Classical Conversations: Tips for Beginners

If you are joining Classical Conversations for the first time this year, I know it is an exciting time, but it can also be overwhelming. 

I'm not going to lie, the first year can feel like you are drinking from a fire hose, but I promise you will get the hang of it and even love it!

This fall will be my third year in the program. Although it's not a ton of time compared to others, I've learned a lot and wanted to share some tips with you all. 

This fall, I will have two of my kids enrolled in Foundations. If you have kids in Essentials or Challenge, I can point you to some friends who can share more advice for those levels. 

Alright, here are my 12 tips, in no particular order: 

1. The memory work is enough

I know it's hard to believe that all your curriculum could be in one book, but it truly is enough (excluding math & LA). In my first year, I added in extra science and history, and it was way too much. Instead of adding outside resources, build upon the science and history with read-alouds and videos that dive deeper into the weekly topics. 

2. Read The Core

This book will be extremely beneficial before you begin your first year. It's written by Leigh Bortins (the creator of CC) and helps you understand the method of classical education. There is a purpose behind the approach and understanding the process before beginning will help you tremendously. 
The Core - Amazon affiliate link

3. Invest in your community

The community really makes the entire experience come to life. The people in your community will hopefully be ones you will do life with for years to come. I have been extremely blessed with a community that is intentional with our time together. The families do field trips together, book clubs, park days, etc. The responsibility to make the community fun doesn't necessarily fall on the shoulders of the director; it's up to all the families to invest together. 

4. Learn the timeline song

The first year I joined, I thought there was no way I could learn a 13 min song of all the world's historical events, but you really can. It's so helpful to have it memorized early on in the program. Honestly, the song has also helped me tremendously with my Bible study time, too! A CC mom took the time to compile a YouTube playlist with a 5-min video for every single timeline event! Check it out here.

5. Shop on free-shipping days

This is kind of random, but the shipping on the Classical Conversation's site can be pretty expensive in my opinion. So, keep an eye out and try to plan your purchases so you shop on free-shipping days. This will save you quite a bit of money. 

6. Play the memory songs while driving, cooking, or playing 

On iTunes, you can purchase the albums for each cycle's memory work. I buy 2 versions for each cycle: 1 with the memory work by week, and then the other version with all the songs in order by subject. I like having both options on my phone depending on what I want to review with the kids. Whenever we drive places, I play the memory work in the car. My kids actually request the CC songs when we get in the car because they are pretty catchy. You will find yourself cooking and singing about the 7 wonders of the ancient world (and I'm laughing at those who read that sentence to the tune of the song).

7. Start with the basics: Foundations Guide, Tin Whistle, and CDs

Don't overwhelm yourself in the first year by purchasing a ton of extra things. I really think the Foundations guide, tin whistle, and CDs are all you need until you get adjusted. Let yourself be in the program for a year to see what you wish you would have had before buying it all at once. Later on, additional things I've added are geography maps, timeline cards (just invested this year - 4 sets $22.99 a set), and Story of the World history books. 

8. Stay at lunchtime

This is a big one. This is where the kids all connect and hang out together, and it's the time for the parents to connect as well. I did not stay at lunchtime my first year, and it made me miss out on the community. But last year, we stayed every week, and it really helped me and my kids build closer friendships with the other families.

9. Utilize your library

Look at the curriculum at least two weeks ahead and see what topics you will be covering. Then, reserve picture books and read-alouds at your local library to expand on those topics. 

10. Plan ahead for tuition & fees

For many, the tuition price can be a little sticker shock, especially the more students you add to the program each year. Application time usually begins around February/March for existing families, so plan ahead. Start setting aside money monthly so that you aren't overwhelmed with a huge lump sum when the fees are due. Also, if you volunteer to tutor a class, that can help cover the cost for your kid's tuition. 

11. Teach the Bible memory work

Many families aren't aware that CC has optional Bible memory work. It's a PDF online that has information for each cycle. I actually took the info for Cycle 2 and turned it into a Bible study guide and activity book! I am so excited to do the same thing for the next two cycles. The memory work is not printed in the Foundations guide because it's optional; therefore, it's easily forgotten. Check out my newest Bible study guide to pair with Cycle 2.

12. Trust the process

This is the most recommended tip from seasoned families. It's a proven process that really works. Less is more. If your kids start the program at about 5, they will repeat each cycle about 5 times before they are 18 years old. Each time they go through the cycle, they will retain more of the memory work and truly comprehend what they are learning. You don't need to master all the info the first time through a cycle. Instead, focus on introducing the info, becoming familiar with it, and enjoying the process. The comprehension and application will come in time!

I love when Challenge students come to guest speak at our community. It really helps you see the process come together and the fruit of the effort put in. It's amazing how well-rounded the kids are after completing the program. 

I hope these tips are helpful! I feel like I have more I could share, but I'll stop it here for now. I pray your first year with CC is memorable!