Tuesday, December 16, 2014

7 Reasons Why We Choose to Homeschool with Classical Conversations

This is our fourth year as a homeschooling family and a lot has changed since those early days. During my first year, I was really figuring things out as I went. I had no idea what I was doing, but I read all the books, loved my kids, and we survived in one piece. The second year was a little easier and a lot more organized. We joined up with a homeschool group in Southport and that offered friendships for both myself and the children. Things were coming together, but still something was missing.

During our third year, we had just moved to our current city and I was really missing the homeschool connections we had made at the coast. But I took a leap of faith and joined the Classical Conversations community in our area and everything changed. Suddenly, it all clicked. Now in our fourth year, homeschooling is something we all enjoy and the process is so much easier thanks to CC. That's why I wanted to share with you why we have chosen Classical Conversations for our family.

1. A Clear Track 

Classical Conversations lays out a clear, concise way to educate my children from the elementary years all the way through graduation. It takes the guesswork out of homeschooling because I always know what we are working towards and the goals are always clear. In our current elementary school season, my kids are the Foundations program, where they are learning hundreds of important facts and memorizing the "foundational" materials they will need to carry them through deeper learning in later grades.

2. Developmentally Appropriate

CC works because it is based on a child's development. In the younger years, kids are sponges! They soak up information right and left and can memorize anything! We use this to their advantage by taking this ability and filling their minds full of knowledge that they will need to continue their education later. This is the called the Grammar Stage. They are learning all of those terms associated with math, science, English, Latin, history, and more.

Next comes the Dialectic Stage. This is the time when kids start asking a lot of questions. They don't necessarily take everything at face value anymore and as a mom, I will have to adjust the way I teach to enter a more conversational learning environment. CC gives me the materials to do that. The Essential Program for 4th through 6th graders lays the groundwork and then they continue in Challenge A and B during the middle school years. They start taking all of the terms they have learned and begin putting the pieces together to form a picture of the world.

Finally, we hit the Rhetoric Stage, also known as the high school years. CC offers a four-year Challenge program that will help them take all those things they learned and apply them to life. Kids go from memorization to understanding to using that knowledge to solve problems and debate key issues in our world.

3. No More Curriculum Shuffle

One of the most challenging things for me as a homeschool mom is finding curriculum that will work for my kids. They both have very different learning styles, but CC works for both of them. In the foundations program, they get everything they need through our CC program and we only add an age appropriate language arts and math curriculum. Now that Ally has started Essentials, she only needs Math because she is getting the rest through CC. It just makes life so much easier!

4. Learning With Peers

I love, love, love that CC gives my kids the opportunity to spend one day of the week learning next to their peers. They are learning to sit in a classroom, to follow directions, to walk on the right side of the hall for crying out loud! These are skills that a lot of homeschoolers miss out on. With CC, we are getting the best of both worlds. They are getting the best education based at home, but they still get to interact with their peers on a regular basis and learn how to share, get along, and function as part of a larger group.

5. Community, Community, Community

I have friends. I have real, true friends that I can call if I ever need an emergency babysitter in the middle of the night. I enjoy mom's night out events where I can sip coffee, talk about motherhood, and even show up in yoga pants without feeling judged. We are doing life together and that encouragement means the world to me. When I have questions about how to handle situations with my kids, I know I have a group of older, wiser moms to guide me and give me sound advice. I have friends that will pray for me and I will pray for them. It's community at its finest.

6. My Kids Are Geniuses

Okay, maybe not literally, but I like to think so. I'm amazed at how much they are learning. The grandparents love to have the kids show off their CC success by reciting a historical timeline of events, sharing Latin vocabulary, or pointing out dozens of locations on the map. It's more than a cool party trick - my kids are really truly learning. And if that isn't enough, they are both placing WELL above grade level on end of year tests. CC works.

7. It's All About Jesus.

Classical Conversations is not just a classical approach to education - it's also a Christian approach. I love that my kids are learning church history as a built in part of their history studies. I love that when we learned about the constellations last year, we learned how each of the astrological signs can actually paint a picture of the gospel. I love that they are memorizing huge chunks of scripture. I love that it's all about Jesus. There are families in our CC group that are not Christians and that's okay too. They still love CC because it works. And I love that they are there because it gives us a chance to share our faith. The motto of Classical Conversations is simple: "To know God and to make Him known". If that doesn't give me a clear track and goal for my homeschooling journey, then what else is there?

In case you can't tell, I'm a big fan of CC. If you are homeschooling and you want to find out more about how this incredible model of education works, I'd love to tell you more! If you are a mom that is tired of the curriculum shuffle and you are frustrated with trying to keep your kids on track, consider CC. I can tell you from experience that it works. It really, really works.

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Blessing

It has been 18 months since we loaded up the moving van. A year and a half since we waved good-bye to our friends and crossed the bridge off the island. So much time has passed since I walked into this old house stuffed full of childhood memories, determined to bring my grandmother back to her home, now my own. Soon after that, I held her hand as she left this world to go to her eternal home. Moments before she left me, I scribbled "I love you" onto the palm of her hand just as she had done to me so many times over the years… our own little secret game to communicate private messages.

After she was gone, I grieved. I wept over losing her. I wept over living in her house, full of memories yet so empty in her wake.

"How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord God Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God."

Over the past year, my grief has often threatened to swallow me. Stirring cookie batter in my kitchen using her old spoon, I would feel the tears pooling in my eyes. Sitting in her spot on the rusty old porch swing with peeling paint, I would choke back the regret of never bringing her home to me.

"Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself,
Where she may have her young - a place near your altar, 
Lord Almighty, my King and my God."

But gradually, the tears were replaced by joy. The old yearning for my island was replaced with a new determination to make this house a home again. And in the midst of that, I worshipped. Sometimes it happened reluctantly, sometimes it felt even forced, but still I couldn't escape the draw to sit at His feet and to let Him whisper truth over my own grief.

"Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs;
The autumn rains also cover it with pools."

During this season of my life, I have prayed in circles. Sometimes praying one way and then going another, unsure even how to approach the Holy Throne room for our journey. So many times I silently wondered what God was doing, if we had made an error that was far too grave to be redeemed.

"They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion."

But while I felt we were wonderers in a desert of uncertainly, we were really just on another leg of the journey. Pieces started coming together, slowly at first and then a steady stream. In our weakness, we found His divine strength. When all was stripped away, I found that only one thing remained. It was in the emptiness that I found that rock solid foundation that I had always known was there.

Through so much toil in my lifetime - infertility, miscarriages, hysterectomy, a horrible diagnosis for the man I love most, fear for my children's future health - at the bottom of it all, we were not walking from one pit to the next. We were moving "from strength to strength". Like a runner, constantly stretching our muscles to make us stronger for the next task at hand.

"Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty;
Listen to me, God of Jacob.
Look on our shield, O God;
Look with favor on your anointed one."

Suddenly, it didn't matter where we would live. Stay or go. Put down roots or pack another moving truck. All that mattered was living, breathing, existing in HIS presence. He goes with us anywhere. There is freedom there.

"Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God 
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor."

As He aligned my heart with His ways, the old desires remained. I still miss my grandmother dreadfully when I sit on the porch swing. I still long for the island, our people, our ministry dream. But there is hope because no matter where we are, He is here. No matter how we arrange the ins and outs of daily living, He steers our path in the direction of His Sovereign will. It's bigger than us. It's not about us. It's about Jesus.

"No good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in You."
(Psalm 84)

The blessing is in the trust. The joy comes when I let go, lean back in His arms, and fall into the soft lap of His grace that is big enough to swallow all of my own shortcomings. There is nothing too big for my God. Nothing can separate me from His love.

If you are swimming in "What If?" or "What Now?", can I just encourage you to let go? Move from strength to strength, just as our Father intended. Let His gentle hand guide you through the grief and the joy. Sit in His presence and watch as He puts the pieces together, just as He intended.
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