Classical Conversations to offer free practicum in Lima


First Posted: 5/6/2014

LIMA — While many still enjoy the idea of traditional school, there is another option in the area for those interested in homeschooling.

Classical Conversations — a type of homeschool education — is hosting a free three-day practicum this week to introduce the ideas and benefits of the curriculum.

Classical Conversations, which is a method of teaching developed more than 20 years ago, has nearby chapters in Lima, Wapakoneta and New Bremen.

Mindy Meyer, support manager for Classical Conversations of Southern Northwest Ohio and director of Classical Conversations of Wapakoneta, said the classical model of learning is “… more like a one-room schoolhouse.”

The Classical Conversations method is based off of the training and teaching in “The Core” by Leigh Bortins. According to the book’s synopsis, “Bortins describes the rigorous academics that form the core of a solid education.”

The curriculum of Classical Conversations focuses on developing solid fundamentals in children with the trivium: foundations (grammar), essentials (dialectic), and challenge (rhetoric).

Foundations is the first part. It is for kindergarten through sixth graders. This is the “building blocks” stage of all learning. It focuses on memorizing information. Spelling correctly, knowing multiplication tables, learning American presidents, completing timelines, and memorizing U.S. states and their capitals are all examples of some of the core things learned in this elementary stage.

Essentials is the second part. This is the stage in a child’s learning in fourth through sixth grade, which overlaps foundations. Often, this is about when he is beginning to question the world around him. This stage will focus more on English grammar, writing and math practice.

Challenge is the third and final part of the trivium, which builds on the first two. It is for children in seventh through 12th grade. After a child has memorized facts in his elementary years, questioned life and ideas in middle school, he now can articulate his ideas and opinions greater during this stage.

Though there are separate stages, all of the parts of the trivium work together. One stage builds off another. A child never stops learning and applying various parts. Young children will write and present ideas and older children will continue to learn the grammar of every new subject or idea they study.

Meyer said this method of education “… teaches you how to think.”

“This is not a new idea at all. This is the way it was before the 1950s. These are old ideas that come from early American teaching. What it has done is reach back to those ideas and principles with great success,” Meyer said.

Subjects covered in the Classical Conversations curriculum include: history, science, geography, English, Latin, math and writing. The curriculum can stand alone, or be used in conjunction with other classical models.

Trent Cox, Classical Conversations tutor and homeschooling parent, said he and his wife chose Classical Conversations to homeschool their children after first using another method.

“We liked the idea of giving young children this foundation for learning. We felt like we could do more than what was being done in the traditional approach. We thought classical education made sense with what we observe about young children. They like memorizing things and being loaded up with facts,” Cox said.

The Cox family has have five children who range in age from 5 to 13 years old.

“For Owen (the youngest of their children), we thought in this first year for him he would mostly be along for the ride — just kind of learning to sit still, and to not pee his pants,” Cox joked. “But he’s as good of a memorizer as any of them. If I forget something, I ask Owen. It’s been a big surprise how young they can start.”

Cox said, “We see young children memorizing jingles, songs or other things. How about memorizing Newton’s First Law?”

On the spot, Cox turned to his 5-year-old and asked him to recite it — which he did, flawlessly.

Cox explained that his children really seem to enjoy the grammar of subjects. They put many things to song with hand motions. Cox said when his children read a history book, for example, they “light up” when they recognize a name or event and begin to piece it all together.

As adults, Cox said he and his wife have also greatly benefited with learning or re-learning these basic building blocks.

Before beginning Classical Conversations, “We saw that we were not getting smarter because we were depending on electronics to look things up. We saw this as an approach to reverse that trend,” Cox said.

Cox explained that the grammar years help build a toolbox, in a sense, to be able to pull from later on.

Once families join a Classical Conversations group, they will come together during the school year once a week for “Community Days.” During these days, Cox helps guide parents in what they should work on with their children for the upcoming week. Here, the children also take an art lesson and a science lesson together. The other four days, families will work at home with the Classical Conversations curriculum.

The Classical Conversations groups — along with the three-day practicum — are open to anyone of any background or belief. The tutors are Christian, but people of any faith are welcome.

“The parents are the teachers; we are the tutors. If there is any (faith-based) question from the child, we direct the question to their parent,” Meyer said.

There is a cost involved to joining, which will be outlined at the practicum. Talks begin at 8:30 a.m. daily and are scheduled until 4 p.m.

The free practicum will be held in Lima at Grace Community Church, 4359 Allentown Road, Lima. It is open to all people interested in seeking information or wanting to explore a new method of helping their children learn. Though the event is free for parents, there are “kids camps” available for a fee. For details or to sign up, go to www.classicalconversations.com or call 419-979-8317.