Friday, October 30, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wanting More

When some of us started to center our children's education at home, it was a risky thing to do. It certainly wasn't socially acceptable. Today, it may still be suspect in the eyes of some, but it's becoming more popular every year.

On one hand, that's great news! But on the other, it requires that we monitor our motivations and our methods to see if we are still as different - in the quality of education we seek for our children - as we set out to be. Is it enough to bring your children home, sit them at a desk, and register as a "home schooler" with the state? Of course not!

Check out My Greatest Fear Realized? from the CiRCE Institute:

Everything has changed now. Home education is mainstream. The publishing companies have found it marvelously profitable. The home educators insecurities have driven them to the bottom of the heap for validation.

And now I’m hearing that a “rash” of home educated kids are unable to score high enough on the ACT to get into college. ...

Do you know why home educated kids used to think better than their peers? Because there were so few professi[o]nal materials available to them. They had no option but to think.

Some new materials and technologies can be a great supplement, as long as they remain just that: a supplement to learning and thinking.

I'm excited to see a broader group of parents wanting more for their children, but I'm just as excited when I see families who already center their children's education at home and who constantly challenge themselves and their families to master the tools of learning anything.

What do you think? How do you fight the battle against complacency in your home school?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Appendix 1 (1)


That I, whose experience of teaching is extremely limited, should presume to discuss education is a matter, surely, that calls for no apology. It is a kind of behavior to which the present climate of opinion is wholly favorable. Bishops air their opinions about economics; biologists, about metaphysics; inorganic chemists, about theology; the most irrelevant people are appointed to highly technical ministries; and plain, blunt men write to the papers to say that Epstein and Picasso do not know how to draw.

Up to a certain point, and provided the criticisms are made with a reasonable modesty, these activities are commendable. Too much specialization is not a good thing. There is also one excellent reason why the veriest amateur may feel entitled to have an opinion about education. For if we are not all professional teachers, we have all, at some time or another, been taught. Even if we learnt nothing—perhaps in particular if we learnt nothing—our contribution to the discussion may have a potential value.

However, it is in the highest degree improbable that the reforms I propose will ever be carried into effect. Neither the parents, nor the training colleges, nor the examination boards, nor the boards of governors, nor the ministries of education, would countenance them for a moment.

For they amount to this: that if we are to produce a society of educated people, fitted to preserve their intellectual freedom amid the complex pressures of our modern society, we must turn back the wheel of progress some four or five hundred years, to the point at which education began to lose sight of its true object, towards the end of the Middle Ages.

Source: Dorothy L. Sayers, "The Lost Tools of Learning," Lecture. Oxford, 1947.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Support Classical Education

Are you interested in supporting Classical Education? Visit the CiRCE Institute, a friend of Classical Conversations and a leading provider for classical educators throughout the U.S., to learn more about their year-end campaign, Further Up and Further In.

The idea is simple and elegant. You can download talks from the CiRCE conference and/or an article by Vigen Guroian just for making any size contribution to the work of the CiRCE Institute. ...

Our target for this support campaign is $50,000, which would enable us to direct the resources that The Lost Tools of Writing and our annual conference urgently need. ...

If you would like to partner financially in this work that we are committed to because we believe our country and the Christian community need it so badly, we welcome and cherish every contribution. Take a look at the website at or go to the support page.

Monday, October 26, 2009

$$hopper: KFC and food deals

Get your week off to a smart start with more coupons and deals from 1 Smart Shopper!

KFC: *free* grilled chicken

Today only, Monday October 26, visit your local Kentucky Fried Chicken and get one free piece of Kentucky Grilled Chicken per person. (The website says it may vary by location). No coupon or purchase necessary.

YoCrunch yogurt for a candy wrapper

In the two weeks after Halloween, send Yoplait a candy wrapper from your child's Halloween candy, and get a coupon for a *free* YoCrunch yogurt. Unfortunately, there is a one-per-household limit. Visit their website for details.

BOGO sub sandwiches at Quiznos

Check out these coupons from Quiznos subs. Buy one sandwich and a drink and get a second sandwich free. Ends today, October 26. See website for details and to print the coupon (required).

You can do it! You're 1 Smart Shopper!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 5 (4)

CHAPTER 5: ASSESSMENT (part 4 - final)

One of the reasons we have ten thousand students in our weekly communities in 2008 is because Christians crave connections beyond Bible studies.

One family’s son died this summer. Her CC campus Director arranged for a meal and a card to be sent to this family every week for a year. We have families who pay for other families’ tuition. We have families who home school other families’ kids.

This model attracts families committed to Christian community and accountability. When working with people, you get what you expect. The church has not expected enough from its congregants, so it doesn’t get much.

I have been accused by non-homeschooling pastors of being dissociative, of almost replacing the small groups within churches. The irony is that most of our enrolled families are either pastors or church leaders.

If pastors would expect their families to be united in school, health, and work, and not just in fun activities and Bible studies, families would flock to their churches.

The church has a lot of work to do if they want to accept the responsibility for inspiring and promoting Christian education. This model is just another option for concerned Christian leaders to consider.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

CC Alumni Release CD

Congratulations to former CC students Nathan and Joel Tomkinson, who have recently completed their first CD!

You can get a sampling of their music at The other musicians on the CD are Ryan Hsu (guitar) and Chris Henson (drums).

Do you have news about CC programs or graduates you'd like to share? Email information and links or photos to 1smartmama(at)

Let's remember to celebrate the accomplishments in our community!

Monday, October 19, 2009

$$hopper: Moving Sale at CC

Get your week off to a smart start with more coupons and deals from 1 Smart Shopper!

Big Fall Moving Sale at Classical Conversations Books

October 13-November 5 midnight EST. The construction of our new warehouse is nearly complete, and the CC staff would like to share their excitement with you by having a BIG FALL MOVING SALE.

Save 20% off all products* plus FREE Media Mail shipping. At checkout, enter coupon code: BIGFALL20. This sale is not to be combined with any existing CC specials or discounts. Take advantage of this special offer and prepare for:

· Music Theory/Tin Whistles
· Christmas gifts - novels, CC apparel
· Teaching DVDs - Teaching the Classics, Saxon Teaching Tapes
· Challenge books for 2nd semester
· CC Hoodies - pullover or zipper styles - NEW!

Visit to start saving!

*Excludes IEW and Veritas products, and CC registrations, testing, and gift certificates.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Exodus Mandate

Today, I want to introduce you to a friend of mine, E. Ray Moore, a Bible teacher, Army Reserve Chaplain (Ret.), and Campaign Consultant who has served thirty years in pastoral ministry.

He's no stranger to politics, either. He served as a campaign manager, campaign assistant or campaign consultant for some 12 major political campaigns. Ray is a supporter of Classical Conversations and has his grandkids in the Columbia SC program.

Ray's Exodus Mandate Project is a Christian ministry to encourage and assist Christian families to leave government schools for Christian schools or home schooling. Below is a video, the Call to Dunkirk, explaining what they're trying to do and why.

I encourage you to visit their website and watch this video with open eyes as you ponder these difficult challenges about what it means to shape and be shaped by culture. Here's how the folks at Exodus Mandate close:

t is our prayer and hope that a fresh obedience by Christian families in educating their children according to Biblical mandates will prove to be a key for the revival of our families, our churches and our nation."


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 5 (3)


Andrew Kern, in his paper “History of Classical Education: Aristophanes to Socrates,” declares his nominee for the definition of rhetoric to be “the beautiful expression of truth.” One CFO chooses to respond to Truth and the other to evil, though neither would necessarily recognize their actions as rhetorical.

The Bible describes true education: it is fathers instructing their families to use the skills of learning to pursue truth, goodness, and beauty in order to glorify God. Then the family in turn shares the same ideas with the individuals they meet.

The major objections to home-centered education are addressed in Echo in Celebration: A Call to Home-Centered Education. In brief, objections center on inadequate family finances, inadequate educational skills, and inadequate student co-operation.

Many church leaders believe in Christian education as the best option, whether at home or in a church school, but only see inadequate resources within their community.

I can only ask, “Who knocked God off His throne?” Of course man and his resources are inadequate; we can only pursue holiness with the help of the Holy Spirit. Christian leaders should believe in His abundance and then act on that belief.

(1) Andrew Kern, “The Birth of Classical Education” (Concord, NC: CIRCE Institute, 2006), 5.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 5 (2)


Most people mistakenly think classical education means adding a chronological study of history and literature and Latin to the curriculum. These courses may provide classical content, but they are not inherently studied classically.

Most modern students study history and foreign language throughout high school and still leave with no idea on how to learn something new on their own or how to integrate the grammar of one subject into the philosophy of another.

Yet, at its core, the classical model is just good thinking. Mark Van Doren in his book Liberal Education explains, “All human work has its grammar, rhetoric, and logic; every man practices them his life long. He practices them better when he knows that he is doing so and can name the processes.”(1)

The point of this thesis is to help more people know what they are doing when they think so they can be more effective, intentional students.

Classical education basically means good education: teaching students how to learn anything by defining and storing terms, clearly thinking about the reconciliation of new ideas with old information, and wisely using knowledge and understanding to benefit their community.

For example, a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) who uses accounting practices to ensure the company’s employees receive the salaries they deserve, shares the good news that God loves honest scales whether the CFO knows it or not. A CFO who uses accounting practices to cheat the CEO reveals the depravity of man and our need for the good news.

Both know the lingo and principles (grammar) of accounting. Both know how to reconcile their understanding (dialectic) of accounting practices. Both know how to use their understanding and knowledge by manipulating their results for good or evil.

(1)Mark Van Doren, Liberal Education (Boston: Beacon Press, 1959), 83.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 12, 2009

CC in the Northeast

Do you know anyone in the northeastern U.S. who is interested in learning more about the classical approach to homeschooling their children from grades K-12?

Please invite them to join Classical Conversations' Assistant National Director, Greg Stockton, at locations in New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey October 13-16, for a time of sharing and discovering how Classical Conversations can provide a quality classical education for their family.

Greg will share how to rediscover the lost tools of learning and honor God with a lifelong love of learning. A discussion about the classical model of education will be followed by an overview of the Classical Conversations' mission, model, and method.

Due to space limitations, please RSVP to: GStockton(at)

For more information about locations and times, please visit and click on our Event Calendar.

**note: regular posts of Leigh's thesis will be up Tues. and Wed. this week**

Happy Columbus Day!

Today, October 12, is Columbus Day. How much do you know about this national holiday? Today is a great day to find out more!
In Spanish he is called Cristobal Colon, in Portuguese Cristovio Colombo and in Italian Cristoforo Colombo. Italian mariner and navigator Christopher Columbus was widely believed to be the first European to sail across the Atlantic Ocean and successfully land on the American continent.

The first recorded celebration honoring the discovery of America by Europeans took place on October 12, 1792 in New York City. ... In 1937, President Roosevelt proclaimed October 12 as 'Columbus Day' and in 1971, President Nixon declared the second Monday of October a national holiday.
Learn about the history of Columbus Day from the History Channel. Take a quiz, talk about the controversy, and watch videos and sound clips on the holiday.

Also see Today in History from the Library of Congress.

Here's a website with ideas for crafts, games, and food to make Columbus Day fun and celebrate a desire to discover and explore the world.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Special One-day Event!

Don't miss this special one-day event with Andrew Kern and Andrew Pudewa together in four cities!

For Teachers, Teaching Parents, College & High School Students
8:30am ­-3:30pm (All locations)

San Antonio, TX Wednesday, Oct. 14, FEAST Homeschool Building
Bryan, TX Thursday, Oct. 15, Brazos Christian School
Houston, TX Friday, Oct. 16, Covenant Academy (Cypress, TX)
Dallas, TX Saturday, Oct. 17, Highlands Academy (Irving, TX)

$59.00/person, second family member half price!
Registration fee includes a coupon for 20% off on any IEW or CiRCE purchase!

Andrew KernAndrew Kern is the president of the Circe Institute, a leading provider of inspiration, information, and insight to classical educators throughout the world. He is creator of The Lost Tools of Writing Workshops and materials. Circe's annual conference is the premier event ( for educators seeking to use classical education to nurture wisdom and virtue.

Andrew PudewaAndrew Pudewa is the director of the Institute for Excellence in Writing and a homeschooling father of seven. Presenting throughout North America, he addresses issues relating to teaching, writing, thinking, spelling, and music with clarity and insight, practical experience and humor.

Sessions Include:

The four language arts: listening, reading, speaking, and writing
The distinctives of classical rhetoric
What was classical rhetoric and what happened to it?
The five methods everybody must practice to become a great writer:
  • Theoretical: understanding the science of writing
  • Literary: studying the great masterpieces of literature as models
  • Critical: learning the details of good usage
  • Practical: practicing the art of writing
  • Linguistic: translating great works of literature into and out of English
And more!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Contemplation of Nature

This summer, Leigh spoke at the CiRCE Institute's annual conference, on the the Nature of Education. In case you missed the conference, now you can catch Leigh, Andrew Pudewa, Andrew Kern, and others on CD. (See below).

Click here to visit the CiRCE website and purchase.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 5 (1)


Real families and real communities are studying rigorous academics.

I have been developing this church-based curriculum for home schooling communities since 1997. The results have been very encouraging. A poll of one thousand families enrolled in these programs provided some interesting feedback.

Christian parents participated in these programs primarily for accountability while pursuing rigorous academics and rarely for the classical approach. The average parent has yet to make the connection that methodology and philosophy are as important as support in a difficult endeavor. The ‘whys’ are as important as the ‘how’. But they value the importance of associating with Christian families and recognize that education is a community activity.

When a family joins one of these communities and then quits, it is usually because the academics are too rigorous or they expect to receive a cafeteria-style offering of courses instead of integrated seminars. Of course, sometimes students leave simply for logistical reasons.

Since I refuse to lower standards or offer cafeteria-style courses, I have sometimes been accused of fostering academic elitism. The literacy rates in early America when everyone—rich, poor, slave, free, hungry, or orphaned—was educated classically demonstrates that the average student is capable of pursuing a classical education, so I have no desire to reduce expectations.

Instead, I have implemented more free training programs (called Parent Practicums). Here adults practice teaching students “to study far fewer subjects far better” in the words C.S. Lewis used to describe a classical education.(1)

(1) C.S. Lewis, Letters to Children, ed. Lyle W. Dorsett and Marjorie L. Mead (New York: Macmillan, 1985), 83.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Leadership School Oct. 29-30

Leadership School
Become An Effective Conservative Activist

Days Inn Southern Pines, NC
October 29-30, 2009

The cost is only $30/student (ages 12 through college).
Parents/Teachers can attend for free.
Includes: Meals, hotel housing( if needed), materials, and much more. Spaces are limited so please plan early.

The careers of thousands of conservative leaders and activists have been launched by the Leadership Institute’s famous Youth Leadership School . Be the next conservative who learns how to win for their principles by attending this premier training.

You will learn how to:
  • Organize mass numbers of students for the candidate or cause of your choice
  • Increase the size and effectiveness of your conservative group
  • Develop media contacts and gain media coverage for your events
  • Host successful speaker events
  • Develop eye-catching signs and literature that will attract others to your cause
  • Identify and train potential leaders while successfully managing volunteers
Leave with great activism projects you can achieve immediately.

For only $30.00 you get meals, housing, and materials. Register for the Youth Leadership School today by clicking here.

For more information, or to register contact Youth Leadership School Coordinator Daryn Iwicki at 703.647.3311 or email diwicki(at)

You can find more information at

Don't miss this great opportunity. Remember, the $30 is all-inclusive (room and board as well as registration)!!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Leigh's Thesis: Chapter 4 (7)

CHAPTER 4: THE PROJECT (part 7 - final)

Cost is an important factor in education. The classical model takes the approach that any skill can be taught with a book or a teacher and chalk on a slate. Most of the curriculum is for the parents, so they can learn to memorize, lead discussions, and make wise academic decisions with their children.

Only one set of books is needed for all of the children in a family. The non-consumable curriculum and activities played on chalkboards keep the costs low. Copies are rarely made as we want the children and not the machines to work. Also, God loves poor families in third world nations. If they can learn about Him with limited resources, so can wealthy Americans.

Currently, thousands of Christians, who intentionally work hard to model habitus, have helped to develop this model of classical, Christian education. Ultimately, the classical model puts the hard work of learning in the students’ hands, while they are guided by an adult who loves to share the tools of learning anything.

Copyright © 2009 by Leigh A. Bortins. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Notes from Great Wolf Lodge

Classical Conversations just finished hosting our 4th Annual Fun at Great Wolf Lodge and Williamsburg week from October 18 -24.

Not only did we get wet at the water park and meet Revolutionary soldiers, but we filmed ads for Classical Conversations and I held an Institute for Excellence in Writing Seminar. We especially enjoyed listening to Becky Norton Dunlop, Vice President from the Heritage Foundation as she shared about her years in the Reagan White House. As usual, the week was packed with too much to do.

The indoor water park is always fun from the baby pools to the Howling Tornado. Of special interest are the teenagers and their fathers as they crack bones and drop swimsuits while riding the wave board. The moms enjoyed sitting at the bottom of the wave and clapping for the adventurous, cringing at the mangled, and laughing at the exposed.

Historic Williamsburg is gracious to offer a large discount to home schoolers during the same week. As folks became water-logged, they trekked a few miles into the past and enjoyed candle and glass blowing, meeting various Founding Fathers and supping out of metal cups.

Tobin Duby, the new CC videographer, spent a few days filming families for ads CC plans to release on the internet in order to explain more about why we are so fun to hang out with while studying Latin. He gathered much footage on the fathers in attendance and you can look forward in particular to a conversation about home school he captured among a handful of dads.

For two days, about twenty parents sacrificed their morning surfing sessions to join me as we watched over 10 hours of IEW video and wrote four Practicum papers. We plan to make watching and writing the four papers assigned by Andrew Pudewa during the video lessons mandatory next year for Essentials Tutors. Watching the DVDs has always been mandatory, but now we want to be sure the quality of our programs continues by ensuring every Essentials Tutor has also written the papers and not just watched the DVDs. I suggest all of the parents since they are the real teachers of their children do the same.

Our special guest was Becky Norton Dunlop who did a great job encouraging the students to always do their best and to be sure of the things they believe in for you never know who is watching you. She explained that by doing the things no one else would do while working on local and state campaigns she managed to work her way onto Presidential campaigns and was at last noticed by key White House staffers.

She enjoyed sharing anecdotes with the CC families about personal moments between her and Ronald Reagan. When it was time for questions, she gave the parents and students frank advice about faith and family and how it is being attacked in DC.

The week was packed with activity, learning, family time, and much food. Thanks to all who came to our annual celebration and we hope to meet even more of you next October.

Love, Leigh