Our family joined a Classical Conversations community in February of 2012, and we did not have an opportunity to attend a 3-Day Parent Practicum prior to joining. When Practicum season rolled around the next spring, I did not feel that I needed to attend a Practicum, because I had received my orientation to Classical Conversations by experience and, after all, I already knew a lot about classical education. I did not need to attend a Practicum.
Now, as a new director of a Foundations/Essentials community, I am required to attend two Parent Practicums so that I can receive tutor training for the Foundations and Essentials programs.
Having returned from my first Practicum, I can say that I was completely unprepared for the blessings awaiting me there. Consequently, I would like to offer my encouragement, by way of an acrostic, to any family who might be “on the fence” about whether to participate.
Prepare to Learn: Open your heart and mind to the wisdom and experience of others who have gone before you. At the Practicum, you will meet many other parents—some who are seasoned homeschoolers and some who are tutors, trainers, directors, and so on who are also there to learn and to share. You will learn about the nuts and bolts of Classical Conversations via an in-depth look at a particular subject area.
This year we are learning about the grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric stages by studying math, and you will have a chance to practice working with ideas you may not have considered for a long time, if ever. It is fun!
Renew Your Energy: Among my homeschooling friends at this time of year, there is a tendency to collapse in exhaustion. How can we be thinking about next year when we have not yet recovered from this year? Maybe we are not even finished with it!
The excitement about Classical Conversations at the Practicum is palpable. You are surrounded by people who are passionate about what we are doing. New homeschoolers who are just beginning their journey are among the participants, and you can see their yearning for camaraderie and tools, and their gratitude when they make connections.
Attend the Sessions: Our speaker, Lien O’Neill, made her debut at this Danville, California Practicum. As she led us through three days of presentations, I was greatly impressed by her quiet confidence and her joyful support of what we are all doing together. She is a homeschooling mother who loves Classical Conversations, just as we do! She and I also discovered that our husbands attended Yale University together, so the Practicum has blessed our families with the chance to renew that connection as well.
Participants like me saw three vignettes of Leigh Bortins (the founder of Classical Conversations) and Lisa Bailey discussing their thoughts about math. I found it quite interesting to hear the wisdom of those experienced homeschooling moms who can now share their experience with us.
Create Your Own Vision: After being immersed in this incredibly stimulating and supportive environment, I found clarity with regard to educational plans for my family. The more time I spend in Classical Conversations, the more I know I can trust the curriculum and the whole scope and sequence of education. For example, the first year I used another complete history curriculum in addition to studying the timeline and history sentences presented in the Foundations grammar. Now I know that I do not need to do that. I can use the methods I have learned to present and interact with the content and successfully organize a complete curriculum for our family. What a relief! No more stressful redundancy!
Time to Connect: It is not often that I have at my disposal concentrated time to spend with my Classical Conversations friends to simply talk and enjoy one another’s company. The hosting team gave us the gifts of space, time, and comfort to enjoy each other’s company while being supported and encouraged. The Parent Practicum is referred to as an “equipping event.” And that is exactly what it is.
Ignite Someone Else’s Passion: Pay it forward! At the Practicum, you will meet parents in all stages of their journeys. I had the very odd experience of meeting someone from my past. During a break the first day, a beautiful young woman came up to me and told me that she knew me. She said she thought she had been a student in one of my freshman English courses when I taught at the local high school. This was an almost surreal experience for me, because that season in my life seems like a totally different life, before I had my own family. It was at least fifteen years ago and, at that time, I lived in a different geographic area.
The young woman told me that she is exploring Classical Conversations as an option for her family. We talked, and I told her I could not remember if she had been one of my students, but I did remember her (unique) name. I hope she was as encouraged as I was to find how God works in our lives to bring seemingly disparate people together around a mission to know God and make Him known. I get chills just thinking about it.
Camps for Kids: While you are soaking up knowledge, progressing to understanding, and perhaps gaining wisdom, your kids can be having their own fun experiences. Each location will have educational camp options for the children, based on the kids’ ages. Examples include geo-drawing, public speaking, Latin, trigonometry, and play camps. The children, too, will enjoy seeing friends they know, and they will make new friends as well.
Understand the Model and Method: The presentations will show you how the subject under study, i.e. math, can be approached with the classical model. You will hear numerous and detailed applications of how learning progresses through the grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric stages, through a biblical perspective. God’s goodness, truth, and beauty shine through. I am left humbled and inspired. In addition, parents who are preparing to be tutors and directors attend training sessions to equip them to demonstrate the classical methods in their communities weekly.
Move Forward: Let go of baseless anxieties and concerns about insignificant minutia. Take the blessings God will provide through this experience, and follow His will in regard to the educational plan you design for your family. If you are being led to provide your family with a classical, Christian education, do it. If He is calling you to serve in some capacity, step out in faith.
When I was asked to greet the group the first day, I remarked that I had found that homeschooling is not necessarily easy, but that the harder I work, the more blessings seem to flow from my effort. My experience with Classical Conversations has been the same: the more I serve, the more we are blessed. Do not shrink away from the blessings that are waiting for you.