Classical Conversations and Charlotte Mason

Since before having our first child, my husband and I always knew that we wanted to give our children a Christian Education having been through the state system ourselves. So, when our daughter missed out on a place in our local Christian School, we stumbled into home educating, just until a school place became available, of course. During the first term of Home Educating, we found ourselves educated in what a Christian Education truly is and by the end of the first term, we knew that sadly our local Christian school wasn’t it. We had a wonderful time exploring all the vast philosophies and curriculums related to Home Education. Finally, we fell in love with the Charlotte Mason method, but, in the back of our minds, we continued to be intrigued by the Classical Method. We read many books about Classical Education and slowly started implementing some of these wonderfully rich ideas into our Charlotte Mason curriculum. At the time, I looked into Classical Conversations. From a distance, it looked so interesting, but there were just too many barriers at the time that prevented me from joining.

Firstly, I feared that if we joined Classical Conversations, we would have to give up on Charlotte Mason; secondly, I really didn’t believe in learning/memorising what I thought would be random facts (Charlotte Mason is also very against this idea); thirdly, logistical barriers like transport and location was a problem for us. Eventually, a close friend joined the Oxted Classical Conversations Community. For two years she tried to convince me to come to the Practicum, but I was quite sure that we wouldn’t be interested. Finally, we went (just out of courtesy for our friend). The Practicum was an eye-opening experience. I met wonderfully wise home educating mums. This community was warm and inviting. And from what I understood the ‘Foundations’ program would entail, it seemed that one might be able to retain most of one’s Charlotte Mason curriculum. But I was still sure that we wouldn’t join. By the third and final day of the Practicum we were all signed up to join, and as an added bonus I was also signed up to tutor at Classical Conversations which would then start in less than three months. What a delightful first year we had! My children loved and still love the community days and the friends they play, and learn with. The method of teaching is enjoyed by all in our family, it is efficient and fun but also rigorous and I was amazed at how much we learnt in a short space of time through which felt like very little effort at all.

Most importantly for our family, I found that we were indeed able to maintain our Charlotte Mason curriculum of reading many living books, nature studies etc. And as for the ‘random facts’, well they come in very handy. As soon as we read about something that relates to a fact learnt in CC, we can place it in the right context, and it enriches the reading. We also find that Classical Conversations help us to cement and remember ideas that we have read about in living books. Thanks to Classical Conversations, our Home Education experience has become infinitely richer. It is a blessing to work shoulder to shoulder with other Christian families as we get to know God through His word and also through His created world. We were hesitant to commit, but we are now committed for the long haul. We love Classical Conversations!

-Marianne

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