When it comes to education, the youth in Delta County are blessed with a variety of options. But because public schools are prohibited from using religious curriculum, some parents still opt for home-centered programs like Classical Conversations.
The goal for Classical Conversations students is "To know God and make Him known." A biblical worldview is combined with the classical method of learning to create a highly structured educational program for students in grades K-12, using parents as the primary teacher.
The youngest students (K-6) are enrolled in the Foundations program. When students get together during "community day" once a week, they do memory work which has been divided into six subjects: timeline/history, geography, math, science, Latin, and English grammar. Facts are set to familiar tunes like "Jesus Loves Me" to make them easier to recall. In addition to memorizing new information, students review the material they've learned in previous sessions, work on a science project, participate in a fine arts project/lesson, and make an oral presentation. Some weeks the topics for the oral presentations are assigned; on "free weeks," the students can "show-and-tell" whatever appeals to them. During the fine arts lessons, students learn about the basics of art, practice music with a tin whistle, study the great artists, and spend time listening to classical music.
The Essentials program carries the curriculum forward for fourth-sixth graders, emphasizing the "essentials" of language, writing and arithmetic.
In both Foundations and Essentials, a parent who has been trained as a tutor introduces the subjects the students will be working on at home the remainder of the week. The tutors serve as models for the other parents, equipping them to expand upon the topics that have been introduced during community day.
The once-a-week gatherings are not intended as a drop-off for parents. Parents are expected to remain on the premises, and many act as tutors, explained Dawna Rockey.
She is homeschooling six of her eight children, and can do so successfully because of the Classical Conversations curriculum. "I can teach 50 percent of the subject matter in a group setting at home, like a one-room schoolhouse," she said.
The curriculum not only helps her stay organized, it's also engaging. "I don't have to force my kids to learn," she said. "They love it."
She explains she went to an informational meeting reluctantly, because she already had homeschool curriculum and didn't want to start over. But she was sold on the concept. Tuition is affordable and books can be used for several years.
Currently, the Classical Conversations community in Delta County does not extend to the high school level, but Britny Havertape, curriculum director, hopes to generate enough interest to expand into the Challenge program for grades 7-12. The program involves Saxon math, Apologia sciences, classic literature, writing, debate and more. The older students are expected to prepare all week and come to community day ready to present their learnings.
Havertape, the area manager for Classical Conversations, oversees communities on the Western Slope and in Utah. She says they're called "communities" because the educational groups are made up of like-minded individuals and allow interaction for students and parents alike. There's also a level of accountability that a community provides, Havertape points out. With Classical Conversations, there's structure in place to ensure work is completed in a timely manner. Testing, recordkeeping and training for parents are available. The curriculum is academically rigorous and challenging. And just as within a community, friendships develop among the students and parents.
Havertape understands the importance of feeling connected to others in similar situations. She and her husband were missionaries in Russia when she began her homeschooling experience. "I felt very alone in my journey," she said. "It felt almost easier just to give up."
Then during a visit from an American church group, a homeschool mother told her about Classical Conversations. The Havertapes returned to the U.S. on furlough and Britni had an opportunity to observe a Classical Conversations community in California. She returned to Russia with renewed focus. After two years of working with the Classical Conversations curriculum, Britni, her husband and three children moved to the Western Slope. When she discovered there was no community in the area, she took steps to get a group started.
The program is open to any parent, Christian or non-Christian, Havertape stresses. The tutors and directors have signed a statement of faith, but at the Foundations/Essentials levels there is little discussion about theology. Those conversations begin at the Challenge level as an avenue for older students to learn how to discuss what they believe and how to defend their point of view. The goal is to teach the students how to present their arguments in a persuasive manner, a lesson in preparation and research that extends beyond biblical precepts. Whether students are studying chemistry or composition, the goal is to teaching them HOW to learn so when they graduate they'll feel competent to continue their education in any area.
Anyone interested in Classical Conversations, and the middle/high school program in particular, is encouraged to call Havertape at 874-6802. Parents willing to serve as tutors will need to undergo training this summer.blog comments powered by Disqus