I am a big time reader, and as a homeschool mom, one of the things I love to read about is homeschooling! With my oldest entering his senior year, and my youngest on the verge of high school, I am always on the lookout for ways to fine tune our final years of homeschooling. So, I was really excited to get to review The Conversation from Classical Conversations.
Written by Leigh A. Bortins, the book is the third in a series on Classical homeschooling, and focuses on finishing strong with a high school student. Now, keep in mind that we have not schooled classically all these years at all. While I find the classical model very interesting, and there are certainly parts of it that we have utilized (particularly for history), we are very eclectic in our house in general. However, I am drawn to many classical ideas, and for high school, I really want to go deeper with my boys, in order to prepare them for college, and I feel like classical-style schooling does encourage students to go further in their thinking. So, I wanted to check out this book to see what parts of it I could apply to this next part of our homeschool journey.
The book itself is divided into three parts. In the introduction, the author gives you some background info about her and her family, that really helps put the rest of the book into context. For me, this short glimpse into the real-life of her family gave me a practical view of what classical high school looked like for her. The first section of the book actually focuses on defining the rhetorical stage as it applies to a classical education, and on what it takes for parents to work out homeschool high school.
I really appreciated Bortins’ honesty in this section of the book. For example, there was one part in the parents chapter where the question is raised “What do I do if I don’t get along with my student?”. Sigh..as the parent of two teenagers, can I just admit now that there are days when we absolutely, positively just DO NOT get along (and believe me, sometimes that makes me feel really really bad). And the author freely admits that she feels the same way sometimes. Just reading that made me feel so much better about myself!! The author goes on to address other common concerns parents may have about homeschooling high school in the chapter.
From there, the second section of the book takes on individual subjects and explains how the parents would provide a classical education within the confines of each subject. This section of the book is very practical and helpful, providing clear, concrete examples for each subject. Basically, after explaining the five “canons” of rhetoric in part one, the author leads the parents through applying each canon in each subject.
Once you understand the system, the process itself comes pretty easy. It actually makes a lot of sense. Each canon has a guiding question that more or less defines the canon, then a corresponding action the student goes through to get answers for that question. For example, for the canon “invention” the guiding question is “what should I say?” and the action is to discover ideas through research and planning. So, if a student were to apply this to a subject like Speech and Debate, they would use it during a brainstorming session to determine their topic, research their points etc. etc.
Bortins addresses numerous subjects from Reading and Math to Latin, Government, and Science, but like I said, once you understand how the process works, you could really apply it to any subject on your own.
In the third part of the book, the author includes multiple resources like games and lists of rhetorical devices that are also very helpful.
What I took from this book is some very helpful advice about how to structure learning in general for my kids final years as homeschoolers. I like how you can take the ideas here and really apply them to any curriculum. The foundations of rhetoric really encourage kids to dig deeper, and Bortins does a great job of explaining them in a way that is very easy to understand. I think this book would make a great addition to any homeschool parents library!
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