The Conversation (Crew Book Review)

Bortins Conversation Review
I recently jumped at the chance to review The Conversation: Challenging Your Student with a Classical Education by Leigh A. Bortins.  Published by Classical Conversations, this book completes a trilogy about homeschooling children through the three stages of a classical Christian education.

If you know me, you might be asking, “Why are you reading a book about classical education in high school?”  After all, my oldest child is 7, and we don’t exactly follow a “classical method” of homeschooling.   To put it simply, I always like to know what’s ahead before I get there, and while I’ve never dived in to classical homeschooling, what I do know about it intrigues me (I think we’ve adopted some of the elements into our rather eclectic style), and I thought this would be a good opportunity to find out more.

About the Book

the-conversation-coming-summer-of-2015-10.gif_zpshfavqygsIn case you’re not familiar with the classical method, it breaks down the child’s education into three stages: grammar (which teaches children to “acquire lots of knowledge and facts about the world”-p.39), dialectic (which teaches them to “assess and order that information” so that they can understand it-p.39), and rhetoric (in which students “write essays, present hypotheses, lead discussions with others, and act on the knowledge they have gained about a new subject”-p.35).  In her previous books (The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education and The Question: Teaching Your Child the Essentials of Classical Education), Bortins covers the first two stages, and now she completes the trilogy by covering the final stage.

The Conversation is written in two parts.  Bortins first reviews the classical method, explaining the five “canons” of classical education:

  1. Invention
  2. Arrangement
  3. Elocution
  4. Memory
  5. Delivery

She encourages parents who might be intimidated by the thought of homeschooling through high school by laying out why the classical approach works so well with students at this age.

Then in the second part of the book, Bortins goes through individual subjects, using the five canons as a framework for leading students through the “rhetorical arts.”  I expected subjects like reading, writing, and especially speech and debate, but I was surprised to read how she also applied the five canons to subjects like math, science, and foreign language.

Our Experience

Even though we’re still many years away from high school, I found this book inspiring and encouraging.  When people find out we homeschool I’m often asked, “How long do you plan to do that?”  They always seem either skeptical or in awe that I plan to go all the way through high school, Lord willing.  In this book, Bortins has given me much food for thought, and I’ll be able to give a much more articulate response the next time I’m faced with this question.  I now find myself excited about homeschooling my children during the high school years.

I learned so much about the classical method from reading The Conversation.  I had never heard of the five canons, but as I read about them I found myself looking back over my own education and realizing how helpful it would have been to have those concepts put into such terms.  The whole process made so much sense, and I felt like I was finally finding words for things I had intrinsically understood during my school years.

Everything I learned in reading this book makes me want to find about more about the classical method. During Ian’s preschool years I felt drawn to other approaches, but as he’s moved into the elementary grades things weren’t always feeling natural to me and I found myself making a lot of adjustments.  Reading about the classical method made me feel like I’d found something that fits my style better.  I’ll probably always be rather eclectic in my methods, but I feel that learning all I can about different approaches will give me more “tools” from which to choose as I educate my children.  So I’ve ordered The Core and The Question and I look forward to diving into them soon!

Classical Conversations Review
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