just start DOING – and the more consistent you can be with any program, the better it will all work. Good luck to you!

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