I don't really consider myself a Classical homeschooler, but some years ago I had a homeschooling friend who assured me that I really did use quite a few Classical methods. She directed me to some books to read about Classical education, and I discovered that there were quite a few things I agreed with and really did use in our eclectic curricula homeschool. I still wouldn't consider myself a true Classical homeschooler, but I was very interested in the opportunity to read and review The Conversation by Leigh A. Bortins. The Conversation: Challenging Your Students With a Classical Education explores the high school years of homeschooling when students are in the rhetoric stage in the Classical model.
I received The Conversation from Classical Conversations. It is a paperback book of 267 pages. It's actually the third of a set of three of books written by the author, Leigh A. Bortins. These three books have been written to correspond with the stages of learners in a Classical model of education. The Core takes a look at the foundations of education during the grammar stage. The Question deals with helping students in the logic stage learn to ask questions and think analytically. The Conversation finishes the trilogy with a look at homeschooling students in the high school years, the rhetoric stage.
So why would I- a homeschooler who doesn't consider herself Classical and who has never even considered attending Classical Conversations- want to review this book, sold by Classical Conversations and appearing to be directed to Classical homeschoolers in the final stages of their students' homeschooling years? The main reason was that, reading the book's description I saw that it had much to do with good conversations with high school students. And having conversations is something our family does. We talk. And we talk. And we talk. We are a family of much discussion. As my children get older and are now into their teen years, these conversations have become invaluable. I love that my children talk to me and that we can talk about things that matter. So I was drawn to a book that is about good conversations with your high schoolers.
The author of The Conversation, Leigh A. Bortins is the founder of Classical Conversations. She has homeschooled four sons, and at the time she authored the book, two were finishing their high school years in homeschool and two had graduated from homeschooling. She writes with the authority of experience. The book is divided into three main sections. In the first part, she takes a look at the benefits of continuing homeschooling into the high school years. She also takes time to define what exactly rhetoric is and to introduce readers to five canons of rhetoric. These are invention, arrangement, elocution, memory, and delivery. In the second part of the book, she takes these five canons and looks individually at the subjects of reading, speech and debate, writing, science, math, government and economics, history, Latin and foreign languages, and fine arts, breaking each down into those five canons introduced in part one. The last part of the book contains four appendices: conversation starting games, definitions and explanation of common rhetorical devices, a list of resources that are referenced in each chapter, and a collection of experiences from Classical Conversations parents that have homeschooled through high school.
There were many things I appreciated about and learned from The Conversation. As I had expected, much of the book was very relevant to our family and homeschool, despite the fact that we've never been true Classical homeschoolers. I also must admit that, occasionally, I wished that I had used more of the Classical methods when I saw how well they fit with our homeschooling and parenting style. I found myself agreeing with the author as she shared all of the benefits of homeschooling through high school. I know so many people who decide not to continue when their children reach high school. And, although I know there are many reasons people may reach this decision, I'm seeing first hand the benefits of homeschooling my high schoolers and the enjoyment I have in doing so.
The rhetoric stage is all about conversation. Children in this stage love to voice their opinions in conversation, as you know if you have teenagers. As my children have reached the teen years, we have so many opportunities for good conversation. And these conversations will shape their worldview and the decisions they'll make throughout their lives. Homeschooling them means that I have the opportunity to share these conversations with them, to encourage them to think and to support their opinions and to make good decisions.
In several different places the author addresses what happens after graduation. And I found myself encouraged. So many times I stress about credits and transcripts and testing and honors classes- all those things that people ask me about and make me question whether or not I can really pull off this homschooling high school thing. The author gives some specific information about how to consider these concerns, and she emphasizes doing what's best for your child and not just following along with something that everyone else seems to be doing.
The second part of the book is one I know I'll keep as a reference through the high school years. The author has taken all of the basic subjects your child will cover in high school and has broken them down into the five canons of rhetoric, giving concrete examples of using each of the canons in discussing that subject with your child. At the end of each section she's placed a nice summary chart- excellent for a visual learner like me- that sums up some of the discussion points that you can use with your student for that subject.
I have found The Conversation to be an excellent resource- despite the fact that I'm not a true Classical educator. I'm interested now in reading the two previous books- especially The Question, as I also have two middle aged children now.
Company: Classical Conversations
Product: The Conversation: Challenging Your Student With a Classical Education- paperback book by Leigh A, Bortins
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