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Friday, September 23, 2011

Get An Inside Look at Classical Conversations by Melanie Kulig, Director

My name is Melanie Kulig and I am a new Classical Conversations director in Wadsworth, OH. 

Clara asked if I would be interested in writing an article about Classical Conversations after hearing about its popularity. I grabbed the opportunity to share with others a topic I am very passionate about!

I went on a field trip with a lady that I was just getting to know whose two daughters were registered in the Classical Conversations program. On the van ride that day, her 9-year-old daughter recited a 160 fact timeline all from memory! I was impressed! The lady, Sheila, and I soon became very good friends from my calling her everyday for the next few days to ask and learn more about Classical Conversations.

My interest in applying for directorship shortly afterwards is threefold.  First, Classical Conversations follows a classical methodology. For those of you who are not familiar with the classical model of education, it is patterned after the trivium. The trivium refers to the three stages of learning that coincide with a child’s cognitive development as he matures. These stages are: 
  • Grammar
  • Dialectic
  • Rhetoric
In the grammar stage, the child has a natural affinity for storing up a tremendous amount of information; you want to fill them with a lot of facts at this stage. The child then progresses to the dialectic stage, where he begins to gain an understanding of these facts; thinking and reasoning skills are the focus. Finally, he reaches the rhetoric stage where he begins to communicate what he has learned. Writing and speaking skills are developed at this stage. The Bible refers to these stages in Proverbs 24:3-4 as knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

Second, the closest campus was a forty-minute drive; it was full, and had a very long waiting list! After visiting the Classical Conversations website and talking with my friend, Sheila, I really wanted to register my kids in this program for the next school year. Sheila then suggested I apply to become a director and start a program in my community.

Those that know me know that I tend to shy away from leadership positions. I prefer to be behind the scenes rather than be in the limelight. But I prayed about this idea of starting a program in my community because I gained a real appreciation for the organization, and not just due to its academics.  This brings me to my third reason for applying to become a director - because of Classical Conversations' mission "to know God and to make Him known." In the Classical Conversations book titled, Classical Christian Education, it reads, "The ultimate end of a classical, Christian education is for students to know God, His ways and His world more fully, and to steward and transmit that knowledge to others responsibly and winsomely." That is what we, as Christians, are called to do. And that was the reason why I chose to homeschool my children.

After much prayer and counsel, I went ahead and applied for directorship, got the position, and we began our first day of Classical Conversations last week! Here is what took place on our first day:

At 9:15 a.m. we officially began our Classical Conversations day with what is called our Large Group Opening.  We started off in prayer, recited the Pledge of Allegiance together, and announcements were made.  Since this was our first day we did not have a family presentation this week, but in future weeks each family will take turns “presenting” or sharing something about a topic they choose.

At 9:30 a.m. each of the four Foundations tutors then led their classes in learning a history sentence, Latin prepositions, the first 8 timeline events as stated on the Veritas Press timeline cards, 4 types of tissues (anatomy), 5 states and capitals, what an infinitive is, and two skip counting facts. We call this the new grammar portion of the program. Tutors used songs, games, and hand motions to make the learning fun.  At least one parent for each child was present in a class to observe so that they can help review the material at home, and also assist the tutor as needed.  After this new grammar was taught, tutors continued with a hands-on science experiment and an art lesson on drawing.  And finally, each student did a 3-minute presentation. For their presentation this week, they did an impromptu speech about themselves with the tutors guiding them on what to talk about and explaining to them what makes for a good presentation.

The Foundations classes ended at noon. At its conclusion, we parents discussed how the day went, many of us rejoicing at finally being able to experience what we have worked hard at preparing for all summer.  Comments were made at how well everything went and how the tutors did such an excellent job! The pastor of the church we meet at passed me in the hall and asked if it was everything I expected. I answered, "Yes!", but after I thought about it more, I would have to say it even exceeded my expectations!  A few of us even commented how sad we were that we weren't meeting the following week due to Labor Day.

Many of the Foundations parents then went home since it was the end of their Classical Conversations day.  Some stayed an hour later to have lunch together, play together, and to get to know one another better.  At 1:00 p.m. the Essentials program started.  This is the dialectic part of Classical Conversations for those in grades 4-6.  For the first hour of this program, our Essentials tutor led the students in learning sentence classification (structures, purposes and patterns) as directed from the Classical Conversations Essentials guide.  Then she talked about quality adjectives and alliteration as guided by the U.S. History-Based Writing Lessons manual.  This was a little more interactive than the first hour as students helped come up with quality adjectives and created some alliteration themselves.  Having two children in the program, I sat and listened in the class with several other parents.  It was fun hearing the students' answers and we parents exchanged a few smiles and laughs with one another.  We were learning a lot of the material along with the children.  The last 45 minutes was spent with the kids playing math games and drills which was a fun way for them to end the day.

I went home rejoicing and praising God at all He has done in bringing about this wonderful program to Wadsworth.  I am thankful to all those involved in making this happen - my friend Sheila for introducing me to Classical Conversations and nudging me to apply for directorship, my tutors and sub-tutor for being available and for all their hard work preparing their lessons and giving their best, the Classical Conversations state manager - Leah Bromen, and all her assistants that helped provide leadership, instruction and training, fellow directors that shared their advice, ideas and experiences, The Chapel pastor and his assistant for their involvement in working things out for us to be able to meet at the church, and everyone that stood with me in prayer for this to happen.

It was a great first day for our Classical Conversations Wadsworth campus and I'm looking forward to the next one!

The Classical Conversations Wadsworth campus is having an open house on September 27, 2011.  If you live in the area and would like to visit, send an RSVP using the contact information on Classical Conversations’ website. 

 For more information on Classical Conversations, please visit their website. 

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  1. We just discovered Classical Conversations. I am going to sign my daughter up for the 2013-14 school year. It sounds amazing! Thank you for your post. God bless you!

  2. ASliceofHomeschoolPieApril 2, 2013 at 6:14 PM

    I know several families that are involved in CC and are really enjoying it. I'm sure your daughter will enjoy it too.


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