Monday, August 3, 2015

Classical Conversations ~ The Conversation

I had the opportunity to read and review The Conversation ~ Challenging Your Student with a Classical Education, written by Leigh A. Bortins. Classical Conversations brings fabulous resources to the Classical Christian Community. Leigh Bortins is both an author as well as  founder of Classical Conversations, Inc.. 

Before going any further I think that it is important to define exactly what classical education is. The classical model of education is divided into three phases of learning:
  1. Grammar Stage
  2. Dialectic Stage
  3. Rhetoric Stage
In very basic terms, the Grammar Stage is all about learning the vocabulary associated with the academic subjects. In the Dialectic Stage the student begins asking questions, sorting, comparing and practicing all of the knowledge that they learned in the grammar stage. The final stage, or the Rhetoric Stage, focuses on the students ability to communicate the truth of the subjects learning in the dialectic stage through writing, public speech and conversation. 

What is The Conversation?
The subtitle of this book, Challenging Your Student with a Classical Education, will not only ring true in challenging you high school students beyond the basics of academia, but will also spur parents on their quest of educating their upper level children. As homeschooling parents we desire to give our children the best of what education has to offer while not compromising truth, goodness, and beauty. Educational trends will invariably come and go, but it is the time tested academic content that will follow a child throughout their lives. 

A classical education is not only about learning core subjects, but it is about community, family, responsibility, mentorship, meaningful activities and work, and so much more. Many of today's youth do not look beyond themselves. Our present society has created self-centered, irresponsible, disrespectful, and incorrigible young adults. As parents and educators we need to guide our adolescents into becoming well-rounded, educated members of society. 

Leigh Bortins points out that what made her family's homeschooling experience so joyful was:
  • A big classroom
  • Great conversations
  • Real-life opportunities
You may ask, "What is a big classroom?" Well, it has nothing to do with a actual classroom crammed with students. Instead, it is about exploring and experiencing life. This exploration does not mean that your student neglect actually sitting and writing a term paper or working through math problems, rather it is balancing the two. Classical education works off of the three-part process of training the mind. The early years of school are spent in absorbing facts, systematically laying the foundations for advanced study. In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments. In the high school years, they learn to express themselves. This classical pattern is called the trivium.

"'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,' -- that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."
~ John Keats ~

Aristotle divided the art of rhetoric into five canons. Canons are measuring lines and standards of excellence. The five canons are:
  • Invention
  • Arrangement
  • Elocution
  • Memory
  • Delivery
Break Down By Subject 
The book devoted one chapter to each subject. The subjects are explained in detail with multiple examples as to exactly how classical education is directed and taught. Practical examples are given to give parents and students greater understand as to why the rhetorical stage is critical not only in education but in everyday life. Classical Education really makes sense to me as an educator. Leigh Bortins does an amazing job, not only making a case for classical education, but in supporting her words with statistics, experiences, and most importantly logic and reasoning. The subjects covered are:
  • Reading
  • Speech and Debate
  • Writing
  • Science
  • Math
  • Government and Economics
  • History
  • Latin and Foreign Languages
  • Fine Arts
Concluding Thoughts
This book gives a thorough understanding of exactly what classical education is. Leigh Bortins goal is to encourage parents to stay the course and not be intimidated by the high school years. I would highly recommend this book to educators and fellow homeschoolers. I think that it is a great read for those curious about classical education or for those desiring to follow the classical route. You may feel like it is too late to implement or start a new method of teaching but I truly believe that it is never to late to glean and lay down a new foundation against the one already in progress. 

If you have children in elementary or middle school you may find Leigh Bortins books, The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education and The Question: Teaching Your Child the Essentials of Classical Education great additions to this book. 

"Life at is best is an adventure, a voyage of discovery.
What could be more gratifying than to discover, describe
and explain some basic principle that no human has
ever understood before? This is the stuff of true science."
~ Peter Doherty ~

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