There are a lot of resources for Classical Education within the homeschool setting. The big two that have been in our wheelhouse have been Classical Conversations and The Well Trained Mind.
The Well Trained Mind is a book written by Susan Wise Bauer. It contains the theory behind classical education, how to implement the book from Kindergarten through Grade 12, what to study, and what resources are recommended.
Classical Conversations is a homeschool community (they don’t use the term “co-op”) and is an approach to the Classical Education.
The theory behind all classical education is that you begin at the beginning and progressively work your way through history, studying art, sciences, literature, and music as you progress through. The Well Trained Mind works through the timeline in 4 years; Classical Conversations works through it in 3 years.
There are other differences between the two.
When Emma began Kindergarten we started with The Well Trained Mind. It is a very aggressive approach to education, with children memorizing memorization facts, the royal lineage of England, poetry, and more. We thoroughly enjoyed the work.
We joined Classical Conversations two years ago. The Elementary years is called the Foundations program. There they have lots to memorize that is introduced to them on their community day. They then are to go home and learn about it. The Junior and Senior High program is called the Challenge program and they are taught all day by someone other than me. In that day they cover 6 subjects and engage in conversations with their peers.
We knew we wanted the discussion for our kids as they became older. Calvin when we began seemed to thrive on memorization work and so we decided that foundations would be a good fit for him.
The past two years we have done classical conversations (or cc as you’ll sometimes hear me say) and we have enjoyed it. We love our community and the group of friends that we have derived from there.
This year however I was not so gung-ho to sign up for CC. This summer has been full of a lot of prayer and reflection, thinking, researching, and trying to decide what to do.
Here were some random thoughts I had regarding the two programs:
I love the Well Trained Mind. Always have, always will. I love that Susan Wise Bauer is highly educated and put the program together. I love that it does not force children into beliefs about Christianity but leads them into thoughtful discussions.
I love that The Well Trained Mind works through the timeline of the world in four years. I detest how fast CC goes through the timeline…they actually only go through it in 2 years and then the third year is for US History. It’s a super fast pace where it’s hard to teach that much content let alone have children absorb it. For rote memorization it is fine.
I do not like how many materials the Well Trained Mind has you go through. It is a ton of work.
I do not like that cc’s challenge program does not have a history component to it.
I love the community of CC. I’ve heard horror stories of bad communities but we love ours.
With the Well Trained Mind there was so much work to get through that I often felt overwhelmed and frustrated. If we got behind I struggled being on my own and knowing how to compensate to get us up to where we needed to be.
I do not like how CC does not explain anything behind the facts.
I do not like how expensive CC is.
I do not like the “drink the kool aid” feel of cc that sometimes can float around the internet.
In the challenge program I do not like that the majority of literature they read is well below their reading ability.
In The Well Trained Mind I loved how many books they encouraged students to read, how many people they encouraged them to study, and events they expected the kids to know about.
As you can see I have struggled with a lot of different things. It is a very hard decisions to know what to do.
For this year though we have decided to again do Classical Conversations.
If you read that list and are a bit shocked I said that, trust me, I am too.
The main reason we decided to go with Classical Conversations is because of our community. We love our friends, I love seeing all of the other moms, and I love that Calvin is starting to understand how to interact with other kids.
I have never done Cycle 2 before (we started when Cycle 3 was going on so we’ve done that and Cycle 1) but it covers a ton of information! I’ve decided to not let the curriculum be my master. Instead we will be following along with cc but will be doing The Story of the World from The Well Trained Mind as our history curriculum. I am having both of the kids do this so this can be something we do together and we will all be getting a really strong foundation of history.
I am currently toying with also adding in some more serious science but am not sure yet. With Emma having a strong desire still to go into Veterinary Science I feel that we need to be preparing her with a strong science background for college.
While I love The Well Trained Mind it is a super hard program and when we fell behind as we inevitably always do, the fact that we had no accountability made it even that much easier to slide farther behind. I love that CC provides that place for accountability and peer pressure for our kids. Whether we like it or not there is pressure to perform and keep up with others standards in society and we believe it is something that we can use to our advantage as we teach the kids about homework, keeping up with your work, and staying on task. Ultimately it is helping them to understand the natural consequence of not getting your work done vs the reward of being a good student: if you finish your work you will have the sense of accomplishment, be able to have a finished product to take to class, and will be able to participate in conversation regarding the work. If not then you are the student with no finished work, unable to participate in the conversation, and not feeling so accomplished. These proved to be hard things to reiterate at home so CC is amazing with that.
While Emma will participate in Challenge B and Calvin will participate in Foundations, this year he will not be in Essentials. Last spring we discovered through a hearing evaluation that he has a specific type of auditory processing disorder where his ears hear words at different intervals and get them swip-swapped in his mind. So a sentence like “the cat likes food” sounds like “food cat the likes” and he has to take extra time to sort through everything and put it back into order. Can you even imagine how frustrating that must be? Anyway, that to say, he was so super frustrated in Essentials last year and so we are going to take a step back and help him get caught up at home. I’m hoping this will help him and will help me to help him.
So those are my thoughts about The Well Trained Mind and Classical Conversations. I enjoy both of the methods for Classical Education and appreciate both of them in their own ways.
What do you think about CC? Do you follow The Well Trained Mind? I’d love to know your comments about them!