Wednesday, March 09, 2011

To CC or not to CC

You can read a more current CC review here. I hope you find these posts helpful as you explore the right avenues for your homeschooling adventure.
December 4, 2013

We’re well into March, and all home schooling moms know what that means: time to think about next year.  It matters not that we have three months left in this school year; inevitably, thoughts, dreams, plans for 2011 – 2012 will begin rolling around in lots of home schooling moms’ minds.

In my eight years as a home school mom I’ve tried a lot of different curricula, co-ops, tutors and one day a week “schools” that cater to the home school family.  Some have been great successes; others, not so much.  And while I would never dare say what worked for us will work for another family, in the next few weeks I would like to make a few suggestions for my homeschooling friends.

Today, I’ll start with one that didn’t work: Classical Conversations.  I’ve made myself wait a year before writing this; if I’d written last year it wouldn’t have been a helpful review.  Thankfully, my 40 years have taught me that sometimes it’s best to sleep on what you’ve written; I slept lots on this one, and feel enough time has passed that I can write an honest, mostly-unemotional review.

First, the good: CC’s materials are excellent.  You cannot go wrong with the majority of their books, and the history cards are excellent for the younger set.

The bad: It’s a lot of rote memorization in the early years, K – 6.  That’s not inherently wrong, but after paying what you’re going to pay, I expected some integration with other materials. Yes, someone’s going to say CC offers lots of books that go along with whatever cycle you’re on. True. But I expected the tutor (who is paid) to select some appropriate materials for the entire class to read and discuss together. This did not happen because CC only focuses on the memorization at this stage.

The ugly: Classical Conversations likes to claim it has “trained tutors,” but this is simply not true.  I guess technically, it is, because each tutor attends a three day training seminar. But three days to understand the high-level math, science and literature is simply not enough time. Oh, and did I mention that each tutor also teaches Latin and logic? Three days would hardly be enough for one of those subjects, let alone all of them. We were fortunate with Michael’s tutor; he was, indeed, excellent, but he would have been excellent without the three day training. Amy’s “tutor” was a disaster.

Amy’s tutor did not understand the logic program or the Latin pronunciations. She also failed to bring her materials to class not once, but three times in a row.  I thought Amy was exaggerating until I sat in the class with her. If anything, Amy soft-pedaled the situation. The woman was hardly fit to teach her own child, much less anyone else’s.

And this is where CC gets sticky: each tutor in grades 7 – 12 is her own “director.” If you have a problem with her, your only recourse is the state CC director. And our state director was completely unmoved by the pleas of the parents in Amy’s class until someone threatened to sue to get her money back. Then, and only then, did we get some action from her.

I won’t go in to the gory details of what happened to us last year, but suffice it to say the Michigan Classical Conversations State Director was more concerned with money than helping homeschool families. Y’all, I am a capitalist and want people to make money. But we’re talking about a Christian homeschool association – I thought, when presented with the fact that she installed an incompetent tutor, she would be concerned for the students. Trust me when I say she was not. And trust me when I say the on-site Lansing CC director (who is still there) cared more about rules than helping students, even when CC didn’t do what it said it would, which is provide a trained tutor.

I realize this is a specific situation and cannot be extrapolated to the whole of CC. But I hope our misadventure will encourage anyone who’s investigating CC to proceed with caution. Carefully interview the tutor. Ask her to actually pronounce a few Latin words. See if he really understands the basics of the logic material. And interview the campus director in addition to the tutor; she is the one who sets the tone for the group. You don’t want one with a stick up her butt. Trust me on this one.

It’s your money, and CC requires quite a bit of it; spend it wisely! Goodness knows if I’d taken these steps instead of trusting the organization to give us what they said they would, we could have avoided an unfortunate year of our homeschool adventure.

You can read a post I wrote in the heat of the moment here. And if you’d like further information on our experience, feel free to shoot me an email.