Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Blending Classical Conversations and Charlotte Mason

We will be participating in Classical Conversations this fall. Is Classical Conversations Charlotte Mason? Definitely not. Can one blend the two? Yes. Will people disagree? I sure hope so. ;)

Today was the first day of my first Parent Practicum.

It was what I expected.

I know a bit about Classical Conversations because I've watched my cousin go through all of his elementary years in the program. (He'll be entering CC's version of 7th grade - Challenge A - this fall.) And, as a classroom teacher, I'm familiar with a variety of things pertaining to education. This is to say, I feel really comfortable.

I usually detest teacher trainings. I would seriously rather have my teeth cleaned than go to a teacher training. I kid you not. When my district holds teacher trainings on weekends or over vacations, and pays teachers an hourly rate to attend, I don't sign up. I would rather have more time with my child than more money.

One of the things that I enjoyed about the Practicum today is how different it is from a training for public school teachers.

At a training for p.s. teachers, the leaders lead the training as if they are teachers in a classroom, and we the teachers are their students. They have us do things like make group posters and touch elbows with our neighbors (our "elbow partners") to share our answers to questions. They say that the reason for doing this is to expose us to techniques to use in our classrooms, but in reality, I think it's that they don't know how to teach adults.

At the Practicum today, we were treated like adults, and it was glorious.

The topic this year is science. And because this was Day 1, the focus was on the first stage of the trivium - the grammar stage. (This is, essentially, elementary school.)

One thought that really struck me - as a public school teacher - is how grammar school doesn't focus on grammar, and it should. Because a child can't succeed in Algebra II (required to graduate from high school) unless they know multiplication tables. And a child can't write effectively if they don't know English grammar.

Unfortunately, in my classroom, my students who come into 4th grade not knowing multiplication tables don't learn them. Because I have a pacing plan that I have to follow. And, unfortunately, I am mandated to require my students to produce original multi-paragraph compositions when some of them don't know the difference between a noun and a verb.

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Here's how the day went. We:
  • looked at the three stages of classical education
  • defined "grammar" (vocabulary, definitions, facts, axioms, etc.)
  • talked about ways to memorize (use vocab in conversations, use pictures, use different modalities*, say it out loud, write it)
  • discussed skills to develop in grammar stage (observing, recording observations, labeling drawings, remembering details, recalling names and definitions so others can understand) 
  • talked about teaching methods (model asking questions and giving answers; expose children to science in kitchen, yard, park, hikes; encourage children to draw and label what they've seen; teach children how to record the details so they can be reviewed and remembered; memorization)
  • talked about more ways to teach science at home - "seeing God in the caterpillar" (nature walks, drawing, field trips, dissection, experiments, science fair projects which can be presented during weekly CC presentation time, children's magazines about animals, children's TV about animals, etc.)
*CC says use "as many senses as possible," but I think it's more accurate to use the word modalities (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic) because you don't (usually) use taste or smell when you memorize facts.

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Some parallels I saw between CC and CM that I hadn't realized until today:
  • the use of copywork
  • nature walks
  • drawing nature walk observations in sketchbooks
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When your child asks you a question, and you're busy: GET UNBUSY.
THE DOOR IS OPEN. CRAM STUFF IN. 

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I wish I could get my students parents to take away the screens. When they tell their children that they can't watch TV or play video games until they're done with their homework, the children rush to get to the screens.

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It would be easy to spend a small fortune on CC stuff. There are a few things that a first timer needs:
  • a Foundations guide (you only need one per family, and it's good for all the "elementary school" years)
  • a map
  • a tin whistle (you need one per child, but this is also good for all the "elementary school" years)
And there are some things you don't need, but might want:
  • the audio CDs
  • flash cards
Then, there are "wish list" items. Lots of those.

I've yet to meet a homeschooler who didn't love a bookstore.

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Your thoughts? Are you blending CC with CM? If so, how? Leave me a comment. :)

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