Review of "The Conversation" by Leigh A. Bortins

I like to consider our homeschool methods as classical in nature, and that means that there is a lot of literature out there addressing the best ways to make this happen. Very few address the "why" of defending this method, especially as students enter high school. I was happy to review The Conversation by Leigh A. Bortins and published by Classical Conversations.  It had many good points to having older students pursue a classical education, and it seemed a good source of inspiration to parents who may not feel supported in their choice.

Classical Conversations Review

First, there is a brief introduction on what a high school home school environment may look like, including how the student may learn. The author goes through a brief detailing of personal accounts to help the reader see that no two students are alike -- and that's OK!

She then goes right into the benefits of schooling at home in the high school years, which also happen to be the years that many homeschoolers either "give up" or are led to believe that they have nothing more to offer their older student. This is wrong on so many levels, but I love what the author has to say about conversations, which are the title of this book.  She emphasizes:

Conversations strengthen and unify the family. This is to true! Whether we are gathered around the dinner table or driving to the store, the talks that we have with our kids (two-way communications, not lectures) or what have best allowed us to know our kids and have them trust us.  They come to us with anything, and I believe our conversations are responsible for this.

Conversations provide accountability for the good habits that make learning possible.  Accountability is key to a moral and productive life, in my opinion.  As Christians, we believe what the Bible has to say about accountability and have seen this in action through the conversations we have with each-other and our kids. (And I might add that "learning" in this case isn't just math and reading; accountability helps us in those life lessons that can otherwise be awkward, too.)

Conversations enliven the academic content that guides students to become virtuous adults. Textbooks can only go so far in the educational process. But true conversation (again, not LECTURES) are what challenge and stimulate students to practice their "grown up" skills that will equip them for all things that life throws at them.  We have seen this with our own teenager, and this book further supports what we are seeing as truth, not just coincidence.

A majority of this book is application of the examining and putting into practice the five canons of rhetoric.  If you follow a classical method of homeschooling, and you have open dialogue with your kids, you are probably already employing these methods, even if you didn't know the by name. That was the case for me when I read this book.  It goes over Invention, Arrangement, Elocution, Memory, and Delivery in various studies common in a homeschool. So, for math, it gives you an entire chapter on how math can be taught using rhetoric, and quite honestly, how rhetoric can be taught using math.  Sample conversations are provided for a few lessons, and the five canons are again reviewed at the end of the chapter as they pertain to math, specifically. The book does this for other subjects, filling over 200 pages for the adult who thrives on examples.

This is not a book that you would read straight through in one sitting.  I did read the first chapters on a plane and was challenged and affirmed at the same time.  Nothing is more discouraging for me than to hear of dedicated homeschoolers who stop home education once a child hits junior high or high school. I really feel like that is where the best of our education has occurred, and I hate the thought of shortchanging my kid in their most difficult years. (Note: I respect everyone's decision on education; but often the decision to enroll high school students in public school for the first time is due to lack of confidence on the parent's part, something that makes me sad.)

Part reflection, part instruction, I'll be pulling this book off my shelf again and again as each new subject and new student needs it.  There is a lot of info here, so mastering it in one reading is not likely.  It's a lifelong blueprint for integrating rhetoric in a "proper" way that parents of the classical method will find empowering through every step of their child's education -- even before they hit high school. You can find it at the Classical Conversations bookstore now.

Classical Conversations Review

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Classical Conversations Review
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