I am a veteran Classical Conversations mom. The 2017-18 academic year will begin my eleventh year with Classical Conversations and my thirteenth year homeschooling. I have loved my homeschooling journey! Deciding to homeschool my children was, in fact, one of the best decisions I have ever made.
However, a year ago, I experienced our most difficult year of homeschooling because I decided to travel to a community that was forty-five minutes from my home for Challenge. Don’t get me wrong! My two boys needed Challenge, and my local community was unable to meet the needs of my family that year. I am thankful for the strong academics that my sons received, and they flourished in their respective Challenge programs. I am thankful for the directors that tutored them and the other families that were involved in the programs. So why was it my most difficult year? Two words—too big!
Yes, it is true. That particular community was too big for me. I know it was the perfect fit for some, but I didn’t realize that it had been too big for me until I moved back to a smaller community closer to home where I stepped up to direct the Challenge program that my boys needed. At the larger community, I had known something was different, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. In retrospect, I realized that the sense of disconnectedness I had felt was not because I looked different than the other moms and not because I didn’t live on a farm or have preschoolers like many of them did; it was because the community felt too large for me to develop the circle of close-knit relationships I was used to.
I’d like to share with you what I learned over the last two years: there are priceless benefits, countless blessings, and surpassing beauty in being a part of a smaller Classical Conversations community.
The Benefits—There are priceless benefits available as part of a smaller Classical Conversations community! From a practical standpoint, when there are fewer people, you get to spend more time with each one. Whether the director is talking to a mom at lunch or a tutor is playing review games with her students, less is often more. The director will be able to give each family, especially ones that are new to the program, the individualized attention that they need. Sometimes it is good for new directors to start small to allow them to grow into their new role. They can spend the first year or two “working out the kinks” and building a strong foundation for the families that the Lord will send.
Families in smaller communities often get to know each other even better. In communities with over twenty-four families, some weeks you will have to have two family presentations, whereas in communities with twelve or fewer families each family can present twice. Educators know that a smaller class size usually equals more focused attention on each student. Colleges advertise their student-to-teacher ratio. The low student-to-tutor ratio was one of the priceless benefits that we enjoyed in our smaller community.
The Blessings—There are countless blessings to enjoy as part of a smaller Classical Conversations community! Zechariah 4:10 says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (NLT). In every noble pursuit that I’ve ever undertaken, some sweet soul has always come along with this verse. When our family started a business, someone quoted this verse. When we moved across the state to plant a church, someone shared this verse. Ironically, I find myself quoting this verse to new directors! However, God’s word is true.
It is okay to find just two or three families that are willing to walk alongside you for that first year. God has great plans and purposes in allowing that community to be planted. It is for His purposes and His glory alone. It is a blessing to be involved in a small, close-knit Classical Conversations community that feels more like a family. Developing friendships with all the moms and all the children is the norm in a smaller community. Sometimes smaller communities cause moms and children that would otherwise sit back and let someone else do things to step into leadership roles. In a smaller community everyone contributes, and that is truly a blessing!
The Beauty—There is a surpassing beauty that you will witness as part of a smaller Classical Conversations community. It was beautiful when a student from the abecedarian class ran up to me each community day, gave me a big hug, and said, “Hello, Mrs. Tamatha!” when I didn’t even have any students in her class. It was beautiful when she gave me a plastic necklace as a gift that I joyfully wore every week for the rest of the year just for her. It was beautiful when my autistic son’s Essentials class was small enough for him to read his Essentials paper every single week. It was beautiful because before Classical Conversations he barely spoke above a whisper and now we both get to witness his improvement on a weekly basis. It was beautiful when my smart, articulate, but somewhat shy teen needed to take on a leadership role in his Challenge class of five students. It was beautiful because I knew that in a class of ten or twelve he could easily hide out and never become the leader that he was destined to be.
I empathize with those of you who are driving long distances to a community. I will admit that sometimes it is unavoidable, as it was in my case; and, honestly, I would do it again if I had to. However, maybe for some of you this is your call to action. Are you being called to leadership within Classical Conversations? Have you ever thought about starting something small in your neighborhood? Do you know two or three families that are willing to walk alongside you? If you are willing, perhaps you will get to enjoy the benefits, blessings, and beauty of a smaller Classical Conversations community this coming year!