Monday, August 3, 2015

The Conversation (Schoolhouse Review)

Classical Conversations Review
If you are familiar with the Classical style of education, you know that the process of education is divided into 3 stages: Grammar (primarily elementary school ages and focuses on memorization of facts), Dialectic (middle school ages, focuses on questions and relationships between ideas), and Rhetoric (high school, higher level analysis of ideas, includes conversations, expressing truth, and  putting knowledge to use). Leigh A. Bortins, from Classical Conversations, has written a series of 3 books that help homeschooling parents put this philosophy of education into practice.
The first book, The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education, teaches parents practical ways to implement the Classical philosophy in the Grammar stage. The second book,  The Question: Teaching Your Child the Essentials of Classical Education, focuses on the dialectic stage. Her brand new book, The Conversation: Challenging Your student with a Classical Education, was written for parents of high schoolers to help them navigate the waters of classical education through the rhetoric stage.
I was curious about whether The Conversation would be of much value to me. I do have a high school student, but we’re not classical homeschoolers. Then again, I do value critical thinking and want my daughter to express herself well and to apply what she learns to life.
The Conversation begins with a chapter entitled “Confident Parents,” that makes good arguments for homeschooling through high school. It discusses the advantages of homeschooling and answers questions that parents may have, such as, “How can I teach my child when I didn’t do well in school?” and “What about credits, transcripts, and diplomas?”  This section is certainly helpful for any homeschooling parent, particularly those new to homeschooling.
Bortins then explains the stages of classical education, focusing on the purpose and goals of the rhetoric stage. She explains that students should develop excellence in each of the five canons of rhetoric:
  1. Invention: What should I say?
  2. Arrangement: In what order should I say it?
  3. Elocution: How should I say it?
  4. Memory: How should memory inform my presentation?
  5. Delivery: How should I present this truth in speech and action?

This first section of the book provides the theory; the remainder of the book provides a practical guide for the implementation of classical education in the high school years. Chapters for each major subject area give examples of how to include each of these canons in the subjects of reading, writing, speech and debate, science, math, history, government and economics, and fine arts. Examples of student discussions are included demonstrating ways to discuss how to do math problems, reading The Scarlet Letter, and guiding a student through the writing of a research paper.

I actually found this book very helpful and plan to refer to it frequently. Although I was unfamiliar with some of the terminology of classical education used, I did see the benefits of implementing these techniques into each of our school classes even though classical education has not been our focus. It is important for students to not only thoroughly understand subject matter, but to be able to apply concepts and previously learned knowledge to new situations. Expressing ideas clearly both in speech and writing is an area in which many students are lacking, but is critical for the leaders of tomorrow and I think this book will help me to help Emily learn these skills.

I do wish that I’d had the opportunity to read the first two books in the series prior to reading The Conversation. The author spent minimal time explaining the grammar and dialectic stages. Although this is understandable since The Conversation concerns the rhetoric stage, I feel it would have been beneficial for me personally to have had more background information.

I think this series would be a great guide for families using classical education, but it is also useful for families using other methods.

Classical Conversations Review

I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

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