Friday, May 19, 2017

Homeschool Progress - An ongoing story of success

Morgan’s Homeschool Progress!


Morgan Akers has been homeschooled approximately three years.  Being pulled out of public school after the first six weeks of fifth grade, Morgan was failing almost every class.  The stress she was facing (learning difficulty, bullying, depression, socializing issues) made it harder on her health condition.

When [Crystal] decided to homeschool, I thought I was making the biggest mistake of my life.  The first year was very hectic.  Morgan was so used to writing down anything just to say she was finished.  She did not want to take her time and learn the material or become interested in any subject to learn.  There were days I would give up and let her rest.  I mainly used this time to learn Morgan’s style of learning and getting to know who she really was.  When Morgan was in public school I thought I knew my daughter.  Until the end of my first year of homeschooling, my whole way of thinking changed.

The second year of homeschooling went a little more smoothly.  I’m not saying it wasn’t hard.  Morgan seemed to be a little more relaxed.  Finding her interests was becoming easier and easier.  Morgan finally understood I wanted her to learn what she wanted and nothing less.  Morgan did not know how to multiply the easiest problems; subtracting was very difficult to understand as well.  Answering a question to a story we had read was impossible.  Morgan was definitely not interested in any science or history.  This year’s focus was learning mainly what my daughter needed to catch up on at home.   Through Morgan’s second year of homeschooling, she learned the basics of multiplication, subtraction, and found out she loved to learn about the human body.  Learning how to comprehend a story and then ask and answer questions was still a work in progress.

Morgan’s handwriting was terrible also.  She did not take pride in her work or even care if I could read it.  She did not know how to write most lower case letters and always used uppercase letters when writing sentences.  I had to reteach these skills.

I also found out something else.  Morgan was really interested in piano!  Toward the end of the second year, she was excited about learning how to play the piano.  This was toward the end of our second year of homeschooling.  I felt this was a start to new beginning.  This year ended and was a very rewarding one.  I signed Morgan up for piano lessons.

Morgan’s third year of homeschooling has been the greatest year so far.  Morgan has progressed in self-care.  She can wash her hair all by herself, do her chores, respond and interact better with family, friends, siblings and both parents.  She has an eagerness to learn as well!  She has mastered multiplication and is learning division now.  Her handwriting has tremendously improved – upper and lower cases.  Punctuation is also used.

She was very excited to learn about the presidency and asked questions about elections.  She has begun to be more interested in the human body as well as being healthy. 

Morgan played her first sport this year!  She chose to play basketball.  She made great progress as the season advanced.  Morgan is making more friends every day.  She is becoming more open to socializing and learning how each person is different. 

Morgan never had a “When I grow up I want to be a ….” answer.  Now she does.  She wants to be a chiropractor.  To hear those words was music to my ears. 

Morgan has 100% improved in every subject.  She has continued with piano for a little over one year and is almost in her third piano book.  When we have hard days homeschooling, we will learn by using examples from music.  She plays the piano with confidence even in front of the camera for her Facebook audience.  She had zero confidence in any area before homeschooling.  Her eye and hand coordination is better than it has ever been. 

Morgan has blown my mind.  She is actually my daughter that I did not know.  Now, she is my daughter that I do know and is very smart in her own way.

-Crystal Akers

I’ve learned that Morgan has a few special needs.  She was previously in special education classes for some subjects but was not learning because the work was done for her a lot of the time.  I noticed this year as I was at her house for something that she appeared differently. She looked me in the eye and did not look away, as she had always in the past.  She has played the piano for me and wanted to play this time as well.  I asked Crystal to write a story about her progress and wanted to share with you. 
How have you seen your child improve since being homeschooled?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Classical Conversations Revisited.... HOW DID IT FEEL being at the Beckley Campus?

A few years ago I did a series on Classical Conversation with very negative tones a couple years ago. Well, it was worse than negative tones, perhaps if you were in love with the program....  I received a lot of flack for it (and support for the people who had not agreed with some techniques of the program.)  HOWEVER,  I recently revisited this program focusing on a Beckley, WV campus.  Joy Browning, as the new Beckley CC director, invited me to observe and see how I felt as I observed the entire day.

From the moment I arrived, I could feel the Holy Spirit directing the speakers, the children and the parents who were very interactive with each other.  I could see genuine smiles on their faces for each other - not just for my benefit.  The students greeted me with smiles too.  Some teen boys were a bit rowdy at times during the opening ceremonies, but it did not bother me or take away from the overall feel of the moment.

I felt welcomed to their community.  I felt warmth, love, & appreciation for attending.

Here's more of what I observed about the entire community.

Dress --  The ladies were all dressed so nicely with no particular dress code that could be detected; some wore modern jeans and a fashionable army blazer or a flowing blouse, while others wore a Sunday dress. The women and students were all modest and humble.  Students were dressed nicely too.  No particular dress code, yet a good variety of casual, Christian attire.

Lunch --  Most of the ladies sat with children, yet some ladies sat with other ladies; no particular pattern was observed.  During lunch, there was a vendor from Melaleuca that had set up his wares.  This was done to support Stephanie Plumley and her quest for natural cleaning items and other natural products to which she subscribes. Joy explained that the community tries to support others' venues for making additional money, because as moms we should be supportive however we can.  And if one mom loves a company, others may also.  Anyone can participate in the lunch vendor program.  Another mom sells Matilda Jane clothing.  Everyone supports each other as best they can.

After lunch, we went to more classes for the older students in Essentials and Challenge areas.  These students were still engaged.  There was a person available to look out for students who did not participate in the afternoon classes.  She charged $2/hour/kid.  This was a blessing as I had two littles who could not attend afternoon classes.  The littles played in the gym, sang, and ran.  These kids were exhausted by 3:30 pm!!!

Overall I had a great time and would highly recommend this community to others who are looking to classically educate their child with a group; this is the place to be.  I also have others who participate in the Shady Spring Campus, about 30 minutes away.  I have friends who attend there, and they are thrilled with their campus too.  I have recently spoken with a few of them on how they like CC and the campus at "Shady".

I was invited to attend the end -of -the -year program.  I LOVED it.  The best part was when Miranda Guzman told Joy Browning while offering her a gift,
"You've nurtured and supported us all year."  
Nurtured is a very unique, strong word.  This word made me feel like a great overall word for the program/campus in our areas.

How has someone nurtured you all year?  How have you nurtured someone all year?  

Monday, May 1, 2017

Classical Conversations Revisited CHALLENGE Levels


I had heard Classical Conversations (CC) offered a High School option that was unable to be done at home.  A previous CC director had shared that with me....  The other levels, practically speaking, could be done at home but Challenge levels require discussions, interaction, and thinking skills.  "Conversation" takes place here.

I observed the Challenge II class with Diana Harer.  I heard words, phrases, and sentences from the students such as the following:

"I'm fasting for Lent."
"The media portrays what they want to portray."
"The media could twist any scenario."

These conversations I had seen nowhere else!  High school students were comfortable speaking publically, displaying their feelings, and communicating their thoughts.  The students watched a video segment 9 of a series from Francis Schaeffer's How Should We Then Live?  See here for the corresponding book.  The tutor then discussed the segment and asked questions drawing points about the author's purpose.
The students followed with a lab on the Embryology of Eggs.  The students do a lab after reading a Module in their Apologia Biology Curriculum.  The tutor is responsible for creating the lab setting for the students; they used a note-booking technique the day I was there.  They kept an ongoing notebook for science.  Students research their science module prior to coming to class for discussion and actual labs.

Math or Logic is dependent on the students in the class; depending on the level of math the students are proficient, determines the lessons for the week.  Saxon is recommended but not required.  Parents are in full control of their math education and are responsible for the student's learning.  With different math levels occurring in the classroom, the tutor may go over a formula, solving for an unknown, or an algebra concept.  Algebra II is the goal for the students in Challenge II, but not necessary.  This will change depending on the group of students and in which Challenge they are placed.

Reading and writing are quite impressive.  Here is a reading list of British Literature books available for purchase for 2017-18 (the catalog that I have was updated for the new school year; CCs 20th anniversary).

Selected Canterbury Tales
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Paradise Lost
The Pilgrim's Progress (the original version)
Gulliver's Travels
Pride and Prejudice
A Tale of Two Cities
Jane Eyre
Animal Farm
Favorite Father Brown Stories
The Hobbit
The Screwtape Letters

These books are not all simply read but are utilized as an interval of three weeks worth of simultaneous writing activities. Characters are studied; plot and setting discussed.  An essay on each book is written during the three weeks.  The tutor teaches to write a simple essay and a new element is added each week to complete a goal for writing a substantial essay by the end of the school year (with a thesis, antitheses, and synthesis.  For more information on this, click here).

The biggest question for many will be where does the money go?  I had disliked the idea that money would be paid for these lessons; however, after spending the day at CC with the amount of preparation that I observed from these tutors, it could be well worth the money.  The tutor is paid for their preparation, "grading" (although the parent is responsible for actual grades and the degree to which the tutor oversees the work), and labs or activities.  The tuition covers their prep time for the lesson and for the actual day of lesson presentation.  This cost could be seen as astronomical, but for the preparation that I saw, it could be well worth the investment.  These essays and reading lists are not seen anywhere else!  College English 101 is basically essay writing, and, with the right tutor, a student could easily pass an English 101 after sitting in this Challenge course for one year.

Diana Harer would be well worth the money/investment.  She is humble, calm, approachable, intelligent, and cheerful.  She realizes the parent is the real teacher; she does not act haughty even though she is going through this level of High School, learning right along with them.

These CC days are also filled with music, art, Latin, and debate, but I did not observe these on my day; I wish I had a more time in the day to spend listening to these mature teens as well as their lovely 'tutor'.  I'll see if I can squeeze more time into observe another wonderful and fulfilling Beckley campus day.  Enjoy this short video of the discussion time!

*There is an option for dual enrollment through Southeastern University.  For more information, click here.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Classical Education from a New Perspective: Conversation Three on Classical Conversations Revisited


Jennifer Bradford and Jessica Wingrove are the parents over the Challenge I program.  Jennifer Bradford is the director, and Jessica Wingrove is the tutor for this level.  My oldest daughters attended classes with these beautiful ladies.  There were about five other students in the class.  Jessica and I talked about the program and what the students had accomplished this year.  She discussed her prep time which was a day of getting ready for her areas.  Jennifer and Jessica split their areas of expertise into two parts so each one has a more focused tutoring subject.  In other words, I feel like they are more specialized in their areas.

The students had studied American Government, Latin, Economics, Physical Science, Introduction to Debate, Shakespeare, Music Theory, Algebra and business math, and American Literature.  Their reading list was quite impressive for this level,

Reading List Challenge I

The Sign of the Beaver
The Call of the Wild
Johnny Tremain
The Red Badge of Courage
The Scarlett Letter
Gold - Bug and Other Tales
Billy Budd, Sailor
Through Gates of Splendor
Adventures of Tom Sawyer
To Kill A Mockingbird
Born Again
Up From Slavery
Narrative Life of Fredrick Douglass
The Old Man and the Sea
An Old-Fashioned Girl
The Witch of Blackbird Pond

These books are taught with a perspective of learning to pick out the good and bad by making a list of Good, Negative, and Interesting facts regarding characters and situations.  The students then pick positions based upon their lists and then discuss/debate these opinions.  I have not seen anything like this in any school setting anywhere.  Here is a link with a similar process to explain the idea further.  Positive Negative Interesting

In Shakespeare, the students studied Tales from Shakespeare and The Taming of the Shrew. I still remember this from my high school days.  After reading the book my 9th-grade class watched Elizabeth Taylor as the "Shrew".

The students studied Apologia Science's Exploring Creation with Physical Science by Jay Wile.  For Dr. Wile's website, click here.  The students did experiments on the days they were in class.  They prepared and read a module a week or sometimes a module every two weeks, depending on the difficulty level.  this is quite impressive.  Parents are responsible for the completion of the work at home and how difficult or in depth, it is covered.  All lab equipment and supplies are covered in the supply fees.

The day I attended the students had done their lessons, rehearsed for an end-of-year program, and were playing Monopoly Empire to mimic the elements they had learned in Economics.  These students have a full day ending at 3 pm.

It was a busy day that was impressive, to say the least.  I did not get pictures of this group. I apologize!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Classical Education from a New Perspective: Conversation Two on Classical Conversations Revisited

 I was quite confused regarding their naming system and ‘grade levels’.  There are no formal grade levels with Classical Conversations (CC) or other classical education philosophies.  With most homeschooling methods, parents meet the child where they are academically and move forward, reviewing often.  The levels for CC for the Foundations are in the following order:  Abecedarians (a person who is just learning; a novice), Apprentice I, Apprentice II, Journeymen, and Masters. 

Parents and tutors decide at what level to place their child if newly entering CC.  If a student begins with Classical Conversations, he or she follows the sequential levels from the beginning advancing as appropriate.  Abecedarians were for 3-6 years old.  Apprentice I was from 6-7 and so on.  There is overlap for the benefit of the individual child.  A mature child can move on while one who is not ready can stay behind for another year or even a semester.

After The Foundations levels, the Essentials group would be considered the early middle school.  Challenge A & B would be junior high and Challenge I, II, III, IV would be high school levels.   These specific levels are added each year as needed.  

If there are more than eight students, Joy Browning says, they add another tutor and potentially a whole new room.  A tutor to student ratio of 1:8 is quite impressive.  This allows personal attention and clarification if something is not understood, as well as more assistance with projects that are done in class, because, remember, moms also stay to learn the teaching methods for the week - the tips and tricks to the weekly lessons. 
Example of a trifold utilized for Upper Elementary / Middle School Grades; creates a visual of learning goals.

Parents sit in the back of the room, assist with passing out papers, facilitating games or helping students stay focused.
 Amanda Schmidt did a public speaking segment, where the students were allotted a certain amount of time for this week’s goal - impromptu speeches.  The students do a different type of speech each week or so, but ultimately the parents oversee the speech and the topic.  I was completely impressed with the ease of which the students went to the podium.  One student, Andrew Jones, had to talk about his favorite thing do this summer.  He mostly talked about baseball, his family’s history of the love for baseball, who his favorite teams were, his position on the team, and much more.  The tutor had to call time.  The audience sat quietly with eyes focused on Andrew.  A few giggles were heard, but nothing disrespectful.  He asked if there were any questions at the end.

The next public speaker of the hour had the topic “What would you do if you were president?”.  Connor Bradford smiled as he spoke the entire time on presidential things, especially how he would build a wall.  The most impressive thing was a question from his classmate at the end – “What will you be known for?”  Connor thought intensely, still smiling, and mentioned that he would be known for allowing homeschoolers to play public school sports.
Andrew Jones

Connor Bradford
 The Essentials portion I attended featured Amanda Schmidt’s class doing outlines, critiquing a story, as well as discussion of the short story “Genghis Khan and his Hawk”.  She was coaching the students on using conflict, plot, outline procedures, strong verbs, and strong adjectives while recalling the story.   

The writing curriculum was from the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) by Andrew Pudewa.  IEW is a formal writing curriculum which can also be a formal language curriculum if desired.  He discusses parts of speech, how to summarize, how to dress up a writing piece and much more.  From the site the following statements were obtained:
Our mission is to equip teachers and teaching parents with methods and materials which will aid them in training their students to become confident and competent communicators and thinkers.
Using the four language arts—listening, speaking, reading, and writing—IEW methods have been proven to be effective for students of all ages and levels of ability, including those who are gifted, have special needs, or are English language learners.

Amanda Schmidt

Math Battleship
The Essentials class also did a numbers game after finishing their segment on public speaking. Miranda Guzman facilitated this game of numbers, where the students were to get their classmates out in Math Battleship.  All the students played and were engaged.

I then went to the Challenge I & II class, but I need an entire blog post for that!  

What do you think so far of these posts?  Let me know your experiences with CC in a community of brothers and sisters working together for one purpose - "To know God and make Him known."

Monday, April 10, 2017

Classical Education from a new perspective: Conversation One on Classical Conversations Revisited

For those who may not know, I did a review of Classical Conversations a few years ago and did not give it a rave review.  I had heard of these Campuses getting new leadership in our area, so I wanted to review this educational tool again.  Joy Browning, a friend of a friend, invited me via Facebook to observe the Beckley Campus, where she serves as director.  Here is the first post in a series....  

Convo Number 1:  Introduction, Foundations, Essentials

I arrived at 9:15 am.  These smiling faces were prompt, as they had begun the Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag, Pledge to the Christian Flag, and Pledge to the Holy Bible as I walked into the huge foyer of CrossPoint Church.  I stopped to be respectful of the pledges and then found a place in the back as I awaited the next activity.  Little did I know, the next activity was the introduction of visitors, of whom I was first.  Joy Browning, a petite, young, well-dressed lady invited me to the front of the circle of about 60 moms, children, dads, and teens.  Joy introduced me to the group and mentioned that I could do end - of - year - portfolios for them; I was there to observe today to see what Classical Conversations was all about under the new leadership.  She also introduced Angela Single, another mom who was interested in the Beckley Campus of Classical Conversations.  She had recently moved into the area from a nearby town.

Next was announcements and introduction of the Miller family, who sang two glorious songs where my eyes filled with tears regarding the genuine feel for the praise.  One daughter sang along with the father, who played guitar, while a teen boy boomed the drum on which he sat. 

The older students were dismissed with their tutors (these parents are not called teachers, but tutor fits their position well).   I watched as the younger students were given seating arrangements in the foyer that resembled the orchestra.  The teachers held posters for the students, who sang in rounds, the 'song of the orchestra'.  The special seating was to show the students the specified arrangement of the orchestra in a symphony. This activity fulfilled their weekly goal for fine arts learning the orchestra and composers Brahms and Dvorak.  Students would learn more about these men in their classes in an age-appropriate fashion.     

We were then dismissed to the classrooms.  I followed Stephanie Plumley to “Abecedarian” class.  These were students who were 3-6 years old.  My two younger children went along.  The Foundations ABC group is for 3-6 year-olds, Apprentice classes, for 6-7 years olds.  There are potentially two Apprentice classes if needed.  This makes placing your child where they are, educationally efficient.  There is no pressure at these young ages to perform.  They are all there to have fun, learn chants, songs, American Sign Language, and to play with one another.  Mrs. Plumley used sign language to show the students a timeline song, which is the same each year.  These students hear the timeline song each year and build on it week-by-week.  My day’s part of the song added, “In 1990, President Bush sent troops to the Persian Gulf to expel Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from Kuwait during the Gulf War.”  I learned, though Joy and Stephanie as well as Angela Single, that there are options for each smaller child.  Some are mature enough to move up at six and some may remain in the current class for another year.  It is up to the parent to decide.

I then proceeded to Apprentice I where these students, mostly boys, were pretending to be the teacher, playing a game of ‘guess the noun’ (that is my name for it anyway) where they utilize adjectives to guess an object; this was a very engaging activity.  There were a few boys wiggling, one looking down, and most were very engaged. The students had just completed a map coloring sheet prior to my entrance; some were still working on that.  The classroom management was efficient, yet seemed non-existent.  Children knowing that parents are on-site would keep discipline problems to a minimum.  The tutors do not discipline any child; however, they will send a room parent to get the disruptive child's parent if needed. There is a ‘meet the child where they are’ mentality no pressure to perform at a certain level.

I went to a Masters class with Miranda Guzman and later an Essentials class with Amanda Schmidt.  These older students had opportunities for public speaking, playing games, and summarizing a story.  They were assigned homework in the class that I observed and not a minute was wasted!!!  They utilize IEW with Andrew Pudewa.  More on the Essentials group with my next post…..

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Notes on Classical Education

As I prepared to attend an open house at our Classical Conversations, I was blown away with how much I do not know about classical education - the stages, the trivium, the terminology, the Latin.  As I researched this, I realized that to do a great review of my day at Classical Conversations Campus in Beckley, I needed to share the thoughts behind this different method of education.  Here are my notes, most of which are from Wikipedia for the preciseness of the information.  Enjoy.  I'll be back soon to discuss the actual visit to the campus.

Stages of our current education system date back to "Classical Education"

  1. Primary education teaches students how to learn (k-12th grades)
  2. Secondary education teaches a mental framework that can contain history, understands basic facts and practices of multiple subjects, and also develops the skills of these subjects (undergraduate degree)
  3. Tertiary education then prepares a person to pursue a profession (graduate education)

Primary education

In classical terms, primary education was the trivium comprising grammar, logic, and rhetoric.


Grammar consists of skills such as reading and writing - to acquire as many words and manage as many concepts as possible.

Logic and rhetoric were often taught by the Socratic method. (A form of discussion between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to illuminate ideas)


Logic is the process of correct reasoning and refers to the  middle school aged student, who developmentally is beginning to question and enjoys debating or arguing with others. Practice in logic lets students evaluate arguments. The goal is to train the student's mind not only to grasp information, but to find connections between different ideas, to find why something is true or false.


Rhetorical debate and composition are taught to high school students, who by this point in their education have the concepts and logic to criticize their own work and persuade others.  The student now learns to articulate answers to important questions in her own words, to persuade others with facts, and to defend ideas against rebuttal.