NOTE: This is part of a series that began with these earlier posts:
- Classical Conversations #1: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
- Classical Conversations #2: What Led You to Join a Classical Conversations Homeschool Community? #ClassicalConvMadeKnown
- Classical Conversations #3: Leaders Delete Comments and Block Commenters Who Don’t Toe the Line
- Classical Conversations #4: A CC Veteran Gives Advice to New People Considering Classical Conversations
- Classical Conversations #5: Classical Conversations #5: Leaders Threaten to Use Legal Force to Silence a Concerned Parent
Note from Julie Anne: Here is a personal account that was sent to me. In this account, we read rigidity coming from the Corporate level of Classical Conversations (CC). Also, there is confusion about tax issues. This is an important issue, and if you have to file taxes involving Classical Conversations, I would make sure you are using someone familiar with tax law who can make sure you are staying legal.
Dear Julie Anne,
I just finished reading all your five blog posts about CC, and I’d like to share my story with you. I found CC four years ago after I searched online for a homeschool group in my area. I met with the CC director in my community and knew CC was exactly what I needed.
I had two children at the time and had no idea what to do for homeschooling. I had been raised in the public school for half my life, and did A.C.E. which I absolutely hated for the rest. I was not a disciplined person, so the self-pace system was a nightmare for me.
Questions Not Answered
CC provided the accountability and structure I needed. I was blown away when my 3-year old was playing outside singing Latin prepositions. So, when I began having questions three years in, and was told to “trust the system,” I listened. It bothered me that my questions weren’t being answered, but I saw how my children were learning and I saw how knowledgeable the teens were coming from CC, so I didn’t push.
We put two of our children in the “Geo draw” class at the 3-day training seminar. My daughter complained around the second day of being repeatedly hit by the girl next to her. She had a bruise on her arm! I asked why she didn’t move. My daughter had been given an assigned seat, the girl wouldn’t stop when she asked, they wouldn’t let her move, and no one listened when she tried to get help. I was so angry! I went straight to my director who was rightly horrified, and took me to talk to someone else higher up to discuss what happened. They apologized, said they would deal with it. But I never heard another word about it.
Rigid Rules from Corporate CC and Other Issues
In my training, they focused a lot on being “stick in the sand.” Meaning that they wanted us to mirror only things that parents could do at home without having to spend a lot of money.
At this point, I need to interject that CC has an area on the website for file sharing. You pay about $3 a month if you’re a tutor, $6 if you’re in an official CC community, and a lot more if you’re just doing it on your own. Someone in my community had gone through and downloaded a song for each subject for each week and made CDs for all of us. CC only gives you official songs for history, math, and timeline. We were told to use official CC songs for the subjects they provided on the official CD, but we could use other songs from other people for the other subjects.
In my training we were told to not use songs for everything, but to use other methods: chants, pictures, motions, or art. We were told absolutely no electronics in the classroom for the songs: no phones, CD players, iPod, or computers. There were a lot of people upset about that. A couple months later, they changed the “official” stance to, “just don’t do it all the time or for everything.”
This is where I began to get upset with Corporate. CC is really known for their Timeline song, which I still think is amazing. It’s a 13-minute song starting with Ancient Empires and goes through major points of history up to 9/11. The kids learn seven parts of it each week. Someone in my community had put motions to everything, made videos for each week’s motions, and every tutor got a DVD with all the week’s motions. They also typed up explanations of the motions for each week. CC stated they had new “official” motions and we had to use that instead. I was really mad. We’d been doing it this way for years, and now all of a sudden we had to change it because CC wanted us to do something different?
That wasn’t all they changed. They made us change our start time from 9:00 to 9:15 which took out our official break, so we had to fudge times. We got in trouble for this. CC didn’t want us having a break time, they wanted kids to have snacks while they took turns during presentations. This didn’t work with our church that had a strict no-food policy in classrooms – this is why we fudged the numbers.
There was more rigidity when it came to the schedule. They had a strict schedule for everything. Bible, devotions and family presentation were a certain amount of time. Child presentations and map tracing were (if I remember correctly) 15 minutes. New grammar presentation was 30 minutes. It is at this point where we fudged the numbers. I was a nursing mother – I needed that break! Then we had science which was 30 minutes, as was art. We were not allowed to change those times or do other things. They didn’t even like us switching weeks which was sometimes necessary. Who wants to do a nature walk in the rain?
They were rigid about about the materials we used. We weren’t allowed to have the children do lab sheets unless we created them ourselves, nothing that had been printed out online for copyright reasons, even if it was from the CC sharing portal. (We also weren’t allowed to give those homemade song CD’s to a family that had paid for CC unless they paid to use the CC website. We were told this was for copyright reasons.) Then finally, we had review time of the last six weeks for 30 minutes. We had freedom to choose what games me we wanted to do, and for this, a CD player was fine. (They kept changing the rule on that at the beginning of the year. Seriously, what family now a days is not able to play a CD?)
Looking back over our time this last year, every child came tired. I had my children, from 3 years to 7. They laid on the floor and rolled around while we were trying to learn new things. Presentations were often “show and tell” if they didn’t have anything prepared. All through class they just wanted to play with what they brought. Boys would feed off the restlessness of each other. Girls wanted to show the other girls what was in their purses. Discipline was hard; there was rarely another parent in my class, even though it was supposed to be required. There simply weren’t enough parents between those that tutored and those that had to be in the Challenge courses with their older kids.
It was very frustrating while dealing with a toddler who was into everything because I had no one to leave him with. So, I requested to have my 8-year old daughter in the class with me. It helped a little, but each week we’d head home with her complaining about not being in the class with her older friends and feeling left out. I eventually gave in and had her transferred. Then, every week she came home complaining how rowdy her class was, especially the boys, and how she’d constantly ask them, “Can we please get back to learning now?”
By March, I had begun reading posts on the Facebook page “Classical Conversations at Home.” Someone mentioned Claritas (another classical homeschool program), and after researching it, decided we would make the switch in the next school year. I had already bought the Essentials book from another family that left the community, I fully planned to have my oldest in the program the following school year.
CC Administration and Tax Filing Issues
Here’s where my huge problem begins. When it was time to file taxes, my director gave me information over the phone to get our taxes done quickly as our tax lady was going on a mission trip. She said her SR had instructed we use my director’s social. I thought that sounded off, shouldn’t CC have a business pin? Why would she be told to use her social? That’s dangerous! If I wanted, I could easily steal her identity!
A couple months later this was still bothering me. I joined the “Let Us Reason For Real” Facebook page and began to read other people’s questions. This led me to ask a friend of mine who is a public accountant about my tax question. She was horrified, and said every business is supposed to have a business pin, you should never give out your social, that was tax fraud.
This led me further down the rabbit hole as I learned the difference between an Independent Contractor and an employee. The IRS website says, “You are not an independent contractor if you perform services that can be controlled by an employer (what will be done and how it will be done).” CC told us when, how, how long you do it for, and what.
This led to what an employer is supposed to cover. When I went to my “free parents practicum training,” my family paid for a hotel for three nights, eating out for two adults and three kids, gas to get there, and the geo draw camp for our 2 oldest. Then I found out businesses are supposed to pay for that stuff! I had to spend at least an hour doing prep work for each community day. This time does not count toward paying my children’s tuition.
My director let me pay the supply fee and other fees off with my tutoring. Along with the fact that my family was hit with sickness horribly over the last school year, my actual take home pay was under $14. I felt sick to my stomach after all the time, energy and money I had invested.
I have since learned I can file a form with the IRS about my mislabeling which would get me some money, but this would be at the cost of my director, not CC. She’s a wonderful person who’s a good friend, and I wouldn’t want to get her in trouble with the IRS. I have a suspicion that this is why CC does it this way. It seems to me the directors will be the ones getting in trouble, not Corporate, even though the directors are simply doing what they are told. “This is just how we do it.” There they go with “just trust the system” again.
I wonder if this tax fraud is being perpetuated by unknowing people all over the country, or if it was just my area? Then there’s also the issue of CC being a for profit in a 501c3 church, I’ve heard they could lose their status because of this, but I don’t know for sure.
Change of Directions
We have since decided not to do Essentials. Knowing what I do now, I can’t in good conscience give another penny to this organization. All of our friends do CC, and I don’t know what will happen after this. How much of my story do I tell them? I don’t know if they see any of this. I asked a couple of mothers if they ever thought of doing something else. One said no, the other said she wouldn’t know what to do. I think many do CC because it’s a crutch, they don’t have to do a lot because it’s all laid out for them.
I didn’t feel free anymore. Homeschooling is about having freedom to do what you want and when. I didn’t even have allowed time to answer a school-related question from the kids in my class. I realized one day this was stifling their learning. That was a heartbreaking realization.
While I am leaving CC with a very bad taste in my mouth, I will say my community was wonderful and full of amazing people. CC taught me a wonderful way to teach my children, gave me the tools of learning how to learn, and the confidence to do so. I truly feel that I can learn anything I put my mind to because of CC. I will be forever thankful because of that, but I will never recommend it to anyone again.
13 thoughts on “Classical Conversations #6: Rigid Rules and Legal Tax Concerns”
I’m really sorry you experienced all of that. The hiring of tutors as independent contractors is a huge hot button. I wish more directors understood why it’s such a big deal.
Again, wow! Thank you sharing your experiences. I was just asked to attend a Practicum and outwardly declined politely while inwardly cringing.
It seems all unhealthy groups, whether secular businesses, churches, etc., have a definite controlling nature.
In this case, why should CC come down so hard on their groups for small issues? Really? Quibbling over 15 minutes increments??!? Many things about CC scream cult to me.
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Since this series began, as an outsider I’m just baffled by this whole CC set-up.
CC is a commercial, for-profit company.
They should just be selling educational materials and suggested program(s) and/or recommended outline(s) on how to maximize the effectiveness of the educational process and groups that form. The groups should be self-governed by the parents, without interference or threats from CC, the producer of the books and teaching aids.
This is what CC is NOT: A for-profit school with enrollment, a board of directors, hired teachers and staff, process for following employment laws, with institutional rules and regulations (that also applies to school itself, not just students), a grievance policy and procedure, etc.
This is what CC is in my opinion: Just an educational material seller.
But, CC wants to control everyone who buys their stuff, they want to control every minute of every day! But they don’t obviously tell people this when they first get involved.
I just re-read my comment, and it wasn’t clear enough… I didn’t mean to say that CC is really just an educational material seller, but in my opinion, that’s what they should be, that’s what they would be, if they were a non-abusive, transparent organization.
However CC is trying to be far more than that.. but not defining what they really are.
The convoluted, confusing “business” approach, secrecy and high control are all red flags. Setting up double-binds on people to control them is a very cult-like and abusive tactic (if someone tries to get legal tax answers regarding the company they will need to betray a friend, etc.)
Something really smells with this organization.
On a general note, I’m super tired of all of the fake churches and so-called “Christian” organizations that are manipulative, controlling, using people, hurting people, taking their hard-earned money, making them afraid and feeding off their sincere faith, hopes and goals. Its awful, and has to stop.
People stumble with CC because they don’t understand the structure and impose their views of it on it.
If one researches closely, one will find that CC’s business model is to train tutors. Yes they sell materials, books to consumers. But their Essentials and Challenge programs are licensed only for community use. It’s all about brand. If the CC brand is used, then CC must necessarily be responsible for the quality of the product, hence all the processes, guidelines, associated with quality control and consistency. Classical, Christian, Community are not branded. Anyone can set up their own classical, Christian community. Just don’t call it Classical Conversations. One doesn’t need to homeschool using CC materials. If one does use CC materials, and announces that the student is using CC materials, then any downside runs to the CC community licensee (the director). CC has a view that the classical education can be delivered simply, and sets forth this “stick-in-sand” view. Parents as ultimate teachers can go beyond it, and should do as they wish, at home. The CC community product is different, and members haven’t yet appreciated why their preferences might misrepresent or be misaligned to the organisation’s ethos.
The other items that HS families don’t get is that CC’s programs are not drop-off. Parents are the teachers and responsible for their own students. CC’s tutors are there not as master teachers, but as exemplars of a homeschooling parent. The selection thereof is still at community level, not by CC corporate, and tutors are not automatically expert examples, though all families might wish so.
Why pay? Simply, for the community, for the role models (there’ll be misses regrettably), and for journeying together.
Cost-benefit doesn’t make sense for you? Well, it takes people to agree to walk together, so don’t walk together if you don’t want to. Don’t value it, don’t buy the product.
Dear Julie Anne & Kathi,
I read your words below:-
Out of our wounds flow compassion, understanding, & grace. May we all be “wounded healers” who do no harm.
I hear of the personal wounds referred to. There is only one who can save to the uttermost. We constantly wound each other. There is salvation only in Jesus! May everyone be directed Jesus-ward and find in him that river of life that brings restoration and healing.
David, “If the CC brand is used, then CC must necessarily be responsible for the quality of the product, hence all the processes, guidelines, associated with quality control and consistency.”
That makes sense, but if that “responsibility” makes the directors and tutors look more like employees than contractors, then they are required to legally treat them like employees. That is their choice. When I hire someone to landscape my yard, we agree on what the finished product will look like. The materials, methods and expertise are the “responsibility” of the contractor. There have been many court cases about this because it is cheaper and less risky for companies to hire contractors, but when they tell the contractors when to show up in the morning, or what tools to use, or which tasks to to in which order, they are crossing the line into treating that person like an employee.
What would my landscaper think if I stood over him and questioned his decisions about materials or process or told him to work on the edging first before he put the sprinkler lines in? I think those are the sorts of problems that CC contractors run into.
On the other hand, if CC’s business model is not sustainable, then they shouldn’t be evading taxes to try and make it work. They shouldn’t shift the loss proposition onto the directors and tutors simply because they want to line their pockets.
“If one researches closely, one will find that CC’s business model is to train tutors.”
If that is the case, great, but the branding is for a wholistic educational model. Why can’t they simply certify and brand tutors, and sell materials?
You know walking is free, right?
The whole idea that they sell curriculum products and then try to control what people do with them is off the rails…
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I was reading here that they do the same thing with curriculum. They “sell” it to you, but somewhere in your contract, you agree not to resell it when you don’t need it any more. So, it looks like a book, it’s sold like a book, but…
I wonder if it’s legal to sell this curriculum on, for example, Amazon, without notifying customers that they are effectively buying a software license rather than a book.
It will be interesting to see what CC has to do this year to restructure, given the new law in California dealing with independent contractors. They will either have to massively overhaul their business model or stop allowing CC groups in California, or they’re going to end up facing huge fines. Given that the law takes effect in January, I’m curious to see what happens to existing CC groups, and a little sad for them because I suspect they’ll be indefinitely shut down until CC corporate can figure out how to handle former gray areas that they’ve been abusing so badly.
I loved CC and think they have a ton to offer families as a curriculum provider, but we pulled our Foundations kids out this year after two years in the program, for most of the same reasons you’ve also mentioned in your discussion. After watching what’s going on in California with Independent Contractor laws, I’m glad that we exited when we did.
Thanks for your comment, Danita! I wasn’t aware of the new law in CA.
Do you all realize that CC is basically an MLM. They provide a business model and curriculum, then they encourage parents to partner and form communities. CC doesn’t force anyone to do anything. CC has ‘best practices’ and they suggest what works and what hasn’t but you are free to make choices. In fact CC is so loose with their directors business model that it is difficult for some directors to establish themselves correctly. Directors decide how they will pay their tutors. Directors decide who gets into the community. Directors decide if their tutors will be “employees” or “independent contractors”. EVERY CC community is different. Just because it didn’t work at one does not mean they are all bad. With everything in life including church and christians, we take the good with the bad and be the change or the driving force that follows God’s will. There are things that I don’t agree with but at the same time CC does have proven results if you trust the curriculum and are dedicated enough to pour into your community. We all have seasons where we can do more or can’t do much but this is where grace comes in. We are to walk out the course of sanctification through all of these things. I pray that someone does not read this blog and take it as once and done. That’s just not fair. CC is a tool not an absolute however with anything in life, you get out of it what you put into it. We reap what we sow. Many blessings to all of you 🙂
“There are things that I don’t agree with but at the same time CC does have proven results if you trust the curriculum and are dedicated enough to pour into your community.”
Can you show me a study that demonstrates this?
If I understand this study correctly, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5993612/ educational attainment is highly correlated to wealth, and one sign of wealth is a family being able to thrive with a single income-earner. So, in order to be an apples to apples comparison, CC would have to be compared against students of similar socioeconomic backgrounds, rather than public schools in general.