Classical Conversations: The Hype and the Incompatibility

This post is a collection of responses to the recurring Christian Unschooling forum question, “Does Classical Conversations fit with unschooling?”

As with trying to integrate any curriculum-based methods at young ages, the focus almost always is upon the parent’s comfort zone, fears and goals, rather than the child’s natural ways of learning. The result is an approach better referred to as “relaxed/eclectic” homeschooling, not unschooling. This is sort of inherent to the word “unschool”–the removal of all school-based education.

Relaxed/eclectic is a very common transition between formalized methods and full unschooling, and many parents are more comfortable remaining there–for them, it feels like unschooling because it’s much less scheduled. However, we wouldn’t be helping people better understand the perspective shifts and internal changes, above and beyond schedule and structure, if we didn’t distinguish relaxed/eclectic from unschooling.

Many of the responses below touch on specific concerns that arise along with this question. State testing, college admissions, how math is learned, having “Bible content,” and even peer pressure from fellow homeschoolers are often part of the appeal in locating a curriculum that purports to give measurable methods for these worries. Unschooling simply uses different ways of measuring and recording that are less invasive, and note when the children learn rather than asking them to do it so it can be recorded for the parent’s comfort.

The question of Classical Conversations is somewhat uniquely recurrent due to the following factors mentioned by a forum administrator:

…it is for-profit and they must get a certain number of trained directors, teachers, etc. in each area. So they are aggressive in their recruitment.

Many have also mentioned the expense. That said, when this type of question is asked in an unschooing environment, it’s usually for reassurance that what we’re doing isn’t somehow “failing” our kids due to focusing on relationship, not just ahead of, but instead of curricular milestones.


The beauty of unschooling is, the principles remain the same regardless of our worldview. If we focus on relationship above all else then it becomes easier to see people, as human beings worthy of respect and kindness. It helps to be more comfortable sharing grace, forgiveness … not because we are Christian (or not), but because we are all beloved by the Creator and have a purpose.

When you start questioning your “why”, you will find that it can be very scary, difficult, even threatening to our own beliefs – because knowing why you believe something, really peeling it apart and looking for truth, rather than potentially accepted biases, prejudices, tradition, indoctrination … you will be better able to sift through and get rid of all that really does not benefit you building relationship. Relationship between you and God, you and each individual family member, you and friends, you and those you come in contact with regularly and occasionally.

You may begin to see the real heart of others, rather than a label they attach to themselves, or have attached to them by others because who they are, is usually so much more, and so much less than we may believe due to the lens we have viewed them through before we started seeking to know the core of our “why”.

Just as you will be letting go of the schoolish verbage, the schoolish thought, the schoolish expectations, you will find yourself more willing to let go of other things that hinder the natural process of learning, loving, connection … It is so worth any difficulty that you might experience when you begin to truly let go, and let God be the real leader of not only education but all of life. He brings people into our lives. Some are already in relationship with Him. Some say they are, but only He will know if that is real or not. Some will not yet know of Him, and some may even deny His existence. Each and every single one of them is worthy of our time, our attention, our heart and our love. Not all will be front liners in our lives, and some may not be invited into our homes, but all should have the opportunity to share something of themselves that can help us become better people, clearer reflections of Christ. It is that reflection that may help them become better people as well.

-Pam


Ok – I’m going to be honest about Classical Conversations. It’s a lot of work. A lot of unnecessary work in my opinion. Lots of Latin and Greek. If your kids are into that sort of stuff I would say go for it, try it out.

This program is “hot” right now and literally sweeping the nation as a fad. I am in several homeschool groups from the places we have lived and are going to live and every.single.one.of.them is trying to get a CC group going in the area. To me, it sounds a bit like a cult – they have “meeting parties” where they invite new homeschooling families. It’s weird to me. The early grades sound great with lots of hands-on stuff. But the upper grades is a lot of oversight and homework that I don’t want or need. If one of the girls asked me to go I would look into it more. But I’m pretty sure they would be turned off by the structure and nature of the program.

How old are your kids? Couldn’t they organize their own little get-together? Maybe brainstorm together and come up with a fun topic to study. Book club, drama club, makers club, something kid-focused.

And no – your kids will not miss out on anything if you skip Classical Conversations. If they want to go to college, they will find a way to go. The structure and rigor of academics will not hinder them if they are enjoying themselves. Plenty of unschoolers have shown that you can go to college with almost no structured learning in your past. And they will have other opportunities as they get older.

-Aadel


I find that pretending to enjoy a structured program like CC (which I’ve also been invited to join several times and kindly declined) is kinda worse for me than being around people who think like me/share my same education philosophy but aren’t “Christians”. When I think about my children finding other friends with families who share our same faith, I really enjoy having that fellowship with local Christian friends who are homeschooling or not and/or friends from church. We enjoy our small group of unschooled friends the same because we understand each other. It will all balance itself out.

-Andrea


It can be hard for those who enjoy reading for the sake of reading, to understand that not everyone does, and that it is absolutely okay for them not to.

It is making idols of books, and they usually can not see that. So many ways to learn. All are worthy.

-Pam


I think that once you start to feel annoyed [by family pressure to do CC] it might be time to defer to a scripted line of “well we prefer to take a different approach. It’s an intentional choice to try something different, but thanks for your concern.” It’s really all she’s owed. You night not be at the point of feeling like you’ll say something you’ll regret out of frustration but btdt. It is hard to handle when you are which is why I plan ahead with lines that I can firmly repeat.

As for reading the classics when older, I disagree with that completely. Kids should be able to read what they want without concern about sequence because interests change so frequently. Take advantage of open windows of opportunity. Strew stuff they like, expose them to classics that fit their interests. They will absorb it better.

-Traci


I usually go with, “wow, that sounds interesting but it definitely does not match our lifestyle or life goals. I am sorry and hope you find someone else who will enjoy it.”

-Heather


My 14yo was invited to a friend’s small home school Latin Club. She loved it, had lot’s of fun, but I don’t know what they did, exactly. LOL I think they drank tea, read, did plays and Latin games. Seems a better way to introduce Latin and increase vocabulary.

-Debra


I like the “idea” of it [Classical Conversations]. It sounds academically sound, etc. (I’m a former classroom teacher.) But my kids and I didn’t like the fact that we would be tied to someone else’s idea of what we should be learning each week, a fixed schedule, etc. I bowed out after attending the information meeting with my children and talking to them about their feelings, combined with what my husband and I were feeling.

-Jennifer


A few things jump out at me:

1. “We are in a testing state”

We are also in a testing state and it is not a big deal at all. There are testing options available, and some are very simple to implement.

2. “I also feel like I would have to implement math.”

Peel apart your “why” on this. “Have to” based on what? When you can get to the root of these ideas/beliefs/fears, you will see that there are choices to be made and “have to” is not really “have to”.

3. “That [eclectic] is truly my style …”

This is not your education though, so it is more important to look at the individual “style” of each child. How you learn is good for you to know for YOU. It is not necessarily helpful when it comes to each of your children.

4. “… but we spent a year in Classical Converstaions and really find their method and potential deeply rooted knowledge and grounding of the Lord most intriguing.”

Who is “we”? You? You and your husband? Each of your children? When we use a sweeping “we” it almost always means the adult. The speaker. It rarely is the thoughts of the children. Often they have not even been asked, and if they were, they often do not truly “get” what you are referring to.

5. ” I never thought I would ever do rote type of schooling yet realize my kids dont learn some things w/o things like flashcards….practice practice practice. (Was soooooo far from what I wanted)”

My guess is you had a set of time you believed they should have these things memorized by, and when it was not happening within that time frame, you panicked and decided that flashcards and all that practice, practice, practice was essential to their learning. Fear does that to us.

When given the whole of their lives to learn, people do. When they have a need or desire to know, people learn. When their brains are more fully wired for whatever area, people learn. When is the bigger issue, and schoolish thoughts say it must take place in a certain order, by certain ages, with an arbitrary means of learning it.

Then, there are options. If they “need” to have multiplication knowledge for a certain task, one can pull the answers from memory, or from a multiplication chart, or use a calculator. All are of value, none are the “best” option.

-Pam

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