Last year was an interesting year for us as a family. We deregistered our kids from school and then started homeschooling using the classical, Christian curriculum called Classical Conversations (CC). CC is a homeschooling programme that works best in community so as soon as we decided on the programme, we got to work looking for the nearest community that we could join. The closest one was thankfully, not too far from our home but there were a few concerns: I didn’t have my driving license yet as it had only been a year since we arrived in the UK from Dubai. Also, we were still in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic which meant that meeting up regularly in community was not always guaranteed.
During this time, a fellow CC mum suggested I train as a director and start my own community in my local area of Chessington. CC was growing in the UK, and they were keen to encourage families to step up in leadership and start new communities. CC would provide all the training and there was a lot of support provided by Team Leaders.
I balked at the idea initially. I thought it was outrageous if I’m being honest. A train of questions and thoughts rushed through my head:
- I just barely decided to homeschool! Wouldn’t it be a good idea to join an experienced community with skilled tutors and a knowledgeable director? Wouldn’t it be most beneficial to learn under a community of people who had years of experience under their belt?
- I don’t feel qualified to teach my own kids at the moment, let alone lead a homeschool community! At present, I have limited experience and knowledge of homeschooling, the classical education model and CC.
- What will the work involve? I don’t have enough clarity on that. How much teaching do I have to do? Am I competent to teach the programme as a tutor and will there be other mums who will step up and become tutors? Will I be competent to administer this programme as a director?
- Am I motivated to homeschool through to secondary school (one of the requirements of being a director)? And am I mentally and physically able to take on the additional responsibilities of being a community director?
So many doubts and questions.
I sat down with my husband and discussed all these thoughts. He helpfully put them down on an excel sheet and then made a decision-making flowchart for me.
Eventually we decided to go for it. I love that CC encourages mums (and dads!) to take a leap of faith and step up in leadership by saying that “the Lord does not call the equipped, He equips the called”. This truth encouraged me. It made me dependent on God moment by moment to give me what I need at just the right time.
With that truth by my side, along with the many benefits of starting a community in my local area, I set on the path to registering as a director.
This involved completing administrative work, having an interview with the Support Representative and then training. The training was not a one-off and neither was the registration. There is a plethora of training materials available on CC’s learning platform and re-registration/training is required to be done every year. After getting licensed as a director in August of last year, I wrote a blog post about the opening of our new community in Chessington and had it published in the official UK CC website as well. We also did a “taster session” at my home with another experienced CC mum teaching us the ropes about how to run a community day. We had a few enquiries the next couple of weeks, but we ended up starting the CC academic year in September with just my family and me directing it!
What are my thoughts now after directing my family for a year?
- I learnt how to teach Foundations (the grammar stage of CC) to my children (ages 5, 6, 7) and I learnt the memory work alongside them. We ran our own “community day” at home: I had a whiteboard with all the grammar work written on it every week and it remained up in our living room (our study space) for the entire week. We drilled memory work together daily and we learnt how to use the scientific method when conducting our science experiments. We learnt how to imitate the drawing style of famous artists, practised the tin whistle for a couple of weeks, and we enjoyed listening to masterpieces of music while appreciating the different instruments in an orchestra.
- I prepared to teach by doing the tutor training available on Learning Pathways and CC connected. Besides the Taster session at my home, I also visited another local community and took notes. There are numerous places where you can get more information: tutor and director FB groups you can join, websites you can explore, podcasts to listen to, books to read and people to speak to. I didn’t feel like I was doing this on my own!
- I prepared for each week of the Cycle by reviewing the Foundations curriculum and the tutor resources I had bought. We used a lot of songs that a fellow CC mum had kindly shared with me and sourced others from CC connected. By the way, you get a great discount with CC connected if you are a director!
- I made a calendar for the academic year 2020-2021 which included breaks in-between the weeks and for the winter holidays. I noticed that the day in which the new grammar was introduced tended to be quite intense on some weeks compared to others, so having breaks in-between provided a much-needed respite.
- I modified the Community day after a helpful suggestion from a friend: we had a set day for each new week when we learnt the new grammar. However, the science experiments, fine arts and presentations were done on other days during the week. This reduced the pressure of doing everything on one day and since it was just my family, I had the advantage of being flexible.
I also tried to do a short, daily review instead of a weekly review on community day. Of course, I also added Language Arts and a Maths curriculum for my older kids during the week.
- Learning alongside my children was a humbling experience, yet it was also rewarding. I realised that most of this “new grammar” was not just new to my kids, but to me as well! As my children were growing and learning, so was I.
- I was especially interested in understanding experientially how subject areas are integrated around a Christ-centred worldview in CC. Doug Wilson in his book “Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning” states that “all truth comes from God, each subject has a relationship with every other subject and that there is no fragmentation of knowledge. This means that every fact, every truth in History, art, music, mathematics etc must all be in the light of God’s existence and His revelation of His Son, Jesus Christ“.
I’m still grappling with this because it was not the way I was educated. I also think that because there is so much to learn in the Classical education model, I will most likely learn in layers over time as I read more and experience more.
- Memorisation is hard work! I trusted the Classical education model though which purports to be ideally suited to children’s natural learning style. Children in their younger years naturally excel at memorisation and enjoy soaking up facts. There were times last year when I was challenged by some of the memory work…but for my kids it was a breeze and they found it hilarious that I was struggling to keep up! I didn’t worry about trying to explain the meaning behind all the grammar they were taking in, but responded encouragingly when my older children made connections and when they wanted to learn further.
- My interest and knowledge in homeschooling, classical education and CC has grown this past year as I immersed myself in many books, listened to podcasts, and had conversations with CC mums. After teaching my kids this past year, I am keener than ever to continue the CC homeschool journey all the way to Challenge with my children.
So that was what my first year directing my own family was like. If you are considering becoming a licensed Director and starting your own community, I encourage you to take that leap of faith too!
And now, having said all of that…
What would I change for the next Academic Year 2021-2022? Read my next post!