Thursday, August 6, 2015

Crew Review: The Conversation by Leigh A. Bortins

Homeschooling during the high school years is both a challenge and a blessing. Unfortunately, we often steal all the joy and excitement from the high school experience by focusing on memorizing facts and passing the test. The focus becomes "just getting it done". It can be difficult to find any information on how to handle the high school years differently.

Leigh A. Bortins is the creator of Classical Conversations, a company that provides materials for homeschool families to provide a classical education to their children. She has recently begun writing books that explain how to teach the three different levels of students in the classical model of education: The Core, The Question, and The Conversation. We were given the opportunity to review The Conversation, through the Schoolhouse Review Crew. The Conversation takes the focus off the tests and the check marks, and puts them on learning through exploring ideas and discussing them. 

The Conversation addresses the rhetoric stage of classical education, the high school years. During the rhetoric level of a child's development and education, they learn to communicate their beliefs and what they have learned through writing and speech. They are able to discuss philosophies, complicated topics, and are shaping their future careers as well as their belief system. This is not the time to pull away from our teens, but to engage them in meaningful conversations. And that is what Leigh A. Bortins has written about - how to use a discussion/conversation approach in educating our high school students.

The book begins with a section dedicated to explaining what the rhetoric stage is and addressing whether or not a parent can teach high school at home. Leigh encourages parents that they CAN homeschool through high school and do it well. I love the sections of chapter two entitled "The use of knowledge and understanding ... ", " perceive wisdom ... ", "... pursue virtue...", and "...proclaim truth..." Those three sections resonate with me, because they are much better goals than to "graduate with honors" or "make it into their favorite college". Hopefully, the first will lead to the second, but the focus is different.

Now, I am not a classical educator, though we have used some classical curriculum in our homeschool. I had never read Aristotle's 5 canons of the rhetoric level before: invention, arrangement, elocution, memory, and delivery. Leigh A. Bortins explains them in chapter 2, but she also explains how to use the 5 canons in each subject of learning in the second portion of the book. Leigh covers the subjects of Reading, Speech and Debate, Writing, Science, Math, Government and Economics, History, Latin and Foreign Languages, and Fine Arts.

As I read through the different subjects, I was surprised. I hadn't even thought of teaching math in a conversational way, asking questions and leading the student through their logic steps. I was also awed by the questions that she gave in her examples. I felt as if I'd be at a loss to engage in that style of conversation with my own kids. I was glad she gave the examples, because it opened my eyes to a different way of teaching and showed me how reliant on textbooks and tests I've become.

The Conversation is a challenging book. It challenges the way you've been looking at education. It challenges your approach. It challenges you to improve your teaching methods, to begin asking your students questions, and to encourage them to explore new ideas. There is so much to take in that it requires slow, careful reading (for me, at least). I know I'll be reading it again, to refresh my memory and to gain a better understanding of how to utilize The Conversation in educating my children. I honestly can't see myself being able to use these methods with all subjects, but I'd love to add them to our history and literature studies.

You can purchase The Conversation for $16.00, though it is currently on sale for $12.00. You can also follow Classical Conversations on facebook, twitter, pinterest, google+, and youtube.

April E.

Classical Conversations Review

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