14 Tips for Your First Year of Classical Conversations


 Tomorrow night is parent night for our Classical Conversations campus. This will mark the ending of our very first year of Classical Conversations. Joshua’s class will be reciting the Preamble, Caleb’s class will be reciting the first 12 elements of the Periodic Table, and all of the classes combined will be reciting John 1:1-7 in both English and Latin.

Oh guess what. As their teacher, I learned all this stuff too. That’s right. It’s like going back to school yourself.

 My oh my oh my oh my!!!! The funny thing is that I DID have some clue as to what I was getting into, and yet I still cannot explain how exhausted I was in the beginning! Take everything you ever thought of school as being, turn it upside down, and add way more things to learn, and that is Classical Conversations.

Alan’s Aunt Karen is a CC director, so she had given me all the basics: Everyone memorizes new material each week. Classes are split into age groups. You have to have the CD to listen to the memory work during the week. There’s a fine art lesson each week as well as a science experiment. There’s a song for a lot of it. Buy the geography trivium tables. Each week CC covers memory work in math, science, geography, grammar, history, and Latin. I would have been lost if I hadn’t had Karen to tell me the basics!

 I want to take this moment to jot down the answers to the questions that most beginners don’t even know to ask!

#1…..and this really is #1! CC is just a curriculum, but a CC campus is a community and a tutoring service all rolled into one. Find yourself a community because you will learn more from the other moms than you can ever learn online.  It also gives you accountability.

The best thing I did was stay for lunch and show up at the moms only nights. The first few weeks, I seriously questioned my decision to stay for lunch because, as I’ve said before, I am SHY. I know everyone thinks I’m an extrovert, but I’m a shy extrovert. Don’t listen to the experts. Shy extroverts is a thing!! We had just moved here from the DC area, and we knew NO ONE.

Don’t you hate that feeling, when you’re one of the new gals, and you just have no ideas for what to say to anyone? Everyone else seems so happy, and you just feel like an outsider that should run away as fast as possible?  There were weeks my kids felt that way too, and I had to pull them out of the van and say, “No, we’re staying. Just play with your brothers.”

By the last month, my boys lived for that outdoor lunch time, and it was my favorite part too. Making friends takes a while, but you can’t meet anyone if you don’t leave your house.

2. Get the tin whistle out before tin whistle lessons start, and let your children  familiarize themselves with it.  I messed up big time on that one. I was so afraid they’d lose them or dent them (which they eventually did), that I hid them. Come tin whistle day one, I couldn’t even figure out where I’d hidden the things, and the boys were way behind everyone else in class.

Sorry, boys! Mom will do better next year!

3.  Psssst!!!  The math is the same EVERY SINGLE YEAR of elementary school.

The downside is that you’re asking 5-year-olds to count by 8s, which is bonkers to me, but the upside is that your small fry has YEARS to master it. Didn’t get it last year? No sweat. We get another go next year.

The skip counting songs are right at the beginning of the year when you don’t really know what you’re doing, too, so that didn’t help. But don’t despair. Like I said, it’s the same every year.

Timeline cards were a hit here.

Timeline cards were a hit here.


The kids can copy the map work from the iPad.

4. CC has an app. It’s not free, but it’s cheap, and it’s worth its weight in gold. Download it now!

There’s a different app for each cycle, so make sure you get the right one. 2015/2016 will be cycle 1.

This revolutionized the way we practice memory work. Unfortunately, I didn’t even know it existed until about the 3rd quarter. It has every single week, every single subject. It has all of the history songs and math songs. The other subjects are just speaking.

If we had known about this at the beginning of the year, I know we could have mastered those number songs. Our problem was that we could never remember the tune, and the CD was always in the car. Enter the app. We are very good at keeping up with our ipads.

Caleb used to take the app to his room with him and listen to the President song over and over and over and over, so he can sing it lightning fast now.

Oh! The app has a slide show of the presidential faces to go with the president song, so we are President Vs. Alien superstars! 😉

Joshua enjoys the Timeline song and the history songs, so he listens to the history songs over and over. It’s funny how they are in the same school, but they have totally different areas of expertise!

We also used the iPad for geography. It’s such a quick and easy reference. They can copy the map work right off of there, without me standing over their shoulders. Love that!

5. YouTube! There’s one lady that is my FAVORITE: Missy Wilson

Her stuff is so GOOD! These math and science songs really stuck in my head, and the boys loved the animation. One week had Mario on it. They were so happy.

6. Always have a song. They can learn anything if there’s a song, though my boys will never admit it.

My boys are the ones that either don’t sing in class or sing so quietly that no one knows if they’re singing or not. Don’t let them fool you. When I quiz them at home, they sing the answers to me. It works. There’s already a song out there for pretty much anything in CC. Just dig around, via CC Connected, YouTube, and Google, and you can find one.

7. Yes, you have to go with the kids to tutoring, but that’s because you are learning too.

Coming from public school to home school, I was annoyed that I had to go to class with my children. *gasp* I know, but that’s me.  The parents are required in class for a different reason than I thought, though. Sure, we can help a little, but more importantly, we are learning teaching strategies from the tutors.

Thank you to our tutors, Lindsay and Jessica!! 

Joshua and Caleb were in two different classes while Dan and JD went to CC provided childcare. Jessica and Lindsay are totally different, and both wonderful. I learned so many different teaching methods, games, and practical ideas from these two!

8. What you need to buy for Foundations:

You NEED the Foundations guide, the tin whistle, and the geography trivium tables, IF that’s all you can afford.

If you can afford more, GET IT ALL. I don’t know about you, but I needed all the resources I could get. Here’s what I ordered for Cycle 1 Foundations:

-I will get the app for sure.

-the audio CD

-the flashcards……Nope, I never got around to making my own last year, so I forked over the money this year.

-CC Connected membership

-timeline cards

separate math and language arts curriculums

an idea I found online

an idea I found online

9. There are lots of great Classical Conversations bloggers out there from whom you can steal ideas!! No, it’s not really stealing. They’re giving them away for free. 😉

A few of my faves:



www.storiesofourboys.com/category/homeschool Yes, that’s a shameless plug for my occasional CC posts.;)

Caleb, teaching Dan his letter sounds

Caleb, teaching Dan his letter sounds

10. Have your kids quiz each other: Buying the CC flashcards is best for this!! The iPad tells them the answers, so if they need that, there’s always that option. Unfortunately, this never occurred to me until the year was almost over. Caleb’s tutor gave me that tip.

11. One-on-One attention

There was one week that Joshua was out for poison oak. Even at home, he was too itchy and miserable to participate in school, so it was just Caleb and me. Caleb, to this day, knows that material better than any other material that we covered this year. One-on-one attention–wow.

12. Make it fun????

I was the worst ever at this. I mostly stood in front of them and drilled them all year, so no, they didn’t love it. A whole lot of moms have great ideas to make it more fun. Ask around and gather all the ideas you can! Trampoline CC was a big hit around here. Only, my kids would say, “This is embarrassing, Mom. Please talk quieter.” Haaaaa!  I am SO EMBARRASSING.  Sorry, guys.

13. Don’t compare your kids to others!!!!!

I am a competitive person. I can’t help it. I was born that way. I will die that way.  I don’t like for too many people to do better than me. Here’s what I had to learn, and there’s nothing more important:

Don’t put your crazy competitive problem on your kids. It’s not about you. It’s about them.

I chant this to myself allll the time…

Naturally, the second-or-more-year students will out memorize the beginners. Like I said, the timeline and the math are the same every year. Plus, memorizing lots of information is something that you get better at the more you do it.

Give your kids lots of grace. Just keep plugging away. Just playing the CD over and over and over again will, surprisingly enough, get the job done. You won’t believe how fast they learn the timeline song that way. We were all singing “Cherokee Trail of Tears, US Westward Expansion, Marx publishes the Communist Manifesto….” WAY before we went over it in class. Just listening to the song all the time was enough to learn it.

14. CC Day is intense. Make it a tradition that when you get home from CC, everyone gets to chill.  We put JD down for a nap. We finish up eating lunch, and then we spread out for 30 minutes or so. I’m the kind of person that needs to get away from people, after having been social all morning!

Bonus: #15: Don’t take CC too seriously for Kindergarteners. Just have fun with it, and see what sticks.  Daniel did maps with the boys all year, even though he was three and four. I did not encourage this. It just happened because he wants to be like his brothers, and he thought it was fun.

Just for fun


Okay…..Daniel is here, dying to play Reading Eggs, so writing time is over. Best of luck in your first year of CC! You will feel like a genius rock star when this is over!!




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