Growing up in a world of home educators, I've had the opportunity to interact with all sorts of family units, each with unique structures, styles, and mottos. Even throughout my own personal education, I've been exposed to several different curricula- not just different subjects, but entirely distinct systems of learning.
Still, through all of my experiences in and around the homeschooling community I've come to recognize a core credo. A philosophy of education (above any one particular system of learning) that says that creating the best atmosphere of learning for one's child is a parent's non-transferable responsibility.
I feel like I've internalized this philosophy. I understand it and I can preach it. But before I begin the exciting (terrifying?) life
of practically applying it, I'll take every chance that I get to collect some wisdom.
Yesterday afternoon I had the opportunity to interview Cris King, professional home educator, mother of five, and Classical Conversations tutor. One of my main goals for our talk was to understand what homeschooling means to her, and how her philosophy of education flows into her family's curriculum.
The King family uses Classical Conversations (CC), a Christ-focused classical education program designed to work in-sync with parent's Creator-given, child-teaching journey. Knowing of the program only by reputation, I was excited to get an insider perspective on the world of classical education, and as enthusiastic exemplars of the CC lifestyle, the King family was happy to oblige.
Below you'll find the first part of my interview with Mrs. King and her two oldest daughters, Daphne (9th grade) and Suzanne (6th grade). In this first part we talk about the decision to homeschool and the initial attractiveness of Classical Conversations' Curriculum.
Me: So here's the first question- When did you first decide to start homeschooling?
Cris: Hmm... *soft chuckling* Ten years ago. Daphne went to public pre-K. It was a brand new school, she had a fantastic Christian teacher, everything could not have been better. And yet, whenever I went there and volunteered or did their things for parents, it was surprising to me how, despite her wonderful teacher, everything (secular) was allowed in, but God was kept out.
It just so happened that our little tiny church had a large percentage of homeschoolers, and so I started talking with them and considering homeschooling. Which is strange because I never considered homeschooling as a viable thing at all. But it was just like God got a hold of me and I thought "How can I justify (a system) where my children are going to be- for 5 days a week, 8 hours a day- in a place that's not allowed to show that God is the source of everything, and still say that God is the most important thing to our family?" So that's what really made the decision.
Me: You say you never saw homeschooling as a viable option. So what was your view of education before coming to the decision to homeschool?
Cris: My parents are retired public educators. Growing up, education was our religion. Education was everything. And for me it was a great fit because I was what the current education system was made for, the teacher tells you to do something and you do it and then you get affirmation. And I was the model kid, so I got affirmation all the way through high school . And then I went to college and it was great, I would have stayed there forever if I had my choice. It was fantastic!
I had nothing but positive experiences with my own education. So, basically my view of education was to do what everybody else did. I didn't see a reason why not.
Me: So your view of homeschooling at that time was something like "a group of parents that see this perfectly good education system that turns out perfectly good people, and they say 'nah, I'd rather keep my kids at home'"?
Cris: Yeah. Initially I thought of it like a version of helicopter parenting. Like they just didn't want to cut the cord.
It wasn't until we moved (to Georgia) that I saw that some of these people are actually normal, or at least normal enough. And actually better than normal in a lot of ways, especially the kids. They seemed a lot more independent, they actually made eye contact with people. I wanted that.
Me: So you got to the point where you realized that, as good as your personal public school education experience was, the current school system couldn't meet the standard for moral instruction or worldview construction that you wanted for your child, so you decided to make those things the priority and embark on this journey of homeschooling?
Cris: Right! Both my husband and I cared a lot about academics and we loved books, so we knew that there would already be an academic environment at home, and we figured that that, plus all of the available materials and programs, would make this whole thing something that we could do.
We found Classical Conversations when I was looking for a program with more of a "one room schoolhouse" feel, something where I could teach one subject to a variety of ages.
Me: That was going to be my next question! What attracted you to Classical Conversations?
Cris: Well, what I love about the classical model is that they have less busy work to do, its really focused on memorization and then going as deep as you can with the material. It's great because the focus is on character building and whatever is most important to your family. It allows for the parents to teach and make changes - for example, reading out loud as a family is very important to us and it fits really well with the Classical Conversations curriculum- while our weekly presentations provide just the right amount of accountability.