Why we ditched Classical Conversations and what homeschool curriculum we’re using instead. Not every method works for every child, and we must make the right decision for homeschool learning in our home.
Why we ditched Classical Conversations
So I’m going to forego the dramatics of telling you how heart broken I am that CC just didn’t work for us. Because getting started with Classical Conversations was so exciting for us. Because I loved it and fought till the end to make it work. Had it been me in “School”, we’d already be signed up through Challenge IV. It is not me and it was not what Mr. T needed. He adored community day but the presentation of materials and the classical homeschooling methods utilized by Classical Conversations, especially in the younger grades, is not his jam. So after our year in Foundations, we quit.
Here’s the short list of whys:
- Memorization without explanation and diving deeper into things he wants to know more about is not cool with him. He doesn’t want an overview, he wants an exploration.
- Mr. T isn’t the most cooperative child at home when I try and teach things he doesn’t want to learn about. He’s 5 and a half, he has been in speech and occupational therapy over half his life, he has sensory processing issues, he has dyslexia, and he’s gifted. If we are learning about Ben Franklin and his kite and Mr. T would rather be learning to weave a basket or how and why a paper airplane flies then there is no amount of bribery, cajoling, or threats of no dessert and no Magic School Bus that will make him budge. Welcome to Intense Kids 101.
- Mr. T is competitive. Memory Masters is something he’d be totally into competing for, even at 5, but his Apraxia gives him a huge disadvantage for being able to say everything correctly and CC is not set up for kids with special needs to have any sort of accommodations. This would be my one big negative about MM in general. I get the why, but as a mom of 2 special needs children, it doesn’t sit right.
Will we ever go back? I don’t know. Classical Conversations Challenge program is an exceptional program that is designed to equip older children and young adults to go out into the world with the ability to think critically, debate and educate, and to make God known.
After having time (as in 2+ years) to mull over CC and look at other classical programs, I know we will not go back to Classical Conversations for elementary or middle grades. I do think the Challenge program for high school is a good program and we might consider that when the time comes.
If your child is designed to thrive with classical style learning, then it is certainly a great investment in their education. If they are not designed to thrive that way, then CC is probably not for you.
What we are doing instead (Our homeschool curriculum picks for K/1st and Totschool)
Our home is full of books, and toys (though drastically fewer since we began purging “stuff” a few months ago), art supplies, homeschool supplies, and instruments. Much of the day is spent playing, watching and studying nature, and reading together.
We also spend a great deal of time traveling to therapy. Me letting go of my “ideal” homeschool has led to a much less stressful and more enjoyable home. *ahem* So, this year looks different. We are keeping the CC Timeline for history, and will be using it with our My Book of Centuries notebook.
Purchasing homeschool curriculum: Kiwi, Doodle, and Koala Crate
The grass green boxes are Kiwi Crate, the blue is Doodle Crate, and the yellow is Koala Crate.
Kiwi Crate, for Mr. T, is full of fun activities that are already ready to go. No Pinterest, no cutting, no rounding up materials, no researching the when/where/why/how, just open up the box and go. So far we’ve done Flags of the World, Castles and Catapults, Spheres and their Peers (bubbles and tangrams!), and now we are working on Insects.
Doodle Crate, also Mr. T’s, is an arts and crafts box full of super fun projects and fun homeschool classroom supplies. Mr. T adores art and even though Doodle Crates are geared for older kids, with the tutorial videos at Doodle Crate’s site and a little help from mom, Mr. T hasn’t had any trouble. He’s made some neat fabric baskets you can see on Instagram and this month he carved his own stamps and made some cards! How cool is that? And I didn’t have to go to Michael’s once. Wahoo!
Koala Crate is for preschoolers. Mr. F’s very own box! He loves to get boxes. Mail is so much fun when you’re a little one. We’ve had a big ocean adventure and made little fish cards that are still getting played with, and now we are having a ton of garden fun! Our little grass-haired people are growing in the kitchen window. Mr. F likes watering them a lot.
These 3 crates (there’s a 4th in the Kiwi Crate Family called a Tinker Crate for young inventors, but we haven’t tried it since Mr. T loves his SnapCircuits and Erector set for now) are a life saver. I don’t have to look for ideas, they are perfect for rainy days, the Kiwi and Koala crate are full of educational materials, and the Doodle crate gives Mr. T opportunities to work on coordination, patience, concentration, and to exercise his creative muscles. These are all part of this year’s curriculum. And this mom’s sanity.
Teaching Reading with Suspected Dyslexia and Writing with Hypotonia
While we sort though who and where to get official testing done for dyslexia at 5, we are moving right along with some Orton Gillingham based All About Reading, level 1. Mr. T is doing great and the multi-sensory approach homeschool curriculum is exactly what he needs. The magnetic letters work great on our magnet board. You can see our homeschool classroom pictures in this post highlighting our Charlotte Mason homeschool room. The review cards for each lessons are just enough without overwhelming Mr. T, and we break it up to review early in the day and then our actual lesson with new materials is later. There is still some frustration because he wants to read so badly and he gets a little angry that it’s not coming easily to him, but we are getting there. The All About Reading Readers are also fun and make great read aloud material.
I filled our reading nook with familiar books Mr. T can begin to sight read from or browse for enjoyment. Our Children’s Book of Art has initiated so many great art projects and it’s a great book for Mr. T’s artistic inclinations. Pete the Cat and Little Blue Truck are favorites of both boys. Andy and George just kind of hang out and wait to be read to. 😉
Our pre and level one readers, like Brickbeard below, are all fun and familiar characters or stories that are on subjects Mr. T loves. The motivation is much better when it’s something he enjoys. It’s extra awesome when we can incorporate LEGO into our reading time. The Pirate and Mermaid are from our Minifigure set of Historical and Fairytale people.
We have a slew of audio books. Lamplighter Theatre are our favorite, especially Teddy’s Button. We also enjoy Adventures in Odyssey and Maestro Classics (these are also great for music appreciation). Mr. T has some great kids headphones, too. I try to be mindful that sometimes he just needs to decompress, and sometimes I need him to. This method works for both of us.
For writing we are continuing to use Fundanoodle. Developed by Occupational Therapists, we have had incredible success with the program. Mr. T thinks it’s fun and asks to do it often. Because his Apraxia and dyspraxia cause frustration sometimes, we don’t push writing every day. We have also been using Mr. Pencil from LeapFrog on the iPad and it’s awesome. The boys both prefer to use the stylus that’s attached to their Fisher Price iPad case, but Mr. Pencil is easier for Mr. F to hold.
Science, Bible, Math, and a Class Pet
So, what other homeschool curriculum are we using? We are using Apologia Botany and Botany Junior Notebooking Journal for our formal homeschool lessons, and we are utilizing our Magic School Bus kits and various lap books for breaks from the usual. Often, if I leave any kit out, the boys will play and explore on their own. (It’s called strewing and it’s a brilliant method of getting children to learn on their own!) We also have a couple models to use with science and history like the Wright Brothers plane.
We haven’t picked our next study, but right now we are really enjoying and learning from Because I Said So junior by Kim Sorgius. The space for writing is perfect for Mr. T and the pictures he draws are priceless. It’s a really well done study and there’s a youth version if you’re looking for one study for multiple ages.
Math is mainly Life of Fred with living books like Sir Cumference and games like Sum Swamp and No Stress Chess. Fred gets silly points from Mr. T so the “lessons” are always fun for all of us.
And our class pet. Meet Peanut. He’s a long haired Syrian Hamster. He’s very sweet and cuddly and the nicest rodent I’ve ever met. He was supposed to be Mr. T’s but I’m his main caregiver. Having a furry friend in the classroom is very grounding for Mr. T, and hopefully someday soon Mr. F. Peanut just hangs out during the day (since he’s nocturnal) and begins to come around right after dinner time. Oh, and his ball. It’s too funny to watch now that all the wood flooring is down!
So that’s it. We have ditched Classical Conversations. The plan for this year is a lot of interest led learning, more speech and OT, and lots of exploration. More field trips and less fuss. How is your homeschool learning shaping up this year?
Jennifer Rucker says
My dyslexic kiddos thrived with the songs, but we ended up pulling out of CC for a variety of reasons. Long story short, my husband and I ended up writing Timeline Songs for a classical school in town, which lead to writing Scripture Memory Songs and is turning into an entire memory program… all online for a fraction of the cost. Check us out a ScholeSongs.com if anyone is looking for an affordable, flexible alternative to CC memory work.
My son was just like Mr T! After removing from school in third grade he deschooled a year (lots of theater, read aloud, art and science activities) then joined a LEMI coop which is very flexible and experiential for younger students. I knew CC wouldn’t work for him at all. But now he’s 16 and loving Challenge 2. It’s exactly what he needs. All the issues he had when he was younger cleared up with puberty and he’s got the intellect and drive and work ethic for CC. So I encourage everyone to keep an open mind as our kids change and what CC offers at different ages changes too.
Thank you so much for sharing!!! (:
Amanda G. says
I hope my comment isn’t years late. I could find a date on this article, and sometimes articles in Google and Pinterest are presented to me and are years old. So if I am the lame person making a comment after many years, I am sorry. I try not to do it. That being said, this is our first year in CC and you are right about not all groups being created equal, I really wish I tried the group we got put in, on a normal community day before we decided to join. We stayed with CC curriculum but left the group, it was a mess. There wasn’t a nursery provided for younger siblings so we had babies running around in the 4 year old group, my daughter could pay attention. Also, they way they divided community work and clean up didn’t make sense, one family at a time took turns cleaning the whole facility at the end of community say, thats fine if you have older children, but I had 3 under 4 years old, that was going to be a nightmare for me….it just wasn’t a good fit. My daughter is 4 going on 5 and we are actually enjoying the curriculum, since this will be the same pretty much through 9 years old, repeated (foundations). I am okay with the simple memorization, and adding the occasional supplement activity. Just to introduce her to the terms and not overwhelm ourselves. I am thinking I can add to it each year until she is nine, and that will give us depth? I hope I am not mistaken, I am new to homeschooling. The classical conversations belief is that the more a child practices memorization and memorization techniques, the faster they will be able to memorize and retain new information they are given as a habit. It isn’t a new idea, just a revisited one. I am still checking out how it goes and I am on a waiting list for better groups….if they are still full when I need more help of building on the foundation I am setting now, I may have to leave CC for lack of support. Also, my daughter loves people, she is an extrovert, I was hoping good community days could fill that need and I could still do homeschooling, but I will have to look elsewhere if a good group isn’t provided for her. I am already sad to think of school type parties she will not get to enjoy this year like MDO. She loves parties, and that is something I didn’t want her to miss out on in homeschooling. I agree wholeheartedly to follow the child when it comes to education. Certain levels of educational success are taken too seriously and a kid either doesn’t get to be a kid anymore, or learn any real life skills. That is the main part that needs to be evaluated when educating our children, even more than curriculum. You are doing a great job.
Renee Cook says
The group you’re in makes such a huge difference! We’re new to CC this year too, and my 6 year old is FLOURISHING. My 4 yo could take or leave the community days. Haha I think 4 is too young for their structure but they didn’t know what to do with 4 year olds (too old for “nursery,” to young for real school) so they just try to teach them the same way. When really, with my 4 year old, she just picks a lot of it up through the songs w/o any extra practice and wants to play and read with mom. Haha 🙂 Anyway, you could always go back to it in a couple years and try when they’re older 🙂
Krista Sullivan says
I loved reading about what you’re doing for your homeschooling! I have 4 children, 3 are students in CC (the other is a baby) and my oldest does Essentials as well. We have been a part of our community for 2 years now and we absolutely love it. Our children have learned so much about respect, and misbehavior is not something that is ignored or allowed. I think if anyone doesn’t understand the method behind the repetition, they should sincerely research how Classical Education works. CC tutors (during community days) are there to provide that week of information only, but parents are encouraged to answer any questions and divulge more if a student wishes. It’s just not required. This year I had the pleasure of talking to a first year Challenge student and asked him how he liked it. He responded, “I really like it! It’s a lot of work, but all of the stuff I learned in Foundations is finally all coming together!” His response was encouraging for a mom of kids that are headed in that direction! The Essentials Curriculm certainly isn’t mediocre. We have moms and dads who are teachers, doctors, lawyers, and others that are highly educated and they have even said some of this stuff they didn’t see till college! I didn’t want my reply to come off as defensive. I know that every child has their own needs when it comes to learning. This program works great for ours! I found some of the other replies to be giving a false and negative impression of CC. Maybe it was their particular community, but I am honestly amazed at how much my children have learned in the last 2 years. My daughter started at 4 almost 5 and just from CC alone she has obtained SO much knowledge and it’s ingrained in her! The Timeline alone is brilliant! Ok, as you can tell, I’m a CC and classical education fan! I’m not a tutor or director…just a homeschool mom who wanted to share something good for CC! Good luck with all of your homeschooling journeys!!
Lara Molettiere says
Hi Krista! Thanks for stopping by. I have found that communities vary greatly. I have no doubt of the veracity of the experiences stated here and am glad you haven’t found yourself in one of the communities that is mediocre. But they are out there and there are several 🙁 I was a tutor for CC, and still know several. We’ve been out of CC for almost 4 years now and I do not think we will ever go back.
I’m still very much a classical education fan and it compliments our love of Charlotte Mason very well. There is plenty of debate in the classical education community over the methods used in CC Foundations, but I think if it works for your child then that’s great. Just like all other methods, you have to find what works for your children. We currently use a mishmash of Memoria Press (amazing classical curriculum), IEW, and other curriculums that all fall into the classical and Charlotte Mason camps.
That’s the beauty of homeschooling. We get to help our individual children thrive and grow 🙂 Have a great week!
I just want to say, I am so blessed by how you are trying to do what you know will work for your kids and really get them engaged and learning, no matter what they can or can’t do, whatever weaknesses and strengths they have. I am not fully classical and really enjoy doing a mix of Sonlight (for reading materials mostly) and My Father’s World (for a good mix of what Sonlight misses) and pick and choose a variety of materials. I have wanted to do the crates but we really don’t have the extra funds for it. I am looking into the Life of Fred a little and over all, it really is about what works for your family. I think I am more ecclectic, but I need the ability to have something to help me with structure so I don’t go on tangents.
Kristy Jensen says
We did CC for 2 years. We are not going back this year (and possibly ever). It is way too costly. I know, I know. It is less than private school. BUT, it isn’t private school. This coming year I would have to enroll my barely 4 year old. I think that is entirely too young. I don’t do formal schooling until at least age 5 and then it’s basic stuff. It is a good program but doesn’t work for everyone. I also felt like many of the parents didn’t care if their children acted out. I stayed with my children and corrected behavior as needed. The behavior I witnessed from some of the students was horrendous and was never corrected or addressed. I do think it was just the community we were in. I loved every person but the cost and behavior issues put a bad taste in my mouth about it. We are using the guide this year at home and will dive deeper into the things we find interesting. I love the songs that go along with each week. My kids know tons of information because of it. But, they like to dive deeper. I feel less stressed about our coming year because we are foregoing the community aspect. Thanks for this honest review.
Lara Molettiere says
I’m sorry you had a bad experience! We loved the songs, too! We have been using a fun CD called Ditty Bugs that has a lot of fun learning songs, too. I hope you have a wonderful year this year!
Our family was a CC member of 2 different communities. We began with one community and switched to a second community the following year. We also experienced the poor behavior not being addressed at both communities. We left CC for good after the first semester of the second year-we will not be going back. It was not a good fit for our family.
Thank you for the “box” reviews I had been going back and forth on tinker crate for my 6yr old, but your right about everything included, huge sanity saver:) We are currently receiving a Pley box (Lego, knex) the sets have been awesome, mailing back and forth a little slow. Thanks again:)!!!
Lara Molettiere says
You’re so welcome! We love the boxes 🙂 I looked at Pley but was afraid we’d get them mixed up with all our pieces. I may look at it again now!
Charlie Truth says
Wow! I had my kids in CC this past year and was quit disappointed with it. I ordered the books Welk in advance but they conveniently did not arrive until AFTER classes began. If I had seen that the Fundations guide was nothing but a table of contents and that in Essentials they only do 17 out of the 31 lessons of the IEW (that’s pathetic & mediocre), I would have dropped out and got a refund. I think it’s the blind leading the blind. It’s not even designed by a anyone with a real education!! It’s purely a business! Not to mention that there is tons of research (done by people who have successfully educated children) of the value of questions and answering those questions in a child development. Memorizing a bunch of silly lists without any understanding of what they are memorizing & then shutting down their questions with “you will learn this another time, let’s memorize another list now..,” is shutting down natural learning! The problem with Christianity is that we teach our kids not to question – just to blindly obey and this is what this is “Shut up and memorize this meaningless list that you have no clue what it is!” It’s a great show though for the outsiders, “My child can recite all of the Laws of Thermodyndnics like a University student” *puffed chest* and uneducated people oo and aaa at it. The knowledge they really gain from memorizing nonsense (literally nonsense because they are clueless of what it is) lists is equivalent to the ice on a mud puddle vs a real skating rink and thinking the puddle is a great skating rink. It’s also like giving a child the table of contents of a wonderful classic book and getting them to memorize it instead of reading the book. I’ve never encountered anything so silly than this! I also found that it wasn’t a great community for educated mothers. All I can say is that IF this is what people are doing “homeschooling”, little wonder WHY we have governments threatening to take away this privilege to Homeschool our children!
Victoria Sol says
That is fine if Classical Conversations did not work for you or your family. But I believe some things in your comment ought to be addressed, since they give a false view of CC.
To be clear, CC was developed, and continues to be developed, by individuals with degrees. Leigh Bortins, the founder of Classical Conversations, and her husband both have degrees in aerospace engineering. As for the other members of the company, I cannot attest to their particular degrees, but it is a requirement in the hiring prerequisites listed by CC.
Second, it is up to the parent to explore deeper into the subjects at hand, not the role of the tutor. They designed community day to be a presentation of the materials, which can be delved into at home, led by parents. Shutting down a student’s desire to learn more is not something CC encourages or endorses.
If you are under the impression that it is the “blind leading the blind,” I believe you ought to research the actual start of CC and the Classical Method. Dorothy Sayers has a brilliant paper called The Lost Tools of Learning. It is a good start if you wish to learn more.
While investigating the different types of homeschooling, I sat in on a CC group. I did not like it. The kids seemed out of control and not much was being absorbed. We went with a homeschool hybrid. 3 days with me, and 2 days with a private school. We share the curriculum and work as a team. It’s a perfect fit for us. To CCs credit, no pressure was put on us to sign her up.
I think there are just so many different learning styles and being able to find what works for your family is always such a blessing. We are starting our own hybrid CM style program this year! I’m excited for all that it will bring!
We tried CC years ago and I really did not like it! I was encouraged, by the director, to enroll my 4 year old! Well she was way too young and I was upset that they offered childcare for ages 4 and under. The other moms were surprised she was enrolled and felt she was a little young. $360 later we quit after 1 week and were denied a refund ?
What an awful experience! I think they have a no-refund policy across the board, I don’t think the local directors have an option in that. I liked the program, but it was a terrible fit for my son. I hope you found a good community for your family now 🙂
I would categorize my teaching style just like yours! My kids are older, the youngest being 13, and we have just started our CC journey with the Challenge program this school year. I was actually going to ask if you had ever hear of Heart of Dakota curriculum? We have used it for years and LOVED it! I just needed some outside accountability for two of my students this year and that is why CC is working for us. If you have not checked out Heat of Dakota, I highly recommend them! She takes what I love from classical methods and Charlotte Mason and makes a great package. My kids and I learned so much. Anyway, just an idea. Happy Homeschooling your darling boys!
Melanie Harper says
I looked at Classical Conversations for our summer supplemental HS, and it was just too much for The Boy’s delayed reading level and classical autism. His main issue is that he rocks memorization but has zero depth curiosity except in music. I’m using Hirsch’s Core Knowledge instead – I really like how it lays out a content progression but as the parent, I can tailor the content source. It helps fill in the gaps from his spotty attendance in general-education classes.
Thanks for your honest review of CC. I’ve heard so much good about it sometimes I feel like we should do it, but I’ve never actually done it because I never felt like it fit my kids’ needs either.
I don’t know if I would have been happy with CC for our kids in the elementary years, either. I don’t like mindless repetition and date memorizing without further depth, either! Although I think they don’t exactly discourage that — but trying to track down supplemental material would have killed me, lol. Too much work! BUT having said all that, we have just started in the Challenge program, and I think it is WONDERFUL for middle school and high school. I would say revisit the idea of CC in time for Challenge A (7th grade or age 12 and above). The conversations on community day are SO fun, and the learning at home still involves some memorizing (such as being able to reproduce the map of the world by memory by the end of the year) but also thinking and researching and writing. My 12-year-old is LOVING it. 🙂
My daughter has apraxia & her school day sounds very similar to his!! Thanks for sharing. Hope you have an amazing year! 🙂
Lara, I think it’s also important to note that kids will change year after year. My kids are BOTH very different learners as compared to when we started, and it’s good to stay open to possibilities and attuned to what your children need. Blessings on your new adventures!
Thanks, Mary! 🙂 We are open to the possibility (I’m hopeful) that in a few years when all the current hurdles are behind us that CC may work. It is by far the most perfect system for me, lol. For now, even though I left CC kicking and screaming, I know we are in the right place for Teddy. I’m grateful homeschool affords us the ability to be flexible when we need to be.