An Interview with a Classical Christian Educator: Part 1
In this series, I have had the privilege of interviewing other homeschoolers from across the country. This week I interviewed Brandy, the author of the inspiring and informative blog, Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood. Brandy is a classical educator and her boys participate weekly in the educational program, Classical Conversations. She will tell us much more about that in just a moment!
First, could you tell us the age of your children? How long have you been homeschooling?
We’ve officially homeschooled our 3 boys (ages 8, 6 and 3) for 3 years now.
When we first had children, we had no idea that we would be homeschooling them. I was a career woman, always in pursuit of corporate gains and higher educational goals for myself. After working as an engineer for BP, I obtained my Master’s degree and taught in the public school system as a high school math teacher, in a private school as a middle school math teacher, and in the public school system as an outreach science instructor for grades K-5. I decided to return to engineering with Exxon-Mobil only to find that God was using all of these experiences to prepare my heart and mind when He called me to be a stay-at-home mom and teach our own children.
Our reasons for homeschooling have grown so much over the past couple of years, but originally it was simply my new-found desire to be completely and totally at home with our children after experiencing a life of corporate motherhood (when my family hardly even saw me) and neglecting my own children to teach other people’s children. I just wanted to be with my family as much as possible and do the best job I could in making our house into a home. My heart change was the biggest factor for us in choosing to homeschool.
(But I must be totally honest and also say… As a former public school teacher, my exposure to the educational philosophy and politics of our public school system – along with our oldest son’s disappointing first year of education in that system – also played a big role in our decision to homeschool.)
I see from your blog that you do Classical Conversations. Can you tell everyone a little bit about that?
Classical Conversations is a national program designed to equip parents to provide their children with a Classical Christian Education. It is a community that provides a framework for education using the classical tools of learning, focusing on the grammar (memorization of facts and vocabulary), dialectic (logic), and rhetoric stages of learning in order to “impact the world for God’s glory.” The mission of Classical Conversations is simply “to know God and to make Him known.”
Classical Conversations offers a complete K-12 course of study via three programs: Foundations, Essentials, and Challenge.
Foundations (Grades Pre-K through 6)
Each Classical Conversations Foundations Community meets at a weekly tutorial for 24 weeks during the school year. All parents participate in the program either as helpers or tutors. The day is split up into six sections: Large Group Time & Family Presentations, Introduction of New Grammar (Science, History, Latin, English, Time Line, Geography, Math), Science Experiments or Projects, Student Presentations, Fine Arts, and Grammar Review. To see what a day in the life of a Classical Conversations Foundations Tutorial looks like, visit this post.
Classical Conversations builds upon the Foundations program by offering an additional Essentials program where a trained tutor helps strengthen the “essential” subjects of language, writing, and arithmetic. With a focus on the history & geography studied in Foundations, students learn how to organize their writing and employ stylistic techniques (using Institute for Excellence in Writing), building upon a firm foundation of memorized vocabulary, rules, and lists from The Essentials of the English Language (EEL) Guide.
Challenge (Grades 7 through 12)
The Classical Conversations Challenge Program includes literature, government, economics, Apologia Sciences, Latin, writing, math, geography (e.g., draw a world map free-hand by end of 7th grade), and much more. Students develop and strengthen the life-long learning skills of grammar, exposition, debate, logic, rhetoric, and research. The Challenge Program is led by a trained Challenge Director/Tutor once per week for fifteen weeks in the fall and fifteen weeks in the winter/spring months.
About Classical Christian Education
To better explain what is meant by a “Classical Education” I provide this thought:
“Do you often come across people for whom, all their lives, a ‘subject’ remains a ‘subject,’ divided by watertight bulkheads from all other ‘subjects,’ so that they experience very great difficulty in making an immediate mental connection between let us say, algebra and detective fiction, sewage disposal and the price of salmon–or, more generally, between such spheres of knowledge as philosophy and economics, or chemistry and art?”
-Dorothy Sayers, “The Lost Tools of Learning”
By studying the subjects as a whole instead of separate entities, we recognize cause and effect and other relationships between the subjects that would otherwise be ignored.
In a Classical Christian Education, we recognize that God is the center of all knowledge and seek to discover how He is revealed through each subject. The subjects not only belong to God, but those subjects glorify Him and are unified in their relation to Him.
I never thought of myself as a classical educator – I even looked upon it with disdain.
“Why would you try to cram a bunch of facts into your children’s brains just so they could forget it?”
“And they aren’t empty vessels to be filled, anyway. They are living relationships to nurture and love and challenge with big ideas.”
My heart was right, but my thoughts about classical education were way off base.
I accidentally came across Classical Conversations after we moved from Houston, TX to a rural farm in Tennessee. We had no family or friends in our new location, and I was desperate to connect with a homeschool co-op or group in our area. An email was sent through our local homeschool group’s listserv, and the director of our local Classical Conversations met with me to discuss what a Classical Christian Education was and how Classical Conversations had equipped her to teach her children. I had to admit it was impressive to hear her children recite facts from history, science and geography. But the main hook for me was science and fine arts – two subjects I had been neglecting while in the midst of my own “survival mode” of teaching. I went home geared up to do more research. And I discovered that this was more than just temporarily memorizing a bunch of stuff for a test. It was building upon something much bigger, and after going to one of the free Parent Practicums and reading Leigh Bortins’s Echo in Celebration and The Core, I realized that this would equip me to fulfill the vision for where we wanted to be in 15 years. I have completely and totally fallen in love with Classical Conversations’s vision and am excited because I feel like I am truly learning. It is the way I wish I had been taught from the very beginning!
(As a side note, classical education makes sense to me now – study the grammar, then apply it and eventually arrive at the point where you can teach it to others. I had to learn the grammar of engineering design before I could wrestle with ideas and solve problems. Later, I had mastered “engineering” enough to design wells, write procedures, and explain it all to service personnel. I actually used classical education in becoming an engineer!)
This is the end of the first part of my interview with Brandy. The second part of this interview focuses a bit more on their day-to-day homeschool lifestyle. Click here for Part 2 for more with Brandy, author of Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood.
You might be interested in our other Homeschool Interviews and Guest Posts:
- An Interview with A Homeschooling Dad
- An Interview with a Christian Classical Educator (Part 1) and (Part 2)
- An Interview with a Montessori Homeschooler
- Homeschooling Through a Virtual School
- Homeschooling in Australia
- An Interview with Erica of Confessions of a Homeschooler
- Interview with a Radical Unschooling Family
- Guest Post: Working Outside the Home, Homeschooling Mom – A guest post by one of my very best friends! 🙂
- 11 Year Old Shares Her Thoughts on Homeschooling – The daughter of my friend (above) wrote this!
- Guest Post by My Homeschooling Sister: Intensity in Learning
- Homeschooling Through Spousal Deployment, a Destructive Flood and More (Another post featuring my sister’s homeschool journy. They lost their house during flooding in Nashville 5 years ago.) and Part 2 of that post–Homeschooling Through High School (My sister’s kids are Older than Mine!)
- Homeschooling Through the Teenage Years: Video by Susan Wise Bauer
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