As April ends and the school year winds down, it is important to reflect on all that has been accomplished. Most Classical Conversations communities have completed the school year and are preparing for EOG testing and Parent Practicum. This moment presents the opportunity to reflect on all that we have accomplished, and to throw a party! If your student was a Memory Master, or you just completed your first year of homeschooling, you need to congratulate yourself.
As for my family, we are rejoicing. This month we celebrated the completion of Challenge IV by my brother, William. In fact, our local Classical Conversations community recently commemorated the graduation of the first group of students who progressed through the entire Classical Conversations program from first grade through twelfth grade (a couple of them are going to join the Mandala Fellowship)! It is quite an accomplishment to homeschool a child through high school, but it is not as daunting a task when you have a solid academic plan and wonderful community support.
After homeschooling John and myself through high school—perhaps not very well despite what our SAT scores and scholarships indicated—my mother, Leigh Bortins, devised a different plan for my two youngest brothers. You see, John and I were not well educated, at least not compared with today’s Classical Conversations students. My mother’s vision at the time was similar to that of many homeschoolers: to get us into college and to dispel the doubts of people questioning the merits of homeschooling. Perhaps it is putting it in simplistic terms, but this is often a primary goal for homeschooling parents; this was especially true for those who homeschooled their own children in the early years of the homeschooling movement, those who were regarded somewhat suspiciously in society. The beauty of my family’s experience was that my parents were essentially able to see the finished product of an education devised around the modern idea of the student as a “product,” but they had two more children for whom they could provide an education devised around the timeless idea that education should nurture a child’s soul, not produce a “product.”
The beauty of Classical Conversations is that the Foundations program prepares students for the challenge ahead in the middle school and high school years. As a matter of fact, the Challenge programs were developed before the Foundations and Essentials programs. My mother examined what John and I struggled with—and what many homeschooled students struggled with—and she identified some elements that were lacking in that method of education. This knowledge and insight helped form the Foundations program. Now, my mother has graduated three children from her homeschool with another one on the way. Lin Tomkinson, who has historically been the keeper of the Challenge programs, has also graduated three children from homeschooling, and two of her children have their Masters degrees and have received full rides from the colleges of their choice. If going to college is something you are striving for, the path before you has already been cleared by pioneers like my mother and Lin, and they are now eager to walk alongside you and your families as you strive to reach your goals. What an exciting privilege it is, to be able to accompany you on your homeschool journey through high school!
My brother, William, will not be going to college immediately; instead, he will participate in the new Mandala Fellowship. Daniel Shirley, son of Heather Shirley—Classical Conversations Chief Communications Officer—is also graduating from high school this year, and he will not be applying to a traditional college right away. He will attend Rivendell Sanctuary (which, by the way, is giving all Classical Conversations students a $1000 scholarship if they attend). These Classical Conversations leaders see the value in finding colleagues, not colleges, for their students. Of course, not everyone’s path is the same, and Daniel and William may eventually apply for enrollment at traditional universities, but for now they are seeking something other than gold—they are seeking wisdom. That is one of the points of a classical, Christian education: learning to love what one ought, seeking the kingdom of God, and searching for wisdom.