What Classical Education Has Taught Me As A Parent
 

On my way home from VCS a few weeks back, my child casually said, “Mom, in class we were discussing with our teacher the Major and Minor Prophets and their roles.”

He went on to share more, but I began to think at that moment, Wow, I am so grateful my child has the opportunity to be instructed in the Word of God through the context of his educational experience. And yet simultaneously I thought, is my child really having this talk with me right now about the Major and Minor Prophets? He was ready for more comprehension and retention of God’s Word than I realized!  Thus far, Valley Classical School has helped me to see this in my son, giving me a stronger desire to foster this more at home. 

The flexibility, family closeness, parental involvement, and individually-curtailed instruction of homeschooling is unparalleled, but adding a community of teachers, excellent curriculum choices, administrators, and students a few days a week has truly enhanced my child’s joy in learning. While also lending an opportunity for insight into him that I may not have seen on my own, be it his character, spirit, or intellect. 

Furthermore, it has been amazing to see how much my child really is capable of when given the opportunity to grow and be stretched in certain areas that he is not necessarily gifted in. I have seen his spelling and writing make tremendous strides this year, and on the flip side, I had no idea he would love languages. He loves Latin, and I am seeing he is gifted in it! 

Classical education is not Disneyland, nor does it seek to give children an education directed by their wants and desires. It aims higher, producing the magic, if you will, and cultivating the natural gifts, talents, and passions of a child, through an education established in the tradition and firmly rooted beliefs that once were and are being re-birthed. Children have a mind that is tremendously capable of being trained by truth rather than culture, and a spirit that is tremendously receptive to grow in character, hunger for God, and ability to make sense of the world through His Word.

 
Michelle Saladino
The Grace of Recitation
 

I am not a gardener. Tending to living things requires a measure of awareness and patience that I struggle to attain. One look at the grass in my yard provides all the support that assertion needs.

Yet, more and more I have come to understand the call to educate (and to parent) as the call to cultivate or tend the minds of students. It is a gardener’s call, as it is the farmer’s. The mission statement of VCS includes the word “cultivation” deliberately. At numerous points in Scripture, the work of the believer is compared to that of the gardener, especially as it relates to the work of evangelism. We sow, water, weed, and reap.

And as we undertake these tasks, these tangible steps, we hopefully begin to realize the limits of our role in the process of another’s conversion, just as a farmer might realize his limited role in the growth of his crops. We are called to perform the tasks, not to accomplish the work. We do not create transformation. We do not make things grow. That is God’s part. As Colin from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden might have said, “That is the magic.”

I am thankful that we have the easier part, but that is not to say it is altogether easy. The work of gardeners and farmers is hard. It is hard, in part, because it is repetitive, constant, persistent, diligent, faithful, trusting, and longsuffering. In short, it requires depth of character, and character is not easy to come by.

As educators, we can learn much from the tone and rhythm of gardening and farming.  In many ways, educating requires the same character that is required of farming. The education of a child over an entire academic career represents the repetitive, constant, persistent, diligent, faithful, trusting, and longsuffering cultivation of the mind and heart of the student. When VCS uses words like “layered” and “spiraling” to describe the approach of classical education, this is what we mean. Education is a daily work of faithfulness, not a lurching, cramming shove across a finish line.

Those qualities are embodied within recitation. When I speak of recitation in the context of the VCS curriculum, I include the sound-offs (Grammar, Science, etc.), Morning Assembly scripture and hymns, history timeline, math terms, math flash cards, Latin grammar questions and flash cards, and poetry review. These are the items on the lesson plan that are not required to be turned in at the next class. They aren’t graded or evaluated in the same way as other work.

And yet, recitation is the portion of our academic work that reveals, to the greatest extent, God’s faithfulness to the growth of our students. These repetitive tasks, these tangible steps, yield steady growth over time. Children’s bodies grow every minute of the day. We cannot perceive that growth at any instant, but the next time they stand against the wall or visit the doctor’s office to be measured, the truth of that growth becomes known. This is also the purpose of report cards--to perceive God’s faithfulness in that growth process.

The slow, constant nature of this growth provides lessons for how we go about doing recitation. While mastery is the ultimate goal, it is not the daily goal. Approach recitation as you would the task of watering plants. Each time you approach the plant, you might not see growth. Yet the watering produces the growth. And more water does not always produce faster growth; it can sometimes drown. Instead, focus on being faithful to that day’s recitation tasks. That is all that is required.

God works in similar ways. He asks of us only what he has for us that day. And he provides us with only what we need for that day. If we attempt to preserve and extend that blessing into the future, just as Israel did the manna that appeared each morning, it spoils. He wants us to trust Him, not our storehouses, for that is when our faith grows.

Like the dew that falls lightly each morning, the recitation nourishes the mind and heart just enough for the day. By God’s grace, what is produced, perhaps slowly over time, is the depth of character needed to undertake each day’s tasks and enjoy each day’s blessing.

 
Warren Rosborough
The Golden Spiral
 

I admit that I had never even heard of Fibonacci until our kids started listening to Jonathan Park Audio Adventures. I’ve always been a “word girl” leaning more toward grammar, poetry, music, and writing. Throughout my formal education, math, science, and history were just boring subjects to get through, disconnected from the real joy of the arts. I didn’t recognize their beauty until I started homeschooling.

The medieval mathematician known as Fibonacci re-discovered and applied a sequence of numbers in which the next number is found by adding the two numbers before it such as: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, and so on. This sequence has been called, “the golden ratio.” If you take those numbers and turn them into widths, you get a perfect swirl also known as, “the golden spiral.”

We see this spiral all over nature. In fact, it has been nicknamed, “the fingerprint of God.” From the center of sunflowers to pine cones to the tightly curled fiddlehead fern to nautilus shells to the very shape of our galaxy, the spiral is there pointing to a very ordered creation rather than a random chance of gas and dust.

For centuries, artists have used the golden ratio to create masterpieces that are pleasing to the eye. Look at the Mona Lisa, The Great Wave, The Parthenon, and the statue of David and you can see that the balance and focus of the art are in harmony with Fibonacci’s sequence. And here is where the magic happens for me: suddenly, math becomes art. The two are no longer separated into boring and interesting. They are intertwined, giving each other shape and meaning.

I see a lot of this magic in my kindergarten classroom. In fact, I revel in it. All of the facts we are learning come from the Creator Himself and point back to Him. What we call, “subjects,” aren’t divided as much as they are unified in an ebb and flow, making connections throughout our day. Our First Start Reading letter becomes the first letter of the new animal we are studying. Our literature book becomes a history lesson which then becomes art. Our new math concept flows into recess. Our morning assembly sound-off comes right out of our Bible story. Language is science. Literature is history. Math is fun. (I never thought I’d say that.) And that beautiful scarlet thread holding it all together is the theology of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As we were preparing the curricula for this school year, Fibonacci kept coming to mind because classical education has also been described as a spiral. As a student grows, the depth of their knowledge stretches in accord with their natural development. Facts are memorized, then revisited later in a broader context to be internalized, and then revisited again in an even broader context to be expressed effectively. The purpose of this method is to learn how to learn.

I’ve watched this process work its way out in my 9th grader. While my kindergartners are reading a picture book about Ben Franklin, my daughter is revisiting the facts through his autobiography and connecting that information to the American and French Revolutions, the Constitution, and the science of electricity. While I shouldn’t be surprised, I’m sometimes shocked that none of this is boring to her. That tiny spiral of information in her early years gave her sturdy, familiar pegs on which to hang this new depth of knowledge. She actually loves learning.

Part of the beauty here is that this process doesn’t end with a terminal degree. The Fibonacci sequence is infinite and so is learning for the classical student. You can never exhaust the golden spiral. And as man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever, neither can you exhaust the knowledge of God. We are forever going, “further up and further in,” as C.S. Lewis wrote in The Last Battle.

Make no mistake, learning is hard work. Teaching is also hard work. But as we spiral together in collaboration toward a better understanding of our Creator, our very lives, now intertwined, become a work of art as well.

 
Tonia Strange
Secrets to Successful Home Days
 

Have you struggled to settle back into a routine after taking a break for the holidays and unexpected snow days? Has the enthusiasm with which you tackled home-days at the beginning of the school year lost its shine during these bitter cold months of winter? We're here to help! Keep reading to discover how fellow VCS parents are fostering smooth and successful days of learning at home.

Setting the Tone

  1. "As a new homeschool parent I found myself looking at the lesson plan as items to be checked off a list.  I did not enjoy the process of watching them learn, learning alongside them, and guiding them in their learning at the beginning.  Once I dropped the task only approach, our days began to go much smoother and became much more enjoyable for both myself and the boys!"
     
  2. "I have learned the value of "break time". In past years I tended to work with the mentality "the quicker we get through this, the more time you'll have to play". Now I find myself allowing everyone (myself included) a 5-10 minute break every hour and I am SHOCKED at how much happier it makes everyone. Letting go of my rigid expectations have made for much more enjoyable home days."
     
  3. "I love to have music playing in the background to help keep things calm while we're sitting at the table."
     
  4. "I learned quickly that I am a morning person but my kids need a little time before starting school.  I'd love to start school at 7:30 but they're really not ready until about 8:30.  This happens to be about the time VCS begins, so making that change at home has really helped our day to go much more smoothly. "

Staying Organized

  1. "I use color coding for each grade/student. It makes it much easier to keep track of the weekly assignments for each child without getting them mixed up."
     
  2. "We use lots of clipboards in the classroom. Each student has three clipboards. One has the papers/worksheets to be completed on the current home day, the second has the weekly assignment check-list and the third is for the returned papers that are to be filed in the binder. The clipboards are emptied each week into the binders. I like the clipboards because it keeps the papers secured but accessible."

Raising Independent Learners

  1. "My younger children require much more of my attention because of their early reading skills. This has naturally encouraged my 4th-grader to become more independent during the school day. She is a self-motivated learner and I have given her freedom in going through the daily check-list on her own - leaving the things that require my assistance or explanation for the end of the work period. She enjoys the flexibility. I've also allowed her to start making more choices about when she would like to do school work. Handing over that responsibility is teaching her to be wise with her time or otherwise forfeit fun activities that may come later that afternoon/evening."
     
  2. "Neither of my boys are really ready to be super independent learners but I do encourage my first grader to read the instructions himself and ask me for clarification if he needs it.  I've also encouraged him to check over his work before handing it to me.  I'm still very active in his learning each day but I do think these two items are the beginning steps to getting him to be more independent."
     
  3. "I keep puzzles on hand so my youngest has something to do when he doesn't have work.  The puzzles are challenging for him so they keep him busy."

We hope you found these tips helpful. Leave a comment below to let us know your secrets for a  successful home day!

 
Valley Classical School
Full Minds and Clear Thoughts
 

As we prepare for the New Year, Neil Anderson, Head of School at Trinity Classical in Houston, TX, shares the importance of resolving to remain students so that we can be better teachers.

Early on in my public speaking life, I had the dreadful experience of standing in front of a room of people with nothing to say. I had relied on my cursory knowledge of the content and the assumption that I could fill in any necessary gaps on a whim. On this particular occasion, the plan failed, and I vowed to avoid that humiliation at all costs in the future. This has not resulted in my becoming the prototype for preparation, but I do have a firm conviction that one who asks for the attention of others in a speaking/teaching context should be worthy of that attention. Usually this demands adequate preparation.

The first of the Seven Laws of Teaching, according to John Milton Gregory, states: a teacher must be one who knows the lesson or truth or art to be taught. This law is stated more specifically as a rule: know thoroughly and familiarly the lesson you wish to teach — teach from a full mind and a clear understanding.

At our winter faculty inservice, we talked about full minds and clarity in understanding. The rule is simple and obvious. Why would we teach what we don’t know? How can we teach what we don’t know? We all know it happens often in classrooms, pulpits, athletics, etc. We wing it. “Winging it” is occasionally linked to lack of time for prep and busy lives, but most often it is a product of laziness, an illness that few escape.

We often teach what we don’t know because we are lazy and didn’t carve out time for the first law of the teacher. On the opposite end of the spectrum, thoroughly knowing the content we wish to teach is no easy task. The calling of the teacher and faithfulness to this rule requires much of us, typically more than we are able to give. On any given day at our school, teachers at the grade levels we currently have need to apply this rule to several different disciplines each day. The content of each school day could warrant a ludicrous amount of preparation in order to truly become equipped with a full mind and clarity of understanding.

I bring this rule to light because it is equally applicable to our co-teachers, our parents. Just because we know how to do long division does not mean we are ready to teach it. Just because we read Macbeth in high school does not mean we are ready to take our students through it on a whim. This is a good topic for this season of resolving. Teachers and co-teachers alike: resolve not to teach what you don’t know. Resolve to teach from a full mind and a clear understanding at all times. Resolve to be a student first, then a teacher. Perfection in this task requires more than we have to give. But the chasm between perfection and slothfulness is great. Find a healthy place for yourself somewhere in between.

Amongst a host of things you could be doing in order to be faithful to the first law, the simple and practical commitment is to read ahead. You may not be able to accomplish it with every discipline, for every child, every day. You can start by tackling one subject per child. For example, if you have three children in grades 1st, 4th, and 7th, put the Story of the World 1, Saxon 6/5, and Arabian Nights on your nightstand and read ahead. If that’s all you can do, do that. Read ahead, think about the content you’re going to teach or discuss, and experience the reward of teaching with clarity.

I will be writing on more of the Seven Laws of Teaching in future posts. I recommend the book to you if you’ve not read it. The most important aspect of this first law is to remember the privilege of being a teacher. Preparation for the teacher is not drudgery, it is joy. Teaching is the desire to share what we are excited to know.

*reposted with permission. Original post can be found here.

 
Neil Anderson
The Pain of Pruning and Joy of Growth
 

About 6 years ago, one of my closest friends bought a house that had some huge rose bushes in the back yard. These plants were an impressive 4-5 feet tall and 4-5 ft wide. They even had a few bright, beautiful flowers here and there…but overall they were scraggly. They had very few leaves and very few flowers because they hadn’t been thinned, pruned, deadheaded, or fertilized for a long time. The previous owner had either ignored them, or become completely overwhelmed by them.

I convinced my friend that they could use a pruning, and she trustingly said that since I was the horticulturist, she’d let me do whatever I thought best. So we picked a day for her to watch our gaggle of children and for me to work on her roses.

Since I love pruning, I got into the scraggly mess and got to work with gusto - taking out the dead and diseased wood, cutting back the long leggy stems, and thinning out the middles to allow sunlight and wind to reach all parts of the bush. Next thing I knew, I had a mountain of thorny branches on the grass and very small - really stumps - of rose bushes remaining. I started to panic. What had I just done to my friend’s roses?! Did I really know what I was doing? Would they ever recover? I took them from their 4x5 foot mass of 100s of stems to stumps of about 1 foot tall with only 5-10 stems. I said a quick prayer that I hadn’t completely destroyed her roses. And then, while my stomach was churning, I started cleaning up the branches. I got scratched while pruning, but double scratched while picking up. It was miserable work.

My friend said we’d just wait and see. Trusting in horticulture's wisdom more than myself. So, we waited, added some fertilizer and mulch, and waited…for about 4 weeks. Those weeks seemed so long as I waited to see if I had killed her roses. But then we saw the first few leaf buds starting to swell and unfurl. And then another month or so saw new, strong, green stems start to grow. No roses yet, but stout stems and healthy leaves. Then finally about 4 months after the massive pruning project, the first buds started to show. The flowers that those roses produced that summer were amazing! Those bushes were a pink blaze of glory. All of that pain, hard work, and worry had found an end. A beautiful end.

I’ve been thinking that those roses are much like our family’s VCS journey so far. We had been hobbling along homeschooling for several years, doing okay on our own and even making a few roses here and there. But there were so many things we didn’t know how to handle, got overwhelmed by, or were playing it safe in - not wanting to go deep and prune out our bad habits. My bad habit of simply pushing aside assignments I didn’t want to or know how to teach, or our children’s habit of whining and not staying focused, or my habit of never sticking to self imposed deadlines. But we knew that if we wanted to see strong, vigorous, beautiful growth, that we would need some help and pruning - even painful pruning.

And boy, did it feel  like we got hacked down to 1/4 of our size in an intense and crazy way over the first quarter! There were so many tears on my part and the parts of our children. There have been many times I’ve cried out to our Father that this is too much. That I am too tired. That I want to be done. I want to go back to the safe and easier place. I want to be left to just bloom a few flowers here and there.

But now we have started to see our children begin to grow and change. We’re starting to see more and more how their campus teachers are loving them and walking with them and helping us train them. We are starting to see glimpses of the fruit that we have been praying and hoping for. We are starting to see the leaf buds swell as those 1 or 2 phonograms get a little easier, another row of math facts gets mastered, and one more subject is moved over into cursive, but most importantly - we’re seeing our children start to taste what hard work produces and like it. They’re little things, but we are starting to taste what is coming.

There is still work and many more pruning times ahead. But to see God’s grace towards us in giving us an intense time of pruning and to be able to see some fruit - that is a true gift. So, rally on VCS families! And remind me of the same. May God bless the adventure we are on together and give us courage to keep inching forward--to see our children and ourselves grow and flourish.

 
Jody Strom
The Shadow of Delight
 

The other day, during Bible, we were reading Psalm 91, and discussing verse 1. It’s easy to understand some metaphors of God-- His protection over us, our resting under his wings. But I was struggling to explain what “abiding under the shadow of the Almighty” meant to 8 year olds. I asked my students, “What makes a shadow?” I described the feeling of standing next to a tall person when the sun shines on them, and you are within their shadow. But for some reason, it didn’t seem to resonate with them as much as the other descriptions in the Psalm. Why is it a comfort to abide inside a shadow? My students have been struggling with understanding this, as well as something else. I thought about these as I drove home that day, and had no idea that God would weave these two things together.

The students in my class love order, structure, consistency, and rightness. They are very much aware of, and regularly point out, the mistakes that I make (so fun for my pride!), and those of others. They all have a strong desire to uphold classroom order, to meet expectations, put simply: they want to be right. They hate making mistakes. They become flustered and upset and frustrated when they answer questions incorrectly, or get problems wrong on homework, or blunder a line -- even one word--  in poetry recitation. No matter how often I try to tell them that failure and mistakes are ok, my words fall void. Inevitable mistakes continue, and frustrations rise again. This repetitive struggle is so hard for me as their teacher to watch! My heart has grown so tender towards them, that when I watch them internally beat themselves up, it beats on my heart, too.

So I think of how to approach this all the time- on my drives home from school, on my drives to school, as I set up my classroom, as I cook dinner. Throughout the year, as I have wrestled and prayed and ached and tried to faithfully pursue this process of helping my students, God gifted me with two unmistakable moments through which He spoke. He tied everything together.

The first was a regular campus day morning. The teachers and board members were gathering for our daily morning prayer, and Kyle Strom simply prayed that each student would “learn to sit peacefully under authority.” Tears sprang into my eyes right at that moment as the weight of the reality hit: I am the authority they sit under. What an incredible, significant, huge and humbling position! I thought about this as we headed into morning assembly, and it echoed what we had talked about in our teacher training this summer: we as teachers image the Father before these kids. Through our example in front of them, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they will glean more of what God is truly like. When Kyle prayed this, it reminded me how sacred it is to be the authority in the room because I get to show them what the Father thinks about them!

The second moment happened after this prayer, I was listening to a podcast and I was struck again in the same place. The speaker described her journey towards understanding what God is like, and believing what he thinks of us. She described how powerfully transformative it is to live rooted in God’s delight. The moment that struck me most was when she described a dream in which God asked:  “Is my smile enough?” That was it. Everything I have been thinking and saying and doing to try to help my students stop being frustrated with themselves started to come into focus! Zephaniah 3:17 says, “He will take great delight in you.” The Father delights in us, continually approves of us, and he SMILES over us. So if I am rooted in God’s delight of me, I can stand in authority over my students and show them my delight in them!

These two moments came full circle back to Psalm 91:  The Father’s delight is the margin within which we live, and dwell, and abide. It is the place where we fail, where we make mistakes, where we forget the answers after raising our hands, but where we can never be loved less. If we root ourselves in God’s delight, we can never be moved from that safe shadow.

I ask again, what makes a shadow? What happens when you stand next to someone taller and greater than you? Does the sun beat down on them instead of you? If they stand there forever between you and the wrath of the sun. What happens to you? You can freely fail. You can safely abide. The shadow of the Almighty is the safest place in the world, where we stand rooted in his delight, forever under his smile.

By: Kate Orton, Third grade teacher at VCS

 
Kate Orton
To What End?
 

My 13 year old daughter stormed down the stairs with tears in her eyes, “Why are you speaking to my brothers that way?” She implored, “Don’t you hear yourself?”

She was responding to my harsh tone and critical words directed at our nine year old over playing the cello out of tune.

My first introduction to “homeschooling” came through a music program that required extensive, daily, parental involvement with the student at home. This provided one on one time each day, with three of our children individually, and this time did have the potential to be a sweet time of giggles, fun music games, and slow, steady progress.

Instead, in our home, this one-on-one practice time tended to be saturated in critical words, an unkind tone of voice, impatience, and pressure to achieve. It is true that with the approach I chose a child may learn quite a bit, but after years of this pattern my daughter’s exhortation caused me to ask myself, “To what end am I pushing these children?”

The sobering answer to this question for me involved valuing achievement over honoring the Lord with my words and keeping a loving tone with my children. At the moment I chose a harsh tone and critical words, I chose achievement over loving them in a manner that reflected the love of Jesus. After a period of reflection and prayer, it was evident that I had yet to yield to the loving arms and acceptance of Jesus and was still trying to prove my worth through things like the achievement of my children.

It has been months since my daughter stormed down the stairs. The change in my heart was not at all instant, and the ease with which I reverted to my “tone” at first was miserable. In time, however, the Lord has gently persisted in helping me bathe in His acceptance, and the one-on-one time has been noticeably better, with more giggles, more praise, and, funny, the musical progress is better.

On a practical level, recurring pitfalls in our home include trying to teach when pressed for time, hungry, sleep-deprived, and failing to allow for our, or our children’s, bad days. Sometimes it will not be perfect, but it will help the child more, in the end, to simply move to the the next thing or stop altogether.

To the astonishment of my children, I painted the phrase “to what end?” on the wall that I face during the one-on-one music time together. This year as VCS parents I pray that we would not be surprised by our sin and beat ourselves up but simply ask forgiveness and move on. I pray that the Lord would grant us wisdom to be neither too harsh nor too rosey and accepting of mediocrity from our children, that we would teach our children “to the end” of glorifying God, not ourselves, and not to the glory of the opinion of others. I pray also that the Lord would do whatever is needed in our hearts to get us “to this end.” Finally, I pray that we would look to Jesus with persistence through his word and through prayer.

 
Rani Rosborough
Teaching Phonograms (SWR!)
 

At first look I was a bit intimidated by the “Spell to Write and Read” curriculum used by Valley Classical School. There is a red book, a black book, a bunch of cards with letters and slashes and other such interesting things…

After digging in and using the “How to Introduce Phonograms” link from the VCS Preparing for Fall Guide I am feeling much more confident and I hope to pass this confidence on to you.

This summer, children entering 1st through 4th grades at VCS will need to work to memorize “phonograms,” (listed on the above referenced “card things” with slashes and letters…). Phonograms are awesome and exciting tools for becoming a strong speller. Spelling is a fundamental building block to reading and writing well.

Here are some hints that may help:

  1. Pull apart the white and tan cards, separate and order. The phonograms you will need for this summer are on the white cards

  2. Before you dive headlong into reading the red and black books included in the curriculum read the “How to Introduce Phonograms” link from the VCS Preparing for Fall Guide (which actually does have you read pages 31-32 in the red book regardless). This will provide a concise overview of phonograms and how to jump right into to teaching them to your children.  Of course if you want to start with a comprehensive reading of the texts provided by the curriculum, by all means do! I found the “How to Introduce Phonograms” a very helpful preamble to the texts themselves.

  3. Read through the “How to Introduce Phonograms” link entirely and then start with the “Complete these exercises with your student” section. These are fun and important.

  4. If your children are like my children, take a break, eat a snack and then move onto the “Fourth, Introduce Phonogram Cards” section on the bottom of page 3.

  5. There is a proposed daily and weekly schedule for memorizing the phonograms. Keep in mind:

    1. 1st graders only have to memorize the first 26 white cards

    2. Do not expect them to memorize them cold right away...repetition will aid with memory over time

Feel free to touch base with any questions!

academics@valleyclassicalschool.org

 

 
Rani Rosborough
How is Valley Classical School Different from Classical Conversations™?
 

It is very exciting, albeit a bit confusing, to have both Classical Conversations and Valley Classical School in the New River Valley! Though these educational offerings are both “classical,” they are also both distinct (click here for VCS's approach to classical education). In brief, Classical Conversations is a homeschool group where the parent is the teacher. In contrast, Valley Classical School is, as its name implies, a school where two days a week the bulk of teaching is performed by the school teachers with parents as the support or “co-teacher” at home.

This chart attempts to summarize the differences between VCS and Classical Conversations (CC):

CC Foundations (up to 6th grade) CC Challenge (> 6th) Valley Classical School
One half day a week (full day with Essentials*) One full day a week Two full days a week
Parent chooses and teaches own curriculum at home (Foundations focuses on supplemental memory work, plus science and art projects). Essentials supplements English grammar, writing, and math curriculum Pre-Selected Curriculum taught by parents (Material reviewed/discussed with tutor during weekly class) Pre-Selected Curriculum taught in school by teachers with parents as “co-teachers”
Parents required to be present Parents have the option of being present Parents invited to join morning assembly only (in addition to special events)
No grades given No grades given (parents grade and record transcripts) Grades given, transcripts created
Parents responsible to show progress to state Parents responsible to show progress to state School administers standardized tests to meet state requirement
Parent as teacher Parent as teacher Parent as “co-teacher” (teaching diminishes progressively in grades 7-12)
Classical Conversations “Tutor” (must be a Classical Conversations parent) Classical Conversations “Tutor” (must be a Classical Conversations parent) Teachers, one per grade for Pre K through 4 and Subject or Master teachers Junior High and High School
*Classical Conversations's Essentials program is an optional supplement to Foundations.

More on Classical Conversations™

Classical Conversations offers its “Foundations” program for students up to about 6th grade and its “Challenge” program for older students. In addition, its “Essentials” program provides supplemental English grammar, math, and writing instruction to students in 4th through 6th grade. In the elementary school years, Classical Conversations does not provide a comprehensive homeschool curriculum. Instead, the weekly meetings, led by parent “tutors,” focus on a rigorous set of memory facts that include math, science, English grammar, Latin, and history. In addition, students complete a weekly art project and a hands-on science project. 

Briefly, the term “tutor” is used in Classical Conversations in part to be clear that the parent is the teacher. The structure of Classical Conversations is that all “tutors” must be parents with children currently enrolled in the program. In all levels of Classical Conversations the “tutor” is not expected to teach, rather they are to review material. As the parents are required to be present in the Foundations program, Classical Conversations meeting days provide an opportunity to fellowship with other homeschooling parents, exchange ideas, and support one another. 

Where Foundations is designed as a supplement to a curriculum that is selected and taught at home independently from the Classical Conversations material, Challenge offers a comprehensive curriculum. Parents remain responsible for all teaching and grading at home, and students prepare for a weekly class with their “tutor” and peers to dialogue about the week’s work. 

Valley Classical School Compared

Valley Classical School is a significantly different offering from Classical Conversations. Valley Classical is a formal school, but limits itself to two days a week in order to honor and support time with family at home as well as provide flexibility with extracurricular pursuits or individual educational needs.

Where the elementary school years of Classical Conversations focuses on supplemental memory work, Valley Classical teaches a full curriculum in math, science, history, language arts (which includes spelling, grammar, composition, poetry, and reading), and Latin. The arts and music are woven into the curriculum, as is physical education. In Kindergarten through 4th grade, home assignments are given for two days each week (that is, two days in school, two days of home assignments) and the fifth weekday is a flex or free day. In 5th through 12th grades, home assignments are given for all three non-campus days each week in keeping with the depth of the material as the children mature. Assignments given for home days are turned into the teachers on the next school day and graded.

The home assignments are posted through an online interface the Friday prior to each week.  They walk the parent step-by-step through the material to be completed at home. In the elementary school years, the parent will not be responsible for teaching new material in science and Latin on the home days but will be introducing new material in English grammar and mathematics.  As the student grows older, specifically in Junior High and High School years, the “co-teacher” role of the parent diminishes and the bulk of the teaching occurs at school though subject or “master teachers.” This occurs with the understanding that the material becomes more specialized and difficult during the Junior High and High School years. 

Valley Classical School conducts parent “co-teacher” training in late summer to ensure that parents feel equipped to manage home days.
 

 
Rani Rosborough