The long and short of it is here. My first post (which started the thread), this post, and my last post tell most of the story, but you can also read the posts in between (by others and me), and I recommend that you do, since it was quite a lively and informative conversation, with various viewpoints regarding Classical Conversations (and classical education in general) well represented. Speaking of views, it got over 4000 of them!
In homeschooling news, I lasted all of three weeks as a CC Essentials tutor. Long story short: too much prep and too little intuitiveness. A language program designed by engineering types didn't mesh with me at all, though my eleven year-old daughter, whose memory and technical thinking surpasses mine, was mastering it. So we're back to Writing with Skill and Rod & Staff grammar. Because I had signed the younger two up for a geometry art class during the first half of the Essentials time, I'm now using that hour to do logic with my oldest, which we both enjoy immensely - it comes pretty naturally to her and it's enlightening, as well as stimulating, to me. We also seem to laugh a lot. As for the Essentials class (all of two students), our CC director decided to take over teaching it.
Foundations is going well - the kids like it and I really don't have to do much, since it's just a supplement to our curriculum. They learn most of the memory work in class, and then review with the CD and tri-fold board on their own during the week. One thing that bugs me (okay, there are several) is that they use classical Latin rather than ecclesiastical, which is what Memoria Press uses, our Latin program for the past four years. I cringe whenever they say "muss" and "tiss" instead of "moose" and "teese". Another concern is that as the history sentences increase (we're up to five facts), some of the students are starting to jumble up the ones that sound alike, so names and dates are mismatched because of certain prepositional phrases at the beginning or in the middle of the sentence. I noticed this as I quizzed them at the end of class time (parents help the tutors as needed throughout class time - I rotate being in each of my three kids' classes). I'm hoping that with correction and repetition, this will iron itself out, but part of me thinks that this is the natural outcome of memorizing information without meaning/context. That was a hard pill for me to swallow initially, but I convinced myself that because we are going through the Story of the World (and have already done one complete four year cycle with my oldest), it would be okay. I'm trying to stay convinced of what hooked me - that going ahead in history is putting in the pegs upon which we will hang more knowledge in the future...but part of me worries...
This year is definitely an experiment - it's our first time not doing our homeschool group's co-op (we did it for the past three years since its inception, which was a grassroots effort), but they have adopted a programmed approach this year as well - doing the Odyssey of the Mind competition. I had already signed up for CC when I found out about that - I knew we couldn't do both and I wanted to stick with what seemed a better fit with our educational philosophy. The kids don't seem to care what the format is, as long as they get to be in a group learning setting once a week. Sometimes I think it would be better for us not to do any co-op (and in fact, Susan Wise Bauer said at the convention I attended last year that she doesn't recommend them), but hands-on stuff and memorization are some of my weaker areas, and CC covers those with a creative approach - songs and hand motions for the memory work (I would never do it that way), as well as science experiments and fine arts, but it's all pretty abbreviated, since it's only a three hour block of time, which also includes presentations and a few other elements. I like the variety and that they get to be with other kids, but I'm not sure yet about the content's enrichment value - hoping that will be clear by the end of the school year.
I'm on the fence about Challenge, which initially was what drew me to CC, but after reading more about it on the The Well Trained Mind forum, as well as seeing the curriculum on the CC site, I'm not sure it would be the best for my oldest. Ironically, it doesn't look challenging enough - she's definitely already ahead in Latin and literature, nor do I like the idea of abandoning the history and science cycles...it really would force me to choose between that and the WTM way. The monetary and time investment (it basically has to be your whole curriculum) is questionable to me...then again, it might be a good way to transition her into more independence during the middle school years (even if we didn't stay with it for high school), thus making less work for me, so I could focus more on our younger ones. We'll have to see...
I'm thinking about attempting to read through all the works in The Well Educated Mind over the next four years, starting with medieval times (where we are in our history studies this year), and concluding with ancients (the year that my oldest begins the rhetoric stage), so I was pleased to find this chronological list, and am posting (with a pic for pinterest) in case anyone else might want to follow the same reading plan. The Well Educated Mind organizes the reading lists by genre, and within that chronologically, but I would rather read different kinds of literature from the same time period, especially since that will flow with our homeschooling.
Giving up my best intentions. Giving up my less than best efforts. Giving up legalism. Giving up perfectionism. Giving up my pride. Giving up myself.
...So what am I actually giving up?
My plan to read the Bible chronologically in one year, while also reading it liturgically. After plowing through Genesis and Job - man, was that ground rocky - I completely fell off the wagon around the beginning of this month. I never really did consistently do my readings for Epiphany either, but at least I could pick up with Lent, whereas with the one year plan, I couldn't (or wouldn't) skip Exodus and Deuteronomy to get where I was supposed to be with my reading. That left me no choice but to quit and try again next year...or so my perfectionistic all or nothing mentality almost convinced me...until it dawned on me that I could continue reading where I left off if I would surrender the idea of reading the whole Bible in a year. And if I removed the time constraint, I could even have a chance to study those difficult Old Testament passages that were part of the reason my motivation had waned. Moreover, it would leave space to weave in my church year readings instead of feeling like I had to choose between them. Giving up rigidity was gloriously liberating. I wasn't giving up - I was giving in. Giving in to the God whose plans always turn out better than mine.
Catching up on the Past. I haven't printed photos from the last 6 years. With each upload, my burden to get them sorted and printed grows heavier and more seemingly untenable. So I asked myself what is at the root of this? Guilt and fear. I feel bad that my children (ages 9,7,5) aren't able to see pictures of themselves when they were younger. I fear their memories will fade of special times because they haven't been visually reminded. I even fear my life being cutting short and not having properly documented everything. I finally asked myself, "Is it impossible for them to see these pictures if they aren't in book form?" Not at all. For some reason, I hadn't thought it could work for them to browse through iPhoto, even though they often would do that over my shoulder when it was on my screen. I guess I didn't think it was good enough. I had this picture in my mind of our family gathered around the couch, flipping through pages together, reminiscing. Anything less than that seemed like failure. Now I'm giving up that ideal, as well as the fear its rooted in and the guilt it grows...and giving in to grace. I'm trying to apply that to my other unfinished projects, especially organizational ones - the kids' artwork accumulated over the past five years , a decade (our whole marriage) of filing, and so on. I'm not giving up on dealing with it but I am giving up listening to the ticking clock, surrendering my fears of an unfinished life and guilt over failing to preserve our family's legacy in the "proper" way.
Homeschooling by the Book. Although I love The Well Trained Mind, it sets the bar quite high for providing a classical education. But it's home to me - it's where I started and where I feel safest (there's that fear again) and what feels right. At the same time, its rigorousness is beyond my capacity, so I feel inadequate since I never quite can implement all the reading and projects and subjects, which even the authors tell you not to attempt, but my perfectionism plugs its ears and creates a compulsion to complete every curriculum by the end of the school year. All of this pressure has caused me to overemphasize structure and to quicken our pace. This, of course, drains the joy out of learning, and doesn't give us the time to linger longer over what's most interesting or takes more time to master (for lack of a better word). So I'm loosening up and slowing down and stepping back to look at the big picture. Academics are only one of our reasons for homeschooling, so that shouldn't be steering our course. Once again I'm giving up...giving up the wheel and letting God take the driver's seat, even if that means leaving classical country for new educational lands, or commuting back and forth between them, rather than insisting we stay parked in one spot.
Obviously this isn't just for Lent, but it does seem the perfect (haha) season to start the process of giving up and giving into God's grace, beginning with these tangible areas of my life.