Written & Contributed by Erin Wilkie
I started my homeschool journey when my oldest was 7 years old. I saw myself as a year by year homeschooler.
>I had friends who were committed to homeschool through high school and that was NEVER my plan at all.
At best I would homeschool during the elementary years and then enroll my kids in the public school for middle school and highschool.
My worry was that if I homeschooled past 5th grade our children would “graduate” with a 6th grade education. So we would homeschool for a couple years and then do public school for a couple years. There was one year we only homeschooled one of our kids. This went on for years. When our youngest was a baby, we had 6 kids in school ranging from kindergarten through 12th grade. The two oldest were in public school and the rest were still homeschooled. Life threw us some curveballs and we ended up enrolling all our kids in public school.
A few years went by and our son in the 2nd grade was having some problems, and we decided to pull him out of school over spring break. The following school year we pulled our youngest daughter who was still in elementary school as well. We kept our older kids in the public middle and high school. As a homeschool mom, I would not touch those grades with a ten foot pole!
When it came time to enroll our daughter in middle school, something didn’t feel right about it.
So I took my first, and what I thought would be my only, brave step into homeschooling one year of middle school.
During that school year a friend of mine asked me if I was planning on coming to an information meeting for Classical Conversations. They were preparing to start a 7th grade class that would meet once a week the following school year. Of course I told her no. I didn’t feel that Classical Conversations was a good fit for our family. I thought it was too rigid and way too much of a commitment for my eclectic homeschool style. It seemed to be all the things I would normally want to rebel against.
This friend didn’t give up that easily. There was something in her voice, and I felt that I needed to go. So I went. It was a Window into Challenge Night. It was an introduction to their first year of the challenge program that went from 7th-12th grade. They were also looking for someone to lead this class. Another thing I knew that I could not & would not do. The thought of jumping into the middle of a program and a curriculum that we had never even looked at seemed impossible. Not to mention it seemed unfair to my daughter and completely out of the scope of what I was capable of.
The ladies that came from another local community were extremely helpful. They also brought some of their kids that were in the Challenge program. It was really nice to get their perspective of Classical Conversations (CC). One of the ladies, Jen, stuck out to me. She was leading the challenge A (7th grade) class and it was her first year doing CC. Her daughter was in the class with her and it was her first year as well. She also had 2 younger kids, each 1 year older than my younger kids and they were in the elementary programs.
After meeting Jen and her daughter, I felt that if they could do it, we could do it. I prayed that God would close the door if this program was not for us. So I took the next step. During the process I heard someone say, “A well run challenge class should feel more like a youth group than a classroom”. That further piqued my interest. My daughter and I spent a day observing a class to see what it was actually like. We both loved it and decided to give CC a try the following school year. And I led her class.
Our 6 & 11 year old sons enrolled in the morning Foundations program and our 11 year old enrolled in the afternoon Essentials program. I soon discovered that all of the programs are meant to be tailored to the student. Being that I am my children’s teacher, I choose how far we are going to dive into each subject and how much time we spend on what CC has in the lesson plans. Tailoring the curriculum to each student is encouraged.
I enjoy that there is a plan for each week that I can adjust to fit each of my kids & our families needs. Meeting in community once a week to cover what we learned throughout the week has been a great way to help me stay on track. There is also plenty of support from the other families in the community that are working on similar projects with their kids.
CC puts a lot of value in teaching our kids how to think, not what to think. That really won me over, especially in today’s culture. We now plan to homeschool through highschool through CC. Something I never thought I would do.
During that first year of CC, we had two daughters still enrolled at the public high school. The following year, as a family, we decided to enroll them in CC as well. They were going into their Junior and Senior years. Pulling them out was a huge leap of faith to say the least. My biggest concern was how they would handle the transition. Understandably so, it took a couple of months for them to adjust to a new learning style.
Not only did our daughters adjust to this new learning style they also experienced how to discuss what was being learned and not just sit and listen. With the help of our girls tutors, they were able to make a pretty smooth transition from mainstream high school classes, to small classes where they were able to discuss and wrestle with new and challenging concepts.
When our oldest daughter graduated in May she was able to give a short speech. What she said confirmed that we did the right thing. Here is a portion of what she shared.
“…I enjoyed CC more than I thought I would and the studies kept my thoughts involved….The times that I spoke up in my class here amounted way more than I could have imagined speaking up in public school. Each and every assignment I did proved that I could think deeper into the situation. If I had chosen to stay with my current education I probably would have been held back for many reasons… it seemed like I was just being moved along to attain a slip of paper.”
>Making the choice to homeschool with CC has forever changed the course of our family for the better.
We have a guided course on this journey together.
Kind of like a compass in the woods, it doesn’t tell you where to go, but it guides you to your desired destination.
Thank you Erin and the Wilkie family!