Homeschooling: Becoming part of a co-op
“Classical Conversations is essentially a place for the kids to get together, work on the same subjects, and then come in and present and hold different discussions."
CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Over the last two days, WDBJ7 has shared stories on how to start homeschooling and how to keep it simple. But simple doesn’t have to mean easy and there’s a program out there that will still challenge your kids.
Some of the greatest minds in history used the classical model of learning, from Leonardo da Vinci to Thomas Jefferson to Fredrick Douglas to Marie Curie.
Now there’s a modern spin to the style through the nationwide homeschool organization, Classical Conversations. In Southwest Virginia, there are chapters in Christiansburg, Roanoke, Salem, Troutville, Martinsville and Burnt Chimney.
“Classical Conversations is essentially a place for the kids to get together, work on the same subjects, and then come in and present and hold different discussions,” Cyndi Stevens said.
In Montgomery County, about 70 students meet once a week at the Christiansburg Baptist Church. Kids are divided into three age groups that have a different emphasis of learning.
The first is called Fundamentals and Essentials for kids ages 4-12.
“They’re learning basic facts for math, geography, history, science, Latin and English grammar,” Cyndi Hamilton, the program’s director said.
These fundamentals are the foundation for their middle school years of 7th and 8th grade - here called Challenge A and Challenge B.
“It is the dialectic stage,” Stevens, who teaches the Challenge B students, said. “At my stage they are very quick to disagree. And that’s not a bad thing.”
So it’s Steven’s roll as a tutor to help guide them in creating compelling arguments and using sound logic.
“Everything that they’re doing here and moving up is feeding into the next level,” she said.
Which for high school is the rhetoric stage caleed Challenge 1, 2, 3 and 4. At this age, they’re putting everything together at higher and higher skill levels.
Many homeschool families become part of a co-op like Classical Conversations to provide a social outlet for their kids and to create a collaborative educational experience.
Hamilton became part of the co-op after homeschooling her kids for several years.
“Really what I needed was accountability and personally, I needed a community myself,” she said. “It’s nice to have other people who are doing what you’re doing.”
“Our main goal is to equip parents,” Stevens said.
And so the parents have a hands-on role leading or assisting the once-a-week-sessions for their students’ grade levels.
“If you have multiple children, you might be in with your 3-year-old this week and your 7-year-old next week,” Hamilton explained. “So you get to figure out what they do like to do and what works for them whenever you’re doing the work at home with them.”
Because this co-op is an extension of what the students do at home, four days a week they do the same lessons and assignments as their peers. Then once a week, they come together to discuss, ask questions, share ideas and take the learning further.
“I’ll review and recap what they did over the week, maybe fill in the gaps. If they didn’t understand something, they would bring those questions to me,” Stevens said.
Each age group also has big, year-long assignments. In 7th and 8th grade, they compete in mock trials against other community groups, participate in science fair exhibitions and create their own short stories.
It’s a class that’s not for the faint of heart.
“It’s really intense. It’s six hours in class for the one day they meet, but it’s [also] six hours at home every single day,” Hamilton said.
However, it’s something anyone with or without homeschool experience can pick up and be a part of.
“Any child can come in at any time and as they move forward, whether it’s a year or 12 years, it’s something that will help them,” Stevens said.
The cost to be a part of Classical Conversations varies based on the location and size of the group. For the Christiansburg group, it’s about $330 per student. All of the materials used at the co-op are provided. Families are responsible for purchasing textbooks and other materials for the at-home studies.
You can find a group close to you by clicking here.
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