Wednesday, June 22, 2011

We've Moved!

We've moved!

Please wait - in 10 seconds you should be redirected to my new blog page, http://leighbortins.com/blogger. If your browser does not automatically redirect you, click the link to access the new site.

Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Head Over to LeighBortins.com

Dear Readers,

I'm excited to announce that the site has moved! Head on over to www.leighbortins.com/blogger to keep up with the latest posts and updates. Leave a comment to let me know what you think of the new site! Here's a peek at what it has to offer:



Don't forget to update your subscriptions by email or on Google Reader! After today, you will be automatically redirected to the new site from this page, but you still need to update your subscriptions.

Go to google.com/reader, log in with your Gmail account, and from the home page, click "Add a subscription" in the upper left corner. (See image.)

Paste leighbortins.com/blogger in the box, and click "Add."

I hope you enjoy the new site.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Classical Dads

My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline
and do not resent his rebuke,
because the LORD disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.
Proverbs 3:11-12
To conclude this week's fathers day theme, today I want to introduce you to two great articles from the CC Writers Circle by dads who are actively involved in their home schools.

Dads Who Dare is by Matt Bianco, a Classical Conversations dad who tutors in our local community and loves to spend time with his kids. Here's his call to fathers of families who homeschool:

"Fathers ... go to work for eight to ten hours a day and find that mother does a superb job of caring for the home and raising up godly children. That mothers do this is to be commended and celebrated. Indeed, it is not my intention to undo or change this. Rather, it is, my intention to call fathers to a deeper awareness of the awesomeness of this task and to call attention to their part in it." (...Keep Reading...)

Confessions of a Homeschooling Dad is by David Bailey, another Classical Conversations dad, who shares his initial reluctance, and growing joy, as a leader of his home school:

"My wife plugged in as a Challenge tutor and tapped into her passion for learning and teaching. Gradually I have come along, too. I am learning that the education of my children is not just my wife's responsibility - it's mine, too. In fact, it's mine primarily. God gives dads the role of spiritual leadership. He commands us to teach our children. That's a key concept of Deuteronomy 6 and in many other places through the Scriptures." (...Keep Reading...)

As we celebrate the fathers, grandfathers, uncles, surrogate fathers, and other mentoring men in our lives this weekend, let's be deliberate about looking for ways to affirm their commitment to educating their children, supporting their families (in whatever shape that takes), and seeking the Lord's guidance in their leadership.

Happy Fathers Day!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dad at Home (2)

There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.
Deuteronomy 1:31
What role do fathers play in their family's home school? As you think about celebrating Fathers Day this weekend, read more stories from Smart Dads who share in and lead their families' home schools. (Read the first post in the 1 Smart Mama father's day series.)

More stories from Smart Dads who share in and lead their family's home school.


We forget the size of the shadow we cast, and who it falls on. As fathers, our actions affect so much more than just ourselves. It ripples down to our children and our grandchildren. It’s not just a single act for good or ill. It’s a series, a pattern we imbue on our children. We can’t just show up at graduation and say, "I’m here. Good job, son." It’s being there, day after long and weary day, for each of our children. Fatherhood is less quality time and more quantity time with quality thrown it from time to time. Friendships, hobbies, and career goals die a quiet death as fathers decide that they will make time for their children. It is a noble calling to be a father, and it is worth everything you put in. (Read More...)



...God does things in me so he can do things in my son. Relationships run in two ways. When setting out to train a son, you begin with a very imperfect little boy. But that’s not the only problem. You also have a very imperfect little daddy in the equation. In this discipleing relationship, I have on many an occasion come face to face with a challenging question, “Do you really love this boy?. . . How much do you love him?” (Read More...)


In late August of 2008 I became the 2nd full time teacher in the history of the Izola Becker Home School. I have never felt more suited for a job in my life. I love the commute. My students are like members of my own family. I am far from perfect. I yelled at my children last semester more than I ever yelled at them in their entire lifetime before. Sometimes just getting through the day with the three of them is all I can handle. But with all that said, this is the best job I have ever had! (Read More...)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dad at Home (1)

He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers...
Malachi 4:6
(Read the first post in the 1 Smart Mama father's day series.)

Like every Smart Mama who homeschools, every Smart Dad has a different story. These blogs and websites offer a window into the wide range of experiences dads have with home schooling.

During a Classical Conversations retreat at Great Wolf Lodge, VA, five dads talked about the journeys that brought them into home schooling, and what it has done for their families.



Welcome to Dad’s Homeschool Blog. Yes, Dad’s Homeschool Blog and that does in fact mean that I, Dad will be the home schooling parent. I have been the stay at home Dad since the boys, now 7 and 8 were born. So how did I come to be the stay at home Dad and now the homeschool parent? (Read More...)


Japanese-American Dad who's home educating (and trying to avoid schooling) 2 boys with his beloved Japanese wife. Self-educating -- the essence of home education -- since 1980 starting with calculus and computer programming in my 10th grade. (Read More...)


While home schooling seems to be atypical as compared to public and private schooling, home schooling with the father as principle teacher is certainly atypical to the mom-as-teacher approach. When my wife tells people at her work that we home school our kids, many of them envision her leaving them unsupervised at home with assignments, before they are told that I am the one staying at home teaching them. The home school support group at our church has monthly mom meetings for the teachers. Suffice it to say I have never attended. (Read More...)

Stay tuned for more stories as we continue our celebration of homeschool dads. Want to share your own story? Leave a comment!

Monday, June 13, 2011

1 Smart...Dad?


Here at 1 Smart Mama, we spend a lot of time speaking to moms, because moms are at the forefront of so many home schools. This week, as we approach Fathers Day, I want to shift the focus and speak to the homeschool dads who are sometimes left out of the picture.

The National Fatherhood Initiative has done a study called "Pop's Culture," surveying dads across the country about their views on fathering. The survey produced some challenging results. According to NFI, "91 percent of respondents agreed there is a father absence crisis in America. Only slightly more than half of the fathers agreed that they felt adequately prepared for fatherhood. 'Work responsibilities' was named as the largest obstacle to being a good father, and over 50 percent of respondents agreed that fathers are replaceable by mothers and other men."

In another NFI study, "Mama Says," 1533 moms shared their views on fathering. The results were surprisingly similar. "Nine in ten mothers (93%) agree that there is a father absence crisis in America today. Mothers - even those that indicated that they were 'not at all religious' - indicated that 'churches or communities of faith' are the best places for fathers to learn about fatherhood."

The National Home Education Research Institute reported that in 2009, more than 97 percent of homeschoolers were in married-couple families, so it might be easy to conclude that the "father absence crisis" doesn't affect our community.

And yet, an article in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine pointed out that moms make up 99 percent of the primary teachers in home education.

Mom's ability to stay at home with the kids may depend on Dad's working long hours away from home. On the other hand, as the nature of work in America shifts, some families are blessed to have both parents working, at least part time, from home. Mom and Dad may share teaching responsibilities, or Dad may be the primary teacher, or Dad may not know how to get involved.

The question I think we have to ask in all of these situations is how parents, churches, and homeschool communities can support entire families.

One of the first steps is to ask a lot of questions: What is the biblical role of a father in his children's education? What practical limitations of work and money does our family have to work with? What small changes can we make to help dad fulfill his God-given role? As a larger community, how can we invite fathers into what can be a mom-centered conversation about homeschooling?

It's exciting and encouraging to see homeschool dads stepping out and exploring their role in their family's home schools, and this week, I want to share some of their stories with you.

Won't you join us?

You may find The Home Schooling Father, by Michael P. Farris, a good place to start the conversation.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Celebrity and the Home School


If you search for homeschooling on the national news media, one of the first stories that comes up this week is "Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt Snub Modern Education, Opt to Homeschool."

They're not the first celebrity couple to homeschool. Actors travel a lot, making it difficult to establish children in a regular school schedule. But every time one of these headlines appears, there's a predictable flurry of commentary calling the publicity good or bad for serious homeschooling families.

Instead of focusing on what this means for the future of homeschooling, I want to use the opportunity to take us back to a very important, very basic, (very challenging) question: why do we homeschool?

Ask any homeschool mom or dad, and they'll tell you that homeschooling is hard work. It demands the investment of time, money, and energy. It requires families to make hard choices that depart from the downstream pull of government-run education.

If the only reason we homeschool is a negative one (I don't want my child in a public school), then homeschooling can become drudgery, as enslaving to the mind as the school systems we've rejected.

If, on the other hand, we homeschool because we want to raise our children to be whole people who understand what it means to be free, if we homeschool because we want to nurture our children's souls along with their minds, then we have something to hold on to when Algebra seems impossible, when the 2-year-old won't obey, when the house is a mess, and when there are no celebrities on the news to make homeschooling look glamorous.

We can keep going at that moment because we know it's not about immediate results or the fads of the day. It's a life-long journey that we're taking along with our families as we seek to know God and to make Him known.

Even if that means we spend a lot of the journey on our knees instead of on TV.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

CiRCE Conference: Coming in July!

The theme of the 2011 CiRCE Institute Conference is "What is Man: A Contemplation of the Divine Image." It will be held this year in Arlington, Texas from July 20 to July 23.

According to C.S. Lewis, we live in “the world of post-humanity which, some knowingly, and some unknowingly, nearly all men in all nations are at present laboring to produce.” If he is right, then we must each face the disheartening fact that we could be helping construct this “post-human” world.

If this was the case more than fifty years ago, when Mr. Lewis wrote, how much more true is it today? And if Mr. Lewis is right, we must each face the troubling possibility that we could each be helping construct this “post-human” world.

Modern pedagogy builds its educational structures on the patterns of the modern age, in a way that removes the chests of our children. In fact, modern pedagogy does not believe there is such a thing as human nature and it teaches like it. Do you?

Or do you teach like you believe your students are made in the Image of God? Do we?
What a rewarding question to ponder this summer.

Speakers at this event will include author and literary critic Gregory Wolfe, Dr. Vigen Guroian, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, CiRCE's Andrew Kern, and Martin Cothran, author of Traditional Logic. On Friday, Classical Conversations' own Heather Shirley will be leading a workshop on "Cultivating the Ideal and Tending the Real."

If past conferences are any indication, this will be a rich and revitalizing event.

Register today online at www.circeinstitute.com/conference, or by phone at 704.786.9684. If you're a member of a Classical Conversations community, call or email before June 15th to ask about a special discounted price.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Spell F-r-e-e-d-o-m

This morning is the semi-final round, and tonight is the final round of the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee. You might have seen the photos from the preliminary rounds: faces showing elation, anxiety, despair. (Of course, such things make better copy for the media.)

Of the 50 semifinalists, 13-year-old Veronica Penny is a homeschooler from Ontario, Canada. Grace Remmer from Florida, age 12, is also home schooled. So are 13-year-old Gina Solomito from Indiana and 13-year-old Samuel Estep from Virginia.

They're spelling words like "febrifugal," "tchotchke," and "profligacy." Everyone can see how smart and dedicated these kids are, but not everyone thinks of advanced spelling as a valuable skill.

A blogger called "Geek Mom" has written an excellent post answering the question, "What is the value of the national spelling bee in the age of spell check and predictive text?" The whole piece is well-worth reading, but in particular, Geek Mom gives a great illustration of what it means to improve your vision through spelling mastery.
I was once given the word S-I-L-I-C-I-F-E-R-O-U-S in a spelling bee. I’d never heard the word before. I asked for the definition. Containing silicon. I asked for the etymology. Latin. I asked for the part of speech. Adjective. With this information, I was able to construct the word in its entirety. I knew about silicon, and thus had the S-I-L-I-C-I beginning. The Latin root told me that the middle part of the word would be F-E-R rather than P-H-O-R and the fact that it was an adjective, not a noun, told me that the word ended in O-U-S rather than U-S. Siliciferous. One word can encapsulate an entire education.
Last week, we focused on words and sentences. Isn't it amazing how much there is to see within individual words?

As learners, we start our examination of language with our naked eyes. We learn to speak and read simple words. Then we pull out a magnifying glass. We study basic grammar. We memorize common spelling words. Finally, we use a powerful microscope. We learn about word origins and study foreign languages. We compare the nuances of synonyms and contrast active and passive verbs. We use all of these tools to become good readers, writers, and speakers.

We don't forget about the big picture, but we learn how to appreciate and understand it more fully by celebrating the details.

It's the details like these help us become whole (inviolate, replete), free (untrammeled, emancipated) people.


For more information about teaching spelling classically, read chapter 4 in The Core. Another great resource is Spelling Plus, by Susan C. Anthony.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Essentially Yours


Hi Friends,

If you're part of an Essentials community, I have good news! The new Essentials of the English Language - 4th Edition is now available to ship! Visit the Classical Conversations Bookstore to order your copy! You can get a special discount price at Parent Practicums this summer or by ordering online today. You will need to enter your director's name for verification when you check out.

If you've just happened across my blog and you're not in an Essentials community, you might be wondering what it's all about.

An "essential" (going back to the Latin esse, "to be") is something that is absolutely necessary or foundational.

The Classical Conversations Essentials program (read more about it here) is all about the essentials of language, writing, and arithmetic. By memorizing core information and then analyzing it and asking questions about it, students -- and parents -- learn to identify and apply the structure of language arts and mathematics.

What's so important about that?

Well, first, knowing the structures of language and math prepares you to use them well. You learn to write coherently, speak persuasively, and calculate complex equations once you master the basics. From there, you might go on to testify before Congress, write a book that touches millions, or use mathematics to advance cancer research.

But there's another, equally important reason to seek out this kind of knowledge.

The intermediate origin of the word "essential" is the word "essence," or "being." Until the 1600s, essence was understood not just to mean the basic nature of something, but to point back to the Trinity. You see, the root of "es," in the earliest languages, means "I am."

So when we study the structure of languages and mathematics, we do so to discover more about God's creation. As Proverbs 25:2 says, "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings."

Stop and think about that for a moment. Memorizing parts of speech and the multiplication tables can be the glory of kings. Imagine that!

That's why we get excited about the Essentials.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Who Do You Remember?


Today, May 30, 2011, is Memorial Day.

Who do you remember and honor today?

American poet Walt Whitman wrote a poem called "Dirge for Two Veterans," which was published in 1900 in Leaves of Grass. As you read his words, think about how you can say thank you to those among your family and friends who have served or are serving in the U.S. military.
"Dirge for Two Veterans"

The last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finish'd Sabbath,
On the pavement here, and there beyond it is looking,
Down a new-made double grave.

Lo, the moon ascending,
Up from the east the silvery round moon,
Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon,
Immense and silent moon.

I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-key'd bugles,
All the channels of the city streets they're flooding,
As with voices and with tears.

I hear the great drums pounding,
And the small drums steady whirring,
And every blow of the great convulsive drums,
Strikes me through and through.

For the son is brought with the father,
(In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell,
Two veterans son and father dropt together,
And the double grave awaits them.)

Now nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive,
And the daylight o'er the pavement quite has faded,
And the strong dead-march enwraps me.

In the eastern sky up-buoying,
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumin'd,
('Tis some mother's large transparent face,
In heaven brighter growing.)

O strong dead-march you please me!
O moon immense with your silvery face you soothe me!
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans passing to burial!
What I have I also give you.

The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music,
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Weekend Reading


It's the end of the month, and some folks have an extended weekend ahead. In addition to enjoying the sunshine and spending time with your family, it's the perfect time for you smart moms and dads to catch up on your reading, reflect, and renew your minds.

Why not start with some of this month's articles from the CC Writers Circle?

The articles in this series reflect on the reasons we homeschool, how to homeschool more effectively, how to homeschool classically, creation and science, Latin, classical education, homeschool sports, and getting into college. The writers are alumni, directors, state managers, and individuals outside Classical Conversations.

Here's a list of articles from the month of May. You can find a complete archive on the Classical Conversations website under "Articles."
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

How Do You Remember?


How do you remember?

For many Americans, Memorial Day weekend is about grilling out, going to the beach, and having picnics and get-togethers. While there's nothing wrong -- and a lot right -- with celebrating community, on Memorial Day (Monday) Americans are called to remember the men and women who have died serving their country.

In 1867, Mrs. Nella L. Sweet dedicated a hymn to southern women who decorated their husbands' graves after the Civil War. Her lyrics describe one version of remembrance. Read them closely, and take time to really think about what she's saying. Do you agree?
"Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping"

Kneel where our loves are sleeping,
Dear ones loved in days gone by,
Here we bow in holy rev'rence,
Our bosoms heave the heartfelt sigh.
They fell as brave men, true as steel,
And pour'd their blood like rain--
We feel we owe them all we have,
And can but kneel and weep again.

Kneel where are loves are sleeping,
They lost, but still were good and true,
Our fathers, brothers fell still fighting,
We weep, 'tis all that we can do.

What, or rather who, do you remember? And not only that, but how do you remember? What does it look like to honor someone's sacrifice?

These are the big questions we're invited to ask ourselves and our families this weekend.

Visit www.usmemorialday.org for more about the history and purpose of this national holiday.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

We're Moving!

Hi Smart Mamas, Dads, and friends,

As part of changes designed to make it easier for you to access information and get connected with other like-minded families and individuals, I'm excited to announce that the 1SmartMama blog will soon be moving over to Wordpress!

You can still visit 1smartmama.blogspot.com, but starting in June, you'll be re-directed to www.leighbortins.com/blogger. Stay tuned for notifications about exactly when the change will take place.

Don't forget to update your subscriptions when it happens!

If you have suggestions or recommendations for the new site, email TellUs@classicalconversations.com or 1smartmama@gmail.com. I welcome your feedback.

Thanks for being a part of our online community!

Monday, May 23, 2011

What Do You Remember?


This week, as we approach Memorial Day, Americans are invited to think carefully about what it means to be free.

In a 1983 address, President Reagan spoke about what a day of remembrance means. This is what he said:
...Today, as in the past, there are problems that must be solved and challenges that must be met. We can tackle them with our full strength and creativity only because we are free to work them out in our own way. We owe this freedom of choice and action to those men and women in uniform who have served this nation and its interests in time of need. In particular, we are forever indebted to those who have given their lives that we might be free.

I don't have to tell you how fragile this precious gift of freedom is. Every time we hear, watch, or read the news, we are reminded that liberty is a rare commodity in this world.

This Memorial Day of 1983, we honor those brave Americans who died in the service of their country. I think an ancient scholar put it well when he wrote: 'Let us now praise famous men...All these were honored in their generation, and were the glory of their times. Their bodies are buried in peace; but their name liveth for evermore.' As a tribute to their sacrifice, let us renew our resolve to remain strong enough to deter aggression, wise enough to preserve and protect our freedom, and thoughtful enough to promote lasting peace throughout the world.

This year at Classical Conversations, one of our driving questions has been, "What does it mean to be free?"

Our goal as parents is to give our families a liberating -- freeing -- education. That means training our brains through the study of history, philosophy, science, mathematics, literature, and art. But it also means asking hard questions about what we remember and why, so we can evaluate each new idea in light of truth.

It can be a daunting task, can't it? Yet, it's also an exciting and fulfilling one. This week, I want to take advantage of the chance to talk about memory, freedom, and sacrifice.

Won't you join me?

Friday, May 20, 2011

What Do You See?


This summer at our Parent Practicums, we're talking about improving our vision in two ways--both in terms of the big picture and in terms of the details: our ability to see. (Listen to our conversation about these topics on the CC Parent Practicum Podcast.)

We learn phonics by looking at the building blocks of words; we learn grammar by looking at the building blocks of sentences; we learn Algebra by looking at the building blocks of arithmetic.

Why, then, do we assume that we can understand and respond to complex ideas and arguments about freedom, education, and beauty without looking at the building blocks of ideas?

Let me ask you again: how's your vision?

If you look at a poem or a math problem--they're not as different as you might think--what do you notice? Do you pay attention to the details? Let's try it out.

One of the most-read poems in America is Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken." The funny thing is that a lot of people call it "The Road Less Traveled." Think about those two titles for a minute. They're pretty different, aren't they? That just goes to show how blurry our vision can be.

Now look at the poem. Remember, don't stop at the end of the line; read to the punctuation marks. How does that change your reading?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Ask, where are the nouns? Where are the verbs? What does a semicolon tell us as readers? How many sentences are there? Are they imperative, interrogative, or a declarative sentences? Who is speaking? To whom is he/she speaking?

These are the building blocks not only of being a good reader, but also a good thinker.

When you encounter a new idea, you should ask similar questions: what does this argument assume to be true about the world (nouns)? What would happen if we applied the logic of this argument to other situations (verbs)? How does this argument get from point A to point B (punctuation)? If we accepted this argument, what would it push us to believe or do (purpose)? Do we trust the person making this argument (speaker)?

It's amazing how many basic questions modern readers gloss over and yet still "know" a poem, memorize a math equation, or support a political position.

In order to have a grand vision, sometimes we have to visit the eye doctor first. Come join us as a bunch of smart moms and dads diagnose our vision at Parent Practicums this summer!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Improving Your Vision


How's your vision?

I don't just mean your eyesight. It's the end of another school year, and if you're like the rest of us, your inspiration and vision for your home school may be running on empty.

This summer is the perfect time to improve your vision for your home school at one of our 1- or 3-day free Parent Practicums. You'll learn more about the relationship between freedom and education and be reminded of the high calling you've chosen to pursue with your family.

Just this week, 3-day practicums are taking place in Ohio, Colorado, and Virginia. Click here to find one in your state!

When your heart and mind need to be renewed, the fellowship of other like-minded (and like-wearied!) individuals is a great encouragement. You're not tackling this alone.

Read Jen @ Balancing Beauty and Bedlam's response to a 3-day practicum she attended: Brain Power: How Deeply Do You Think?. Listen in to the CC Parent Practicum Podcast (say that three times fast!) with Matt Bianco, Tobin Duby, and Heather Shirley. Then watch the video:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Understanding Civitas


This week has seen another of the rash of articles decrying American students' lack of knowledge about civics and government.

The Washington Post says only a quarter of high school seniors are "proficient" in civics knowledge and skills, even though many are now old enough to vote (Many students lack civics knowledge, study shows).

"Knowledge of our system of government is not handed down through the gene pool," retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said in a statement. "The habits of citizenship must be learned. ... But we have neglected civic education for the past several decades, and the results are predictably dismal"... (Read more)

An article in EdWeek (Is Your Civics Knowledge a) Advanced, b) Proficient, c) Basic, or d) Below Basic) gives a sample of the questions from the latest NAEP exam. They include:

8th grade:
The Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution of the United States to:
a) Ensure that the federal government would be run by a system of checks and balances
b) Set up two parties that would share control of the federal government
c) Establish and protect various civil liberties
d) Guarantee that large states would not overpower smaller ones
46% answered correctly (__)

The First Amendment guarantees people in the United States the right to:
a) Own property
b) Own firearms
c) Speak freely
d) A fair trial
74% answered correctly (__)

How did you do? Did this exercise make you feel anxious?

If so, you're not alone.

At Classical Conversations, we study history and civics in more than one way. We memorize a time line of world events.We learn sentences about major eras in history. We read a lot of stories about history. We copy and write paragraphs from histories. We read original documents from the foundations of American government. We debate topics in current events.

We do all of these things because we know it's by returning to the same information from different angles that we keep our knowledge limber and readily available to us.

We do all of these things because we want our children to grow into their rights and responsibilities as citizens, just as we're growing into ours.

Finally, we do all of these things because we want our children to be eager -- not afraid or apathetic -- to participate in our system of governance, so they can change it for the better.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Unapologetic Parents


What is our culture telling you about what it means to be a parent?

This week, Jay Mathews wrote in The Washington Post about his experiences as a public school dad (Who says I'm an over involved dad?). Mathews shares his frustration with the current paradigm for parental involvement in education:

I think our schools, and our culture, have the wrong attitude about mothers and fathers who have skills and knowledge to share.

If I were a former college pitcher and spent much time helping my daughter perfect her rhythm on the mound, would anyone object? No. I might even get an award from the local Little League if she got us to the finals.

But if my wife and I, both journalists, edited our children’s school essays, or if our Paris-born neighbors corrected all the errors in their children’s French homework, or if my cousin the trial lawyer prepped his daughter for her graded classroom debate in U.S. government, many people, including some well-meaning teachers, would say we were going over the line.


Mathews identifies a core problem of schooling (at home or in a classroom) when it stops being a relationship between committed learners -- some further along the road, others just starting out.

Whether it's a parent proofreading without stopping to teach the child the difference between a passive and an active verb or a teacher providing just enough information to pass the End-of-Grade test, we've lost something. We've given over to the factory; we've lost sight of the human.

Every parent has knowledge and skills to share, but more than that, every parent has a relationship to build with their children. Mathews concludes,

In 2007 the National Survey of Student Engagement found that college students whose parents frequently intervened on their behalf “reported higher levels of engagement and more frequent use of deep learning experiences.” Helping your child learn should not be something shameful. Let’s say out loud that we are going to pass on what we know, no matter what anyone else thinks about it. (Read more)

Let's say more than that. Let's say we are going to give our children the chance to watch us struggle with learning, so they can copy our perseverance and character. Let's say we are going to give our children consistent, ongoing guidance that recognizes them to be whole human beings in need of nurture, not just programming.

Let's say we aren't afraid to be parents.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mothers Day!

Happy Mothers' Day!

Today we honor all the mothers, mothers-to-be, and surrogate mothers who dedicate time, energy, and enthusiasm to training their children to be life-long learners.

Thank you for all that you do!!

"Teach your children to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it."
~ Proverbs 22:6

Friday, May 6, 2011

Thursday, May 5, 2011

National Day of Prayer

Today, Thursday, May 5, we here at CC encourage you to join people all around the nation who will be praying for our country. As the Scripture says, "where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them" (Matthew 18:20). Gather together to send up prayers for our families, churches, states, and nation.

The National Day of Prayer Task Force reminds us:

Prayer has always been used in this country for guidance, protection and strength-even before we were a nation or a handful of colonies. The Pilgrims at Plymouth relied on prayer during their first and darkest winter. Our founding fathers also called for prayer during the Constitutional Convention. In their eyes, our recently created nation and freedoms were a direct gift from God. And being a gift from God, there was only one way to insure protection-through prayer.

President Abraham Lincoln knew this well. It was his belief that, “it is the duty of nations as well as men, to owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God.” When it came to the fate of the nation, he practiced what he preached. Before the battle of Gettysburg, he turned to God in prayer. “I went to my room one day and I locked the door and got down on my knees before Almighty God and prayed to him mightily for victory at Gettysburg.” Won by the Union, Gettysburg was one of the turning points in the war that ended slavery and kept the states united. Today the need for prayer is as great as ever. Our nation again faces battlefields, along with an epidemic of broken homes, violence, sexual immorality and social strife. As the heroes of our nation did in the past, we must again bow our heads in prayer. We must ask the Lord to bless our leaders with wisdom and protection, and that we will have the fortitude to overcome the challenges at hand. If Roosevelt, the Pilgrims and Lincoln never underestimated the power of prayer, neither should we. (Read more...)

For more information on this event, please visit the National Day of Prayer website. You can also listen to the archive of my interview with Executive Director John Bornschein.

To read more of what Scripture says about prayer, you can start with 1 Thessalonians 5.17-18, Hosea 10.12, Colossians 3.2, and Philippians 4.6-7.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Leigh! at Lunch Cancelled

We are sorry to announce the May 4th and May 11th Leigh! at Lunch shows have been canceled. The shows are being canceled so that Leigh can remain at her mother's side. Her mother, Pat, has been fighting a battle against cancer for some time now, a battle that is close to concluding.

Please keep Leigh's mother and family in your prayers, the Lord knows their needs. Leigh! at Lunch will resume in the fall.

Stanley Fish on Leigh! at Lunch

We're sorry, but this show has been canceled. Blog Talk Radio will resume in the fall.



Wednesday, May 4 at 12 noon on Leigh! at Lunch, I'll be talking to Dr. Stanley Fish, a well-known public intellectual, writer, and commentator for The New York Times.

Click here to go directly to the show.

Stanley Fish is the Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor and a professor of law at Florida International University, in Miami, and dean emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has also taught at the University of California at Berkeley, Johns Hopkins and Duke University, in Durham, N.C.

Mr. Fish is the author of 10 books, including How Milton Works, The Trouble With Principle, Professional Correctness: Literary Studies and Political Change, and There's No Such Thing as Free Speech, and It's a Good Thing, Too. His essays and articles have appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Harper's Magazine, Esquire, The Atlantic, and The New York Times.

Join us at noon on Blog Talk Radio and call or chat in with your questions for Dr. Fish!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Toward the Quadrivium - Thank You!http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

Many thanks to all who joined us this weekend at Toward the Quadrivium: A Classical Conversation with Nancy Pearcey and Leigh Bortins!! Thank you for helping us make the first "Toward the Quadrivium" event a success!

Missed it? Read Matt Bianco's Event Review.

Are you excited to learn more? Start with these articles...
These and other resources are available at TowardtheQuadrivium.com.

What are your thoughts on the quadrivium or on this weekend's event? We'd love to hear them! Email TellUs@classicalconversations.com.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

FYI from Leigh! at Lunch 4/27/11

If you're interested in topics that came up during this week's show, here are a few links and tips from Leigh at Lunch on Blog Talk Radio 4/27/11, "Thomas Woods on Leigh at Lunch" (Click on the title to listen to the show archive).

Had a question for today's show you didn't get to ask? Email 1smartmama@gmail.com or comment on this post for an answer!

Coming soon from 1 Smart Mama
  • Tune in next Wednesday, May 4, at 12 noon EST to talk with Leigh and Stanley Fish, a professor of humanities and law at Florida International University, and a prominent writer and New York Times commentator.

  • Ongoing events

  • Join us THIS WEEKEND for "Toward the Quadrivium," with Leigh Bortins and Nancy Pearcey, about science and teaching the quadrivium: April 29-30 in Manassas, Virginia. Tomorrow is the last day for the lower-price early registration.
  • Register now for our 1-day and 3-day summer Parent Practicums and Student Camps!
  • Register as a friend on BlogTalkRadio to be eligible for our weekly drawing! Click "follow" so you'll get updates about spontaneous and pre-recorded shows.
  • Send questions to Leigh for her next book on the dialectic via AskLeigh@ymail.com.
  • Email us at TellUs@classicalconversations.com to let us know what topics you'd like to see on upcoming Blog Talk Radio shows!

  • Notes from today's show
  • Get ready for next week's guest, Stanley Fish, by reading How to Write a Sentence, available from the CC Bookstore. (Another great read on this subject is Our Mother Tongue).
  • Thomas Woods is the author of Rollback and Meltdown, among others. See the full list here.
  • Check out a list of other sound recordings and articles by Woods at the Mises Institute.
  • Visit the Ludwig von Mises Institute to find out more about his work in economics and check out all the available resources.
  • Purchase your own copy of today's prize, Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?, from the CC Bookstore.
  • To learn more about the student loan crisis, check out these articles: Another Debt Crisis is Brewing, This One in Student Loans (NYTimes), The $555,000 Student-Loan Burden (WSJournal), and Student Loans Leave Crushing Debt Burden (CSNBC).
  • Visit Woods' site at TomWoods.com to read free chapters of several books and find more articles, videos, and information.
  • Starting in September, look for Woods' online high school and college curriculum from a group of expert faculty on western civilization and U.S. history.
  • Check out the economic books by Richard Maybury and others available from CC: Economics in a Box, Bluestocking Guide to Economics, and Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?.
  • Read Walter Block's "A Future of Private Roads and Highways" from the Mises Institute. Also see his book The Privatization of Roads and Highways. Hear him talk about the book on YouTube.
  • "The Current Financial Crisis -- and After" by Kevin Dowd from the Mises Institute describes the fiscal crisis Woods describes.
  • Start reading about the philosophy of "agorism" via this Wikipedia article.
  • Read The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History by Woods and other Politically Incorrect guides from Regnery Publishing.
  • Thomas Woods on Leigh! at Lunch


    Dear Friends,

    This Wednesday, April 27 at 12 noon on Leigh! at Lunch, I'll be talking to New York Times bestselling author Thomas Woods.

    Click here to go directly to the show.

    thomas woodsThomas E. Woods, Jr., is a senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from Harvard and his master's, M.Phil., and Ph.D. from Columbia University.



    His critically acclaimed 2004 book The Church Confronts Modernity was recently released in paperback by Columbia University Press. A collection of Woods' essays, called W obronie zdrowego rozsadku, was released exclusively in Polish in 2007. Woods' books have been translated into Italian, Spanish, Polish, French, German, Czech, Portuguese, Croatian, Slovak, Russian, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese.

    Join us at noon on Blog Talk Radio, and call or chat in with your questions!

    Book Sales and Savings

    Looking for that older-edition book you just can't seem to find? Wanting to add to your collection of great literature? Check out some of these upcoming events for reduced-price curriculum and books.

    Thurs., April 28-May 1, St. Louis, MO, Greater St. Louis Book Fair
    April 28-30, Winston-Salem, NC: Shepherd's Center Book Sale
    Fri., April 29, Alpharetta, GA: Homeschool Used Book/Curriculum Sale
    April 29-May 1, Greenville, SC, Greenville Friends of the Library Book Sale
    May 5-7, Burke, VA, King's Park Library Book Sale
    May 18-22, Centreville, VA, Friends of Centreville Library Book Sale
    July 15-17, Reading, PA, Book Bonanza 2011

    Don't miss the April and closeout sales at the CC Bookstore! Also, check out BookSaleFinder.com to find sales in your area!

    Monday, April 25, 2011

    What's Your Story?

    This week, the website Take Part featured an interview with three very different moms who have chosen to home school their children for a variety of reasons: When Parents Teach: Three Moms Talk Homeschooling. Take a look:
    Until recently, home schooling was considered a fringe phenomenon—something done by religious families seeking to oversee their children’s spiritual and moral education.

    But from hip urban communities in Brooklyn to small towns in the rural south, more and more parents are pulling their children out of public schools and assuming the role of full-time teacher...

    Why are so many parents opting for home schooling? And what’s it like to become your child’s teacher? TakePart spoke with three home-schooling moms to find out.
    (Read More...)

    Each of these moms has a unique story about her route to home schooling, and the journey on which it's taken her and her family. Well, guess what? So does each one of the thousands of moms and dads who participate in Classical Conversations - including you! Click here to read some of their stories.

    Have you told your story?

    Remember, 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!

    The folks at CC love to hear your stories. Post one on the CC Facebook page, leave a comment on this post, Tweet it (#ClassicalConversations or @CC_Bookstore), or send us an e-mail at TellUs@classicalconversations.com!

    Sunday, April 24, 2011

    The Door of the Sepulchre



    And when the sabbath was past, Mary Mag'dalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salo'me, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.

    And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.

    And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?

    And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.

    And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.

    And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.

    But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.

    And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.
    -Mark 16:1-8

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    From the Sixth Hour...

    Rubens, The Crucifixion
    And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.

    And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, E'lo-i, E'lo-i, lama sabach'thani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? [Ps. 22.1]

    And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, he calleth Eli'jah.

    And one ran and filled a sponge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink, [Ps. 69.21] saying, Let alone; let us see whether Eli'jah will come to take him down.

    And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.

    And the veil [Ex. 26.31-33] of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.

    And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.

    -Mark 15: 33-39, KJV
    Readings on Easter

    Cal Thomas: Commentary
    R.C. Sproul: The Passion of Christ
    Peter J. Leithart: Tomb and Tomb

    Classic Easter Poetry

    John Updike: Seven Stanzas at Easter
    Edmund Spenser: Easter
    George Herbert: Easter Wings

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    FYI from Leigh! at Lunch 4/20/11

    If you are interested in topics that came up during this week's show, here are a few links and tips from Leigh at Lunch on Blog Talk Radio 4/20/11, "Leigh at Lunch with Dr. Darrel Cox of Patrick Henry College" (Click on the title to listen to the show archive).

    Had a question for today's show that you didn't get to ask? Email it to 1smartmama@gmail.com or comment on this post for an answer!

    Coming soon from 1 Smart Mama
  • Tune in next Wednesday, April 27, at 12 noon EST to talk with Leigh and economic historian Tom Wood, author of Meltdown and Rollback.

  • Ongoing events

  • Register now for the first in the series "Toward the Quadrivium," with Leigh Bortins and Nancy Pearcey about science and teaching the quadrivium: April 29-30 in Manassas, Virginia.
  • Register now for our 1-day and 3-day summer Parent Practicums and Student Camps!
  • Register as a friend on BlogTalkRadio to be eligible for our weekly drawing! Click "follow" so you'll get updates about spontaneous and pre-recorded shows.
  • Send questions to Leigh for her next book on the dialectic via AskLeigh@ymail.com.
  • Email us at TellUs@classicalconversations.com to let us know what topics you'd like to see on upcoming Blog Talk Radio shows!

  • Notes from today's show
  • We recommend reading How to Write a Sentence by an upcoming guest on Leigh! at Lunch, Stanley Fish. (For more on this subject, see Our Mother Tongue).
  • Buy your own sets of Classical Acts and Facts science flash cards from the CC Bookstore.
  • Visit Patrick Henry College (phc.edu) to learn more about the school and its mission and vision.
  • Dr. Cox has also worked with Emmanuel College in Georgia and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. He has ties to Elim Bible Institute, Roberts Wesleyan College, Regent University, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School at Trinity International University.
  • Read for yourself the Chalcedonian Creed, Athanasian Creed, and Nicene Creed to see early established doctrines of "mere Christianity."
  • Want to know more about the theological debates Dr. Cox mentioned? Click here to learn about philosophies of Complementarianism and Egalitarianism. Visit this site to find basic information about Arminianism and Calvinism.
  • Learn more about the Challenge program for upper high school students at ClassicalConversations.com.
  • As the main resource for high school students' biblical studies, Dr. Cox recommends the primary source--the Bible--with solid secondary sources only as support.
  • Monday, April 18, 2011

    Plans for Toward the Quadrivium

    On April 30, 2011 in northern Virginia, Classical Conversations is offering a one-day seminar in which we will consider how to move "Toward the Quadrivium" as we complete our understanding of the seven liberal arts.


    We have all asked and answered many questions about the Trivium. I find as the classical education movement, I, and my family mature, my questions must also mature. And so, I want to begin a new conversation as many of us move toward the Quadrivium. Answers about the Quadrivium will come too late for my own children's childhood education, as that is ending soon, but I believe the knowledge will arrive at the perfect time for their journey as life-long learners.

    Our ancestors tell us the Quadrivium is significant. I want to know how and why. How do I teach it? How will it help me be more human? What do I do with it? What is the Quadrivium?

    My current understanding is that it is the study of harmony or music, arithmetic or algebra, geometry, and astronomy. When do we study the Quadrivium? If you were an ancient Roman or Greek, you would have studied it before the Trivium of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. But since medieval times, it was studied after the Trivium. When should we as post-moderns study the Quadrivium? I think that the answer currently lacks consensus among those who think about it, and that is the main reason for this seminar: to engage in the dialectic as we work toward answers.

    A headmaster of a classical school told me the reason Classical Conversations is so successful. He said, "When Christians learn to think, they want to think with the Body. We are created for relationship and reconciliation." I don't want to think about the Quadrivium alone. I have all of you and your wealth of thoughts to guide me. I need to be influenced by the body of Christ. Since 1997, I've been asking you to talk with me about the Trivium. Now it is time to talk about the Quadrivium. So once again, I invite you to share in a classical conversation, a conversation new to me and many reading this blog, but old to the world. To be unable to study history and learn from it is to be always a child. I'd like to be able to grow up.

    So, here is the schedule for April 30. Should the conversation prove successful, I'd like to schedule additional conversations as we move Toward the Quadrivium.

    We have many special guests.

    First, Nancy Pearcey will speak on her book Total Truth, a book that is significant to our free summer Parent Practicums where 14,000 parents will spend 3 days in hundreds of locations across the country discussing the Trivium. We need to summarize what we've learned so far and establish the Christian context that embodies the seven liberal arts.

    Next, Nancy and I will have a conversation related to another of her books, The Soul of Science, which CC has used since 1998, and which was significant in developing the philosophies of Classical Conversations. I expect more classicalists will read this book over and over again as they gain a better understanding of the importance of the Quadrivium.

    Then, a panel of our students will talk with me about their experience as their families try to recover a classical education through the Trivium. We will discuss how the Trivium has prepared them for the Quadrivium.

    After lunch, Nancy will speak about the arts and her new book, Saving Leonardo. The heart hungers for beauty, and the seven liberal arts equip us to pursue excellence in all things. We live in a material world - a world of atoms and machines and processes. We need to honor the created world. We can do so by teaching our children how to imitate its magnificence.

    Next, Charles Carpenter will speak to us about the university accreditation process. He will give us an honest assessment of the goals of modern universities so that we will be informed as we develop expectations from advanced education for the classically educated student.

    When these folks are finished leading the conversation, I will end with some summary points and ideas on the direction we may want to take as we move Toward the Quadrivium.

    Remember, this is a classical conversation, not a monologue, so we will make time for questions and participation from the audience.

    I can't wait to hear your part of the conversation.

    Love, Leigh