Classical Conversations, Homeschool, Classical Education, #ClassicalConvMadeKnown
About 10 years ago, I was at a homeschool family camp with my family in Washington state, and it was talent-show night. Previous years at the talent show, children and families sang, kids performed skits, or danced a routine. However, this year, there were a couple of very young girls who recited historical passages. I cannot recall what was recited, but I remember being impressed with these girls, who were about 5 years old, reciting such long texts – texts that included vocabulary words with four syllables, using words I rarely use. Actually, I was blown away.
I later found out these girls were involved in a group called Classical Conversations (CC) in their area, and memorizing was part of their schoolwork. Along the way, I’ve run into several homeschool moms who have tried to encourage me to join Classical Conversations, especially when I expressed my interest in classical education.
Here is a brief description of classical education:
Classical education focuses on the great books of Western civilization, Latin, and lessons about morality and virtue, and is based on the medieval European curriculum that divided learning into the “trivium”: grammar, logic and rhetoric. The concept of fusing classical education into modern teaching was popularized by a 1947 essay by British author Dorothy Sayers called “The Lost Tools of Learning.” (Source).
I had already been teaching my children and adopting some classical methods of learning after hearing a compelling lecture by Susan Wise Bauer who spoke at a HEAV convention in Virginia. I immediately bought her book and began implementing classical methods in my teaching. Prior to that, I used a hodgepodge of curricula, but now with Susan Wise Bauer’s recommendations, my children were on a tried-and-true academic track – a proven educational method that had been used by students for centuries. It felt reassuring to have such a proven academic plan for my kiddos.
When we moved to a new state, many of our new homeschooling friends were supplementing their homeschooling with the Classical Conversations program. My new friends once again encouraged us to join. I asked questions, took a look at what we already had going on in our homeschooling plan, looked at the needs of our children, and my needs, and decided it was not a good fit for us at the time. Currently, there are so many options – maybe too many options – for homeschoolers. Parents need to use what works best for them and for their children to achieve optimum educational success.
Classical Conversations didn’t work for my family; however, it has worked for many families. For many families, CC has become a way for them to connect with other families who are homeschooling, and receive support. Children can grow up with other CC children through the years and gain solid friendships. Parents can encourage and support each other.
I’ve read accounts that using Classical Conversations has helped some inexperienced or perhaps unorganized moms/dads to stay on task and get all of the academic boxes checked, because someone else has made sure that the material is good and appropriate.
Students can participate in fun activities together from science projects, to memory work, speech and debate, and mock trials. Have you ever heard of a child reciting Newton’s Laws of Motion? When was the last time you heard of students learning Latin? Classical Conversations sounds like a rich and broad learning experience, doesn’t it? I have no doubt that many have benefited from this rich program.
CC also can benefit new homeschool moms who are overwhelmed with homeschooling options. It can give them a sense of security, knowing they don’t have pick books and programs when it’s already done for them. It’s a great way to get immersed into homeschooling without doing it blindly. Parents only need to cover reading, writing, and arithmetic (for the lower grades). The rest is covered at Classical Conversations which meets one time per week.
That all sounds great, doesn’t it?
It probably is great for many families/groups. But all groups do not run the same, nor do they have the same leaders or families, so there is bound to be different “looking” groups.
Unfortunately, I’ve been hearing negative issues connected with Classical Conversations. I’ve noticed them, too, as I have been in homeschool sites on the internet. And, recently, people have contacted me to share their experiences. I believe I’m in a position to do something that makes a positive difference, by hosting some conversations here at Spiritual Sounding Board, about apparent problems in the Classical Conversations system.
Julie Anne’s (yes, I go by both names or JA is fine, too) Background
Let me give new readers a little background so you can understand where I am coming from and the purpose of this blog. After starting BGBC Survivors, a blog about my abusive church experience, I, along with five others, were sued by the pastor there in 2012 in a defamation lawsuit. He lost the lawsuit and had to pay not only his attorney fees, but the defendants’ attorney fees, along with court and filing costs. Through that process, I learned a lot about First Amendment rights and responsibilities, and what people can and cannot say publicly.
When the lawsuit against me went viral, a lot of people came to my blog to send notes of encouragement. Along with those notes, many people shared their abusive church experiences. I continued to blog, changed the name to Spiritual Sounding Board, but now made it about spiritual abuse in general, and invited others to share their stories.
This blog is for survivors who have been harmed in church or Christian groups/organizations. Other stories covered here have included Doug Phillips, Vision Forum, Family-Integrated Churches; Bill Gothard, IBLP, ATI, and reports of sexual abuse; the Christian Patriarchy Movement, Stay-at-Home Daughters Movement, courtship, purity, and modesty teachings, etc. I do quite a bit of investigative reporting, have done interviews on these related topics, am quoted in major news articles, etc. I am not new to this gig. As a 23-year veteran homeschool mom, I know the Christian homeschool culture pretty well.
Let me get straight to the point: I have seen and heard enough about Classical Conversations that alarm bells are going off. This is going to be the first of probably many posts about Classical Conversations. For some who have not experienced any problems with CC, this will probably be shocking to you. I get that. I believe 100% that is has been good for you. But there are others who have been harmed, and it is because of those people that I have decided to take this on (along with a team of others who were directly involved with CC).
I am working with a team of former Classical Conversations members who have done an incredible amount of research. Combined, they are connected with scores of people currently and formerly part of Classical Conversations. As typically happens with systemic abuse, once someone goes public and tells their personal story, others feel more comfortable sharing their experiences.
So far, here is a sampling of what I’ve seen/heard that I find troubling:
- Mishandled child-to-child sexual abuse cases.
- An atmosphere of: no talk, no asking questions, especially publicly if the question seems at all critical.
- A blurry line between ministry and business aspects of the organization.
- CC leaders using the Bible to control or silence people.
- Misuse of Matthew 18 when dealing with conflicts.
- A rigid atmosphere: “Classical Conversations is the only right way to homeschool” – others are inferior.
Sadly, these are not just normal issues, but issues that would represent systemic malfeasance.
Apparently, leaders at Classical Conversations have made legal threats to members who post negative comments about their experiences. That is bullying behavior. Here at Spiritual Sounding Board (SSB), you have the opportunity to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. I do not reveal sources, e-mail addresses, or IP addresses of my commenters to anyone.
Commenting Ground Rules
I have a minimal set of ground rules to keep Spiritual Sounding Board a safe place for people to share their experiences and expression their opinions.
- My blog is set up so that your first comment is moderated. After that, all subsequent comments should go through fine unless there are ground rules broken (like language, personal attacks) or it gets stuck in spam. If you think your comment is stuck in the spam box, feel free to send another comment asking me to check the spam box, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Pseudonyms are absolutely fine. In fact, I find that people often feel more comfortable to share when using a pseudonym. Your story is very important. It is very likely that your story has happened to others. By you speaking out, you will give others the courage to speak out.
- I do not allow comments with the pseudonym. “Anonymous.” Mickey Mouse and Fred Flintstone are up for grabs. 🙂
- While this is primarily a place for survivors, I do allow conversation from people with opposing opinions, but no personal attacks. You get one warning before Owen, the SSB watchdog, comes out. I’d like to introduce you to Owen:
- If you violate the warning again, you will be put in the “dog house,” which means all of your comments will be moderated. They will eventually be approved if they are okay, or trashed if they are rude and attacking. Good behavior will get you out of the doghouse. This must remain a safe place.
Note to Classical Conversations Leaders
Please do not be foolish and send me Cease and Desist letters from attorneys or threaten to sue me, as you have allegedly done to others. I am very aware of my First Amendment rights. The attorney who represented me in the defamation lawsuit taught me much; in fact, she also taught about First Amendment and SLAPP/anti-SLAPP law to other attorneys. She is probably the top attorney in the state on this topic. (SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.” Such frivolous lawsuits are basically designed to shut people up by threatening to tie up their time and resources. Anti-SLAPP suits counter those.)
I know how to make sure I am within legal parameters on what can or cannot be said.
I live in Washington State, which has anti-SLAPP laws. Discussion about Classical Conversations would qualify under the anti-SLAPP due to this phrase in the law: “in a place open to the public or a public forum in connection with an issue of public concern” (Wash. Rev. Code § 4.24.525 (4)(a-e)).
My blog is a public forum and the issues related to Classical Conversations are issues of public concern. And there you go.
Additionally, this is what will happen if/when I win a defamation lawsuit using anti-SLAPP statute:
If you win your motion to strike under Washington’s anti-SLAPP statute, the court will dismiss the lawsuit (or the parts of the lawsuit found to be SLAPPs). You will also be entitled to receive your attorneys’ fees, your court costs, and an automatic statutory damage award of $10,000. The court may also sanction the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s attorney.
I recently noticed my vehicle is getting close to 200,000 miles. That $10,000 would come in handy. Just sayin’.
166 thoughts on “Classical Conversations #1: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”
“Scary, when you think of what some of the other students must have been turning in.”
I’ve done assessment work of student papers for my university off and on for the last six years, grading everything from freshmen straight out of high school to seniors and grad students. Some of the writing is scary. Some students are genuinely illiterate, yet have somehow graduated from high school and did well enough on the entrance exams to get in–I have no explanation how. Others are perfectly bright and literate and could do well, but major in beer and minor in anonymous sex, and because of the strain their bohemian lifestyles put on their time, they dedicate maybe 15 minutes of internet cut-and-paste to a paper that should’ve taken days or weeks of thoughtful research and revision to produce. Those are the sorts of students to whom you were being compared. It’s a remarkable occurrence when you run into a student who actually gets excited and makes a modicum of effort–or has the sense to reasonably fake it. I’d say one in three students have no business whatsoever wasting their time and taxpayer dollars at this state university.
My experiences with homeschoolers has generally been good. Most of them are fine students, like you. The ones who would not be good students here are usually the types who are taught that public college is of the devil, so they wouldn’t show up here anyway.
I am not a parent, but know several who home school using CC. In fact, I believe that everyone I know who home schools at the moment is involved in this.
My question: knowing several family who home school and have “star pupils” in CC, I also know that most of their parents are appalled at how their children are performing on the state standardized tests for the corresponding grade level.
For those of you who have used CC, did you find similarly? That your children did very well in home-school, but poorly on the state grade level standardized tests?
That’s a great question, AuntKrazy. Thank you!
I’d be interested in a post exploring whether or not CC communities have negatively affected the homeschooling community at large. In my area, it’s a hugely popular program, and I would not be surprised if CC members outnumbered non-CC homeschoolers. I have never been a member, but I was turned off when it became apparent that lots (not all) of CC communities are only interested in homeschoolers joining them, or what non CC homeschoolers can offer them. The non CC moms in my area are inundated with an overwhelming amount of requests from CC moms for babysitting in order to attend various CC events – either training, mom’s meetings, field trips exclusively for the older kids etc.
When I remarked how unusual it is for a homeschooling community to require so much time from moms and not provide or share childcare, I was told that many communities actually do offer childcare, but it’s often too expensive. So these moms are relying on non CC moms for support- which would be fine, but we are not reciprocated in any way. When asked to babysit youngers, I agreed but asked if my older kids could tag along on the field trip too-nope. Only for CC students. It just makes me sad -especially for moms who wish they could be part of a CC community, but will most likely never be able to afford it. It seems like from the outside, it’s a group that’s more interested in being exclusive than contributing to the entire homeschool community.
Great idea, Beth. Thank you.
I recently had an experience with a CC community and believe it or not was refunded my entire tuition, fees etc. because my family dynamic didn’t align with the community.
My husband is a stay at home dad. I get it, we are In the minority and reading comments above its generally about moms, but don’t claim to be Christian and inclusive when your just not.
In my opinion the women at the CC community we had joined did not exhibit Christian like actions and the Director kept calling my child by the wrong name. Additionally on day 1 my child knew more than any other child (numbers, letters, writing, mathematics etc.) so I was further told because of this the community is not a good fit.
My thoughts are is CC is for cookie cutter average children, my child is a born leader and I would be surprised if CC has any children who become leaders since the community discourages these types of actions and mindsets early on. I was told my child needed to be more docile and not ask questions, again on day 1.
Thank you for this forum it feels good to be able to speak freely about such a horrible experience.
Thank you for sharing your experience, Sally. I’m sure glad you got a refund!
I read the link to the Wilson articles and have to say I see the parallels too and it is frightening. These folk might be religious nut-jobs after all, using our faith In Jesus to manipulate might be the worse crime of all.
We have been in a Classical Conversations Community for three years now. It has been a great place to develop community and relationships with other moms. I am a former public school teacher, so classical education has been different for me. I pulled my daughter out of public school when she was bored to tears in kindergarten and wasn’t being challenged. We use CC as a spine and delve deeper at home into topics.
I have tutored for the past two years and now have two girls in Essentials. One of my girls is gifted and before joining CC was allowed to skip a grade at a private school. She was also able to skip with the public school system (in Oregon you can be a part of a charter school and have freedom with materials to homeschool). I have a dilemma this year since she is registered for 6th grade with the state and is doing material at that level (and has exceeded on all her state tests), but we are being told that she may not move on to Challenge A next year because she is not old enough. I was just given information on how to challenge my 6th grader with memory work and presentations for the following year. This is a bit frustrating for me since I have an education degree and know where my child is at. We also have several people in our community that recognize that she should be allowed to move on and is capable of doing Challenge A. If you have a child who doesn’t fit the box, CC may not be a good choice for your family. I now have to make a decision about whether or not to stick it out for part of the day so my daughter can be with her friends next year (won’t repeat Essentials) or to find another school or group for her to be a part of. This is a tough place to be because we love the families here. It is an issue with the upper authority in the organization and being tied to a strict “rules” and must “fit in the box” mentality.
This article is sad. We are three years into CC, and our community – which is large enough to have branched off twice now – has never experienced anything like what you write. People are people, and as in anything I suppose there will always be bad apples. But it’s saddening to see that such a great program – a program that I’m sure was poured over with sweat, tears, and prayers – can be ruined for so many by one website like this one, or by one bad experience, again caused by people, not CC itself. Our family has been very blessed by CC and the amazing, kind, loving, prayerful, fun, friendly, creative Christian families we’ve come to know well thanks to CC.
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@burgundymom… over the years of watching children skip grade levels, the biggest issue I have seen is placing them with children who are more mature than they are. It almost requires them to grow up faster. I think there is wisdom in the suggestion of finding other things to challenge her along the way. That is my opinion. But aside from that, I would suggest going straight to your Director, and if that isn’t helpful then go through the chain of command to get the best answer. I would not think that anyone would tell you that you cannot do that just to hurt your feelings. There are good reasons that larger organizations have certain rules in place, and it’s to benefit everyone. I hope you are able to work it out. She sounds like such a delightful child to homeschool. 🙂
So? That doesn’t mean the bad experiences recounted here never happened, or that they aren’t important.
Sure. And sometimes, it’s not just a few bad apples. There are times when the barrel itself is rotten, with a few lucky apples that are still good.
If CC is so weak as to be “ruined” by a single blog, I’m not sure it’s worth preserving.
And it’s not just “one bad experience”. This article is the first in a long-running series, and multiple negative and painful experiences are described in these articles. Please don’t dismiss what others have gone through simply because they happen not to match what you know of the organization.
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I had my first experience with classical conversations when I was invited to come to their class time yesterday. I’ve had my concerns about this method of teaching and I still do. One thing I noticed without giving too much thought to till I got home was a cute little girl in the class who was about 8 years old who could not read. She was also very unkempt. I have 17 years experience in homeschooling my children and other children afterwards. It always raises red flags in my thinking when a child is as old as she is and cannot read and is not very well taken care of. That was just a personal observation.
Another thing that caught my attention was in the the songs they memorized about history. They saying about the Muslims and the Buddhist and what their teachings were. Buddha was said to be merciful and compassionate. I found both little songs to be disturbing in that it wasn’t just historical but seem to be validating the two religious beliefs my singing about their history and their beliefs. There was no counter singing that their beliefs were false and of a false religion. There was no counter teaching that either. When I ask my daughter-in-law about it later on she said that it was up to the parents to teach. I don’t believe you should teach 6, 7, 8, and 9 year old children any history of a false religion without telling why it’s a false religion and who their true God and Savior is.
Please let me know if anyone else has found that they are also disturbed by some of the songs the children are meant to memorize.
That seems like a good thing to me. At their base, all religions are about doing the right thing and have a lot of good things to say. It isn’t until later that I think we’re capable of seeing some of the nuances of those religions and why people who follow them are doing wrong instead of right.
I think it would be very dangerous to be teaching that to an 8 year old, you know, the kind that say, “hey Dad, that guy has no arm. I wonder how he lost it!” at the grocery store. Seriously, you want to walk around with your 8yo at a grocery store and have her loudly point out all the women wearing black headcoverings, saying, “MOM! There’s one of those MUSLIM people. I bet she doesn’t know she’s going to hell!”
I think it’s best to teach kids how to respect others, then and only then, to talk about what beliefs are true and false. As I said elsewhere, I was taught from a young age all the doctrinal purity of my church, and it was common conversation how Arminians and Methodists and Lutherans and all those sub-Reformed churches and congregational churches were all full of people who thought they were Christians, but were really not. My school was full of Christians, but I thought I was one of maybe a handful that were “truly saved”.
I love CC and i think it is wonderful because everyone is so kind i dont know why u r so unhappy as afterbrown said i really think that the the program is wonderful
i love CC so much my child is really learning a lot! he has grown really smart because of this program and has done memory masters because of his outstanding memory
CC is awesome im really sorry u didnt get to experience that.
i hope that u enjoy homeschooling without CC! but i think that it is a wonderful enviroment and the tutors dont give homework and they like having advanced students and Memory Masters is just for some kids that memorizing is their talent not for everyone that is why some kids just cant do it and that’s ok!
why am in the doghouse?
who did this to me?
Where to begin….
“CC is awesome im really sorry u didn’t get to experience that” – that sounds like victim blaming. You appear to be suggesting that people who had bad experiences with CC have something wrong with them. Instead, perhaps your specific CC group is well run.
“i love CC so much my child is really learning a lot! he has grown really smart because of this program and has done memory masters because of his outstanding memory” – That’s wonderful! However, the education book I’m reading, “Positive Classroom Instruction”, written by a Ph.D. in education says that in his research, intelligent kids typically do well in school regardless of the expertise of the teacher. Yet, teachers seem to want to take credit for the students who would excel, essentially, no matter how poor the instruction. It is the kids who are struggling who need superior teachers and resources. My experience with a non-CC Classical homeschool was that they worked the kids extremely hard, and those who could not keep up left. So, they are essentially cherry-picking the excellent students, and then claiming success, where the public schools have to teach all that walk in their door.
“and they like having advanced students” Who doesn’t? Especially the advanced students that are brainwashed into unquestioning and unwavering obedience to all authority figures. The ones who question and don’t accept indoctrination… well, they typically don’t do well in the authoritarian environments.
“not for everyone that is why some kids just cant do it and that’s ok!”
And how does CC treat students who “just cant do it”? My student, again non-CC, but a similar classical approach, didn’t get much grace when she couldn’t write neatly and struggled to understand the assignments. Her teacher, not surprisingly, didn’t want to waste her time with our child who “just couldn’t do it”, and instead spent time telling us all the areas she was deficient. So, why were we paying money for an expert to teach her according to a superior model of education, only to have said expert just turn around and tell us all the things WE had to teach our struggling child.
Hi , I’m wondering if a positive comment about CC will be approved in this Blog , other wise this is a biased blog . My community has provided me with emmense support for me and my kids . I have seen first hand the product of foundations in the challenge program . These kids grow to know God and truly make him known . It is unfortunate that some may have had bad experiences but CC ‘s rules never prompts anyone to belong to a community from the first place . You are absolutely free to buy the curriculum and teach at home , which really contradicts everything said here , to each thier own , if you are free to teach the curriculum the way you want to , not sure if this leaves room for complains and negative allegations .
exactly artosmiles, everyone is saying bad stuff about people who like CC and good things about people who hate CC….. my community is also awesome and like i love CC said it’s not for everyone,that’s his/her opinion that doesnt mean u can make fun of him/her.
i am wondering how this works?
i was not victim blaming i was saying that i love CC (as u already know) and that i feel sorry to the people that had a bad experience… im sorry if u took it the wrong way. and no i dont agree that no matter the teacher students will always be smart, well sometimes but it is good to homeschool ur chhild because ur the best teacher for ur child!!!! they are smarter than when they were in school1!!!! ok!
and if u dont homeschool its also ok!!!!! every parent(s) makes different decisions there is no right or wrong, ok Mark! i hope u have an awesome day!
“no i dont agree that no matter the teacher students will always be smart”
Positive Classroom Instruction, Fredric H. Jones, Ph.D. p. 36
My personal theory is that most of the “successful” schools are successful simply because they alter the mix of the three. Public schools have to educate whatever students come in their door, which is often just based on the immediate area. Private and charter schools typically educate a subset of those students – those whose parents care enough to make the daily effort to drive them to a different school and/or pay tuition. And, despite the fact that our school was called a homeschool (CC is pretty similar), the primary education was done by a teacher at a building, and the child was just sent home with a significant amount of work. “Homeschooling” is just what happens when the child didn’t quite understand the lesson.
Again, based on the population of students, I think that any option is going to be good for the self-starters. They will generally thrive in public, private, or homeschool, and of course all of those options will hold up those students as proof that their methodology works. I think that the most needy tend to end up in public school because either the parents don’t care, or they give up trying to educate them and want their lives back. We had a student who was needy in very specific ways and homeschooling ended up being a poor option for a number of reasons. She is doing much better in public school. Homeschooling parents with self-starters are the ones who write books about how wonderful and easy it is – I guess because those with needy kids or middle-of-the-roaders don’t have the time to write books. They also parade around their kids who got a full ride to Stanford as the product of homeschooling.
And, yes, there are toxic teacher/student relationships. We felt we had something of this at the homeschool group. The teacher demanded a level of perfection that our child could not attain. My experience is that there are few teachers, in and of themselves, that are toxic, but that certain personalities clash toxically, and I’ve seen that a few times. I think this teacher would have been great for an advanced student who wanted to excel, but our friends’ kids slaved over the homework all week and still struggled to get the work done – and that still was a ‘good’ interaction.
ummm… This obviously wasnt in CC because they dont assign homework… just saying and the teachers that want perfection are doing a good thing they are trying to make all the children learn.!
i love cc said:
…the teachers that want perfection are doing a good thing they are trying to make all the children learn.!
Teachers wanting perfection is pretty much universally agreed upon in the world of child development as a BAD THING, not a good thing.
I found this blog when I was looking for questions to ask the area support rep as I am planning to join the program.
I have a completely different perspective than most parents because I was a student in the program from Challenge A – Challenge III.
I never had much experience with Foundations or Essentials (Elementary Age classes). However, I did end up memorizing some of the history sentences and science sentences and let me just say, they were incredibly helpful when I was taking college courses.
I had excellent grades through college and even managed to be placed on the Dean’s list and be invited to join the honor society.
The Challenge Program prepared me for college. But it was a Challenge! Looking back I wish I had gone through the Foundations and Essentials programs.
But my love for knowledge and the quality of my education can only be attributed to the fact I had a tutor who loved knowledge and actually had a teaching background.
I myself am not a licensed teacher and I can see how other Classical Conversations communities could have major issues if they do not have tutors who have some teaching experience.
The program isn’t for everyone and I have no doubt that there have been issues with many communities as it is a rigorous program and not all parents know that it is a supplement for the Elementary age group. For the Elementary age it is an added preparation for the Challenge program and further education. It teaches memorization and study skills that are needed throughout life.
I think the key to any school curriculum is knowing when to be flexible. The group I was in always was flexible and the tutors worked with parents to help the students achieve their potential.
Do you need to be a part of a group to teach your child classically? No! So I will end by saying this, if you are homeschooling and you want your child to be prepared for further learning, look into the classical model and create a curriculum that is right for you.
No curriculum or co-op group or Classical Conversations program is one size fits all. The important thing is you do your research and you teach your child to not only see the bigger picture but to understand the details.
I was involved in CC from 2006-2019, five of those years as a foundations director. I was deeply wounded by our regional leadership and have been considering coming forward with my story now that we are not involved. Maybe one day. However, I’d like to point out that quite a few of these stories I’m reading on here are due to poor or heavy-handed leadership in individual communities, not CC corporate policy. A good director can make a community a wonderful place where students and families thrive or can be so controlling that everyone jumps ship. I like to think that I was one of the good ones. 😂
What good is a corporate policy if the company can’t control its representatives?
I’ve had experiences with very biased placement of people in cc communities. They don’t run like a normal business. I’ve been denied to a community because it didn’t fit their agenda. I’ve been denied to a challenge program because the director at the time had an issue. Not very professional.
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No, that doesn’t sound professional at all – – and especially since you are paying $$! Thanks for sharing your experience.
I am a Challenge III student, and have stuck with CC for the past six, almost seven years. I intend on completing the entire curriculum, without deviating from the guides provided. In my experience, CC has suited my needs. While I am socially awkward and often misunderstand modern colloquialism (Asperger’s, perhaps?), CC has contributed to immense spiritual, mental, and intellectual maturity in my life. It is a highly structured program, and academically rigorous, requiring discipline in the long haul. Those who possess low educational standards and prefer to “un-school,” as some have termed it, should refrain from enrolling. CC is not a supplement; it is not a temporary fix, or a stepping stone between various academia. It is, in fact, a complete and well-rounded curriculum. It builds on itself, from Foundations all the way up to Challenge IV, with college-level education beginning at Challenge II.
Although it works for me, it may not suit the needs of other families. I am a type-A perfectionist to a deep extreme, for better or for worse. I love learning, and seeking knowledge. My mother shares the same ideals and work ethics: being a nurse anesthetist, one of the best in her field of expertise, she is more than qualified to teach me, and has passed on her organizational skills to me. She cares about my education, and pushes me to exceed expectations. Because of our similar personality types, I have succeeded in this environment. CC naturally supplements our learning styles: a structured, self-driven, and mentally challenging program is exactly what we want, and precisely what we expect to receive.
However, many of my past peers did not share my mentality. They did not cultivate that yearning, that thirst for knowledge, nor did their parents propagate any higher ambitions. More often than not, their work was either lackluster, incomplete, or nonexistent. Nothing irked me more than failure to pay what was due. It is his lack of reverence, of respect for the value of knowledge, that thoroughly dampened my learning experience. The curriculum in itself did not create these students’ apathy, but the environment in which they were raised.
As far as I know, my mother has endured instances of miscommunication, not necessarily negligent offenses, or course, but gaps and glitches between levels of representation within CC departments. Such occurrences were minor, and inconsequential. I believe that if your student is searching for a program that requires discipline, structure, and intellectual fortitude, then CC may benefit you. If your child is more free-spirited, like my sister and brother, you can certainly adjust the current program to better meet your desires. However, if you are looking for the easy, the quick, and the passive, then stop. Many parents seek minimal involvement when entering CC, and do little to assist their young adults in augmenting their learning abilities. This, more than lack of ambition or mental faculties, is where students begin to flounder. Each party bears equal responsibility and ownership. To harvest the greatest potential benefits that CC has to offer, then both the parent and student must invest effort, commitment, diligence, and time. Over time, you will watch, and you will wait, and you will wonder if you’ve made the right decision. The relationships of student and daughter, teacher and father, will become blurred, and could quite possibly create a strain in interfamilial relationships
But trust me when I say this: I would not be where I am if not for CC. There is a tangible difference between those who have been public schooled, and those who have completed Classical Conversations in its entirety. A self-confidence, a broad understanding, and the ability to know HOW to learn, are the most marked distinction between the two. My standardized grades are off the charts, not just because of innate intelligence or work ethic, but because of CC. If you invest in Classical Conversations, not just in brevity, but for the long haul, then you will never, ever regret it.
“I am a type-A perfectionist to a deep extreme, for better or for worse.”
I think you would succeed anywhere. You are the type of student that any educational system is going to claim as proof of their methodologies, but you would probably have succeeded in an un-schooling environment.
I can’t say that I’ve experienced CC, but my eldest daughter participated in a Classical homeschool program that sounds very similar. She is not a “type-A perfectionist” and I would get called pretty often at work because she was refusing to do assignments. I had to bring her to work regularly so that she could sit in my cube and work without distractions. My brother’s children are also not all Type-A, and I know in their homeschooling journey they tried CC and ended up switching to a more traditional model, and since the mother is a certified teacher and passionate about it, I’m confident in her judgment.
“There is a tangible difference between those who have been public schooled, and those who have completed Classical Conversations in its entirety. A self-confidence, a broad understanding, and the ability to know HOW to learn, are the most marked distinction between the two.”
Utter crap. That’s what I heard from the pulpit in my abusive church. When you say “tangible” I assume you mean that there have been studies or testing or something that confirms that you’re not just making this up. These “tangible” differences, from my experience, exist primarily in the minds of parents and students who already feel superior and just need a reason why.
Classical education has three stages. Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric. The Grammar stage is about cramming facts into kids through rote memorization. Turns out that this is a flawed model based on our understanding of child psychology. If there is the trivium, it should be incorporated into each level of learning. That is why in the hated Common Core math, children are not only taught facts, but they are also taught to put those facts to use, and then they are expected to answer why they took a certain approach. For example, they are taught to calculate area, then they are given slightly more complex shapes, which they have to divide into simpler shapes to calculate the area, then they have to explain how they chose to divide it.
The grammar stage is exactly what you claim public school does – spoon-feeding facts without the tools to assess or grow from those facts.
My theory continues to be that the quality of education has less to do with the methodology and more to do with the selection process. Public schools are at the bottom of the heap only because they don’t have a selection process. Charter schools tend to do better because, at a minimum, parents have to take the initiative to register their kids, and find transportation for them. CC is only available to students whose parents have sufficient capability and socioeconomic status to devote the money and time – usually a stay-at-home mom – to homeschooling.
“To harvest the greatest potential benefits that CC has to offer, then both the parent and student must invest effort, commitment, diligence, and time.”
This is the flawed American system. I work in the knowledge industry and study after study shows that the most important part of success is time for introspection, reflection and process improvement. That’s why CC and most American educational institutions are unfixable. They focus on “effort, commitment, diligence, and time”. When my kid was in university-model homeschool and she was spending eight hours a day trying to get her assignments done, the mantra was “work harder”. When my kid was coming home from public school with two hours of homework and still falling behind, their answer was… “can’t she just do a little more work?”
How many times does a brilliant idea come when your nose is to the grindstone? How many times does it come in your sleep or in the shower, or in other “downtime”. Yet, all these educational professionals across all swaths are still convinced that brilliance is cultivated through endless mounds of work. All these business managers think that they can be more productive when they make workers stay late and cancel process reviews.
Toyota completely owns auto manufacturing, not because they are the best at extracting every last ounce of labor from their workers, but because they are absolutely dedicated to giving their workers the necessary downtime and voice to improve their processes.
We joined a CC group three years ago, after spending seven years bouncing between various homeschool groups and co ops with mixed attendance and erratic schedules. We didn’t need more school, we didn’t need outside responsibility or organization. I wouldn’t blame CC folks for feeling offended at your offhand remarks, no matter how much you didn’t intend to degrade them. I figure you didn’t intend that, so no stress.
Being a military family, we move every 3 years, and during that time we had a cross-country move. I was very grateful to move from one group of like-minded women to another, friends already with some before arriving. We do not have the luxury of building a homeschool co op from long-term friends, and co ops are unfortunately much rarer than your typical field trip groups.
I get it: CC is a corporation. It is not non-profit. In fact, if it was non-profit, it would not be able to be run by independent contractors (directors) using the materials and system allowed. It would have to follow strict laws regarding what it sold, what it made, where it made it, who was hired, and more. It simply wouldn’t exist as widespread. Couldn’t. It really is too bad, but then, we get stuck on the idea that non-profit must mean giving/good. You know better. Would I join a group that wasn’t CC? Absolutely. In an INSTANT. I’d love to not have ties to a distant corporate homeschooler who built an empire out of her homeschool ideas. I love local business or local people. Just – FIND me one. Find me a good group of ladies that have a solid homeschool group that will accept a family that will be leaving in 2-3 years to another base. Find me one that does Mock trial and presentations, art, science, math and history songs together, and Then find me another, and another. At every military base we go to. Find me a group with accountability with or without financial ties. I’m not talking about a field trip group, I’m talking about a co-op, group-learning experience that allows children to explore fun learning, science, art, history, and public speaking/presentations in ways I cannot at home even with five children. Money is not an issue – I don’t homeschool to save money, and I have ways to fix costs (I tutor CC and make tin whistle covers and sell them, where there’s a will, there’s a way).
I have looked for years for a valid, educated issue with CC that would be make me believe we are better off without. I am naturally a pessimist. The issues you found? Not exclusive to CC, they are human. You’ll find women misapplying the Classical methods, or biblical resolution ideals to a degree in every situation on the planet. Other co ops? Might not at least TRY to say “Follow the Book of Matthew’s conflict resolution” or “Two adults should be in the room at all times.” Stressing the children? Poor Tutors are hardly new. I’ve seen poor tutors and incredible tutors. It is interesting to discuss the different teaching methods with my children, using ones we like, dismissing ones we didn’t enjoy. I’m right there in class, so I’m in control of the ship even when I’ve decided to join an armada.
So here’s my advice: Find something positive to say about good co ops. Find good things to highlight. Say “we should do more of this.” and tell me what it is. I’m sick of people telling us that humans are in this church or this co op so it’s trash, trash, trash. We don’t build a new world by tearing down every attempt because it isn’t heaven, we pat each other on the back for trying, and discuss how we can improve models. We could choke on the negativity, or build up all homeschoolers. You say here comes the people who will attack you for criticizing CC, I say you aren’t criticizing it, you are acting as if you’d rather it didn’t exist. I am disappointed, because human or not, it is the only option that checks all the boxes I want.
Katherine, your advice is not helpful to those who are wanting to know the truth. If you don’t mind CC, then have at it! This place is to discuss the issues that CC Corporate won’t allow on their FB group. They remove comments and block people who question or have issues with how they run their business. That’s called the no-talk rule and is used in thought reform groups (and cults). If you don’t mind a for-profit business (CC) using a non-profit (church) to run their groups, which is in many states illegal, then feel free to continue. If you don’t mind dishonest business practices, go ahead and stay with CC.
In 2018 we graduated our first daughter from Challenge lV, second daughter is in final year of Challenge lV and youngest Challenge 1. Been in our CC community for 9 years. From Foundations, produced memory masters, Essentials now Challenge. I hit my knees every night and thank God for CC. These students have well-trained minds, can reason through all the bias and PC talk found throughout today’s media, they are a joy to be around – the kind of kids you want your kids to be friends with, the kind of kids that make eye contact and greet grandparents, that seek out the new comer in church, they are caring interested in others and best of all love the Lord their God. We have met heart break, cheating, boys, hurt feelings, addictions, life-issues along this journey. By no means do we look perfect. But we are on this journey together. Thank you Frederick County Maryland CC leaders, directors and tutors for pouring yourselves into these kids.
“These students have well-trained minds, can reason through all the bias and PC talk found throughout today’s media”
Can they really reason through it, or do you just agree with their conclusions? I’ve come to different conclusions on a number of things through my life and found that the arguments I originally thought were rock-solid were often taking verses out of context, cherry-picking verses that seemed to support their conclusions while ignoring those that didn’t, and creating straw men of the opposition’s viewpoints while not really dealing with the substance.
My brief experience with a school modeled after CC seemed more about rigorous academic superiority than growing individual minds. It was more about knowing all the right answers than exploring the process through which knowledge was evaluated. Rhetoric was more about clever argumentation and swaying people than making factually supported and coherent conclusions. Even in the rhetorical argument I heard, there was a clear fear that the academic environment must be tightly controlled lest young minds fall astray.
For example, the core of political correctness is a desire to be respectful, even if I don’t necessarily follow their train of thought to the conclusion. I find that many of the Christian reaction to PC is a result of: the genetic fallacy – it “came from” liberal politicians and media, therefore it must somehow be Satanic. The slippery slope fallacy – even if we can understand and agree with it to some extent, we must oppose it because it will become… Equivocation (and this happens on both sides!) that “tolerance” means acceptance and agreement with a lifestyle rather than loving a person despite their lifestyle. On the other hand, “loving” someone is taken to mean pointing out their sin at every opportunity. (One church I’m aware of had a “shunning” policy that stated that the only contact members were allowed to have with the excommunicated member was for the purpose of challenging them on their sin)
I think success in the the soft skills is more a result of what happens at home than this or that program. The public schools near us are very aware of bullying and teaching kids to advocate, but there are still mean kids and there are still very kind kids. We try to teach our kids to be respectful and have safe boundaries and that has looked different for each one.
CC is awesome! My child has learned so much…. What is wrong with you people! CC is the best thing ever!
“What is wrong with you people?” she asks.
This is what CC produces: excellent Christian examples.
If CC truly is “awesome” and “the best thing ever”, then why don’t they allow customers to ask questions on their FB page? Their awesomeness should be made obvious to everyone through complete transparency.
Don’t you think?
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We have been actively involved in CC for 5 years. While there definitely are many aspects of this education that has been positive for our family, I am greatly concerned about some glaring inconsistencies. And no, I do not feel free to mention these in the community for fear of myself and/or our children being ostracized.
CC teaches a reasoning process where both the affirmative and negative of any opinion/situation/writing are evaluated in an unbiased manner in order for the student to come to an “objective” conclusion. They promote students being taught HOW to think, not WHAT to think. I appreciate and affirm the process. However, I do not find this to be true in practice.
CC has a definite political bias and teaches it unapologetically through books like “A Patriot’s History of the United States” by Larry Scheikart an Michael Allen. I am fully aware that the telling of history is subjective and is told through the lens of the interpreter, so objectivity in history is a bit of a misnomer, but CC’s strong bias extends into other subject areas as well. Students are definitely told WHAT to think alongside HOW to think. As Christian parents we often find ourselves at odds and uncomfortable with the forced political bias, but know that our faith will be questioned should we point to wider Biblical rather than a narrower political evaluation and interpretation.
Despite our discomfort, we will re-enroll in CC this fall. We have decided to use this as an opportunity to teach our children that Christianity has broader, more inclusive truths than are taught by CC. In college our children will likely encounter the opposite: biases completely countering Scripture. In pointing out the bias of their current community, we hope they will be able to interact with abiblical biases from a loving, Biblical perspective, rather than an intolerant, even arrogant, political perspective. But it is not easy, and if there were other options in our area… I would jump ship.
I’ve been teaching almost 40 years in both sacred and secular settings. There is no such thing as an unbiased curriculum or an unbiased person who delivers it. Case in point: I am teacher in a secular private school, and although I don’t preach my faith, students who are Christians often figure out I’m a fellow believer, just by what I emphasize or how I approach a topic. You need to decide how much bias you can live with, and how you can counterbalance what you don’t agree with by discussions at home, “what do you think about that” kinds of questions, and demonstrating for your children what is important to you. You may be surprised to find out what your children are already thinking about some of the things they are learning. In my personal opinion, if the degree of ostracism is so great that your children will be extremely uncomfortable at school, you might want to checkout another kind of classical curriculum.
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We live in an overseas military community. We are not allowed to start businesses in the host nation. When a classical conversations group was starting, I pointed out that CC is a business and may not be allowed by the host nation. I was called an aggressive person and told that I was not to make any public comments about CC that any concerns I had could only be communicated to one specific person and I should not talk to anyone else about it. I found that experience to be bizarre. Even the CC website directly says they are a business and encourages it’s customers to pay taxes on what they make.
That’s crazy. Is CC breaking the law in that country?!?!
Is there a military office you can report this activity to?
There should be on base…especially on an overseas base.
I am so very sorry that there are those who have felt injured in CC communities. I have known of a community in my area that was not well run and not a good experience for those involved. However, I personally have not experienced this. I have served as a tutor, and in that role I worked hard to offer ideas for children who were excelling on ways to challenge them. I also worked hard to meet those who had troubles where they are. I had a student who had crippling shyness which really showed up during the presentations part of the program. I took 6 weeks helping get her to a point where she was comfortable. I had other moms who were supportive of my class and my children and I have grown to value the camaraderie. There are moms who found the program didn’t work for them, and they are still connected to people in our CC community. The particular group I have been part of has been quite nonjudgmental in that respect. I hope that all who have been hurt in the program find healing and another way forward. I like the program, but by no means is it the perfect or only effective possibility for homeschooling.
Thank you VERY much for sharing… I find the words to explain how I & my daughter were treated but this article helped so much… We are walking away from being treated so horribly… My child felt unsafe after being bullied and physically hut and CC leaders response was “forgive, 7xs 70xs… Zero consequences, zero protection in place…
Parental Warning: No Refunds If you are stuck with an inept tutor or director, you are out the money. If you want to move to a new campus, it has to be at least 60 miles away from your existing campus in order for them to transfer the tuition. If it is less than 60 miles away from your campus, you’ll have to pay a pro-rated tuition for the remainder of the year. There is no customer service in Classical Conversations. I have had tutors steal and gossip about me on a community day, and leadership refused to use their position of authority to help correct the situation. Everything is top down. Remember: No refunds!
I found this really prolific as to why I would not choose CC. Thank you for all your hard working research!
I’m doing research as I am actually in leadership over a few CC communities in a Southeastern state. I haven’t read all the comments nor all the writeups. I am curious as to whom you’re referring to when you say “leadership has threatened to sue”? This is confusing to me since I am in “leadership” but I’m most certainly not in leadership at headquarters.
I also just want to say that I’m saddened to hear a lot of these stories. My job is a Support Rep and I primarily “hire” directors. The directors are uItimately in Control of the communities and it is their job to uphold the role and responsibilities of the job as outlined by headquarters. All the mistreatment I’ve read is at fault of the directors. Headquarters of CC does not prescribe to this type of behavior. So unfortunately CC got a bad rap because a Director was not serving her community founded in biblical principles but out of selfish desires and personal views. Much like what happens when a church abuses their congregation. We live in a fallen world where all of us get trapped by our flesh at some point.
I am truly sorry for those that were rejected by CC communities or mistreated as we do not run things that way here where I live. We as believers, all not some, are to “know God and make Him known”. And this is CC’s motto, so those communities were not doing that.
Yes CC is a “for profit” business. They do not claim to be a non-profit and I knew this getting into everything. So is any other Christian homeschooling curriculum, it’s for profit. So I’m always confused when this point is brought up. It really makes no sense to me. Anyhow, I just pray that those harmed are able to forgive and and let go of offense because unforgiveness and offense only bind the offended up and keep them from experiencing true freedom that God wants for each of us.
If you are in leadership and wondering about details I would suggest you start by listening, or in this case READING the comments people have already taken the time to type out, instead of claiming you do not understand. Start by reading! Only then can you even start to make comments that start with “All the mistreatment I’ve read …”
I would also suggest the Facebook groups https://www.facebook.com/groups/2135913039963411 and https://www.facebook.com/groups/1721927971289749 to further your understanding.
By the way, please be truthful to yourself and everyone else. Are you seeking understanding? Or trying to lessen brand damage for the curriculum you are selling?
Hi, How did you find my email?
On Fri, May 20, 2022 at 1:30 PM Spiritual Sounding Board wrote:
I loved this program from Day 1 for my child. That being said, I have never experienced so much bullying, manipulation, gossip, unChristian behaviors by leaders claiming to be Christian, and pretty much zero accountability from the people above them and at the Corporate level. The few times I tried to make a complaint I was either ignored or my e-mail was sent back to on of these ungodly leaders who acts without integrity to begin with. I checked the Better Business Bureau website and was shocked that they have nothing but excellent reviews. I feel bad for vulnerable, unsuspecting families who may pull their kids from more structured environments thinking that this is an alternative they can rely on. Sadly, my family has found it to be anything but.
Thank you for have a space to share our experience. We have been a part of CC for 11yrs and have experienced the “elite” in our community making decisions (who will tutor what and who is allowed to join each year). It was so bad one year we had a community split and they even decided amongst themselves who was being forced out to start a new community. It was so painful as many of our friends were forced to leave. We have survived some of the other smaller irritations as salt in a wound and my family has maintained friendship with those that were outed. Recently, my daughter, who is in Challenge 1, and I have experienced something on a larger scale and I believe it’s important for anyone, who is contemplating joining CC, to know.
The Challenge 1 director this year is a dad. He has always seemed a bit temperamental but, again, he was picked to tutor Challenge 1 this year, so, since my daughters class has been in CC together since they were 4, we decided we would make the best of it. The year started off rocky and many of the moms were concerned. Their kids were saying he was emotionally manipulating, saying things like, “why don’t you trust me?” and “you guys really hurt my feelings!” They said he would get mad and slam his hands down in the desk and try to discipline/correct them i from of their peers to make an example out of them. My daughter said “he calls us out in front of everyone, but tries to encourage us in private”. This was of great concern to me, but I was not seeing any of the other parents wanting to confront him, so I let it slide and prayed God would reveal to him, the damage he was causing. The true revelation of his manipulation appeared when I finally had an altercation with him myself.
He had assigned partners for the second semester debate. Some of the kids were not thrilled and my daughter thought she could help. By the way, she had no problem with her assigned partner. So she drafted a text requesting a possible change of partners and her reasons why she thought they should be changed. It was respectful in content and, although I would have advised her not to send it, I was pleased that she was using the skills of the persuasive essay and felt confident to try and make a change.
His immediate response sent a ripple affect through the class. Instead of addressing privately with my daughter and I, he sent out a text to the parents claiming he was getting “bombarded with texts” and that he “felt like the kiddos didn’t trust him”, which he said was a bigger issue than Challenge 1, because “they should trust the authority they are under”. I believed this text to the parents was manipulative. The result was every parent hopped on the bandwagon and came down on their student and then the students turned on my daughter. Well, my mama bear knee-jerk reaction was to agree with him that maybe the kids did not trust him, thinking he would see the logic that he just went behind their backs to their parents, but, ultimately, we appreciate the time and effort he puts in and we would respect his decision to not change the partners.
I had no idea of the repercussions of apparently bruising his ego. What transpired after that was mind blowing. A total of 5 meetings, in person and on the phone. A myriad of texts/emails. Mostly, I apologized over and over and asked for reconciliation. Every meeting started with a list of grievances he had and kept adding to. Every meeting ended with him saying “I need to process this.” There was never any indication he wanted to resolve but as the month went by he said my daughter would not be allowed back to class unless he had resolution. I asked repeatedly how we could do that, but he never gave me an answer. He built his case on subjective circumstantial evidence that we had violated the Family Covenant and ultimately he dropped her from the class. I have no access to the Challenge 1 videos or files online. She is not able to present or perform her 5 big projects for Challenge 1: Science Research Paper, Formal Debate, Cost of Living Project, Individual Event and Shakespeare Project.
To add insult to injury, the SR goes to church with this man and was unable to be unbiased to mediate. I have had no help from the AR, and no responses from the State rep or the corporate office despite multiple attempts to contact them. I reached out to the Academic Advisor to get a recommendation on how to evaluate my daughters debate research and they told me to post the question on the Forum. When I responded that the tutor has removed us from the website and there was no way for me to do that, there was no response.
I reviewed the director licensing guidelines and there has never been a SMART plan offered for reconciliation. I do not know if there is any course of action to take against him because no one will contact me back. All I do know is we have been a CC family, supporting, tutoring and recruiting for a long time. We have invested 11yrs and thousands of dollars and, although I 💯 % believe in the classical model, CC is not vetting/training their tutors properly. There was nothing about this experience that reflected “To know Hod and make Him known”. 😢
Oh, TB4, that hurt just to read! Since, according to CC Corporate, this man is his own, independent business, I think your only further option would be to take it to small claims court. I am assuming that when he dropped your daughter from class, he did not partially refund your tuition. I really would encourage small claims court. If you don’t want to use secular ways of righting wrongs I suggest using the Matthew 18 approach CC loves so much to throw around. I was once advised by a very mature Christian leader to do something similar. You have gone to him directly. You have gone to him with other believers present. The next step is to reveal the situation to the church. In my case, my mentor advised me to prayerfully write an open letter to the church congregation where we were attending and place it in the pews. This may sound horrific to many on here, but read your Bible. This is the end product of the Matthew 18 way: public (church public) revelation. CC doesn’t seem to be big fans of this part of Matthew 18, but it’s absolutely the conclusion to the guidelines. When I revealed to a small number of churches in my area the fact that CC communities were mostly for-profit (but that they don’t always tell the church that) CC Corporate skipped right past Matthew 18 and went straight to secular methods. They had a law firm menace me with threats that CC would sue if I didn’t shut up. It is my experience that CC used whatever method they must use to ensure compliance, whether it is godly or not. I have decided that if they ever try to threaten me again – or if they sue even – I will be using the secular court system to its fullest extent. I hope you can find a way to at least get some of your money back, and I am so sorry this is happening to you.