I’m grateful for Classical Conversations as a program, and for the people who have sacrificed so much to bring it to our community in southern West Virginia. I see it as an answer to a prayer we’ve been praying for a long time and an enormous infusion of light in our area. That said, CC was a hard sell for us. After years of struggles, we were content and flourishing in our homeschooling. Gina (my wife) was really photo (9)reluctant to switch up when we already (at last!) had a good thing going. But I thought there was a chance to take a challenging, but possibly rewarding, step forward and so we dove into the (somewhat confusing, at first) work of figuring out if CC was right for us. Gina was brave and open.

I have never heard a single person involved with CC indicate that this program was right for everyone. It isn’t. We have found that it’s right for us right now. We are two years in and it seemed a good time to say out loud some of the reasons we value our CC group (in no particular order).

Community

Homeschoolers can be almost pathologically independent. We start by bravely exploring a counter-cultural educational path and sometimes we can’t help but carry on into an unbiblical and irrational fear of involvement with others. We are sometimes tempted to over-correct the misinformation about “socialization” (the oft-mentioned homeschooling canard) with radical isolation. We believe we, and only we, are capable of homeschooling in a way that can produce perfect little prodigies. Putting aside the fact that we don’t all need to be prodigies, this radical over-correction can and often does mean a lonely mom in discouraging isolation, feeling pressure to have it all together and be a homeschooling wizard.

photo (11)Isn’t there already enough pressure on women to be super-human in almost every area of life? CC has been an opportunity for us to be relieved of the pressures we sometimes allow to creep in, pressures insisting, “You can do everything your kids need yourself!” Bake bread! Sew clothes! Use cloth diapers! Garden and eat fresh food! Look amazing all the time! Clean the house perfectly! Be a Theological Expert! Be involved with politics! Volunteer at church! Be smarter than your doctor! Homeschool four kids with perfection! Be the perfect wife! On and on and on and on…

Hey, rest easy. It’s not all on you. One of the gifts God has given us is community. Your family. Your church. Your friends. Your homeschool co-op. Your prayer group. Your homeschooling partners. For us, CC has been a huge relief and support in our life.

Seeing how insane the expectations Christian communities often place on women has left me burdened for my wife’s (incredibly brave) heart and that of other moms. CC, for us, has been an avenue of relief and delight. It’s good to know we aren’t alone. It’s good to be part of a team. It’s good to be humble and ask for help. It’s good to recognize your limits, work hard, but rest in the gifts God has provided.

Language and Latin

We all know that engaging Latin is key to understanding and mastering our own language. In CC, our kids are exposed to Latin and work toward its mastery. This photo (3)has benefits beyond my ability to adequately express here, but I’ll just mention a few. As Christians, we are people of the Book, therefore language is fundamental to the Faith. Competence in reading (and writing) aren’t just convenient, or an opportunity to excel and serve others in many areas, it’s an essential (though imperfect) protector against many snares. This is also an area where many (us included) aren’t equipped well to teach this to our kids in isolation. We could possibly do it, but there’s a limit to what we can do alone, and for us this is another area where abandoning the (often) counterproductive independence of homeschooling has served us well.

Trinitarian Triumph

It’s a delight to be involved with a group of people committed to proceeding together in the love of the Father, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Spirit. It’s wonderful to be in a group of Christians from many different denominations and traditions coming together under broad agreement in the Gospel and a shared commitment to raising our children in the love and grace of the true and living God of the Bible.

Great Books and the Great Conversation

There’s a humility in the Classical method I am profoundly grateful for. It allows for what Chesterton called the “democracy of the dead.” That is, it “gives a vote” to those who have come before. It isn’t slavishly devoted to modernity with its conflicting studies and faddish innovations. I do not think modernity and scientific studies should be ignored. Please do harken unto that. But I do believe we need to place them, as best we are able, in context with the Great Conversation of history, in consultation with the Great Books. The Classical method is more settled, less panicked and anxious. As people who are building our lives around an ancient Book, the classical method is an imperfect, but helpful ally in our approach to a life of learning.

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness

There is a more harmonious approach to these ancient virtues in CC than I see elsewhere. The kids are engaged with art, history, the Bible, and science. Among many other things, they do art projects, engage in music theory, and perform scientific experiments together. Therephoto (8)‘s so much included. I love that the arts are an integral part of CC. Like so much of CC, this complements beautifully what we are doing in our own homeschooling.

Classical Approach

If you haven’t taken time to read up on the Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric stages, perhaps you should. This operational framework for understanding how human beings may best flourish in education has served us well. It does sound intimidating when you first hear about it, I know! But, as with many things, an investment of time may serve you well, as it has us. I love the emphasis the Classical method places on natural stages of learning, providing a framework for understanding how to proceed.

Inclusive and Rooted in Truth

Jesus came, full of grace and truth. We must be like him in our commitment to both. There are significant doctrinal, lifestyle, medical and even educational differences between the people we partner with at CC. However, somehow we manage to team up to accomplish something amazing with the kids in our community. There is a very real climate of inclusion, while remaining orthodox in commitment to photo (6)important Gospel essentials. I know this may seem confusing, but I treasure the small, ecumenical victory among people (including people who are probably nervous at hearing the scary word “ecumenical”) who disagree about a lot, but can work together in communion and with purpose and passion.

Great Leadership

In our group, we have had an excellent Director. This has made a huge difference. Jamie Buckland has been a tireless advocate for the children in our community, a brave pioneer for classical homeschooling in southern West Virginia. You may have heard about CC Directors making money hand over fist and perhaps pocketing it while smoking a big cigar and laughing maniacally. While I have heard Jamie laugh maniacally (which is awesome), I’ve also seen her cry. I’ve seen her work her heart out for this community, for homeschoolers and hopeful, anxious moms who are sometimes feeling overwhelmed and alone. I have seen her sacrifice in ways very few can see, including financially. Minimum wage would be a dramatic pay raise for her.

As someone who works many hours at a passion for significantly less than free, I have to applaud Jamie for her incredible work at great personal and financial cost.IMG_4459 She has done this (sometimes thankless) work because of love, love for her kids, for our kids, for so many children and families in southern West Virginia. She deserves to be applauded and actually deserves to make a ton of money for what she has done. The fact that she hasn’t made a ton of (or any) money is something that personally bothers me a great deal. She deserves to. But that’s not what it’s about for her. It’s about sacrificial love. Jamie Buckland is not perfect and is the very quickest to admit that (in detail, if you give her a second). But she is a gift from God to us. Be wary of accusers. Jamie may definitely count me among her advocates.

We have other leaders who have sacrificed and the tutors we have had have been fantastic. Gina and I are profoundly grateful for the tutors our kids have had. Nobody’s perfect, but we’ve been served in love by them and it’s been worth every penny we’ve invested.

Note: Good things often cost money. While it’s maybe OK to look for the cheapest option, it’s also OK to invest in something that benefits your family and community in deep, lasting ways. Do not be afraid.

Our Kids Love CC

All our kids are delighted to go to CC and always come home with stories of what they experienced that day. I love that. They are super-excited about learning. Our daughter became a Memory Master this year, an incredible accomplishment. She memorized an enormous amount of material that will stick with her for life, giving a framework for comprehension in a number of subjects. She, a very shy girl, photo (2)speaks every week in public, and has grown in confidence and competence. Our kids have been challenged, changed, and invested in. CC has been a powerful, shaping experience in our family, for the good. Our kids have so much fun at CC, which is incredible considering how much they learn.

My Wife is Encouraged and Happy

This means so much to me (and her, obviously). Gina loves CC, with all its faults, and feels profoundly encouraged by the results in our family and community. It’s been absolutely worth it for us just for this reason alone. This, along with the obvious and encouraging things we see in our kids, is the central benefit of CC for me.

Note: People are dumb and sinful and selfish. I know, because I am one. 

CC has some very real limitations. It cannot make people righteous. You may have pushy leaders in your group, pushy people who want to expand too quickly and not build a solid base. CC could easily expand beyond its ability to function well and I’m sure it does in many communities. Our leadership has taken some great steps, at a high personal cost, to make this less likely. Jamie should be praised for this. I’m sure that many of the negative reviews from former CCers come from situations where expansion was fast and thoughtless. That’s real. There are real drawbacks to CC. It does, as previously mentioned, photo (5)cost money. It does take a lot of work. It does take time and you do have to actually wake up in the morning and go to a place one day a week. It’s also a bit hard, at first, to grasp in simple terms. I had years of experience reading books on Classical Christian education and I was completely confused when CC was first explained to me. Foundations? Challenge A? Challenge 1? Wait, Essentials isn’t essential? What?!

This is one of the reasons there are many meetings. They exist to help explain what’s actually happening in CC. I needed several to get the basics, myself. If you are serious about understanding what all the fuss is about and why so many people in our community are so excited by CC, please do actually engage with the human beings who are involved with CC and ask lots of questions. It is challenging. It’s easier to remain ignorant, or, even to (mystifyingly) feel threatened by something that is so positively engaging a growing number of families.

Maybe CC isn’t for you. That is OK. Our CC group is for us. Really for us. It’s been a beautiful ally in our efforts to educate our kids in the light of the Gospel and in community with fellow Christians. It is a unifying project. I love that.

And we love our CC group.

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23 thoughts on “Ten CCs of Light: A Classical Conversation in Our Little Community

  1. This article is amazing, it brings me to joyous tears as I was part of this seed in Beckley!

  2. We are beginning our cc journey next year. I had never heard of it prior to this winter. I enjoyed reading this post and need to pick your wife’s brain.

  3. Thank you for this!! As we are prepping to enter into our own community in the fall, this offered great perspective. So encouraging. :)

  4. I would love to hear more about how “your leadership have taken great steps” to make sure you do not build to quickly, and have a solid base. We just finished our community’s fourth year ( my 4th in CC, but 1st as a director of this new community). We had 17 students this year, and it was beautiful how The Lord brought families who did not know each other together. We have already doubled for next year, and that comes with excitement, but also with anxiety for our families and myself. I have worked to get to know the new families a bit….but I do have a concern about growing to big to fast. The one good thing is that our church location is small, which will keep our capacity lower.

    So, I am curious what steps your director has taken to not expand beyond its ability to function.

  5. Thank you for sharing your heart! We too have been blessed by CC and an amazing director! So much so that I am directing a new community this fall. Just when I think this world is in terrible shape, I have like minded families walking this walk with me that make me realize that we are raising and educating children with the knowledge to change this world for the better!

  6. My family has just completed our first year with CC. I have been blessed beyond belief by the families that I have been privileged to direct. I had to take a step of faith and direct a new community, even though I had only seen CC in action in an Open House :) There was no one else to direct, and I really wanted my kids to participate. I will never regret it. We are starting a new community (this time much closer to my home) and I am praying that God brings just the right number of families. It can be overwhelming at times, but it is so worth it. Thank you for your perspective. Too often, the homeschooling is left to the mom without any additional support. Thank you for getting involved!

  7. From one CC dad to another – super article! So much of what you wrote resonates with me – how CC has encouraged my wife, how my kids love it, how the community is a great support (and living in AK, the hyper-individualism of some homeschoolers is very much a factor here), and so on. Thanks for sharing your thoughts; I’m sure the article has been a blessing to many. Scott Johnson, Wasilla, AK

  8. Wow, sir!!!! Your article is bad to the BONE!!!! That was AWESOME! Thanks a MILLION for sharing from your heart & keeping it real! You’ve got some seriously mad writing skills, too! Definitely resonated & dug all your reasons for why you dig CC. We finished our 2nd year & now my awesome wife is our 6 y/o daughter’s Foundations tutor & we all are loving it! Thank you for sharing! –Noble, Fayetteville/Ft. Bragg NC

  9. Great article. There are some very important words of wisdom that we can all learn from. Thank you.

    PS – Where did you get that huge map on the floor? It is awesome!!

  10. Thank you so much, Lynn! The map was from a field trip on Geography at a local university. It wasn’t a CC event, but from our co-op.

  11. Thanks, Noble. You have some passion, I gather. :) Nice to hear enthusiasm from another CC dad. Thanks so much for your enthusiastic encouragement.

  12. Gin–
    All the best to you and yours as your group grows. It takes courageous people like you to get it moving. It’s such a blessing to people like us. Thank you! (And my wife is definitely the one doing this. But I do help a little.)

  13. Michele–
    I’m not sure how to respond without saying too much or too little, but I think it’s mostly been about getting the right people in the right places. Wish I could be mor ehelp, but I’m not an expert by any means. Maybe more knowledgeable people could chime in.

  14. I’ve just completed my 1st year as a director with only 2 classes. I’m experiencing some pressure to grow, but my “gut” says not to expand beyond 3 or 4 classes. The pressure comes from well-meaning, encouraging folks who want to support me and my ability to “administer” more classes. The point they tend to miss is that it’s about being in a Classical Christian COMMUNITY. The goal is not size or money. Thanks for this post. I was wondering if I was being selfish because I didn’t want a huge campus…. now I have words to express why I will not have an uber large group!

    I left (to start a new campus) a campus which exploded to 64 students in just 2 years! The director managed it well. The problem, I felt, was that I couldn’t get to know everyone… and that bothered me.

    So, I’d encourage fellow directors to think about what size campus they can manage & still promote a strong sense of community among parents & kids.

    Thanks for sharing some great perspective!

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