Remember, Classical Conversations is just ONE option

Remember, Classical Conversations is just ONE option

Remember, Classical Conversations is just ONE option

We spent our week at a 3-day Classical Conversations practicum, so I’m thinking a lot about the decisions we make for our children’s education and our vision for the future. I’ll share more about that in the coming weeks, but today I’m revisiting this post because I think it’s an important one! 

At this point, our family plans to stick with the Classical Conversations’ Challenge program through high school. Things could change, of course, but I think setting a long-term vision is important for maintaining our sanity in the here and now, and this one fits with our hopes and goals for our kids.

We may not do everything by the book, but as hokey as it sounds, I often say that when I went to my first informational meeting, the things I heard resonated in my soul. I just knew it was the right fit for our family. It’s our curriculum of choice, and one we’re very happy with.

That said, I know the overzealousness of some CC’ers has been a turn off for many people I know, so I’m going to say some things that might upset some people.

Because here’s the thing: at the end of the day, Classical Conversations is just a curriculum company. The combination of a curriculum and community in one package is an amazing thing—not just for the benefits the model offers homeschoolers but also as a marketing tool. And make no mistake, the CC team includes master marketers who know exactly what they’re doing. That’s one of the reasons why it’s one of the fastest growing homeschooling companies right now.

And, honestly, as an entrepreneur myself, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. We’re budgeting to pay for Challenge—which will cost us upwards of $7,000 a year (not including books and supplies) when all four of our girls are in the program—and we’re willing to do that because we believe in the approach and the benefits of the program.

However, I’m part of the Classical Conversations group on Facebook, and whenever someone mentions that they’re concerned about the cost for their family’s budget or wondering about the time commitment, people respond in an almost cult-like manner, putting a guilt trip on the original poster for not prioritizing the cost or telling them that they simply won’t be able to offer the same quality on their own at home.

If someone says the program isn’t working for a particular child, they’re told to trust the system and make it work.

But, y’all, CC is just a curriculum (a curriculum created by human beings, just in case there was any confusion), and it’s not going to work for everybody.

Our family has very happily struck a balance of doing Foundations at home (or, truthfully, in the car on our way to Essentials each week) and then doing Essentials with our community. Giving up one morning a week for Foundations was putting so much stress on our schedule, and the cost (both time and money) was not working for us. Reserving a fifth weekday morning at home and then heading out in the afternoon for Essentials (which I tutor and love) has been such a huge blessing for our family that I chime in every time someone asks about doing Foundations at home to let them know that you can make it work and that some of us even enjoy doing it that way.

We need to be honest about the downsides—like the constant “upgrades” to the curriculum (which can get expensive), the annual cost (especially for larger families), the time commitment (which is a lot for families with working parents or busy schedules), and so on. It is a great fit for many, many families, and many other families use parts of it to create their own program. But let’s not make it an idol in our lives that ignores the unique situations of various families and children.

Even for classical Christian homeschoolers, CC is not the end-all, be-all of curriculum, and when we treat other choices as inferior rather than just different, I think we’re actually hurting the company’s reputation, not helping it.

(And I hope it goes without saying that this is true for every curriculum and educational philosophy…)

This Post Has 40 Comments

  1. I love CC. I feel the same as you do… at that first meeting, it just
    clicked for me. It is absolutely what is right for us. That being said,
    it does NOT mean it is the only way or a fit for every family. Well
    said! (And you said y’all… love it! :D)

  2. As someone for whom CC just doesn’t have any appeal (right now), I appreciate this. I sometimes feel a little evangelized and mildly chastised/judged whenever I say it isn’t for us. Having grown up homeschooled (and not the classical method), I get frustrated when some CCers imply that classical is the best way to educate a child and that if you don’t, you aren’t homeschooling the right way.

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you! As a first year homeschooling mom (although I’m a 2nd generation homeschooler!), I’ve looked at CC but haven’t seen it fitting for us. Sometimes I feel like I’m probably messing up my children for life because I’ve not chosen CC and this post is a refreshing reminder that we do what works for us – that’s why it’s great there are options! That’s why homeschooling is great!

  4. I have tried and tried to be excited about CC. I love the community it offers and the theory behind it sounds as fine as any. But I just can’t get onboard. The cost is huge for me to “try” it. And frankly I feel like I’d be held hostage myself. (I’m sorry to put it that way.) I do not want to sit and listen to songs and historic facts. Maybe I’m selfish or lazy. Or both.
    Maybe when education is more of an independent study at home versus me ping ponging back and forth between my girls for 3 hours, I’ll try it.
    I do wish there was a community like CC but not CC for families who don’t chose that curriculum. I’m fully aware that many of my local friends involved with CC are there for interaction and social vs the true curriculum.

  5. Well said! We participate in CC, also love it, and plan to send all four of our kids through Challenge, yet I also agree that it’s just a curriculum. There’s no such thing as one curriculum fits all since God made all of us unique. To the homeschool families not choosing CC, please feel free to choose what’s best for your family! Ignore the naysayers as they are the ones with the problem, not you.

  6. This is timely for me because we are (in our first year homeschooling, first year CC) realizing there are facets of the program that don’t quite fit with us. I love the curriculum, but the setting isn’t stellar for our family dynamic. Right now – for the peace of our family – we are considering not homeschooling at all next year. It’s funny, because I was going to post a similar comment on your mom guilt post the other day minus the CC reference. It is SOOO hard making education (among other) decisions and so hard being totally okay with what you choose!

  7. I had to laugh about one poster’s concerns re: the comments on the CC Facebook website – which I have now blocked to maintain my own sanity. I also blocked it so that I don’t start a slap fight with those ladies who not only drank the CC Koolaid but mainlined the entire pitcher. Any concerns, dissension or criticism is met with either vitriol or this hippy-dippy zen “just follow the system, man.” Advice – always ignore the zealots and the people that just drift along. That being said, I love CC. It’s been our first and only group since we started homeschooling 5 years ago. It’s grossly imperfect, yet I’m ok with that. I didn’t choose CC for its totality. I chose it for its skeleton, its framework. It’s my job to add all yummy goodness. I chose it because I didn’t want to mess around with “art” projects or endless science experiments. I chose it because I didn’t believe that kids could memorize all the junk in Foundations and not be robotic losers. I was so excited to be wrong. I went from thought that CC was on crack for having kids in Essentials for 3 years. Now I’m tutoring Essentials (across the hall from Mandi), and am doing flips of joy at how my 11 year old daughter can write an essay or book report in her sleep. I love how she gets the building blocks of the English language and makes them work for her! And I can honestly say that I don’t know if we’ll go all the way through Challenge. Mostly because I’m an academic snob. Challenge is so much the experience of the tutor’s influence. Where most kids are changing classes and one bad teacher won’t sink the ship – Challenge is the direct opposite. I admit it. I’m auditioning tutors and will make changes if I don’t think he/she is up to the job. I’m not in love with the curriculum. There are ridiculous holes in the history. They infuriate me. Who cares, I pick my own curriculum, plug the holes and move on. All those cutesy little songs that some people disparage, my kids OWN. They are reference points for entire ideas or eras. So I agree. CC is not the holy grail of programs. If you like loose structure with room for YOUR personality then CC is the group for you. If not….that’s cool too. We’ll see you at homeschool PE or skiing or dance class or gymnastics…….

  8. Great discussion. Loving your blog posts (across the site). In our homeschool community I often feel I am going against the grain by being structured in our approach, as so many others follow an autonomous/unschooling route. Agree with you that one approach does not fit all and we should be appreciative and encouraging of each others journeys.

  9. If there’s one thing I hope to teach my kids, it’s that it’s possible to believe something is the best without judging or belittling those who disagree with you. There is certainly Truth that we need to defend, but there’s a whole lot of Opinion too. So sorry that that’s been your experience with (some) CCers!

  10. It sound so simple, doesn’t it?! “Be appreciative and encouraging of each others journeys.” That would solve everything!

  11. You’re not passionate about this topic, are you, Kelly?! And I’m with you on the cutesy songs…goofy or not, they work for us!

    And I love your final sentences: “If not….that’s cool too. We’ll see you at homeschool PE or skiing or dance class or gymnastics…….”

  12. Ah, Katie—I’m sorry you’re dealing with guilt over it! May you have freedom to choose what’s best for your kids and family THIS coming year, knowing that you can always adjust again next year!

  13. I know there are more people like us out there, Heidi…it seems that we’re just the quiet ones while the judgey people are speaking through a bullhorn!

  14. Hahaha…yes, sitting in the classrooms is not my favorite part, and I think deciding to do Foundations at home was as much about ME as them. (It’s also why I started tutoring, rather than just attending, Essentials!)

  15. LOL! It just seemed like the right word in that sentence. 😛

    I know we’ve felt the same excitement and enthusiasm for it from the beginning…I can’t figure out what pushes some people over the edge to judging others for NOT feeling that. Maybe deep down they’re NOT as sure it’s the right thing for their family and any naysayers threaten to tip the scale?

  16. Well, the good news is we’re all messing up our kids in some way. Ha! In all seriousness, I think trying to force something to work is a bigger “danger” than following your gut in the first place!

  17. I so agree! I research educational philosophies as a hobby. I’m passionate about how kids learn. There are so many things I love about Classical and so many things I love about unschooling and a whole lot in between. In the end, it comes down to finding what is the best fit for your family and for your individual children. Unfortunately, I had experience with some over-zealous CCers that kind of turned me off. I live overseas and right now it doesn’t apply to me anyway. We are finding our own groove and somehow being overseas where no-one else does it helps find your own way even easier. When we move back to the US I know there will be lots of well meaning pressure, but I love seeing here that you are making CC work for your family without falling into the “this is the BEST way” trap! Thanks for sharing!

  18. I love CC but I agree with you 100%. Even if you’re into classical education, CC occupies just a corner of the whole spread. The Facebook page drives me nuts; it seems to be so anxiety driven! (With an occasional helpful nugget, which is why I haven’t ditched it I suppose!) The real women I know in my CC community are down to earth and just awesome- such a gift of conversation, encouragement, trouble-shooting, blowing off steam. I mean, we all have our crazy but maybe it just comes out worse on the internet!

  19. For 2 years now, it has come down to the wire before I made my decision NOT to do CC. My husband has asked me if I plan to work myself up about it every year and then decide not to do it right before tutor training starts. It sounds good, in theory, but I don’t know, it also doesn’t. Maybe I should just trust the fact that if it doesn’t speak to me, that’s my answer, just like it so strongly spoke to you that you got your answer. We do have a CD of the memory songs, but I am not consistent with memorizing it…I like to think I can incorporate some of the good stuff and just leave the rest alone. We use Sonlight and I wouldn’t want to drop SL to do CC, but I’ve heard it can be so overwhelming to do both (plus I couldn’t really afford the expense)! Anyway, thanks for admitting there are some cons to CC and for describing why you started CC. That helps a lot!

  20. Ha—”We all have our crazy but maybe it just comes out worse on the internet!” That really did make me laugh!

    And yes, I agree…the women in our community are awesome. Every year there are people trying to make decisions about what to do the following year, and there’s none of this crazy pressure or guilt!

  21. Andrea, I am a fan of following my gut. I can’t say for sure that you shouldn’t do CC, but I think you’re right that the fact that it doesn’t speak to you so strongly is probably worth considering, especially since you have a curriculum you love!

  22. Hey, me too! That’s why I consider myself a classical unschooler, which is just about the oddest combination out there, but there are more of us than you would think! 🙂

    I am not surprised by the stories of people who have been turned off by overzealous CCers, and that really is a shame. It’s possible to be excited about something for your family without feeling superior to people who are excited about something different!

  23. Thank you for this article! This is our second year of CC. We love foundations. I love the flexibility it gives my family and we can focus on what we want to fill in those gaps. However, I started to tutor Essentials and it was my son and I’s first year out of the gate. I hated the training but told myself it would be ok and would work itself out. Then I started tutoring in the fall. Oh my it was a disaster and to top it off I had to have surgery and stop tutoring at the 12 week mark. I was beyond stressed every week that I did tutor. We are finishing out our year but my stress hasn’t resolved itself. I really feel Essentials is not a good fit for us. We love IEW but I can’t wrap my head around all the chart copying and sentence diagramming for EEL. I love that you wrote CC is just a curriculum and it doesn’t’ fit for some families. I am really feeling its not a good fit. I keep getting told to just trust the curriculum and I told my families this in the beginning of the year. However, I am still not feeling it. Thank you!

  24. I so appreciate this. We’re in our 2nd yr of CC and it’s been great for our family. I completely understand what you mean when you mention what you felt at that information meeting. As I researched it more and we started our first year I realized it was what I was looking for…for my youngest 3 boys. I also have 2 highschoolers who are not in CC…partly because there aren’t Challenge levels for them at our campus yet, and partly because I don’t think it would be fair to change streams at this point in their schooling. They follow a more traditional, ecletic model. I also agree that CC isn’t for everyone. I stress to the parents of the kids I tutor all the time to remember that they’re still in charge of things, if it doesn’t work the way I present it, find another way. No curriculum is a perfect fit for every child…that’s why there are so many options. Do what’s works for you and your family.

  25. I love, love, LOVE Essentials, but I completely respect that it’s not the right program for everyone, and I hope you feel freedom to pursue whatever is the right fit for your family!

  26. Well, after much prayer and consideration and seeing that my son is actually understanding what is being taught the past 2 weeks. Also, being reminded we are first tour students and not expected to understand everything. We have signed up for another year of Essentials! I just know we wouldn’t be as accountable if we didn’t. Thank you for your kind words

  27. Hi, I’m new here! I’m curious about this curriculum. Where I live, there are no groups. Could someone do this on there own? With 1 child? My others kids are in highschool, my son is 8. Thanks

  28. I really loved this post! I have to admit, I struggled to understand why others would leave a program/community after we had spent so long trying to find something just like it. I also had already graduated two homeschool kids when I found CC and did the more traditional route, so I have some experience traveling the road of “figuring it out”. I realize others must travel that same road (even if I feel compelled at times to yell out, “I TRIED THAT ALREADY, IT SUCKS!” 😉

    I would love to ask you though, how have you maintained a feeling of community while missing the Foundations morning? We have several families who do this at our campus (for various reasons and they all make sense!) but it doesn’t feel like we know them very well, especially the bulk of our community which leaves just after lunch :/

    I appreciate your candidness and grace on the matter!

  29. Cc is supposed to SUPPORT and EQUIP families. If it’s not doing that, then don’t do it. As far as the cost, it’s excellent that parents can supplement costs by tutoring or directing. I find it ironic that most of the moms who want to criticize do absolutely nothing but criticize. I’m a support rep for cc in Arizona. And we live in a small town. So it’s very likely that several of my children will not have a challenge level class for each level of challenge. And I’m totally fine with that. Again, this program is supposed to equip and come alongside the parent. I feel so much more prepared to homeschool through high school now. And that’s the beauty of this program.

  30. As someone whose high school career was almost completely destroyed by CC, I think you took it a little easy on the program. My mother was convinced I needed to stick with the program, that it would all end up working out in the end due to CC being perfect. My junior year, all the sensible people had already jumped ship and I was left with just the crazies as classmates. I have no fond memories of CC.

  31. Thank you! I love you for your compassion and honesty. I am a public school teacher, but we have decided to take my 7th grade daughter out of school next year and homeschool her for the rest of the time because her Public School wasn’t meeting her needs. In addition, she was learning things I really didn’t think were appropriate (both from peers and some of the PS curriculum). I know what I’m doing as far as scope sequence, and delivery. My daughter and I are enjoying our time together so far and she is doing really well and is enjoying learning. However, although I really like the classical conversation curriculum and community, we cannot afford it at all, especially since I am no longer going to be working in the public school system and instead teaching my daughter. The attempted guilt trip from some of my close friends who do use the curriculum however was getting pretty heavy. In fact, it (they)have somewhat put a wall between us and our friendship now that I’m homeschooling but not using the same curriculum as they are using.
    Again, thanks for the honest and compassionate post. 🙂

  32. EXACTLY! My dear son’s sentiments verbatim. Everyone here (NJ) gets OUT! The highest in most communities is Challenge A, B, and sometimes I but never higher. People get smart and get OUT! Hoping you were able to redeem what you had left of high school:)

  33. Do you know of anyone that has quit directing and left to lead something else? I was wondering if there were legal problems that CC could cause.

  34. There are legal ramifications. The Directors sign a non-compete and aren’t allowed to “start” another group of a different type for 2 years (I think). I Directed for 2 years and remember signing it… but don’t remember all of the details.

  35. You are hilarious!!!!!! Loved your insight. I agree!

  36. Thank you for taking the time to write this post! Loved it!

  37. There can certainly be legal ramifications with being a Foundations director. Not just the non-compete (I believe it’s something like three months now) but really more with how a director hires her tutors. Most directors still hire tutors as independent contractors, but CC management requires intense behavioral control. If you are considering directing, please look up everything you can about “Classical Conversations”, “independent contractor”, “IRS” and see if your CC reps will answer directly your questions about how to hire your tutors. There are possibly large tax consequences at risk. Also, please inform the church where you might meet that your is for-profit and that the corporation is for-profit. It affects them, too. Feel free to contact me with questions: [email protected]

  38. Thank you for this! I needed to hear it…I’ve been feeling so much pressure lately.

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