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

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 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!

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 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

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!