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Classical Conversations Negatives and Why We Didn’t Join

Classical Conversations Negatives and Why We Didn't Join 2

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One of the most popular homeschooling programs currently available is Classical Conversations (CC). There are many people who enthusiastically participate and current members can be very persuasive when inviting people to join. When CC came to our area a few years ago, I checked it out since I had taught for a year in a Classical Christian school and I was very familiar with the concept of classical education. CC offered a number of things that interested me including the advertised community aspect. In fact, I checked it out two years in a row because I really wanted to like it and I wanted it to be a good fit for our family.

Classical Conversations Negatives

In the end, we opted not to participate in CC. There were several reasons and I’m sharing what I see as some of the Classical Conversations negatives in this review for parents who are exploring CC, but may be doubting their own research or perspective. I’m listing these in roughly the order of importance for our particular family, starting with the most important.

Rigidity of Classical Conversations Program

The rigidity of the program was one of the first red flags that CC would not work with our child. I think CC can probably be a very positive experience for kids if they have a learning style that fits well with the program. For others, it will be disastrous.

For example, it became clear to me that if your child needs legitimate accommodations due to real learning differences/challenges, it isn’t going to be a good fit. Classical Conversations is a tightly controlled program with a clear hierarchy. They have very definite ways of doing things handed down from the corporate entity. While some families might find this rigidity a source of accountability, other families will find the rigidity stifling. We are in the latter group.

If I’m going to be perfectly honest, I would have had fewer qualms about this before I became the parent of a gifted/2e child. When you are parenting a child who doesn’t fit the normal parameters, you look at everything very differently. The tight structure I would have seen as a positive before I became a mother became a huge negative. A tight schedule with very definite parameters and very little room for rabbit trails would frustrate my child. There is a reason we became relaxed homeschoolers bordering at times on unschoolers. Classical Conversations would not fit my child at all however much I might like about the classical approach.

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Perfection and Performing

There is definitely a strong performance component to Classical Conversations. One of the things people say they love about it is how amazing it is to hear the kids recite or perform all of the facts they have learned. Again, before becoming a mother I would have loved that aspect of it. I now have a child who does not like to perform in any way, shape, or form. She backed out of being a flower girl because she didn’t want people looking at her. She is not a performer. She’s not interested in singing or chanting what she is learning. She’s also not interested in recalling facts or information under pressure.

So for example, there is the Memory Masters program which rewards students who master everything and demonstrate it through multiple “proofings.” When I met with someone from CC a few years ago, she made it very clear that perfection was the standard. A memorization competition that demands perfection? I would have totally rocked that when I was a kid. I was brilliant at everything memorization – school, AWANA, VBS, etc. However, it would be a terrible fit for my daughter. Many gifted/2e kids already struggle with perfectionism. The last thing I need to do is add more fuel to the fire by putting her into a situation where the line between excellence and perfection is razor-thin to non-existent.

(I looked up Memory Masters Guide to make sure I was remembering this correctly and it appears there is some wiggle room now. They apparently do allow for a teeny teeny tiny bit of room for Mastery versus Perfection.)

However, as I said before, there is no accommodation for kids who have learning differences. From the Guide:

Can directors change the requirements for Memory Masters for students with special needs, especially those who have dyslexia, dysgraphia, or are on the autism spectrum?

Classical Conversations is honored that families who have children with different kinds of special needs like dyslexia, dysgraphia, or autism participate in the Foundations program. Students with many different abilities and capabilities enjoy, benefit from, and are valuable members of our local CC communities.  We celebrate each achievement.  The Memory Master title is set aside for those who are able to meet the required objectives.  The director should be aware of physical limitations and may extend time and offer a break during proofing.  The Memory Master requirements should remain the same for all subjects. Memory Master is not for every child, and that is really OK! If your child cannot meet the requirements for mastery, we recommend that you create your own special “Memory Master” rules and reward system for your home school.

While I believe that CC has every right to set the standards they wish, I would not feel comfortable taking my child into a situation where she would always feel “less” for not being able to do what is put out there as something to achieve, even if it is not required.

Classical Conversations Cost

Classical Conversations is not cheap. We live in a fairly affluent area, but we are not well-to-do ourselves relative to a significant portion of the population around us. I felt a distinct subtle shaming when I expressed my concern about the total cost (which I don’t think I knew about before I attended a one-on-one informational meeting). The reason I remember the feeling of shame so vividly is because it completely blindsided me. I wasn’t expecting it.

For families where money isn’t a concern, the cost of CC might not be a big deal. But I felt the cost outweighed any potential benefits Caroline might have derived from it. It was explained to me that I could become a tutor to pay for it, but I did not want to take that on for a number of reasons (including the last reason we didn’t do CC).

Parents Must Stay for Classical Conversations Sessions

Although this is last on my list here, it was perhaps most important to me individually. To Caroline? No. But to me as the mom, this was a big negative.
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Classical Conversations requires that parents stay for the entire time. At that time we had been participating in a Christian drop-off co-op which we really liked (and still do to this day). I’m not going to lie. We love being able to drop Caroline off for a few hours and get some time to ourselves. It’s the only time we get a parenting break ever.

I found the idea that parents had to stay off-putting. But I especially found it made no sense with the reasons they gave. The reason provided is that the parents need to see the tutor demonstrating how to use the materials and how to present the information. Well, I could maybe accept that if we were talking about master teachers who were highly trained. But many of the tutors are parents who are tutoring to offset the cost of their own child attending. I have a teaching degree and have been a classroom teacher. Yet I would be expected to stay to watch another parent (who may or may not be a teacher) show me how to work with my child. I could seriously get that from a one hour video rather than being forced to sit there for hours week after week.

So parents have to stay so they can learn from the tutors, but anyone can become a tutor if they attend a couple of days of training. The material to be presented is so challenging that parents have to be there to learn how to do it at home, but anyone can learn to be a tutor in a few short training sessions. This made no sense to me then and still doesn’t.

Long story short? I didn’t want to sit in the back of the room for hours when I had other things I could be doing with my valuable time.

Classical Conversations Negative Reviews

So there are some of the Classical Conversations negatives that I found when I researched CC as an option for our family. I know there are many families who love CC and are passionate evangelists for it. But I think it’s also helpful to read reviews from people who have seriously researched it, considered it, and realized that it isn’t a good fit for every family and every child. Understanding your child is the most important part of homeschooling, far more important than any popular movement or view within the homeschooling community. For those who are looking for “permission” to not do CC even though it is popular where you live or for perhaps someone else to say, “This wouldn’t work for our family either” I hope you found this post helpful and encouraging.

Classical Conversations Negatives and Why We Didn't Join

69 Comments

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  • “If your child needs legitimate accommodations due to real learning differences/challenges, it isn’t going to be a good fit….I would have had fewer qualms about this before I became the parent of a gifted/2e child. When you are parenting a child who doesn’t fit the normal parameters, you look at everything very differently.”

    YES! You really put into words all my jumbled thoughts about Classical Conversations. I wholeheartedly agree with you. I love classical education, and I like many of the ideas behind what CC is trying to accomplish, but after visiting a community and seeing it in action, I realized it just wasn’t right for us. For an outlier like my daughter, it would just be repeatedly trying to jam her wonderfully wiggly, wild, square self into a round hole. And I am right there with you regarding the perfectionism and the perfectionist tendencies.

    Thank you so much for writing this!

    • Gina,

      I’m so glad this post helped put into words your own observations. That was my main reason for writing it. As wonderful as CC is for some families, it is not going to work well for many families with a child who is wired differently. And that is okay!

      The beauty of homeschooling is being able to discover what works for our child and do it with the full confidence that we’ve made the best choice for our individual child at that moment in her learning experience.

      Thank you so much for commenting!

  • Let me tell you what’s wrong with ice ceam. Now, I’ve never eaten ice ceam, but I did look at it once. Lol. Your article cracks me up. In all seriousness, as a CC mom, I certainly can see that it isn’t the program for everyone. A certain level of proper behavior is expected on behalf of the child, but children are allowed to wiggle, to dance, to sing and basicly be children. At $12 a day, I also don’t think that this is solely a program for families with money to burn, but maybe I’m misguided. Maybe as a former professional teacher, you feel that you have nothing left to learn. How absurd to suggest that you could glean something from a mother volunteering to lead a classrom as a means of pouring into the community. Memorization may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Schooling in a community of families has both its blessings and it’s curses. One might also balk at maintaining a school schedule as freedom is a key bonus of homeschooling. While there are mqny valid reasons why CC isn’t for everyone, I really feel that your article sure missed the mark, both in content and in tone.

    • I actually don’t like ice cream, I never have, and it turns out I’m allergic to dairy milk, so your critique of her intuitive response to her child’s needs, and her own, is even funnier to me. Sarcasm does not equal authority and a superior knowledge that trumps another person’s needs simply because they aren’t the same as your own. You tried to make it sound like you found it humorous but really you just tried a subversive way to shame her because you were offended by the difference of opinion. That type of response from CC people is yet another red flag.

      • Why do CC diehards take critiques of CC so personally? Do they not look at and review other curricula? Should everyone using a curriculum they decided wasn’t for their family and why be so offended? Over and over and over I see comments from insulted CCers any time anyone provides a negative review. Feels like a cult to me at times…

    • Couldn’t have said it better. It is not right for everyone, but as a mother of a child on the autism spectrum, a child who is a Wild and rambunctious boy (both who have achieved memory master) and a child with Down syndrome, I can say it can work for your not so typical families very well. Some of my closest friends are other CC moms–women who brought meals when my child had heart surgery. That would not be if we were not on campus. And compared to some university model homeschool organizations, CC is really quite affordable. I repeat, it may not be for everyone, but to give a review without actually trying it just seems odd.

      • So do you buy and try absolutely every curricula before deciding it isn’t for your family? Everything from CC says to come visit, etc etc. This mother did. More than once. And decided it wasn’t for her family. Her opinion is just as valid as another’s.

  • I have friends who are members of CC and love it. I decided it was not right for my child for many of the same reasons you did. It would not be a good fit for her learning style AT ALL. One of the great benefits of homeschooling is the ability to tailor your child’s education to him/her. So we chose a different path. When people come to me asking about homeschooling options, I do present CC as one of the many resources in our area. I think it is important to do your research and look a variety of homeschool approaches/curriculum/programs. CC works very well for some. But it’s not for everyone. If one size fit all, we wouldn’t be homeschooling in the first place! 😉

    • Well said, Elizabeth! One of the best parts of homeschooling is the ability to tailor our child’s education and eliminate what doesn’t work. I’m so thankful for that!

  • Hi Sallie, thanks for this article- very helpful for families who have similar questions about CC. We are part of a classical co-op that formed independently after the group spent some years as an official CC group. The co-op was inspired by the good in CC and changed other parts for reasons very similar to what you explained above. Our co-op offers classical content and teaching/learning styles with a less-rigid structure than CC, but still a rigorous education.
    Also, our family joined our classical co-op in 7th grade when the CC-type format changed from heavy memorization and repetition into more varied, free-thinking work for the older kids. The younger years in the CC Foundations-style would not have fit our homeschool at all (just like you explained above), but the differences in the jr. high/HS format made it a perfect fit for my daughter and our family. We are planning to stay through high school.
    Love your blog. Thanks for all your work.

    • Hi Eliz,

      Thank you for sharing about your family’s experience with CC and how you have adapted through the years to make homeschooling work for you. That is what it is all about!

      Sallie

  • I’ve been weighing the pros and cons as well. I can easily cover everything in the Foundations and Essentials program myself, especially if I invested in IEW’s materials and just the Foundations book. So why pay over $1000 for it? But, that’s just for my daughter. My son would be entering as a 7th grader, and he has had none of the Foundations/Essentials program, nor the rigors of the older program. I LOVE that it is rigorous. I think our kids need a community of some sort. But after doing 1 year of an average co op with basic classes, I don’t know if I want to pay to rise early one day a week, plus bring along a 2 yr old. I think I might look into something else. Thanks for your help!

    • Hi Melinda,

      There are so many factors to consider when choosing homeschooling materials and activities, aren’t there? If you have an interest in CC there is no harm in looking into it. But I do know cost is an issue for many families, especially if they have multiple children and plan to do the program the entire way through (which is the point of CC and the way it is set up). One vblog I watched explained the cost to get her children through the entire thing and by then later years they would be paying a lot every month. For some families that is no problem. For others it is not even in the realm of possibility.

      Best wishes as you decide!
      Sallie

  • Thank you for this review. There are so few reviews out there about how different homeschooling programs would work for 2e kids. I do like how you stepped through the specifics of why this program would not work for your family. I will certainly be bookmarking your review for reference for other 2e families who may be considering this program and need to have a look at whether it would be a good fit for their needs.

    • Hi Kathleen!

      Thank you so much! I’m glad this was helpful. Every 2e kid is different so what works brilliantly for one may be a disaster for another. I hope this post will help families as they think through their options so they make a choice that works well for them – whatever that choice may be!

      Sallie

  • FYI… This post was shared in the CC Facebook Group this morning. It has generated a LOT of traffic and quite a few comments so if it feels like there is a significant shift toward positive CC comments or comments telling me why I’m wrong, that’s why. I’m approving all of them, but I want people who find this post in the future while doing research to know why there was an influx of pro-CC comments. 🙂

  • Hello,
    I’m the mother of a gifted middle schooler with emotional challenges. She attended public school through 7th grade. I have taught college classes and my husband is a public school teacher. We put my daughter in CC for Challenge B and it was one of the best choices we have made. I will wholeheartedly agree with you that the cost is a stretch for us and full disclosure, my gifted son still attends public school.
    I think you highlighted some important points for people to think about when considering CC. I also think you made some unhelpful generalizations.
    First, as a Challenge level parent, I have the option to leave the campus. This year I chose not to due to my daughter’s emotional needs. I could list all kinds of reasons I’m glad I stayed but some of them are specific to being a Challenge parent so I’ll stick to the issue of not benefiting from the tutor. This is far from true. It wasn’t teaching techniques I learned from her. It was the way she saw the best in my daughter when I struggled to do that. It was the way she guided my daughter through difficult moments with wisdom and love. It was the way all 3 of us would pray together when facing overwhelming challenges.
    As for tutors just trying to offset the cost-in my case FALSE. Our tutor put WAY more work into facilitating the education of our students than she was compensated for and in our case she certainly didn’t need any extra financial help. She opened up her home for hours on Friday nights for several weeks to help the students prepare for mock trial among countless other things she did for the students.
    As for rigidity and feeling excluded-False! I will say that not every CC campus is the same so it’s possible that at certain campuses a student might experience that but not at ours. My daughter was severely bullied in public school and though she views many issues very differently than her fellow Challenge B students, they embraced her and cheered on her growth every step of the way. She started the year certain everyone hated her and so fearful of being judged, she wouldn’t read her paper in class. She ended the year with friends who love her despite their differences and the confidence to be a defense attorney in the mock trial (the mock trial experience itself almost made CC worth it!) A boy with Aspergers switched to our campus this year too. He was never made to feel less than or like he wasn’t keeping up with the class. While there is a guide that offers great structure for the parent to follow, the parent ultimately makes all the decisions about how faithful they will be to the guide and can keep the tutor updated with this information. Anyway, I’m sure you can tell I felt strongly about our positive experience and just wanted to make sure there were some balanced views on this program for those considering it. For those on the fence-if you have several campuses close by, I would recommend checking them all out. Thanks for the opportunity contribute to this discussion.

    • I agree with this reply! A couple of specifics are as follows: the rigidity is totally up to the individual families and it also may be based in part upon the personality of the Director. One family in our CC community came here from another state and their community there was very rigid. In contrast, she said ours was very laid back, relaxed, and exactly what her kids needed. We were a brand new community that year and I was just glad to hear it was great for her kids and family. The former Director was very Type A and was very control-oriented (she would observe the tutors and tap her wrist telling them to stick with the time, etc.). So, I can see that our Director was VERY different from that. CC allows for each family to do however much of the CC work they deem best for their kids because the PARENTS are the TEACHERS. If kids do not complete the work (upper levels) or do not have the memory work down pat in the lower levels, they are not looked down upon. (The whole Memory Master thing was not even mentioned in our community last year, either). The whole point of community day is fun learning in a loving community atmosphere, glorifying God. For my family personally (we have 5 kiddos ages 17, 14, 11, 8, and 3), it absolutely is our fun school day of the week! We love to get together with friends the last day of our school week. Also, because of our kids’ age range and the weakness it seemed we had in our schooling year to year (it was different each year), CC filled in the gaps for us and has put us all on the same page, going in the same direction, etc. IT IS WONDERFUL!! I agree that it is costly. We always are pinching pennies. With 3 kids enrolled in CC, 2 this next year in Challenge levels, I absolutely work hard in CC tutoring and directing. It is totally worth it to me. All that being said, I do agree with Sallie that CC isn’t for every kid or every family. We’ve done lots of different co-ops prior to CC, and they don’t always pan out, so to speak. They get cancelled often, people leading jump out, or you-name-it. From our experience, of course, CC isn’t perfect; but for our family, it’s the best thing we’ve found. As for the parents sticking around through Foundations and Essentials, the point is not so much (especially in Foundations) for the parents to be learning from the tutor (though the tutor is the lead learner and is modeling ideas for parents) as much as it is for the parents as the kids’ teacher(s) to be with their student(s). For me personally, it is very clear that one primary vocation God has given me is raising and educating my children. If I am their teacher right now in these years, I ought to be with them, especially on the one day they go to the “co-op” with others. Look how much I would miss out on in that one day each week and what that would communicate to them if I didn’t want to be there with them. Day to day at home in the thick of homeschooling, we have a struggle here or there. The thought of sending them to school somewhere may look really wonderful on some days; but God has called me to this for now. So, when our fun community day comes, I REALLY want to be a part of that with my precious kids. It is great, and we get to do it together. What a blessing!

  • I agree that CC is not perfect, and that it is not a good fit for some families. But for anyone reading who is on the fence, I feel there needs to be some correction. Memory Master is not the standard for success at CC. In fact, a very small fraction of our CC communities (we’ve been part of three now) even attempt MM. It is never implied that to the parent or student that MM is the end goal. MM is celebrated, because it is quite a dazzling accomplishment, but I have never felt pressured to complete it in any of the five years we have been involved. Secondly, the program is designed to have five specific areas on community day, new grammar, fine arts, science experiment based on the scientific method, presentations, and review games. There is not time for “rabbit trailing” in that schedule, in fact, tutors present new grammar in a way that the parent can easily mimic at home for practice. You are welcome to follow any and all questions your child may have during the other four days you are working with the material, or simply stick to the memory work and keep doing Sonlight or Ambleside or whatever your other curriculum is. There is no “right” way to do CC at home, a family adapts it to their schedule, learning styles, and desires. We personally use it as our spine, but other families in our community use Tapestry of Grace or Sonlight and CC as supplement. Thirdly, I have never once asked my youngest to demonstrate her knowledge to anyone. Ever. She doesn’t like to do it, so I don’t ask. I am a tutor and I ask for volunteers to present and encourage everyone to do so, but if a child says no (even my own child in the class), that’s perfectly okay. Some like to present with mom, also okay. Some are natural performers, and that’s okay. When we play review games, my students always have the option of answering solo or answering as a team with each question, there is no pressure to do anything they don’t feel comfortable with. There is no performance expectation.
    I completely understand some families don’t think CC will work for them, and that the awesome thing about homeschooling, there are so many choices., but I did want to add some clarity to some of your critiques as someone who has been with the program for five years and tutored both Foundations and Essentials :).

    • Very good perspective. We are part of a local CC community because we love the community aspect and having a group learning time once a week. I wouldn’t say we are a “classical” curriculum family overall as we do other curriculum at home that is a mix of Charlotte mason, Montessori, and nature study. I can see how the “performance” thing could be taken too far with CC but it’s up to each of us as parents how to integrate it with our family. We do a small amount of review at home but most of the time we do our own thing. My daughter doesn’t like performing either but I haven’t seen any pressure for her to do so in our CC community. I do see the value of her learning to be a part of a team and learning to speak in front of others in a relaxed atmosphere where no one is judging and they are all in the same boat. Overall I don’t think CC is for everyone but I think it can supplement various styles of home education.

    • Thanks, Christie! This is exactly what I was thinking when I read the article. I felt it was misleading and you clarified it very well. This is our 5th year in CC and it saved my homeschooling. By Feb of 2nd grade, I had called the school to get enrollment papers and tuition assistance for 3rd grade. I have an only child and we live in the country and we needed community and accountability- I am not a teacher by nature. My daughter was extremely shy and it took her 8 weeks to build up the courage to give a weekly presentation, but when she did it she was so proud. There was never any pressure, just an invitation every week, and the tutor was so encouraging. My daughter is now in Challenge A and will stand up with no problem in front of the class to give a weekly presentation on her science research. I also never felt any pressure at all for her to be perfect in all her memory work and to become a Memory Master. Very few in our community actually decided to try for it, and the ones that do it, do it from being self motivated. The cost can seem expensive because it has to paid all up front (or for the Challenge years, in semesters); However, if your kids take music or dance or art classes, etc, you will find that the weekly cost for CC is equal to, or sometimes even less than these other things. They just seem less expensive because we usually pay for them weekly or monthly. I paid $12/week for a 30 minute piano lesson. I paid $12/week tuition for a 3 hour CC class that included art/music and a science lab (which I would not have done at home because like I said, I am not a teacher by nature.) I think that’s a pretty good deal, but each family needs to decide on what and where they want to spend their money. I bet if every music teacher asked for a full year of payment up front, though, people would balk about how expensive it is and wonder if it is really worth it, so it is really important to put the cost of CC into perspective and I think it is important to relay that information (on both sides- when we CC people are telling others about the program so it is known that there is a cost and when people are writing about reasons CC is not a fit for their family). I can appreciate that CC is not for everyone, and I have no problem with people not liking the structure and am not offended by that, but I do want to make sure to clarify things that I think have been misunderstood.

  • Sallie, would you have a good recommendation for a program suited for a 2E child? I find myself in the same situation you were facing when looking into the program and would love to hear more about what programs may be better suited for these children and their learning styles 🙂

  • I have been in a CC community for 10 years, have graduated out 3 students, and have 2 more young Challenge students. I see the validity of your critiques, and have experienced some pros and cons myself. But I will say this — the tone of each particular CC campus can be vastly different. They take on the “personality” of the member families and the local director. Our campus has always been a warm, welcoming community, which is generally laid back (very few kids have ambition to be Memory Masters, but they are all having fun learning lots together!). I have also seen lots of different kinds of students thrive on our campus. So I know the program CAN be accommodating. (There is even a campus in our region which is 30% autistic/ special needs students! )

    I have stayed for the depth of community and the excellence of the overall curriculum (saves me from doing all the “research”). But I know that I might not have stayed as long at other campuses, where there is more pressure and rigidity! The program strives for consistancy from campus to campus, but there really is a lot of diversity within that framework! As a director, I ALWAYS recommended that people visit as many campuses as they can within reasonable driving distance. The first one you visit may not be a good fit for you.

    But we agree on the bottom line of your posting: it is NOT going to be the right program for every family (for many different reasons). Each family needs to explore their personal goals in home schooling and investigate whether CC will help them meet those goals.

  • My daughter is gifted, and she is a very different style learner, which is why I am leaning toward home school. I am wondering what different style you think wouldn’t work for CC? I am about to join, so I am truly quite curious. She loves to memorize and loves to perform, but she is bored in the classroom, which is my problem.

    • One benefit I have found in our classical co-op is the variety of learning styles. This is extra-important for my 10 yr old son who is often bored at home because he’s such an active learner (and I’m not), but the once a week co-op classes keep him motivated. I’m a former public school math and science teacher, now homeschooling for 8 years. We started CC 2 years ago for my daughter because her learning style was so different from mine. She had a great year so I added my younger son – huge success. Next year my highly gifted math-oriented older son will attend because he needs the rigor in the humanities classes and the positive influences from kids who bring their various learning styles to the group. In our experience, the CC work suits gifted kids very well – every student works at their own level, according to their strengths and family influences. I love that each family interacts with the curriculum differently and there is no one right way to do your work – definitely a homeschool mentality and that’s why we homeschool in the first place.

      The Foundations program wouldn’t have fit my 2 older kids and it would have been torture for me, but my younger one loves the Foundations program. I originally thought the CC memory work would bore him (and me) to tears, but it isn’t overbearing, he does it independently, and there are many other benefits for him that make it worth it for me. There’s lots of positive, personal interaction among kids and tutors and other parents. I love the spirit and independent learning styles that homeschoolers bring to the classes. My son can’t get that variety at home with me so it’s a blessing for our homeschool.

      As an introvert, I could do without the social activity of the group, but I avoid what I can and attend the rest for the benefit of my kids. We’re there 1) for the HS academics, especially humanities, and 2) because it’s such fun for my youngest. Every CC group is different so I hope you find a good group for your family.

    • Linda,

      Eliz gave you a good summary of her experience. I will add that my daughter is 2e and that’s very different from “only” being gifted. CC might be a great fit for your child. Did you visit to see CC in action? That might help you make your decision.

  • Just wanted to clarify what I think is a big misconception here. The tutors are there to present the material to the students in a variety of ways, addressing many and multifaceted learning styles. Not every student will gleen from all of the activities, but at some point, and often, there will be the opportunity for each child to see, hear, touch, jump, wiggle, dance, read, write, etc. There is no requirement for you , the parent, to present the information the same way the tutor does. The beauty of homeschooling, right? You are the parent and you then have the total freedom to present, teach, read about, explore, or totally ignore whatever parts you want and to the depth or shallowness you feel meets your child’s needs. I’m sorry you felt there were so many negatives and rigidity to CC, but I think there have been some real misgivings about the structure of CC and that somehow it dictates how you as the parent then have to teach your children at home. I also think it was a very unfair assumption that the most of the tutors are untrained, uneducated moms who have nothing to offer you, while many, MANY of us, are highly educated, highly trained former public or private school teachers, finance experts, chemists, registered nurses, artists, and musicians, etc, just to name a few from our own community. We can all learn from each other. No one mom has all the ideas or all of the answers. That’s the beauty of building a community. And for those families with special needs, I would not be afraid of giving CC a genuine fair shot. In our community, as well as both of the othes here in our town (we have 3), there are a number of special needs students, with everything from autistism to Downs Syndrome, dyslexia, dysgraphia, and others, and those kids are flourishing in ways their families didn’t think possible. It is not for everyone, this is true, but I do not believe this article provides an accurate, full portrait of what CC is, the freedom that it offers, or the benefits that can be gained from belonging to a community of loving families trying to do their best.

  • There are dozens and dozens of places to find positive to glowing reviews of CC. There is very little out there for newer homeschoolers (let alone a newer homeschooler with a gifted/2e child) that walks them through why someone would NOT choose CC.

    It was not my intention to present a post that explained all of the positives of CC. That’s not what my readers look for from me. They look for me to explain choices we make and the thinking behind those choices. They look for me to give information on why I think something will or will not be a good fit for particular children. A quick look around my site will make that abundantly clear. Again, posts abound on why CC is loved so much. I wanted to offer another perspective.

    I deliberately chose not to address any controversial issues related to CC that put them in a negative light and stuck to facts about why it would not work for OUR family based on the research I did. Other people who have joined and left CC have written posts about the issues and they have the personal experience to do so. I do not and so I did not. I did not even provide links to places where readers could find that information (although that is something I often do in posts to provide multiple views). So the idea that I’m out to slam CC in some way is just false.

    I wrote a post that I wish I could have read a number of years ago as the mother of a gifted/2e child who doesn’t fit traditional parameters. I walked through the decision-making process I made for our family and let other people see it. That is really the focus of my entire website. I write to support parents and homeschoolers who have kids that necessitate they approach everything a bit differently.

    I would invite anyone who feels I attacked CC unfairly or purposely set out to cast them in a negative light to read the post again with a fresh set of eyes.

    • I very much appreciate this review. I first heard about CC after I’d already been homeschooling for 10 years or more. I’d already been mentoring new homeschoolers for years at that point.

      What we’d been doing worked well. And while I wanted a good Classical Ed co-op, if I could find one, for some subjects starting at around age 11, I really needed a la carte-style. We do TJEd, so it’s Classical, but starts unschoolish and gets progressively more Classical as the child gets older. All my kids are 2E except the youngest, who is simply towards the end of the gifted scale. They’re all rampant learners, so really what we needed were mentors, lab sciences, languages with native speakers, and public speaking. CC was simply not what we needed.

      But as I went on mentoring new homeschoolers, I kept hearing about CC, and finally started hearing from people who were thinking about homeschooling who thought it was “too expensive” and “too rigid”. Upon talking to them, I found that often they were talking about CC. They’d been told they could tutor to offset the cost, but they were just *thinking* about homeschooling and not sure they could teach their own, let alone an entire classful! And so they were thinking they couldn’t homeschool because the only thing they’d seen was CC and thought that CC was the only way to homeschool for some reason. Odd, but true.

      So I do find your review refreshing and saying something that needs to be said. As a long-time mentor, it’s important to realize that while we ourselves might have found the “perfect” way for us (and how many of us think we’ve found something that works, and then a child or two change and it’s no longer working so well?)–while we may have found a system that works for us, it will not necessarily work for every other family. We cannot and should not shame others for whom our choices do not work for whatever reason. That subtle shaming you felt I’ve felt as well. And I have my oldest two on full or nearly full international scholarships, so I think what I did worked pretty well–and yet people with young kids hear we’re not involved with CC and give me that sometimes.

      • Hi Tracebooks,

        Thank you for providing another perspective, especially as someone who mentors new homeschoolers.

        I absolutely agree that there is no “one way” to do homeschooling and that things can change dramatically from year to year (or even within a year).

        And that is my intent in writing this. To help homeschoolers who have doubts about CC know that they aren’t the only one it doesn’t seem to fit well and that there is nothing wrong with doing something else for your family. There were lots of successful homeschool families before CC ever existed and there will be many successful homeschool families without it. 🙂

    • I agree Sallie! Moms like me can benefit from your perspective for sure. I did CC for two years but it really was NOT for us. I kept trying to make it fit because I was new to homeschooling and thought maybe I just needed to work harder. The reality was that I desperately needed a different curriculum and a different pace for my son! And I put my child from public school in a challenge program and it was a terribly difficult transition. She only did 1 semester. I didn’t think she’d have a problem because she is an excellent student and always has been. She was overwhelmed and worse, I was completely overwhelmed. Parents need to understand the whole picture so they can make an informed decision. I do college instruction part time in the subjects of business and accounting on the side so I am not unfamiliar with structure. Bottom line, CC was not for us and I felt guilty because we could not get with the program. Our home school is running so much more smoothly now. I’m not knocking CC but just offering a path out of the guilt if you feel it is not for you.

  • First, thank you for your analysis of CC.

    You say that “there is no accommodation for kids who have learning differences.”

    However, you then post that the CC materials state that ,”The director should be aware of physical limitations and may extend time and offer a break during proofing….If your child cannot meet the requirements for mastery, we recommend that you create your own special “Memory Master” rules and reward system for your home school.”

    The ‘physical limitations’ part may be what you are referring to, and if CC limits accommodations to physical issues, you may have a point.

    To me, it sounds as if CC is making an accommodation. Accommodations (in the public school, IEP sense) are actions, devices, approached, etc. that help a child to accomplish a given task. Accommodations are NOT changes to the curriculum. Often people think that is the case, but it is not. Extended time and breaks would be examples of accommodations.

    • Hi Elsa,

      Thanks for sharing your perspective. I’m still not reading their statement in the way that you are.

      The bottom line is the last thing my daughter needs is to be in a group where perfection is the expectation. Perfectionism and the expectations of performance are a terrible fit for many gifted/2e kids which is one of the points of my post. Perfectionism is not a goal I aspire to and nor would I put my child in a place that encourages it even in a small way. People say over and over again that it’s not like that in “their” CC group and everyone is so loving and supportive. That may be the case. But I know from researching that this is not the case in all groups and that there is INTENSE pressure to perform and excel in those groups.

      • On the CC website, there is a blog post called 10 Tips from a Classical Conversations Veteran. Number 2 says: “Mastery is not everything. Strong familiarity will often meet the case. For example, in Challenge III, if students have not mastered Latin vocabulary or complex grammar, they are able, nonetheless, to translate Caesar because they are familiar enough with the concepts to recognize them. Foundations parents, unless your child is willing to become a Memory Master, beware pushing him into it out of a sense of pride. What is best for your own child? You know the nature of your child better than anyone else. Some students will be able to master everything. Others need to spend their time differently.”

        So maybe it was just your perception that “perfection is expected.” They certainly don’t say that themselves.

        (And I’m not necessarily pro CC yet… we have just started our first year and are feeling it out. I’m not opposed to criticism of the program, but just trying to point out that your claim may just be your own perception of that aspect and not a true “negative”).

        https://www.classicalconversations.com/article/getting-it-all-done-ten-tips-classical-conversations-veteran

  • Charlie Vigilante
    ― June 7, 2017 – 2:12 am Reply
    I am a trained teacher with a Bachelor of Education, homeschooling my children. After a year in a CC community, I’m absolutely shocked by the attitude of the CC crowd! What I find very crazy about CC is that that style of “teaching” children is arrogantly ignorant of different learning styles & the multiple intelligences. Memorizing lists of words in Foundations does not meet the learning needs of the different learning styles and multiple intelligences. Not to mention that it’s all JUST surface “knowledge” – CC discourages the child’s questions about these random list of words. The goal is to simply memorize lists of words. I was told to shut the children down if they asked too many questions… YIKES! And yet there is TONS of research that the best way to learn is by asking questions and having those questions answered. Do yourself a favor – don’t bother with it.

    • I have to add that the tutors expected word for word recitation of these sentences and lists of words. If a child repeated the concepts in their own words it was rejected. As I said, it was purely about reciting lists of words – not about understanding what they were reciting (as the child who could rephrase it could…).

    • I appreciate your remarks on your experience in CC. This is our 5th year in it and we are in Challenge A (7th grade). I can understand how it seems the kids are just learning lists of facts that don’t mean anything. And you are correct that in class, they are to just recite all those memory facts and not to go deeper into the subjects. That is because there are only 3 hours of the week that they are in class. At home, as the teacher, my daughter and I delved into those areas so we were getting more than just surface knowlege. I had science and history books at home and we would take our science memory work and history memory work sentences and read much more about them. That is when we had the deeper discussions that can be had in a regular brick and mortar school that kids go to every day, all day. So it’s not that CC doesn’t allow you to have those learning opportunities- you can do whatever you want at home. Now that my daughter has reached the Challenge class, all that memory work is really coming in to use! It was not all just wasted time- it was building the foundation for what she is doing now and will continue to do.(Just like memorizing the alphabet was not wasted because you need to know that to read and spell.) She is obsessed with horses, so for her weekly science research papers, whatever the topic is (astronomy, plants, etc) she is finding some way to relate that to horses (astronomy: Pegasus; plants- which ones are poisonous to horses), so she is excited about learning science because she is getting to research things that interest her and then present that to her classmates. CC is really meant to be a whole program all the way through high school, not just an elementary school curriculum. In fact, it started out as just high school socratic discussions. Then LEigh Bortins, who started it, realized these highschool kids didn’t know foundational things that were critical to what they needed to know in high school, so she developed the Foundations program, which is all the memory work. The last piece she added was the Essentials of the English Language for 4-6th graders to bridge the gap between the 2 and start delving into English grammar and composition. I understand this approach is not for everyone, and that is completely okay. But I just wanted to clarify the “Why” of the memory work and not branching out from that in the 3 hour community day. Peace! 🙂

  • I appreciate your article. I’ve been in CC for 2 years now, signed up for a 3rd year and it has been a battle. My son doesn’t like it and personally I don’t look forward to it either. He is 6 years old and my husband said we should stick with it, so I signed up for a 3rd year. My son is extremely smart but not interested in any of the memory work. It must not be his way of learning. He has never done memory master and it has made me feel like a failure when I should be looking for another way to do things. I appreciate your article, I know there are many that thrive in CC but it is okay if not everyone does. Your article has freed me a little bit to thinking it is okay to find something else. Any comments saying your article isn’t helpful must be people who are thriving in it.

    • Hi Christina,

      Thank you for your comment. You are correct. I wrote my post for people who are not thriving in CC or who feel pressured to join CC even though they suspect it wouldn’t be the best fit for their child/family. Thanks for confirming that. 🙂

      I hope you can find something that works well for both you and your son. Homeschooling shouldn’t require doing things we dread.

      Sallie

  • Thanks for writing this article! I have also decided that CC is not a good fit for my family, even though I appreciate so much about the Classical approach. There is a new community starting in my area, and while I am always thrilled for there to be more choices for homeschool families, the reality is that in my small, rural community there are only so many like-minded families. I am already feeling like our family is being “excluded” because we are not signing up. Truthfully, the cost is very high when you have a large family (I have 4 school-aged kids) — actually, I could put them all in our local tiny private Christian school for almost the same cost. Having, also at home, 3 younger kids the option to tutor to offset the cost is simply not realistic.

  • Three of those were reasons I chose not to do CC. The other one is something I didn’t know, and knowing that gives me a fourth reason to stay out of CC.

  • Has anyone been a part of a CC group that constantly excluded them and their child? If so, how did you handle it? We are starting our 3rd year in Challenge and what I once thought was an unintentional habit of being left out of the loop, has become and obviously purposeful effort. I can not think of anything we have done that would upset anyone. I am not obnoxious and barely speak at meetings, I go with the flow. My child fully participates and is always well prepared. She loves the kids in her group but the moms exclude her and me whenever possible. It is obvious they don’t really want us there and I’ve already paid for the year. Joining a different group may not be the answer because she feels connected to this one. I am so heartbroken and angry and at a loss.

    • KL,
      I would suggest talking to your Challenge Director about how much this is hurting you and your family and asking him/her for their understanding of any underlying issus. If yiu feel that this conversation doesn’t resolve the issue, reach out to your SR for advice. I’m so sorry that you’re hurting.
      (I’m not sure that this is the place to post your question… The common theme here is very anti-CC.)

    • K L

      I can imagine how disappointing it is to discover that what you thought was happenstance seems now to be intentional. I know that has to deeply hurt both you and your daughter. I would speak to whoever is in charge in the hope that you might gain some insight. If you don’t get a satisfactory answer and you feel compelled to leave, you will at least have covered that base.

      I know this won’t solve your situation, but this is not the first reply I’ve received like this since writing this post. My impression as an outsider is that there are a lot of people hurting in CC, but there is nowhere to speak of it publicly for fear of the consequences. I don’t have an answer for you other than to tell you that you apparently aren’t the only one dealing with this issue or others similar to it.

      What is interesting to me is that a post that simply showed my readers the thought process of why there were aspects of CC that would have been negatives for us and made it not a good fit for our family has elicited such a wide range of emotions and comments both here and in personal emails.

      I sincerely hope you find the answers you need and that you will either find a way to be happy in your CC community or God will provide another homeschool co-op or community that is a better fit for you and your daughter.

      • Thank you so much. I already know that I am in a no-win situation. I know that no conversation will make the group like me or my child. The other kids in her group are great, it’s just the mothers. Any calling attention to the behavior will result in denial of such behavior or further exclusion. I do believe the academics at the challenge level are a good fit for us, I was actually just wondering if others had experienced the same at the Challenge level. The sad part is, I have known these women since my daughter was in pre-K. Yet, we don’t share the same interests, so I’m an outsider, which is fine for social things, but not when it comes to school related matters. I know my options are to tough it out (which we will this year because we’ve already paid) or leave. It’s a tough choice to think of leaving the academic side which has so many benefits for my child’s learning style or keeping her in a situation where we aren’t wanted. At any rate, I thank you for listening and for your sweet reply.

  • I wanted to write this post as an encouragement rather than anything else. Sallie thank you for this post. I do not have a gifted child but I have looked into CC, we didn’t have any CC places in our area but I wanted to learn more about it. I am definitely the person who leans towards negative reviews to see if the negatives are something that would make a program not work for me and I decided that some of the features I DO like about CC I can just get the stuff and do it myself at home.
    With that being said, I think it’s sad that as homeschoolers people get bent out of shape that something negative has been said about a curriculum/learning style they have picked. Everything doesn’t work for everyone and most of us want to know WHY something didn’t work so we can make an informed choice. That doesn’t mean it’s bad and no one should make that choice, what it DOES mean is that our children, lifestyles, learning styles, beliefs are different and our curriculum choices reflect that.
    Sallie don’t be discouraged by people who have reacted negatively, keep doing reviews and helping those who need to see your reviews when it comes to making choices for their gifted child. This is my first time reading a post on your page and I do not have a gifted child but I agree with the above cons even for my own children.

    • Rebecca –

      You are very welcome! I laughed when I read your comment because I like to read the negative reviews of something as well. When I look at a product on Amazon, I almost always click on the one star reviews first. They are far more helpful in helping me decide about a product than only reading the five star reviews.

      I’m not discouraged by the negative comments whether they are here or on Facebook. I’m glad people are discussing it and my post has provided a way for people to express their opinions and share their experiences. We all benefit from a variety of opinions and perspectives. 🙂

      Sallie

      • Yes Sallie me too with Amazon! Lol I find one star reviews much more helpful.
        I am so glad you are not discouraged. I agree we can learn from different opinions. It was more the ‘tone’ of some messages rather than differing opinions. 🙂

    • Rebecca, I’m not sure that we are getting bent out of shape (at least I am not). I think it is very good to look at pros and cons for your family about every curriculum- we all do it and we should. But as I have seen mentioned in other comments, not all communities are alike and some of the things explained here as negatives are not true in every community. I would hate for someone to read this and think that every single community is rigid and perfectionist and performance driven. Sally, I appreciate your reasons for not wanting to do CC, but I think maybe a better way to have phrased those things is “what I saw in the community I visited” or something like that, because unlike books that are the same no matter where you use them, the people and leaders in each community make a different personality for each community. And I am truly heartbroken over stories of parents and kids who are not made to feel welcomed into the community. That is not right and very unchristian. I just want people to know that it is not like that at every community and it makes me appreciate mine even more.

      • Shannon,

        Thanks for your comments. Honestly, there is very little in my list of reasons that is going to vary from place to place.

        The cost isn’t going to vary much.

        The expectation that parents remain isn’t going to vary.

        The need to perform isn’t going to vary.

        I guess one can dispute how rigid and how much perfectionism is expected based on the leaders of the group so I will give you that.

        The bottom line is I KNOW MY CHILD. She enjoys the co-op she attends and CC would not improve on that experience. The things I brought up about CC would not work well for her or us as a family.

        I’ve approved EVERY SINGLE POSITIVE CC comment in this thread. The only three comments I didn’t approve were snarky comments that were quite negative about CC. It wasn’t my intention to start something with this post, but I trust that people are smart enough to research and make their own decision. I’ve given pro-CC people ample opportunities to state their case here. I’m confident homeschoolers who come here can read, evaluate, and make the right choice FOR THEIR FAMILY.

  • When a homeschooling mom goes to a convention or curriculum fair, she’s there to check things out. She’s evaluating what is available, flipping through books, picking up samples, listening to talks, talking with other parents, etc. She’ll probably go home and do more research online because that’s what homeschool moms do. She’s making judgements about what might work for her child and what probably won’t. She’s factoring in time, cost, usability, etc. We ALL do that as homeschoolers. That’s how we plan for each year.

    My guess is that if I went to such a convention and took notes, I could come home and write a post about why I did or didn’t choose (insert curriculum here – Apologia, Abeka, Well Trained Mind, Calvert, Ambleside, etc.). No one would object to me saying that I researched such and such curriculum and this is why I didn’t think it would work with my daughter. I don’t think anyone would bat an eye at that. They would think that I did my research, made a judgement based on the information available to me, and move on. I’ve written about why we don’t do Charlotte Mason and there was barely a blip on the screen in terms of feedback.

    For some reason, people who love CC think CC is something completely different and is above the same kind of scrutiny. It’s not.

  • We did CC for a few years. It wasn’t a fit for us. While I like the idea of memory work, I didn’t like the speed at which they moved through everything and I didn’t fully agree with all that was chosen. (Now, I make up my own memory work…Bible verses, hymns, useful life info-our address, what to do in a fire, etc., states and capitals, etc.) My kiddo DID learn a ton of facts and I was a total CC mom fail (that is, we never did the memory work at home). It is a strong program and it is GREAT for some.

    What I’ve come to realize is that it truly comes down to your philosophy on education. I knew going in that I didn’t really adhere to classical education and was more of a Charlotte Mason kind of girl with a good dose of eclectic mixed in. CC can work with other styles, but I really felt there was this cloud of rigor overhanging us that isn’t my primary goal in educating my kids. Sure, I want them to know stuff, but I’m far more concerned with their character than the content of their brains. It made me feel stressed and overwhelmed, led me to a lot of comparison after hearing how much the other kids had retained and were involved in(because they had good CC moms who did review at home…), all the talk about memory master, and remembering everything I had to bring (I tutored.) In the end, it wasn’t for us. BUT, this is WHY we homeschool. To have FREEDOM in making choices for our families. It’s what I tell new homeschool mamas: I can tell you what curriculum I use, but in the end, you are different than me. Your family is made up differently than mine. You’re in a different season. You have different learners. We homeschool by FAITH, not by fear that our kids are going to miss out on something that everyone else is doing.

    You do you, mamas. And give each other grace. In real life. And in virtual life. Everyone is doing their best and life is hard. We don’t need so much negativity in the world. Encourage each mama. Don’t take personally someone else’s preference or choices. It isn’t negating yours. I see homeschool mamas so laser focused on how they do things that we can often take others opinions of the curriculums we use as personal attacks. It isn’t. It’s just proof that God created a wonderfully diverse humanity with bents and giftings in all different directions! And guess what…the world NEEDS Christians in all walks of life so let’s cut each other some slack and celebrate one another. Hey, you homeschool? Me too! CONGRATULATIONS!!! It’s so hard!! I’m proud of you. Hey, your kids go to public school? THAT’S AWESOME!!! Mothering is tough! [high fives and air hugs]

  • An open comment to the CC Directors and others who continue to attack me on social media for this post.

    Are you sure you want to keep poking the bear? Do you want to keep insisting that I should have presented a more balanced post about CC listing all the pros and cons of the program?

    Are you sure you want that? Do you want me to seek out the pros and cons more thoroughly and write a detailed review? Maybe one post on all the glowing positives from people who love CC and one post on all the heartbreaking negatives from people who have done CC and left? Do you want me to get permission to quote the people who have written to me privately and told me about their experiences with CC? Do you want me to discuss the agreement that CC Directors sign? Do you want me to break down the finances? Do you want me to go deeper? I’m an awesome researcher. I could do a bang up job if that’s what you truly want.

    I wrote a simple post about how we made a decision based on what I perceived the negatives to be for MY child and MY family. That is what I do here (and on my other sites) if you actually took a minute to look at the HUNDREDS of posts I’ve written here and elsewhere over the years. For that, I’ve been repeatedly attacked and called variations of stupid and uninformed and unfair and any other number of things. Do you really want me to write the post you keep insisting I should have written? I’ll do it. Just let me know!

  • I have been a public school teacher, and we just embarked on this CC journey this school year. We moved out of state to Mississippi and the schools are way below my expectations and I would never send my child into on a daily basis. So we had to problem solve and we found CC. Our community was not pushy, super welcoming. My son is in 6th grade and he has been in gifted acetates and enriched programs in IL his whole life. Amazing public school system!! It’s not as rigid as I thought before we joined. It’s flexible and they give you a guideline to follow, but depending on the ability and the needs of your child, it can be tapered…absolutely. I would not regret this program because of the reasons you stated. If it’s not a good fit, you really do not know until you try it- if it at all intrigues you. I said to my husband, what if it’s not the right thing for us?? Then we do not go anymore. We find something else. So…we are into week three now, and we have settled in and are all loving it. Just FYI.

  • Charlie Vigilante – I’ve removed both of the comments you left overnight. They were both inflammatory and I’m not allowing that here. I’ve published your previous comments after I edited out the inflammatory language. If you would like to leave helpful comments then please do. Anything unnecessarily aggressive toward CC and its members will be deleted. Thank you.

Welcome!

Sallie-Schaaf-Borrink-060313-B-250x250I'm Sallie, teacher by training and now homeschooling mom of Caroline. My passion is to provide products, encouragement, and information that helps others discover and do what works with their children. I also write about living a cozy life as a highly introverted person. Welcome! ♥

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