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Classical Conversations lays foundation for learning

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Photos courtesy Loraine Randlett After a six-week section on music theory, this tin whistle band performed for parents, judges, visitors and fellow students. From left to right are Ashlyn Richardson, Colleen George, Connor George, Levi Brewer, Aubrianna R

"Kids enjoy learning. They have a passion to learn about the world from its beginning.

In learning about world history from creation to modern America, they become smart about world events. They become personally aware that if we don't learn from past mistakes we will repeat them," said Loraine Randlett.

Randlett is Delta County Director of Classical Conversations, a homeschooling program which believes that the first key to a great education is that it be "classical," the model of education which has proven effective over time.

The program points out that the "classical" model has cultivated great leaders in the arts of freedom: Aristotle, Newton, C.S. Lewis and Thomas Jefferson, a few examples of great thinkers who were educated classically.

When asked about the program's teachers, Randlett emphasized, "A 'tutor' equips the parent to 'teach', presenting the curriculum and working with the parents of the children.

"The parent is the teacher," she said.

To qualify to be a tutor, an applicant must agree with the statement of faith for Classical Conversations: "We believe the purpose of education is to know God and to make Him known." The applicant must also have a love for children and the whole family, and be qualified to encourage and equip parents.

"We consider this a 'ministry'," Randlett chuckled. "We don't get paid a lot.

"We are building up children for the next generation, to enable them to have a love of learning and to be able to give persuasive presentations and to speak and influence those around them," she said.

"We are preparing this generation to be the next leaders and to be a source of influence in the world."

Classical Conversations started in Delta County five years ago, with 23 students. "We have 29 now," Randlett said. "We saw a mass exodus of families due to loss of jobs. We have three families coming from Montrose, two families from Paonia and the other families are from Cedaredge and Delta."

The program has designed the curriculum to apply to three age groupings: Foundations, for preschool through 3rd grade; Essentials for 4th through 6th grade; and Challenge for 7th and 8th grades and up. There is not yet a Challenge program in Delta County. Randlett expects one will begin in school year 2017-2018.

The Foundations program has five tutors sharing responsibility for eight families, and the Essentials program has one tutor responsible for eight or nine children, Randlett said.

The timeline for all subjects taught in Classical Conversations curriculum is creation to modern America. "We place a strong emphasis on Christianity and Biblical history, alongside secular world history, to present a world view using classical teaching tools," Randlett said.

The curriculum includes history and geography, science, math, English grammar, Latin, art and music.

Parents teach the curriculum to their children in their homes four days a week. On Fridays all the parents and their children meet at Delta First Baptist Church, joined by Randlett, tutors and guests. The children share with the group what they have learned the past week in a fun, lively way, Randlett said. And additional curriculum is presented to the parents by tutors.

At the end of each six-week session, the group comes together for a review through competitive games and memory work. For example, at the end of the music theory section, in which the students were taught notes, scales and how to hold a tin whistle, students gave a tin whistle recital demonstrating what they had learned. One very shy little girl stood alone and played "Mary Had a Little Lamb" before everyone -- parents, judges, visitors and fellow students.

At the end of a year studying literature, students write a paper about a character they have chosen from the history they have studied. Each student presents that paper while dressed in the costume of the historical character chosen.

After studying great art and its painters, the students participate in an art show, displaying their own paintings.

Classical Conversations curriculum includes the history of Christianity in the study of world history, includes memorization of Christian scripture and acknowledges God as the center of its curriculum. However, Randlett states, "We study all the major religions, informing children what other people believe. Our program is open to families of all religions."

The Foundations program curriculum is divided into three cycles, one cycle per year for three years. Each cycle consists of 24 weeks of memory work and activities. A student learning the rudiments of something, such as the alphabet, will probably need to complete each cycle twice to develop greater understanding and mastery of the material.

The designers of the curriculum believe that a student at any learning level benefits from memory work.

Cycles aren't related to a particular grade level. Sixth graders cover the same grammar as kindergartners, but cover the material in greater depth.

The Essential Program, a bridge between the Foundation Program and the Challenge Program, is described as "power-packed" course work for students and parents, covering language arts, writing, and math.

The Challenge Program is designed for students 12 years old and older. It challenges students with Latin and classic languages, American, British and ancient literature, research, debates and rhetoric, and higher mathematics.

Students are tested on knowledge and understanding of that knowledge every year.

Classical Conversations educational process focuses on teaching students how to learn. It empowers students to teach themselves. It provides a foundation of working hard while thinking deeply and critically.

Randlett says, "It is awesome being part of this organization that helped and equipped me to learn, and then to help and equip other families. In the process of their equipping me, I came to know 'I can do this.'

"I say to my children frequently, 'I am so thankful that I get to spend these days together with you, that I get to share this life with you'."

Loraine Randlett and her husband Adam live above Cedaredge with their three children, Aubrianna, Asher and Noelle, and dog Scout and cat Kitty.

For more information, Randlett can be reached at loraine@randlett.net.

The Downs family works together on a science project. From left are daughter Lilli Downs, mother Jenika Downs and son Jackson Downs.
Ashlyn Richardson holds her certificate as Memory Master for memorizing 24 weeks of information on five different subjects, a huge accomplishment.
Loraine Randlett, Delta County Director of Classical Conversations, introduces Grace Ayer, who has written a paper about a Greek character from history and is about to present that paper to her audience of parents, guests and fellow students. On the right is Aubrianna Randlett, who will present her paper on Ruth from the Bible. Noelle Randlett is observing in the center.
Brylee Peterson is delighted to share what she is learning about the different layers of the earth in her earth replica made from playdough.
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