Classical Conversations at Home – Cycle 1 Week 1

Welcome back! Are you ready for another year of CC? We started back at our campus yesterday. I am tutoring again this year and I have a class full of 9 little girls! So fun.

Here at my house, I have a large whiteboard in our school room. I have written down this weeks memory work on the board for us to practice and review.


For the first 5 commandments, we are using both visual clues and hand motions.  For the visual cues, I cut the images out of the document that I found here. (


Our hand motions are as follows –

1) hold up one finger shaking it as if to say “no, no, no” and then point up to God.

2) hold up index finger on each hand and then bend one in a hook as if it’s bowing down to the other.

3) hold up three finger on one hand in front of your mouth as you speak/sing the words.

4) hold up four fingers on one hand and then lay them in palm of other hand as if they are resting.

5) use the American Sign Language signs for father and mother (


Our hand motions for science are –

Kingdom Phylum (motion as if you are setting a crown on your head)

called his Class to Order (cup both hands on either side of your mouth as if you are calling someone)

so the Family Genus (stand up straight and tall and interlock your fingers in front of you as if you are pious)

could learn more about Species (point to your temple as if you are thinking).


At my campus, our director blows up the current map and laminates it for all the students to use in class.  Then she sells extras at cost to the parents in the program.  I bought one for home use.

Next to it, is the Noun Cases for Latin.  I bought one of the Target Dollar spot pocket charts.  Then I created a document in Word with all the noun cases, printed, laminated and cut it apart.  Since we will be doing these noun cases for a total of 4 of the 24 weeks, it’s worth the effort to me.  This makes for an interactive activity as I can hand my child the stack and have him match them up.  Just the English side first, then just the Latin side, then hand him all and have him build the chart from memory.


For this week in math, I have these cute little ice cream cones.  I made them when my boys were little and learning to count.  I have them 1-12, even numbers to 24 and set up for skip counting the 3’s.  My kids already know their 1’s and 2’s so we don’t really use these much at home.  However, I did use them when they were little and have used them for three years as a tutor.  If you have preschoolers or young CC students, perhaps it’s worth the time to make a set for your  home.  You can find the printable source here. (


I obviously did not include them all when I took the picture, but you get the idea.  When I made them, I used some old scrapbooking number stickers I had on hand.  I included dots so they could get a visual for how many each number represents and I labeled them with the number word.  Then I laminated and cut out.  My kiddos enjoyed stacking up their ice cream cone.    They can also be taped to a wall in your home for a temporary display.

I hope this inspires you to review and practice at home so your little ones can retain all that valuable information this week!



Nature Study

I have increasingly felt a need to include some sort of nature study to my home school this year.  There is a wide list of reasons behind this but two of the top reasons are to get my children off the electronic dependence they have and to encourage them to see the world around them and marvel at it.

I had no idea how to go about including nature in our studies.  I’d heard a lot of Charlotte Mason enthusiasts encourage the use of nature journals, but never having done one, I wasn’t sure how to get started.  What do you include in a nature journal?  Is there a right way to keep one?  How do you ‘do’ a nature journal?  Do you categorize your journal?  For sounds simple, I felt uncertain about how to do it right.  Eventually, I decided to just start one and work it out as I went.  After all, my children are young.  We have many years to make these discoveries as we go.

So I started one.  Simple, right?  I left the first page blank and on the second page I wrote down what I saw, where I saw it and drew a (less than stellar) picture of what I saw.  I took a picture of it too – since that is my primary form of documenting things in my life.  I didn’t make a big deal about what I was doing.  I just did it.  I didn’t even make a production of having them see that I was doing it.   Then an amazing thing happened.  My two eldest children asked for nature journals!  Not only that, they asked what I’d put in mine and started creating their own versions of what they saw in the world around them!  The wild bunny in our backyard.  The bird’s nest with baby birds under our deck.  The insanely large dandelion seed head we saw at the golf course.

Then another cool thing happened.  I decided to sum up my purpose of the journal on the front page by doodling, “Be still and know that I am God.”  My children saw that and decided to add it to their books too!  Wow, there really is something to this whole setting-the-example-yourself-first concept.

So, we’ve been enjoying watching nature more.  Although with our recent heat wave here, I’ll be honest and admit we haven’t gone on any nature walks or picnics of late.  Instead, I pulled out this fun little habitat that I found and we’ve been collecting things we find in our yard.  Earlier in the week, it was a tiny frog who showed up on our back deck in the early morning hours.  Last night it was a giant grasshopper who was on the sliding glass door attracted to kitchen lights in the dark of night.  If I you knew me and knew how untypical this behavior is for me, you’d probably giggle at the thought of me on the deck being swarmed by bugs catching a huge grasshopper.  I must have been quite a sight.  But the enthusiasm from my children this morning when they saw a new creature in the habitat was worth it.

If your children are old enough, or if you have an interest in the subject yourself, I recommend watching two movies.  The first I watched and enjoyed was Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed with Ben Stiller.  I found it fascinating and wonderful that there are people who are beginning to challenge Darwinism.  Maybe there is hope for the children of America to have several options presented and let them make up their own mind.  The second movie I saw recently and enjoyed was God of Wonders.  It is a decidedly Christian world view – as the title suggests.  I intend to share it with my children even at their young ages to see if they get anything out of it.  If it helps them to begin to see the amazing way all things in our world work together and were designed to compliment each other, I’m game to share it with them now.  I expect it will be over my 6 year old son’s head but I’m going to sit with a bowl of popcorn and try it anyway.  Both of these movies are available instantly through your Netflix subscription.



Master Timeline – Classical Conversations at Home

Today I wanted to share with you something that I made for myself that made my life a lot easier.  Both as a tutor and as a mom.

This is my Master Timeline folder.  Since my feeble old brain has not mastered the timeline from start to finish, I need to know that I have it in the right order when I am either in class or reviewing with my own children.

In class, each week I hang the current timeline cards for that week and we go over the hand motions several times as a class.  However, just a few short weeks into the first semester, I realized I needed to accurately know the order when I was reviewing the previous six weeks worth with my class.  That is where this came in.

I could carry 7 weeks worth of timeline cards with me each week.  To be sure, I could do that.  However, I’m a nervous Nelly and do not wish to possibly lose one of my cards.  Additionally, 7 weeks worth of cards can be quite hefty when carried and I had several frustrating experiences last year where I was frantically searching my bags and my home school room last year for one MIA card.  The less I have to keep up with each week, the better off I am.

The method I’m suggesting to you here requires more effort up front.  No doubt.  But it’s effort that needs to be done only one time.  And right now – in July as you are excitedly preparing for this school year – is a perfect time to do it.

You will need two things to create this yourself – you need to own the cards (all of them) and you need a membership in CC connected.

On CC connected you can find three documents in the file share that you need.  One is called Timeline_Motions.pdf and the other is Timeline Pronunciation Guide.pdf.  The last is a list of our Presidents last names if you don’t already know them in order. (I don’t.)

Additionally, you need to spend some time scanning in your timeline cards two at a time.  No one can share this with you according to copyright laws and you may not store it on your computer.  So once you have completed this project, you will also need to delete it from your computer.

Within the Timeline_Motions.pdf, the last page shows you all of the alphabet in American Sign Language.  I put that on the opening page since I occasionally find myself getting mixed up on a few of the letters.


On the next page, I begin by putting the the list from CC connected on the left with the motions for the 8 time line cards for that week.  On the right, I printed out a document that printed four of my scans (totaling the 8 cards for the week) on one sheet.  You can do this by going into your printer settings and selecting how many documents you want your computer to print at a time.  Select four and it will give you this.

I do this so I can recall with one easy glance the hand  motions I’m teaching and the visual cues from the pictures on the cards.  The photograph above has a glare.  I know.  I did that on purpose because the material itself is copyrighted.  But I wanted to give you a visual about how it’s laid out in my folder.

After the 20 weeks of time line cards and motions, I have a list of our US Presidents and the pronunciation guide.  Sometimes, I’m stumped on how to say some of these time line titles.  I think the pronunciation guide is helpful.  If you don’t need it, you can easily skip it.

I find this to be significantly easier to tote to class along with only the current cards.  If you don’t elect to duplicate one of these for yourself, I hope it at least inspires you to come up with a way to make your life easier.

Blessings to you!


Math Monday

I’m happy to report that Math Monday was a success at my house last week.  We had a couple light bulb moments.  First, we sat down to the multiplication chart.  The initial response was the familiar panic that I typically see when this child is presented with a math worksheet.  I said, “this is not a math assignment.  I just want to show you how much you already know!”  We proceeded to skip count across the board, filling in the numbers we already know.
When we came to the end of the immediately available knowledge in the child’s head, we stopped and looked over our work.  I pointed out that about 3/4 of the board was filled out without any real effort.  I saw a light bulb go off as the child realized that we’re over half way there!  I said, “aren’t you proud of yourself?”  The response – the best moment of my week, “Yes, yes I am.”

I took the blank addition charts and gave them to the other two children.  It was filled in with relative ease and then we discussed the patterns that appeared on the board.  Another light bulb moment!

My result – we will revisit this activity often.

This week I want to share with you one of the assignments my children find in their workboxes often.  In Classical Conversations, each week we do some skip counting for the first 11 weeks.  This is a dry erase method that lets my children find the patterns and figure out the next number in the skip counting assignment.

For this one, I will write the number I want them to skip count by in the bottom blank.  They skip count around the board with a dry erase marker circling the numbers.  It’s a quick activity that helps them practice the skip counting facts for that week.

Another version of the same idea is the blank 100’s board.  For this one, they write in the number that they are skip counting by in the box where it would belong on a blank hundreds board.  On my daughter’s you can see that there are 12 blank lines down the side for her to write in the numbers she is skip counting.  For the boys, you can see the front of one son’s while you see the back of the other son’s board.  It’s the same as what you see on one side of my daughter’s board.  I just made the boards differently for the boys.  Truthfully, it was so those big stickers could fit on the board.  It’s just more fun when you have stickers involved.

I find these to be a pretty painless way to practice the skip counting and see what they know.  I hope they are helpful to you!


Classical Conversations at Home – Math

Over the weekend, I came up with what I think will be a great tool for helping younger kids retain their Classical Conversations math facts. As a tutor, I also plan to use it in my class for review.


First I used my Cricut die cut machine to cut out some ice cream cone shapes. (If you do not own a Cricut, either use something you have or buy something cheap at the dollar store, the craft store or the teacher supply store.) I used some inexpensive bulk pink and brown cardstock to cut out the ice cream and the base cone. I decided to put it all on foam core (purchased at the dollar store) but I thought it looked drab on white so first I painted it with cheap tempura paint. I printed up a document with the first half of the math facts that we review from weeks 11-24 and used them to label above each ice cream cone. Then I covered the entire poster with contact paper. Next I printed up another document with the matching portion of the math facts from the Classical Conversations Foundations guide. Those I tacked onto the pink ice cream scoops and laminated. Finally, I used hook/loop coins to attach the pink ice cream scoops to the base cones.  On the lower right corner, I plan to attach some envelopes for storing the pink scoops while presenting the board as a matching assignment for the kids.

I might not go to this level of effort for every home school memory project but I think this one is worth it.  Given my role as CC tutor to a group of first graders and the fact that I have 6 more years of Foundations ahead of me for our family and considering this math information will be used in each cycle during those 6 years, I think this level of effort is worth it.  Additionally, my kids seem to learn well with visual, hands-on manipulatives.  Besides all that… it was simple, fun and cheap to make!

I hope you find it a blessing or an inspiration for your own home school.

Make your Classical Music fun

If you are interested in introducing classical music to your children in a fun way, I recommend this cd.  Beethoven’s Wig takes the classic symphonies and adds fun and catchy lyrics for your kids to sing along and (shhh) perhaps learn a wee bit about the composer in a few of them!  We love this cd at my house.  Give it a listen and see what you think!  (PS – the mp3 download is cheaper at Amazon than it is on iTunes.)

Classical Conversations at Home – skip counting

I just came across this fun site for skip counting!

As you know, the math repeats every cycle so this will be handy for adding to your home school arsenal at anytime. offers lots of foldable projects and games but they also have a skip counting slide pdf and multiplication triangles.

I plan to laminate mine and put them to use around here!  I’m sure they will be a blessing to my family and I hope they are to yours too!


My Picture of the Day – Welcome to the world beautiful baby girl.

Classical Conversations at home

The primary source for curriculum at my house comes from Classical Conversations.  We follow the classical education method – grammar stage, logic stage, and rhetoric stage.  What is funny to me is that when I first began considering home school, I thought this was most surely not the method for me.  It seemed so dry and boooring.  Yet, it kept coming up as an option in various ways around me.  Eventually, I remember thinking, “okay, Lord.  I’ll look at it.”  Turns out that it’s a really great fit for my family.

If you think about how you would typically learn most anything – say photography for example – you would first begin by learning what the terms are.  What is an f-stop, ISO and shutter speed?  You would begin by memorizing the various standard f-stops, shutter speeds and ISO numbers.  You would learn the definition of the rule of thirds, what exactly a dutch angle is and what depth of field means.  That is the grammar stage.  You are learning the vocabulary or grammar of your topic.

After you’ve learned these things, you’d begin to apply them to your photography.  You’d begin to look at a subject that you want to photograph and think to yourself, “I really love the light right here and the fact that my daughter is looking so cute.  But I really am not interested in capturing all the dirty laundry in the background.  Let’s think through which elements of photography that I’ve learned and figure out which one will allow me to take the best picture in this situation.”  That is the logic or reasoning stage.

Eventually, after you’ve taken enough pictures and mastered both your grammar of photography and your logic for taking a shot the way you do (because you’ve practiced and practiced it so many times – also known as drilling) you will have the experience to enter into a reasonable debate or judgement with another experienced photographer about what makes a great image.  You can articulate your thoughts about the aperture and exposure from your own experience and persuade another experienced photographer to your way of thinking.  You can defend your own work if it comes into judgement.  You could also begin to teach the grammar and logic of the subject to a less experienced photographer.  That is the rhetoric stage.

So you see, the classical method of education is actually pretty typical of the way we intuitively go about learning something new.  It only sounds dry and boring when a dry and boring subject is presented to us.  For example, me learning the language of baseball and drilling my facts about the rules, the history and the statistics sounds incredibly boring to me.  But if I had a love for baseball, that’s exactly what I’d do – naturally.

The trick as the teacher is to find ways to engage the student so they discover their own natural love for knowledge.  All knowledge.  Then they begin to follow the trivium – the stages of classical education – naturally.  As the teacher shows the student how to memorize the facts (like skip counting or the times table), how to use those facts (to figure out how much money the child might earn at a task) and eventually how to debate and persuade with those facts (perhaps as part of a team building a professional project) the child is also learning how to teach themselves anything they might decide they want to know in the future.

With my young students I find a few key ingredients extremely helpful to my home school life.

  • my laminator
  • my hook and loop dots
  • my printer
  • dry/wet erase markers

All of these supplies are remarkably inexpensive for the home educator.

In future blog posts, I’ll share some of the methods that I employ here at home to make classical education and Classical Conversations in particular, come alive.

And… of course, my picture for today.  My girl got a new ‘do!