A couple of readers asked about how we use Classical Conversations (CC) with Tapestry of Grace (TOG). Obviously one of the great things about home education is that you can tailor what you do to fit the needs and levels of your children, and the priorities of your family. But since the question was posed, and since I was googling for similar answers a couple of years ago, I’ll explain my approach.
First off, you should know that people define terms differently.
Some people very devoutly use CC as a curriculum, and define “classical education” as “learn lots of facts in elementary school.” We aren’t in that camp. I don’t use CC as a curriculum at all, because it’s not comprehensive enough for what I want to do with my kids’ education, and my definition of classical education leans more toward the Charlotte Mason side, in that I prioritize ideas, careful and in-depth reading, connections, and integration of ideas across subjects. TOG is a chronological study that links subjects together as they happened in time. I find that invaluable. It’s also a literature- and living books-based curriculum, which is another priority for me. Those things aren’t crucial for everyone, but if they are for you, you should know that you won’t get that from CC without putting in a lot of additional time and effort.
We use CC as enrichment–pegs of knowledge that help us with structure and augment our memory work.
We were in a CC group for two years, and I tutored both years, so I got into the swing of how to present material in an engaging way and help kids to memorize it. Now that we’re doing CC at home, I use that background to help my own kids learn the material that I think is relevant, which is not all of it. I’ve seen the history songs help kids put things in context, and we are really using the geography this year. Skip counting is a huge math help, and the CC Cycle 2 science facts are very useful if you’re willing to augment with other books to go in-depth (I have not found that to be true of all of the science in the other cycles). Some of the grammar is great, like knowing the eight parts of speech, while other points are not relevant to us right now and I plan to tackle them when we get to them in our grammar studies.
The thing about CC is that you need to put in the effort to link the fact to something.
We have limited memory time, and frankly I think it’s more important to learn poetry and Scripture that will influence the way the kids understand language and appreciate beauty rather than knowing a list of types of pronouns out of context. I know that there are families who use CC and go in-depth on every subject every week. I give props to them but I don’t have time to design my own curriculum from scratch, so I like that TOG does it for me. There are also families who stick to just memorizing the CC facts week by week and trust that later on they will start to apply the facts to ideas. However, I’ve seen kids make connections and understand sophisticated ideas as three and four year olds, so I don’t see any reason to wait on that, and what we enjoy most about school is reading together and applying what we’ve learned.
So we use CC as a supplement to TOG.
I’ve read of people who use TOG as a supplement to CC, but that seems backwards to me. TOG is a much more comprehensive and richer resource, so if you use it to supplement CC you’ll be skipping around a lot in history and missing a lot in between. However, I can see doing that if you’re really committed to a CC community and don’t like doing a lot of reading.
Ultimately, it comes down to YOUR priorities and definitions.
I think it’s worth spending time figuring out what your goals and priorities are and how you’ll define your terms. They can shift over time (mine do anyway!) but as we go I find that the more clearly I’ve articulated a goal, the better I am at picking a curriculum or approach that will work, and the less time I spend thinking “wow, this is really not working for us for some reason.” It’s a process, but the adage “if you aim at nothing, you’ll always hit it” really applies in this case.
Please note: I don’t intend this post as a knock on CC at all. We loved our CC community and know lots of families we respect who use the program. Like all things, it has its limitations, and it’s an expensive investment so I think it’s worth knowing what you’re getting into and carefully thinking through what you want to get out of it before you commit. While I don’t know if we will do CC with a group again, I do think we will continue to use the memory work as a supplement in the future.