The Conversation – A Review

Since we homeschool year round, school planning and preparation are always a work in progress. To keep myself focused, refreshed, and informed, I enjoy reading a variety of books and resources to create an “at home homeschool conference”. A few years ago I  read The Core by Leigh A. Bortins, founder of Classical Conversations. As a mom with two high school students and another soon to begin, I was eager to read and review The Conversation: Challenging Your Student with a Classical Education.

The Conversation addresses the educating of our high school students utilizing the classical approach. The book is broken down into three parts: High School at Home, The Rhetorical Arts, and Appendices. Whether you are preparing to begin the high school years or deep in the trenches, the first part will serve as an encouragement to you to press onward. As we transition with our children into this area of higher learning, our focus turns to authority, habits, and content. The responsibility of learning and engaging shifts to our students.

For the various subjects studied during the high school years, Bortins, in the second part,  uses the five canons of rhetorical learning to provide a guide or form to follow. The five canons are: invention, arrangement, elocution/style, memory, and delivery. Each chapter addresses different subjects and practical advice is given so that you can clearly understand how to implement the five canons. Whether you are familiar with the classical approach or just learning, the style of writing is easy to understand. After the first reading, it would serve as an excellent resource for a refresher now and then.

We must concentrate on training students in the art of asking good questions so that they can participate in lively conversations about big ideas. The Conversation

The final sections is the appendices. This is a very concise section but has an excellent resource: Conversation Games. With family, a group of friends or in a co-op setting, these games are excellent for sharing great conversations. Speech Thief is one I think we will enjoy. Who wouldn’t enjoy sharing passages from a piece of literature and being able to steal “speech time”?

In earlier generations, people carried commonplace books to record important or well-expressed sentiments. Recording these thoughts was a way of showing that the thoughts now belonged not just to the author but also to the reader…. The effective rhetorician has read widely and memorized many examples and sayings so that she can properly bring them into persuasive speech, speech that serves to comfort or to counsel or to confront. This is wisdom. The Conversation

Do you have to be a classical homeschooler to benefit from The Conversation? Definitely not. We do incorporate some aspects of the classical approach in our homeschool. I appreciate many aspects of this approach and it flows beautifully with the method that guides our studies. For me, The Conversation was an encouragement that I am capable of guiding these young adults.  It gave me some ideas that I would like to implement and I believe will provide a richer experience for my children. I will definitely keep it as a resource to refer back to as I continue to add high school students.

Other Crew members read and reviewed The Conversation. See what they are saying!

Classical Conversations Review
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Fortuigence Writing – A Review

One of the biggest challenges for me as I guide my children in their educational journey is writing. Writing is a powerful tool in communication and I desire for my children to thrive in this area. My oldest daughter loves to write and rarely turns down the opportunity to fine tune her skill. When I presented her with the opportunity to review a course from Fortuigence she did not hesitate. The hardest part was which of the four courses she wanted to complete. She finally settled on the Essay Rock Star: Expository Essay Writing Course.

Fortuigence is an online writing program started by Lily Iatridis. A former teacher in the traditional school setting, Mrs. Iatridis decided to take her skills in teaching writing to a broader audience. The online courses are well suited for middle school to high school levels of learning. The focus of Fortuigence writing courses are on mastery. With mastery as the goal, students can set their own pace as they work through the course.

Fortuigence offers four different Essay Rock Star courses:

  1. Essay Rock Star: Personal Statement
  2. Essay Rock Star: The Persuasive Essay
  3. Essay Rock Star: The Expository Essay
  4. Essay Rock Star: The Textual Analysis

Each Essay Rock Star course is available for $57.00.

Essay Rock Star: The Expository Essay

The Expository Essay writing course teaches  one of the most common essays. From high school to the workplace, this form of writing is used to explain or inform about a certain topic or subject. This course walks your student through the various methods that can be used within the essay to express her views. Once your student has covered these different methods, it is her choice on which method works best for her topic.

The presentation of this course is very simple. My daughter logged in and began watching the first lesson. Within this course, there are seven lessons and each lesson has a series of assignments. The assignments are broken down so the tasks of writing an essay is not overwhelming.  There are videos to watch for each lesson. The information covered in the video is also available to read. This is a plus for students who have different learning styles.

The first assignment my daughter had to complete was turning in a piece of her writing. For her this was a very simple task. There is no shortage of writing for her! Seeing a piece of writing from my daughter, allowed Mrs.Iatridis to gauge at what level my daughter was already writing. This really aids in keeping expectations of the student realistic.

Once the writing sample was received, Bekah began with the rest of the course. She watched the lessons, completed the assignments and submitted them online. Within twenty-four hours, Mrs. Iatridis would respond with corrections, edits, or the thumbs up to move ahead. This course is self-paced so Bekah had all the time she needed to complete each assignment.

Thoughts on Essay Rock Star: The Expository Essay

Through the Essay Rock Star series, Fortuigence is offering a valuable resource to homeschool families. For the parent, like me, who struggles with teaching and critiquing writing, having another person evaluating the writing is huge! With a self-motivated student, writing instruction was completely independent of me. Bekah handled all aspects of the course on her own. Even when she missed a step in submitting her work, she handled correcting it and communication with the teacher.

For the parent of a child who is not self-motivated, the parent would definitely have to take a more active role. With the self-pacing of the course, no due dates or deadlines, the unmotivated student could just stall out and not progress. The key is knowing your student and implementing whatever guidelines that were needed to make the course work in your home.

Since Bekah used this course independently, I felt it was important to share her thoughts/experience with the Expository Essay course. From Bekah:

The lessons were very easy to understand. I like being able to read over the information again after watching the videos. Submitting the assignments was easy and it was helpful to have links to example papers and such. You can’t move on until the teacher allows you to which I think is a good thing.

I don’t feel like I received helpful feedback on my writing. Maybe it was because I knew what I was doing from other writing courses I had taken? I didn’t like how there wasn’t a deadline. Not having a deadline makes it seem like it isn’t important to get the work done. Honestly, if this wasn’t a review, I might not have worked so hard to do the assignments. It would be very easy to not work on it since the parent doesn’t have to check it and the teacher doesn’t give a deadline.

 

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I think the Essay Rock Star: Expository Essay course is a valuable resource. I think the key is knowing your student and how to make the course work for you. With an independent, motivated student, this course will flow well.  If you have a student not quite as motivated, then you can easily set time requirements or goals.  Using this course with other children in our home, I would definitely be a bit more involved in tracking progress.

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High School – It’s a hard life…

Transitioning to high school work went relatively smoothly for Bekah. She has been working on Year 10 of Ambleside Online and we have both been pleased at how well it is working for her.

For some portions of her day, she studies in her bedroom. Subjects like math and science demand a bit more quiet that is normally available with the little ones around.

However, when it is time to settle in with a good history or biography, sometimes the couch calls.

High school…..it’s a hard life, right?