Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Questions for the Year Ahead

Merry Christmas!

In 2010, I wrote The Core, which did very well in sales throughout the summer and continued to sell well as a holiday gift thanks to you, my readers. Now, I’m enjoying every minute of holiday rest with my family as I prepare for the adventures of 2011. All four boys were home for Christmas as well as my mother-in-law who has moved into our neighborhood. We made YouTube videos, opened presents, shopped, watched some movies, and ate too much.

The best part was the night we went Christmas caroling with most of the Classical Conversations office and their families. We went to six homes and everyone was very grateful. We sang a different carol at each door and left singing We Wish You a Merry Christmas. However, it was a very cold night and I think some of our audience wished we weren't quite so merry. When we were finished at one door, I wanted to apologize by saying, “We’re Presbyterians. We sing every verse no matter how long it takes!”

I’m about to begin my next book on the dialectic and need your help. Please send any questions you have on the dialectic as comments on this blog or to ASKLEIGH@YMAIL.com. I will respond to your questions in the book so think of great questions that will make sure the book is as useful to as many families as possible. The book will be a follow-up to The Core’s emphasis on grammar. If all goes well, the final book in the series will expound upon the rhetorical skills in a classical education. So please pray for wisdom in writing, patience in editing, and for God to receive the glory.

As I research information for the book, I’d also appreciate if you’d leave links in this blog’s comments to any great articles you find on thinking skills and examples of the dialectic in action. All that I’ve ever done has been a team effort and this book will be no different.

I’d like to leave this year by sharing a thought that I’ll probably return to often in my writings in 2011 year as it has really impacted my faith. This comes from the last verse of Hark the Herald Angels Sing!

Rise, the Woman's conquering Seed,
Bruise in us the Serpent's head.
Adam's likeness now efface:
Stamp Thine image in its place;
Second Adam, from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.

Lord, re-create me in the image of the Second Adam. Help me to bear the deep joy of your love.

Happy New Year!

Love, Leigh

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas in the Celebration

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
-Luke 2: 6-20

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas in the Waiting

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,
Jehoram the father of Uzziah,
Uzziah the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah,
and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[c] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

After the exile to Babylon:
Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,
Abihud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Akim,
Akim the father of Elihud,
Elihud the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.
-Matthew 1:1-17

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas in the Details

Rembrandt-Dream of St. Joseph
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
-Luke 2:1-5

Friday, December 17, 2010

Thoughts to Ponder for Christmas
News of the Week

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Sales @ CC Books

During December, don't forget to take advantage of our Christmas specials at the CC Bookstore!!


December 1 - 31
Get 10% off all Challenge Items*

*Excludes IEW Bible-Based Writing *Online orders only *DISCOUNT10 coupon can be used for an additional 10% off on purchases over $250. *Free media mail shipping still applies for purchases over $150!

Clearance Sale on Outgoing Products!

Clearance on old editions being updated.
New editions coming Spring 2011

WAS: Children's Lit A - 10% off
WAS: Children's Lit B - 40% off (1st 60 buyers will get a free copy of Shiloh)
WAS: Short Stories - 10% off
WAS: American Lit - 40% off
WAS: American Docs - 40% off
WAS: British Lit - 40% off
CC Cycle 3 Memory Work Resource CD - $10

*Clearance Sale items are on sale "while supplies last". *Clearance Sale items are being updated (update information available on product pages) and will be replaced with new versions. *The first 60 customers will get a free copy of Shiloh with their purchase of WAS: Children's Lit B (this item will be added to the order after the purchase has been completed.) *DISCOUNT10 coupon can be used for an additional 10% off on purchases over $250.
Free media mail shipping still applies for purchases over $150!
*Online orders only.
*These promotions do not apply to prior purchases or open orders and the dates of the sale cannot be altered for any orders.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Chaos-Free

This month, I'm proud and honored to wish you and your family a very merry Christmas, not a "happy holiday" or any other generic, empty greeting, but a soul-filled, "for-unto-you-a-Savior-is-born" Merry Christmas!

As Christmas gets closer and closer (less than 2 weeks now!), it can be difficult as moms to keep our focus on the Savior when magazines and commercials put before us unrealistic expectations of beautiful trees and spotless homes and homemade feasts.

The decorations and trees and cookies and bows, though, are all "of the world." They are the wrappings that man has put on the real gift. We need to be diligent to focus on the gift, and not get 'wrapped up' in the wrappings because God gave us children, and He gave us very clear instructions to teach them about Him. So, if we get all wrapped up in the wrappings of Christmas, we may not be teaching our children what God wants us to teach them: that He came to earth as Jesus, the Christ, to save us. We can't do a very good job of teaching that message if we're exhausted from shopping and cooking and decorating and participating in every charity in the area.

We need to narrow the "to do" list so we can minister to our family with peace in our own hearts. How can we proclaim Jesus as the Prince of Peace if we create chaos around His birthday?

Remember that God's gifts don't come gift-wrapped. Teach your children to look for gifts that don't come wrapped in pretty paper and tied up with bows---the beauty of the earth, fellowship with friends and family, and the warmth of a fire.

Have a very merry Christmas!
Leigh Bortins and family

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Classic Thanksgiving: Art

This week, as you CC families finish out the semester and begin to look toward the holidays, I want to share with you some of the projects skilled artists have created throughout history as a way of giving thanks. Their creativity challenges us to think deeply, but it also offers a beautiful picture of giving the Lord our best work in all things.

More Classic Thanksgiving (Poetry)

"Freedom from Want"
Norman Rockwell

-1943, Saturday Evening Post

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Classic Thanksgiving: Poetry

This week, as you CC families finish out the semester and begin to look toward the holidays, I want to share with you some of the projects skilled artists have created throughout history as a way of giving thanks. Their creativity challenges us to think deeply, but it also offers a beautiful picture of giving the Lord our best work in all things.

Happy Thanksgiving!

"A Thanksgiving Poem"
Paul Laurence Dunbar

The sun hath shed its kindly light,

Our harvesting is gladly o’er,
Our fields have felt no killing blight,
Our bins are filled with goodly store.

From pestilence, fire, flood, and sword
We have been spared by thy decree,
And now with humble hearts, O Lord,
We come to pay our thanks to thee.

We feel that had our merits been
The measure of thy gifts to us,
We erring children, born of sin,
Might not now be rejoicing thus.

No deed of ours hath brought us grace;
When thou wert nigh our sight was dull,
We hid in trembling from thy face,
But thou, O God, wert merciful.

Thy mighty hand o’er all the land
Hath still been open to bestow
Those blessings which our wants demand
From heaven, whence all blessings flow.

Thou hast, with ever watchful eye,
Looked down on us with holy care,
And from thy storehouse in the sky
Hast scattered plenty everywhere.

Then lift we up our songs of praise
To thee, O Father, good and kind;
To thee we consecrate our days;
Be thine the temple of each mind.

With incense sweet our thanks ascend;
Before thy works our powers pall;
Though we should strive years without end,
We could not thank thee for them all.

-From Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow (1905)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

All the Days that Adam Lived

This past week, we've begun to talk about considering the study of mathematics in a new light. (See "Math: Not Just a Four-Letter Word.")

As we think about the nature, purpose, and propriety of math, I want to point you back to the way math expresses the beauty and order of the universe.

For example, did you ever stop to think about the math in the Bible?


3When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth.

4Then the days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years, and he had other sons and daughters.

5So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.

Genesis 5:3-5


27'But if it is among the unclean animals, then he shall redeem it according to your valuation and add to it one-fifth of it; and if it is not redeemed, then it shall be sold according to your valuation.

28'Nevertheless, anything which a man sets apart to the LORD out of all that he has, of man or animal or of the fields of his own property, shall not be sold or redeemed. Anything devoted to destruction is most holy to the LORD.

29'No one who may have been set apart among men shall be ransomed; he shall surely be put to death.

30'Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD'S; it is holy to the LORD.

31'If, therefore, a man wishes to redeem part of his tithe, he shall add to it one-fifth of it.

32'For every tenth part of herd or flock, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the LORD.

Leviticus 27:27-32


15 This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high. 16 Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. 17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.

Genesis 6: 15-18

What other examples can you think of?

I want to give you a challenge this week. What if, when we read Scripture, we were to pay as much attention to numbers as we do to words? How might that change the way we think about math?

Let's not forget that God is Lord of numbers as well as words. In light of that knowledge, let's not turn our back on an entire realm of His truth by rejecting mathematics. Instead, let's make it our goal to "[bring] every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5).

Monday, November 15, 2010

Join Me Tonight!

Join me tonight on The AfterThoughts News Hour With S. Denice Newton on Blog Talk Radio, as we talk about The Core, Classical Conversations, and the purpose of a classical education.

The show, "Ready for a Classical Conversation? Welcome CEO Leigh Bortins, will be on live at 5 p.m. EST.

Click here to listen!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day

November 11, 2010

Visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to find out more about the history, celebration, and significance of Veterans Day.

Take a minute to say thank you to the Veterans you know who have pledged their lives to protect this country!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Math: not just a four-letter word

Mrs. Thompson's grade two class is studying geese. The geese have started to leave on their winter migration. During a class field trip the class saw two flocks of geese flying by. The first flock had 35 geese in it. The second flock had 91 geese in it.

Write the math equation: __________________________

How many geese did Mrs. Thompson's class see? _______

Do you find math frustrating? You're not the only one. Even those who love math themselves may struggle to pass on that "natural"ability to their children. We are surrounded by numbers. But while we work intentionally to make reading a habit and a joy for our children, we all too often neglect to give the same care to mathematics.

And so we make math a chore, something "hard" (and by that we mean unpleasant), a workbook to make it through instead of a life skill to practice.

Let's not forget that God is Lord of numbers as well as words (more on this to come!); let's not turn our back on an entire realm of His truth.

This week and next, I invite you to join me in challenging our culture's assertion that math is dull, irrelevant, or purpose-less. Although nothing can replace learning the basics and repeating or re-sounding them until they are mastered, as an addition, you can begin with something as simple as a creative word problem.

The website the above problem came from, KidZone Math Word Problems, has seasonally themed word problems for grades 1-5 that you can print, copy by hand, or work in your head. Make it a challenge for the whole family: don't just work these problems, create your own!

You can add illustrations, practice good handwriting, and invite your older children to make up problems for you to solve. Remember, you know they understand the material fully when they can teach it to you!

Adding a creative touch to the math problems you work every day offers you another opportunity to share (and learn!) the order, structure, and fascination of the universe with your children.

November Bookstore Special


20% off whole order November 8 – 14 Midnight ET

Take advantage of our falling prices when you enter coupon code 20FALL2010. This ensures 20% off your whole order!

Free media mail shipping still applies for purchases over $150

Click HERE to start shopping now!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Candid Date with Civics

As you prepare to go to the polls and vote on Tuesday, or if you've already cast an early ballot, there's no better time to open a discussion with your family about why you vote, how you vote, and why you vote the way you do.
  • To get the discussion started, here's a website (FindLaw) with a list of the 50 states' constitutions. Take a look at your state's constitution and start asking questions. Who does it affect, and who drafted it? What does it say? Where is it applicable? When did these principles originate? How does it affect my life and my family's choices? How are candidates responding to these questions?

  • Then re-read the U.S. Constitution. What kind of issues related to the constitution are being discussed in this year's elections? How would you respond?

  • For more information about civic responsibility and the process (grammar!) of voting, check out a site like Rock the Vote or the US government's Voting and Elections page. Find your district and precinct and figure out which offices are up for the vote in this election, and who's running for them.

  • Next, check out a website like OntheIssues.org, which provides information about where your candidates stand on issues that are important to you, including the economy, civil rights, education, foreign policy, environment, and more. You can also get information from Project Vote Smart, which offers broad-based information about candidates and current officials.
Conducting this kind of research does demand something of you as a voter, but by taking it one step at a time, not only can you do it, but at the same time you can model for your children what it looks like to participate in representative government.

So regardless of which candidates win your vote in this election season, don't miss out on the opportunity to have a candid discussion with your family about what citizenship means to you.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Surprise Sale from CC Books!

One Week Only!
Now through October 25, midnight EST
Prices start at $1.00 and go up to 50% off!

Some items are the OLD versions ONLY. Please identify which version you want to receive the sale price. Items that have an old and new version can be identified on the item page before putting in your shopping cart.

Items include: Do the Right Thing, Trig Trainer and Text, Drawing with Children, Shiloh, The Writing Road to Reading, and many, many more!

Click here to go directly to sale items.

Don't wait to order!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Joni's Story, and Yours

I've written before about my admiration for Joni Eareckson Tada. She became a quadriplegic at the age of seventeen, but she's gone on to be a disabilities advocate and a powerful speaker, and the Joni and Friends International Disabilities Center coordinates outreach to families worldwide who have been affected by disability.

This year, at the age of 60, Joni was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Maybe your first response would be to get angry. It's not fair! Why are you doing this to me, God? Haven't I suffered enough? Those reactions seem only natural because they are. There is no easy answer to this kind of suffering.

Instead, evidence of the Lord's power and grace is that Joni has not chosen to respond in that way. In a recent interview with Christianity Today, she says this:

Even though it seems like a lot is being piled on, I keep thinking about 1 Peter 2:21: "To these hardships you were called because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps." Those steps most often lead Christians not to miraculous, divine interventions but directly into the fellowship of suffering. In a way, I've been drawn closer to the Savior, even with this breast cancer. There are things about his character that I wasn't seeing a year ago or even six months ago. That tells me that I'm still growing and being transformed. First Peter 2:21 is a good rule of thumb for any Christian struggling to understand God's purposes in hardship.

She goes on to say,

I'm just so amazed by people asking me, "How can you approach this breast cancer with such confidence in a God who allows it?" And I'm being given the chance to answer.

The greater thing is not the miracle; it's the advancement of the gospel, it's the giving of the kingdom, reclaiming what is rightfully Christ's.

What an extraordinary testimony she offers. Read the whole piece; it will inspire you, whether you're facing daily conflict with a rebellious teenager, overwhelming debt, feelings of inadequacy, or a life-threatening illness. Would that our communities would be unafraid to share these kinds of stories for encouragement as we walk (run, limp, or crawl) beside each other on the journey day by day.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Leigh with Barnes & Noble


This week, Barnes & Noble launched a new part of their website called "Expert Circle," which "targets parents and teachers with advice and purchase suggestions from experts on literacy, education, child development and pediatric medicine." They've chosen me to be one of their experts on education!

Not only is the site promoting my book, The Core, but it's also a great forum to open up honest communication with a broader group of parents beyond the home school community.

Check it out!

Read the news article: Barnes & Noble launches 'Expert Circle'
Visit the “B&N Kids' Expert Circle” microsite
Read the articles I've written

Monday, October 11, 2010

October Bookstore Special

Head over to the Classical Conversations Bookstore to check out our October special:

Story of the World Audiobooks 10% Off!

Story of the World

Don't forget!

Free Media Mail Shipping is ALWAYS available for orders over $150!
10% off all orders over $250 with coupon code DISCOUNT10

Roll in the autumn months by sharing the great stories of history with your busy family.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Disney Princesses' Moms

Sometimes it's easy to think that what children read doesn't matter, as long as they read. After all, as long as the book doesn't have bad words, sex, or violence, and doesn't blatantly encourage kids to make bad decisions, it's just children's lit, right?

Susan Wise Bauer put up an interesting re-post from Publisher's Weekly that raises questions about the premise of a lot of children's literature.

It's called "The Ol' Dead Dad Syndrome."

The author, Leila Sales, writes, "Dead parents are so much a part of middle-grade and teen fiction at this point, it’s not even the “in” thing. It’s not “au courant” or “en vogue.” It’s just an accepted fact: kids in books are parentless."

Sometimes blood-and-guts isn't the only kind of violence in books. There is violence in ideas as well.

If every book your child reads shows a child struggling through life without parental support, what messages is your child learning? ...I can't count on adults. ...They're going to let me down. ...They can't be trusted. ...They won't be there for me. ...It's all up to me.

That idea does violence to the relationships it's our task to cultivate. It does violence to the role of loving parent that we're struggling to learn and live out. It gives a poor model of what strong mothers and fathers can look like. And it's an idea that doesn't just exist in children's literature. Parents receive that message too.

...If you got a bad education, it's too late to change it. ...You can't be trusted. ...You couldn't possibly be wise enough to teach your children. ...You're completely on your own.

Corinthians 3:5 says, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.” He has left the Spirit to equip us. He trusts us to raise godly children. He provided the church to nurture us, so we have resources when we are tired and confused or in trouble.

If we want our children to know they are not alone, we need to remind each other of the same thing.

The death of a parent is always a traumatic event, and one that has inspired a lot of great writers to grapple with the meaning of death, grief, and life. But as Ms. Sales concludes, "When authors omit parents for the sake of convenience, I take issue—as an editor, and as a reader. Because a convenient story is not the same as a good story."

That's why it's so important to learn how to read on the level of ideas: trying, testing, and approving all things in the light of Truth.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Your History and His Story

Welcome to October!

As crisp days and cooler nights send our families out to work, play, study, and gather to celebrate together, I want to pass on an exercise from R.C. Sproul called "Making History Count."

Sproul challenges you to do three things:

1. Jot down the five most meaningful compliments you’ve ever received.

2. Write down the five most important events in your life. Write briefly why these “historic” moments are so important to you.

3. Ask, if Rembrandt could paint only one portrait of you, what would he have you doing in the portrait? What is your fruitful moment?

(See the blog post for full details.)

This is a great exercise for families to share together over a meal, in the evening as you recap your day, or before bed. Why?

Sproul says, "Our history is not the result of blind fate or the impersonal forces of chance. My personal history and yours are bound up with the Author and Lord of history, who makes my personal history count forever."

Each of our stories, and those of our family and friends, are part of a larger story. Not only that, but our experiences of joy, forgiveness, and grace echo back His story: His joy over us (Zephaniah 3:17); His mercy (Isaiah 30:18); and His gift of grace (Romans 5:7-8).

So go ahead--tell your story, and echo in celebration as a family today!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Applying to Colleges (part 2)

A sign that home school students are catching the attention of colleges around the country is the increasing presence of home school-specific information on college admissions websites. Although every school is different, here are samples of the requirements you might expect to encounter:

Barnard College - NY

Home-schooled applicants follow the same guidelines as all other applicants with the following exceptions:

In lieu of traditional teacher recommendations, the applicant may submit two
letters of recommendation from individuals who have taught the student in some form of an educational setting, such as a tutor, a research adviser or an academic internship mentor.

In lieu of an official high school transcript, the student must submit
a complete listing, by year, of all courses that were taught at home. The student should also list the books that she read and she must indicate how her performance was assessed and include that assessment (teacher comments, actual grades, etc.)

As parents are often the primary adviser for students who are homeschooled,
a parent letter may substitute as the high school guidance counselor letter of recommendation.

Duke University - NC

The admissions application itself is the same for all students, regardless of educational background. We require a transcript (
homemade transcripts are perfectly acceptable as long as they list the courses of study a student has followed for the four years of high school or equivalent), recommendations from three instructors (at least two of whom are not related to the applicant—and employers, religious leaders, sports coaches or other adults can write these recommendations if all academic instruction takes place in the home), essays, an extracurricular activities list, and standardized testing.

Applicants are not required to present a GED or proof of accreditation. There is no separate application for Duke's merit scholarships; all students are considered for merit scholarships on the basis of their application for admission. We encourage homeschooled students to submit their applications in time for us to
arrange an interview in the student's local area with a member of Duke's Alumni Admissions Advisory Committee.

Grove City College
- PA

An official high school transcript and any college transcripts. The transcript should include the student’s course of study and grades.
2 letters of recommendation from individuals outside the home
2 essays (see application for the topics).
In addition, serious applicants are
strongly encouraged to schedule an on-campus interview

Brown University - RI

The Secondary School Report form should be completed by the persons most responsible for guiding your overall learning. In addition to the provided prompts the Admission Office would be interested to know
why you and your family have opted to pursue home schooling as an alternative to a more traditional public or private school education.

We would also be interested to know
what resources you and your family have used to craft the home-schooling curriculum and to know what degree of liberty you the applicant have had in guiding your own education.

Generally speaking we would prefer to see
letters of recommendation from instructors who have taught you in a traditional classroom setting and who can speak to your abilities and potential in a reliably objective way. For both of these reasons we would prefer not to receive letters of recommendation from your parents, immediate relatives or from academic tutors in the paid employ of your family. If all of your instruction comes from persons in one of these three groups then we will accept letters of recommendation from any of them.

We need
a detailed accounting of the entire curriculum that you have undertaken over the course of the last four years. This includes a full listing of subjects covered and a syllabus of books and other learning resources used.

Wheaton College - IL

If you were homeschooled for any part of high school,
you must submit the Homeschool Information Form in addition to the application for the College of Arts and Sciences or the Conservatory of Music. You must also submit a transcript that is signed by a homeschool official. A transcript template is provided for your convenience.

University of Virginia - VA

While we do not require that home-schooled applicants take any special steps in our admission process, we do recommend that they try as best they can to help us see their academic performance in the clearest possible context. In recent years successful home-schooled applicants have chosen one (and usually several) of the following methods: taking courses in a local college; joining organizations in their community; providing samples of academic projects (e.g., essays, research papers, articles) they have completed; sending multiple recommendations from non-family-members who know them well; taking more SAT II Subject Tests than we encourage of all candidates.

Although the diversity may seem daunting at first glance, if you look again, you'll start to see a pattern emerge: recommendations from non-family members, book lists and detailed curricula, and a campus interview.

With these things in mind, even if a school does not specify particular requirements for home school applicants, your students will be prepared to ask good questions, present a strong portfolio, and impress the school with their ability to take the initiative!

(For more information about applying to colleges from CC, take a look at The Challenge Difference and Alumni Survey Results (PDF), also available www.ClassicalConversations.com.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Welcome to Fall: College Applications

Along with the glory of autumn leaves and cooler temperatures, for those of you with graduating high school students, the fall months mean it's time to start thinking about college applications.

When you're getting started, whether you're thinking ahead with sophomores and juniors or feeling the heat with seniors, pulling together the appropriate records can feel like an insurmountable task.

Check out these resources from www.classicalconversationsbooks.com to take the stress out of preparing your home school transcripts:

Make your high school transcripts, report cards, immunization records, and other academic portfolio reports - record, store and update at your convenience. You can print the transcript right from your personal computer! $15 per student per year. Don't wait until senior year: start now!

Transcripts Made Easy
Take the stress out of high school paperwork with Janice Campbell's Transcripts Made Easy—it's all you need to know about recordkeeping and transcripts for your high school student in one compact, easy-to-use book. Transcripts Made Easy is presented in a 3-ring binder so that you can easily copy the reproducible record pages for each student and keep all your records in one place. Transcripts Made Easy is the only transcript resource that comes with free e-mail support from the author!

As a community, one of our goals at CC is to provide support and encouragement at all stages of your journey through home-centered learning. You can do it!

(Stay tuned for more posts to help you navigate the college admissions process.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Joining the Blogging Community...

Check out my eldest son Robert's blog, Education Can Be Saved, at http://educationcanbesaved.blogspot.com!

Here's a clip from his latest post:

Our public school system is designed to educate the masses to be obedient and good workers. However those who are innovators are changing the world so quickly that by the time a person is a College Graduate over 50% of what he learned as a Freshman no longer applies. That is if they graduate in 4 years, not 5.5 like me. How can a school system work when its focus is on making people job ready, when we don’t even know what jobs are going to be there for them in 5, 10 or 15 years from now? It is rather presumptive by our school boards and federal government to say they know what the best job path is for our children.

So what is the answer? Children must be taught to think, love to learn and know how to learn; a classical education.

Check it out!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Waiting for "Superman"

This Friday, Sept. 24, a documentary called "Waiting for 'Superman'" will be released to select theaters nationwide. (Thanks to Just His Best for reminding me.) It's directed by Davis Guggenheim, who also worked on An Inconvenient Truth.

According to the film's website, this film is about the "hidden catastrophe spreading quietly, insidiously through our nation's cities, towns, and communities." The film is "a deeply personal exploration of the current state of public education in the U.S." The director follows the lives of five schoolchildren from cities around the country and interviews reformers like Michelle Rhee and Geoffrey Canada to explore possibilities for change.

It's great to see the filmmaking industry seeking to raise public awareness about the crisis facing American education, but unless we're willing to confront the insufficiency of our core operating equation, More Money = Better Education, our best efforts will continue to fall short. Still, what a great opportunity to start conversations about education and how we value our children through our educational choices.

Check out the trailer at http://www.waitingforsuperman.com. Also, stay tuned for the story as covered by Oprah on her show today at 4 p.m. EST. What do you think? Will you be going to see the film?

If you could respond to the children and parents featured in the interviews, what would you want to tell them?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Reading with an eye for ideas

The last few weeks, we've been focusing on current events. Here's your chance to practice!

Using a Google News search for "Obama education speech", I pulled up a series of articles responding to the speech President Obama delivered to the nation's students Tuesday at a school in Philadelphia.

I chose a few recognizable names from the long list of sources -- USA Today, FOX News, The Washington Post, CNN -- and skimmed the pages to make sure there were no graphic images that might upset readers. If I were working with a young child, I might print just the article text and not the comments section.

Take a look at these completely different takes on the same speech (read the official text of the speech). See if you can pick out the ones that are opinion pieces.

Choose one or two articles to re-read.

Now look again, paying attention to the grammar, or building blocks, of the article. What first impression does the title of the article and the opening line (the "hook") give you? What quotes from the speech does each writer include? Does the article use judgment words like "good" "bad" "best" "unfortunately" or "inspiring"? What last impression do the final sentences leave?

Now look again, paying attention to the dialectic, or the connections the article makes. Does the author make comparisons to other speeches? If so, which ones? What other kinds of information does the article include? What background information on the topic does the article incorporate? How do the articles compare to one another? What do they have in common? What's different?

Look one more time, paying attention to the rhetoric, or the impact of the article. What is the article's focus? What is the mood or tone of the piece? What do you think is its purpose? How effectively does it convey its message? Is it persuasive? Why or why not? Which article on this topic would you be most likely to trust? Which news source would you go back to next time?

This exercise points out a couple of things: 1) It takes time to go from absorbing content blindly to learning to read critically on the idea level. 2) The "news" is a lot less straightforward than you might think. 3) Reading the news doesn't have to be boring and passive: it can be an exciting adventure for the whole family to share as you wrestle with big ideas that shape the world.

You can do it!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Content --> Conversations

This is part 3 of a series following up on a question about wise ways to introduce your children to the study of current events. (Click here to read Part 1 and Part 2).

Let me reiterate. Our goal is to help our children know what is going on in the world in a way that stretches them but doesn't expose them to issues beyond their maturity level. As I said before, part of the answer will depend on your specific needs as a family. You are your children's first and best teacher, so you know their maturity level better than anyone, and only you and your family can decide the best strategy for introducing challenging topics.

Today I want to think further about tackling current events on the level of ideas. What do I mean by that?

Let me begin by affirming that teaching content is important, and figuring out how to do it wisely even more so. Unfortunately, there will always be content issues and biases.

If you have concerns about avoiding specific types of content (images, advertisements, etc.), using print resources (newspapers and magazines) instead of the Internet can give you greater control over what your children see; parental controls can help you filter out certain types of material, and previewing the sources you plan to use can head off exposure to stories and pictures beyond their maturity level. In any case, working alongside your children gives you the chance to guide their reading and research and talk through the issues they encounter.

These conversations are so important, because studying current events is all about moving into the realm of ideas that shape how we think and how our culture thinks. Particularly with your older children, ask lots of questions, like...

Which news stories are getting coverage? Which ones are not? Why?
What do these stories have in common?
Does political correctness matter? Why are names and words important?
What kind of evidence do newspapers use? Can we trust polls and surveys? Experts?
Why is it a problem for journalists to include opinion in the news?
To whom should journalists be responsible?
Why does the news include more tragedy and scandal than success?
What is the purpose of the news? Why do we need to be informed about the world?

And from there, asking...

Can we understand these events better in light of history?
How much importance should we attach to popular trends?
How do we respond to pain and ugliness in the world?
How do we view these facts and opinions in light of truth?

Ultimately, as we study current events, I want to think about circling back (enkyklos-paideia) to another question: How do these events fit into the bigger Story of redemption?

What do you think?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Join us at Great Wolf Lodge!

Join Classical Conversations Families at the Great Wolf Lodge this Fall!

Call the Great Wolf Lodge in either Williamsburg, VA or Mason, Ohio, and tell them you are with Classical Conversations to receive a huge discount on your room/water park admission. Plus, you'll meet fun, like-minded families! What a great opportunity for your family!

Williamsburg, Virginia: September 19 - 24, 2010

From September 19-24, Classical Conversations will hold its fifth annual get-together at the Great Wolf Lodge and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. Enjoy unbelievably discounted rates and great CC fellowship as we discover our colonial roots in Williamsburg and spend time riding the chutes at Great Wolf Lodge's indoor waterpark!

To book a hotel room, call 1-757-229-9700 and mention Classical Conversations. For general information about the lodge and Colonial Williamsburg, visit Great Wolf Lodge/Williamsburg link and www.colonialwilliamsburg.com.

Note: Problems registering at GWL? CC has added more rooms! Call and ask for Tamika Nicholson. Call soon!

Mason, Ohio: October 3 - 8, 2010

Classical Conversations, Cincinnati is presenting their first annual Great Wolf Lodge Getaway from October 3 - 8 in Mason, Ohio. To make reservations for this event, please call Great Wolf Lodge at 866-954-9653 and use group code 1010CLAS. In addition to the fun and fellowship at Great Wolf Lodge, discounted rates will be available for the Cincinnati Zoo, Newport Aquarium, and Creation Museum.

For more information, e-mail Tammy James, OH/KY Administrative Assistant.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Day to Remember

September 11, 2001 was nine years ago. Today, we remember the men and women killed in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and on United Airlines Flight 93.

As part of this day of remembrance, consider visiting the September 11 Digital Archive or the 9/11 Memorial to review the events of 9/11 and the efforts to rebuild afterward.

In light of our recent discussion about wisdom in current events, you may want to browse the site first to select images and stories that are appropriate to your child's maturity level, but use this opportunity to start a conversation with your family about national tragedies, memorials, and proper responses to violence and pain.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Words --> Worldview

This is part 2 of a series following up on a question about wise ways to introduce your children to the study of current events. (Click here to read part 1). In the first part, we talked about learning to identify perspective or bias by looking at multiple sources for the same story.

Sometimes, though, you may not A) have access to multiple versions of a story, or B) find the information from major news suppliers (which at least profess non-bias).

Other major sources of information and opinion are "think tanks" or nonprofit organizations. Their websites tend to contain less and more specialized advertising, so you may run into fewer content issues (photos, etc.). The trade off is that these organizations are often closely linked to advocacy for a particular worldview or cause, and their content may be more overtly designed to persuade rather than inform.

This is a great exercise in identifying worldview first by definition (grammar) and then in application (dialectic and rhetoric). Start by looking at the organization's "About Us" page. Then, read one of their articles in light of their purpose, goals, and methods. Try to identify with your students the assumptions the organization makes, and any logical flaws in their reasoning.

Here's an example from The Heritage Foundation.

First, go to their About page. Their mission is, "to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense."

Having picked out the key nouns and verbs, pick one of their articles, like this one: "India: Fast Growth Does Not Mean a Strong Economy," by Derek Scissors.

Take a look at the first paragraph:

For reasons ranging from geopolitics to poverty alleviation, a strong India is good for the U.S. India’s strength will depend in great measure on the vibrancy of its economy. A complete picture of how the Indian economy is faring is therefore indispensable. It turns out India’s recovery from the crisis is partly illusory—its growth is not sustainable and is not creating broad prosperity.

Ask your children questions like,
  • What does this article claim or assume about the way the world works? For example, you might bring up the idea that countries should not isolate themselves (see the first sentence). Tie this idea back to the mission statement ("free enterprise").
  • Why does the author think his or her research is important?
  • Who seems to be the audience? Think about the audience mentioned on the About Us page: how might congressmen and policymakers respond to this information?
  • Does the author include statistics? Who are his or her sources?
  • Does the author present an opposing view to balance his or her own?
  • What kind of words does the author use to make his or her point? You might talk about undefined terms like "broad prosperity" and "crisis" and discuss the mood or tone of the piece. Are there words with clearly positive or negative connotations?
Remember, studying current events is about moving through the realm of words into that of ideas – ideas that shape how we think and how our culture thinks. It's a challenge, but such an important one to face. Stay tuned for part 3 to think further about tackling current events on the level of ideas!

What are your tips and tricks for handling current events wisely?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Perspective --> Purpose

Earlier this week, a commenter asked a question that I thought deserved a more in-depth response. She asked about ways to approach the study of current events with wisdom, handling issues of bias or spin and disturbing images, and seeking reliable sources.

It's a big question. How can we help our students know what is going on in the world in a way that stretches them but doesn't expose them to issues beyond their maturity level?

Unfortunately, there will always be content issues and biases, and there is no one-size-fits-all method to deal with them. Part of the answer will depend on your specific needs as a family. You are your children's first and best teacher, so you know their maturity levels better than anyone, and only you and your family can decide the best strategy for introducing challenging topics.

However, there are resources and exercises that can help you in your task. This week, I'd like to start a conversation about some of those resources.

Being aware that bias in news writing exists is one important first step. You can gain perspective on the way news stories work by looking at multiple sources for each story. Google News is a great resource because when you run a search, each news item includes links to other newspapers covering the same story.

For example, this past week's news included several articles about the men trapped in a Chilean mine. This article appeared in The Guardian: "Chile mine owners ask for forgiveness from trapped men." The Washington Post also wrote a story, but it was called, "On ice and in space: lessons for Chilean miners." Take a look! Compare the first sentence of each story.

Guardian: Owners of the Chilean mine where 33 workers face months awaiting rescue have appealed to the trapped men for forgiveness.
Post: The lessons that could help keep 33 trapped Chilean miners safe and sane during their months underground were learned at desperate times in isolated places: ice-bound sailing ships, prisoner-of-war camps, malfunctioning capsules whizzing through space.

Each news agency works from the same basic piece of news, but each one chooses a focus for the story and includes or omits details accordingly. By reading both pieces and seeing what they have in common, your understanding of the events will be much richer.

Remember: a news story contains facts, but it is a story, and as such it has an author, a focus, and a purpose. You can't eliminate those factors, but you can teach your children how to identify them. Stay tuned for part 2 to ponder specific ways to practice this type of critical thinking!

Now it's your turn: what are your tips and tricks for handling the study of current events wisely?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Grammar Challenge - Answers

[Last week, I wrote a post containing all seven basic sentence patterns and asked you to identify an example of each pattern. Here is one set of answers you might have given. Because the post was more than seven sentences long, there are multiple possible answers.]

Test yourself!!


1. S-Vi (subject + intransitive verb)

You may vote because you care about an issue...

2. S-Vt-DO (subject + transitive verb + direct object)

You donate money to an advocacy organization...

3. S-Vl-PN (subject + linking verb + predicate nominative)

Students' passion and eagerness to change the world are great advantages...

4. S-Vl-PA (subject + linking verb + predicate adjective)

The answer will be different for every family and every student, but it's worth considering.

5. S-Vt-IO-DO (subject + transitive verb + indirect object + direct object)

According to the press release, "Democracy Class" gives students information about "the history of voting, the connection between issues they care about and those they elect to office, and their right to vote."

6. S-Vt-DO-OCN (subject + transitive verb + direct object + object complement noun)

...however, this kind of civics education cannot make students smart voters unless students also receive training in critical thinking skills.

7. S-Vt-DO-OCA (subject + transitive verb + direct object + object complement adjective)

...but without wisdom to accompany it, undirected enthusiasm can make students--and adults--rash.

Happy Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day!

Today, the first Monday in September, is a celebration of American workers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), "It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country."

The first Labor Day was celebrated September 5, 1882, a Tuesday. Two years later, the date was fixed as the first Monday in September, and on June 28, 1894, Labor Day became a national holiday.

Click here to read more about Labor Day from the DOL. The Labor Day 2010 website also has great resources for further study, including news stories, a history of Labor Day, and the work of the DOL.

How do you celebrate the hard workers in your family?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sentence Patterns Challenge

[Today, instead of just passing on interesting bits of news, I'm writing a post that contains all seven of the basic sentence patterns. In the comments, see if you can identify one example of each sentence pattern. Because this post is more than seven sentences long, there are multiple possible answers. Have fun!]

This Week in Education recently posted "Campaign 2010: Turning Students into Voters" about an initiative by Rock the Vote to provide high schoolers with civics education and encourage them to register as voters. According to the press release, "Democracy Class" gives students information about "the history of voting, the connection between issues they care about and those they elect to office, and their right to vote."

If you have ever struggled to understand the working of the U.S. government or worried about the apathy of the nation's voters, you know that civics education is badly needed; however, this kind of civics education cannot make students smart voters unless they also receive training in critical thinking skills.

Students' passion and eagerness to change the world are great advantages, but without wisdom to accompany it, undirected enthusiasm can make students--and adults--rash.

Let me give you an example. You donate money to an advocacy organization, but you don't research the way it spends donations. Later, you find out that the organization wasn't reputable, and your money never reached the people you wanted to help. You had the best intentions but lacked the wisdom to steward your resources well.

The same thing is true in political engagement. Your right to vote is also a resource to steward. You may vote because you care about an issue, but if you don't have the facts, your vote may not produce the effect you want.

Knowing about the voting process and the importance of voting is great, but we also need to teach students to think carefully about the issues that matter to them and to do their research, so they will be not only active citizens, but informed citizens.

After all, what you support and why you support it are equally important as how you support it.

As teachers, mentors, and tutors, we do have to answer some "how" questions. For example, how do we approach the study of civics in order to teach our older students not what to think, but how to think and reason in pursuit of wisdom and truth? The answer will be different for every family and every student, but it's worth considering.

[Look for answers to the grammar challenge on Monday!]

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September Bookstore Special

Monthly Specials resume September 1st!

In honor of September 17th, U.S. Constitution Day, Classical Conversations is offering a special $50 to save the 50 states package during the month of September.

Package Includes:

WAS: American Documents - A collection of 44 articles, speeches, poems, and legal documents that shaped American government. Includes questions for thought and review.

A Patriot's History of the United States -- A sweeping, well-researched account of America from the discovery of the continent up to present day that puts the spotlight back on America's role as a beacon of liberty to the rest of the world.

How to Read the Federalist Papers -- A road map to help illuminate the major issues treated in The Federalist essays and their continued relevance for today.

Reading the Right Books -- A practical list of thoughtful and accessible books recommended to provide a firmer structure of political knowledge.

This offer is valid through September 30 and online only. No substitutions, please...

Check back regularly at the CC Bookstore to see what items will be on sale, take advantage of these sales to save, save, save!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Seeing Sentence Patterns

To continue exploring the links between grammar and reading, I'm putting together a challenge this week. In CC, we do a lot of memory work, and it's fun to test how much you are learning along with your students. So often, too, we read without noticing the grammar on which the books we read are built.

Next week, one of my posts will contain all seven basic sentence patterns that we study in Essentials. See if you can identify examples of all seven!

Of course, before we practice identifying and processing ideas in other contexts (dialectic), it's important to review what those big ideas are (grammar). So, here are the seven* simple sentence patterns (declarative purpose) that we work on in Essentials, with samples taken from the book of John:

1. S-Vi (subject + intransitive verb)
Example: Jesus wept.
Sample: "The light shines in the darkness" (1:5).

2. S-Vt-DO (subject + transitive verb + direct object)
Example: Jesus loves me.
Sample: "...and the darkness has not overcome it" (1:5).

3. S-Vl-PN (subject + linking verb + predicate nominative)
Example: Jesus is God.
Sample: "...and the Word was God" (1:1).

4. S-Vl-PA (subject + linking verb + predicate adjective)
Example: Jesus is holy.
Sample: "And the Word became flesh" (1:14).

5. S-Vt-IO-DO (subject + transitive verb + indirect object + direct object)
Example: Jesus made me a crown.
Sample: "The woman said to him, 'Sir,[you] give me this water'"(4:15).

6. S-Vt-DO-OCN (subject + transitive verb + direct object + object complement noun)
Example: Jesus made me a saint.
Sample: "...he was even calling God his own Father"(5:18).

7. S-Vt-DO-OCA (subject + transitive verb + direct object + object complement adjective)
Example: Jesus made me holy.
Sample: "...he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God"(5:18).

This week, as you study with your family, make a point of noticing the variety of sentence patterns in what you read. Check back in next week to try your hand at the challenge!

*Some people list only five patterns, because they group 3 and 4 together as S-Vt-SC (subject complement) and 6 and 7 as S-Vt-DO-OC (object complement).