The Core is the latest book by Leigh Bortins, the founder and CEO of Classical Conversations. Even though I knew a little about Classical Conversations because there are several groups in my area, I have never been involved in a group, or even attended an informational meeting. All the information I had was from members, or previous members, of Classical Conversations. My knowledge of the program could be summed up as follows:
- It follows a neo-classical model.
- The students do a lot of memorizing.
- It’s not an inexpensive program to join.
The reasons I had not joined, or even investigated the program further, were #2 and #3. I was excited to receive a review copy of The Core so I could finally see why so many people are so excited about Classical Conversations.
The book begins with a very thorough explanation of what is wrong with our country’s current educational model and the benefits of the classical model. Though this was not new information for me, it served as an excellent reminder of why we chose to educate our children classically, and it provided me with encouragement to stay the course. For someone unfamiliar with the concept of classical education, this book provides an exceptional explanation.
Part Two is divided into subjects such as reading, writing, math, history, and science. Each chapter is devoted to a single subject and how to teach it. I found this section very practical. The focus in the grammar years is mastering and overpracticing the foundational skills. The Core does strongly emphasize memorization of facts, especially in the early years. However, the author very clearly explains the reasons that memorization is so important.
I was honestly never thrilled with all the memory work that I had heard about in Classical Conversations, but after reading The Core, I am definitely going to be adding more memory work to our routine. An important thing to understand concerning the memorization in this program is that although it sounds like a lot of work, it is not in addition to everything else you’re already doing. It’s instead of. I think that’s what I was missing before. The approach is actually very relaxed in many ways. There is no structured history or science curricula for the grammar years. The time is spent in memorizing key facts and reading or listening to good books. There is time for exploring interests in science and history. The program doesn’t tie you to a specific time period in history or topic in science but allows for great flexibility.
I was also very happy to discover that The Core is not a big advertisement for why you should join Classical Conversations or buy their products. Of course there are a few mentions of specific resources used in the program, but overall it’s an instruction manual on how you can teach classically at home. I can definitely see how a group setting would aid in accountability, but I did not find myself, upon completing the book, immediately searching for Classical Conversations groups to join. Instead I have found myself thinking about how I have been teaching and why I have chosen to teach some subjects. I have also been trying to determine what changes I need to make to achieve the educational goals we have for our children.
I highly recommend this book both to classical educators who need to refocus, and to homeschoolers who are interested in learning more about classical education. It is available at Classical Conversations, and will be sold by major booksellers.
I have read 23 books this year for the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of The Core from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated for this review.