Five Quick Reads vol 2.

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The wet damp weather makes this worm calling experiment a sure fire hit – its simple, fun and involves dirt/mud. I can’t imagine a child who won’t get a kick out of being a worm Pied Piper!

Homeschooling used to be the hallmark of social conservatives and hippies – it was a fringe movement of folks who swam against the current. These days, homeschooling is crossing lines; social, economic, cultural. Did you know the percentage of practicing doctors and lawyers who homeschool is growing? Here is the “confession” of a practicing doctor….who homeschools.

As we wrap up this school year, and I start planning next year, I’ve been making a reading list for my kids for the summer. While I don’t see us becoming year round (formal) schoolers, I do want to reinforce certain areas that have been neglected (languages: Latin, French, Spanish) and reinforce subjects you can never really cover enough (grammar). As a family of readers, I also am always on the lookout for engaging and edifying books for the kids to enjoy. This list of classic lit. and accompanying activities is right up our alley.

Spring has (finally) sprung! With the abundant variety of flora and fauna we have in the Northeast, there are tons of options for hands on learning for our kids as close as the local park – or your backyard! This series on tree nature studies is a wonderful guide to engage with the great outdoors.

I wish I knew who posted this last link. I found it on Pinterest (I want to tell you to join, if you haven’t already. But you will be sucked in to the idea overload. Do it! Do it! But do so forewarned 😉 Back to this art project, this is so simple to set up and one of those rare art projects that my 3 year old right up through my 10 year old would enjoy. Try it, send me pictures of your results. We may do a small gallery at home of their animals. Just be sure to pick animals with distinct silhouette, and be ready to slice up a ton of strips of magazines or the shiny ad pages from the newspaper. And stock up on glue sicks or pour some glue into a bowl and use brushes.

I hope you had a wonderful Easter and enjoy Easter-tide!

Please remember we have an upcoming Open House at our Bryn Mawr Campus this Tuesday from 9 am to 11: 45 pm. Learn about Classical Conversations and choosing a classical education for your children. Hope to see you there!






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From Catholic School to Homeschool – Our Journey

Bringing our kids home

This is not a short story, so grab some tea or coffee. And a brownie. All stories are better with chocolate. Ed and I talked about homeschooling when our first was born in 2003. I’d been a public school girl through 10th grade and finished high school at a small boarding school and loved the intensity with which we learned in our super small classes and the supportive relationships we had with our teachers. Ed had gone to public schools straight through, and being the smarty, continued on to do a bachelor with honors and 1.5 masters degrees. Anyway, baby one arrives and the idea of turning her loose into a school system I had not enjoyed, nor felt particularly well served by (keep in mind I went through the Lower Merion School System, one of the “best” in the country) terrified me. Ed and I are also conservative Christians, and the values present in the local schools were and are not in synch with what we wanted for our children.

Doesn’t that sound grand? Don’t we sound ambitious? Proud? Well, babies two and three arrived within the next three years. Three babies in three years, a husband who (as a pastor) works crazy hours and I was at the front of the line to sign my oldest up for preschool the January she turned four. I felt overwhelmed by laundry, matchbox cars and doll clothes. The idea of actually trying to teach my kids anything beyond washing their hands after using the bathroom exhausted me.

kid in grass

My daughter thrived in preschool, as did my two boys. We moved them to a parochial school when my daughter was ready for PK, my boys followed for PK and Kindergarten. They were learning, we were involved in the school, their teachers were dedicated. The situation seemed ideal. We had two more children, they played at home while the “bigs” went off to school each day.

harry readingWhen my second child entered first grade, we saw changes. He “hated” school. This child, who was reading by the end of PK, no longer wanted to do anything “schoolish.” He hid when it was time to journal, destroyed erasers into a snowfall of pink around his desk, disrupted class, was rude. By Christmas, I was getting weekly calls from his teacher. Having just been laid off from my job, I offered to come in and shadow him, I could understand her frustration in trying to teach 17 other kids while my son was putting on a three ring circus. My husband and I spoke to him about his behavior, spoke with his teacher – there were a lot of things not working in the situation.

I don’t want to place the blame solely on the school, teacher or my son; but the situation was not healthy, and something needed to change. We tried having him moved to the other first grade, but that was not an option. I looked at the local public school, given that we are in a highly rated district, it seemed only right to do my “homework.” The principle was lovely and even mentioned one of his kids was leaving traditional schooling for a cyber school. For a variety of reasons, the public school was not the right choice for us. The parochial school we’d come to view as a second home, was not working either.

Harry, the day we enrolled him in PA Cyber Charter & Classical Conversations

Harry, the day we enrolled him in PA Cyber Charter & Classical Conversations

So we fell back into the option we’d discussed nine years earlier – homeschooling. I spoke to friends who homeschooled. Pieces fell into place and between the start of Christmas break of 2011 and January of 2012, we withdrew our son from school, enrolled him as a self paced student in a local cyber school (we are able to use the Calvert School curriculum through PA Cyber and really enjoy it) and joined Classical Conversations. After a month, my husband and I could see the changes in our son. After two, I knew I wanted to bring my other kids home too. In a rare show of thoughtful planning, I kept them in their school (where they were thriving) through the ’11-’12 school year to give me time to organize our lives to fully embrace what it means to “homeschool.” 

We are nearing the end of the ’12-’13 school year, my first full year homeschooling all three bigs while keeping our two littles from destroying our house. My children will be finishing their current grades about 3 months early and moving onto next year’s. We are formal learners, I do make them sit down and practice spelling, do math drills, read about history and science. But we also do live learning. They add the cost of the items in our grocery cart – mentally. We’ve read the adaptations of the Iliad and the Odyssey by Rosemary Sutcliff. We identify leaves, bugs and animals into their proper classifications of living things (Kingdom, Phylum,

small band

Class, Order, Species – if you were wondering). While we’ve always been a family of readers, the word “voracious” and “book worm” and “put down that dang book and do your chores” are also ways I can describe their reading habits. We pray together as a family more; we pray to be diligent in our studies, kind in our actions, we pray for mommy’s patience to be as boundless as her opportunities to exercise it. Ahem.

Homeschooling is not to be jumped into lightly, but when you embrace it whole heartedly, there is a peace to be found in the chaos unlike any other.  You can follow our adventures at ActualMom.

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Five Quick Reads (Vol. 1)


1. Raising modest young women is a challenge. I remember the culture shock brought on by cropped tees and short shorts for my 4 year old – let alone the challenges when she moved into the 7-14 years old part of the store. Here is one mom’s take and tips on raising a modest daughter – sounds like its working, too!

2. My kids learn differently. It would just be too easy if they all were auditory learners to whom I could read instructions on how to construct a simple machine. Then I could hoover the family room in my Donna Reed like dress as my spotless toddlers played quietly, in one spot, with a stuffed bunny. For the non- Donna Reeds – here are some tips on teaching different style learners at the same time.

3. Technology can be your friend. For reals. Here are a few apps that can actually HELP your child learn.

4. Where is spring? March 20th has past. Spring should have sprung, I tell ya! Here is a simple art project – easy enough for the littles, but with enough scope for your budding Picassos.

5. Sometimes I need a reminder about why this whole classical education gig is so important; a reminder as to why we review our history and Latin grammar nine million times. Here’s a great reminder…

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Join Us for an Open House!

My son, Ben, finished first grade math last week. We did a quick happy dance before moving onto second grade math (the advantage of having a sibling one year ahead of him). But it has forced me to face that next year is just not that far away. How did that happen?

So as I marshall my resources and evaluate what has worked for us over this last year, and what we will be doing next year, I would imagine many of you are doing the same.

Come and join us at Classical Converstions and see how we could enhance and compliment your homeschool experience next year. Bring your kids and let them join in on the hand on fun of our science experiments, our fine arts segment (we’re studying orchestras right now) and see just how quickly your kids will pick up Latin grammar and world geography. You can sit in on the tutorials and then break away for coffee and a chat with our location director, Nicole, and a few other of our moms.

When: Tuesday, April 2nd, 9am

Where: Proclamation Presbyterian Church, 278 S. Bryn Mawr Avenue, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania 19010

RSVP or send any questions you have to

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So, just what is this “Classical Model” or “Trivium” based method?

When you opt for a classical education, you are giving the gift of a time proven method. One that produced the leaders in philosophy, science and politics from the time to the Greeks through the late nineteenth century – including America’s founding fathers. Fragmented versions of classical education survived in a select few Ivy league colleges and prep schools, but the purest form was left to languish, forgotten, until it’s revival in the 1980’s.

The strength of a classical Christian education is its foundation on the Trivium. Or the idea that every child, regardless of learning style, progresses through three phases during their early years. From ages 4 to 11, children excel in memorizing information. Historical facts, laws of science and math, grammar rules – this is the age when they can absorb the information quickly and with a great sense of accomplishment. Around the age of 11 till about 14, children want to know the whys of the information they have memorized. They are, as most any parent is prepared to tell you, prone to argument and to question the status quo. These young adults are primed to learn logic and critical thinking; to access the information they have attained and form fact based opinions and ideas. From there, our 15-18 year olds are equipped to become independent thinkers and communicators. They have acquired, through their classical education, an catalog of information, the ability to connect ideas and now perfect the art and ability of speaking, communicating and writing persuasively, or rhetoric. An adult who has mastered these three stages of the Trivium is primed to successively navigate life, whatever path he or she chooses to walk.

Brandie, at Half-a-Hundred-Acre-Wood writes more about a Classical Education through Classical Conversations here. Here is a summary of her thoughts:

Is memorizing worth it?

Imagine the surprise when you or your child recognizes an explorer’s name or an historical event while at the museum, or a fact that is mentioned in a Presidential speech, or a geographical location while listening to the news.  It has made life more engaging and meaningful for our family to know about the world around us and to discover more about God’s creation as we strive to know Him and make Him known.

What else does Classical Conversations offer?

For grades 3rd-6th, Classical Conversations builds upon the Foundations program by offering an Essentials program, which is used in conjunction with Institute for Excellence in Writing to provide a rigorous upper-elementary language arts program.  Meeting in the afternoons following Foundations classes, a trained tutor helps strengthen the “essential” subjects of language arts and structure, writing and arithmetic.  With a focus on the history & geography learned in Foundations, students learn how to organize their writing and employ stylistic techniques, building upon a firm foundation of memorized vocabulary, rules, and lists from The Essentials of the English Language (EEL) Guide.  The unique EEL approach takes students beyond “the worksheet” and the ubiquitous fill-in-the-blank method.  The writing portion of Essentials is based on the method of the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) by Andrew Pudewa and makes writing not only possible, but enjoyable for new writers.

Challenge A/B
The Classical Conversations Challenge program provides Classical Christian community for home school families with students in grades 7th-9th. The Challenge Program meets once a week for fifteen weeks in the fall and fifteen weeks in the winter/spring months.  Challenge A/B curriculum includes Saxon Math 8/7 or Algebra 1/2, Geography, Newbery Award Literature, IEW’s Bible-Based Writing Lessons, Clear Reasoning It Couldn’t Just Happen, and Don’t Check Your Brains At the Door, Nature Study (Fall Semester), Biology (Spring Semester), and Latin.  This curriculum is led in a weekly classroom time with a trained Challenge Director/Tutor.  Challenge I-IV
Our Challenge I program provides Classical Christian community for home school families with students in grades 9th-12th. The Challenge Program meets once a week for fifteen weeks in the fall and fifteen weeks in the winter/spring months.  Challenge I curriculum includes Saxon Algebra I, Apologia Physical Science, American Literature, Debate, Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew (Drama), American Government, Economics, and Latin. Students develop and strengthen the life-long learning skills of grammar, exposition, debate, logic, rhetoric, and research. This curriculum is led in a weekly classroom time with a trained Challenge Director/Tutor.  Many parents feel inadequate to home school their students through the high school years. Challenge programs can help by modeling how to school with confidence during these very important years. Being involved in the Challenge program also helps direct you through your transcript and college preparation needs, by keeping you well-informed and providing the tools you need for your record keeping.
For more information on Classical Education, I highly recommend Leigh Bortins’s Echo in Celebration, a book full of encouragement and insight.  For additional information regarding Classical Conversations, go to the Classical Conversations website, or click here for an informational flyer.  For additional photos, videos, and links to some audios about Foundations click here.
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Welcome to our Community!

You’ve reached the Main Line Classical Conversations group. With families from Penn Valley, Ardmore, Norriton and Wayne, and meeting in Bryn Mawr at Proclamation Presbyterian Church, we cover a large swath of the Main Line and are excited to bring together families invested in offering their children a classical education.

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