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Book Review: The Conversation by Leigh A. Bortins

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The Conversation- Challenging Your Student with a Classical Education
I have recently had the pleasure of reading Classical Conversations‘ newest physical book The Conversation: Challenging Your Student with a Classical Education, by Leigh A. Bortins.

From the very beginning of my homeschooling journey, about 14 years ago, I have been focused on teaching with the classical method of education. We don’t do it fully, but it does guide many of our decisions for curriculum. I now have a high schooler, which means he is now in the rhetoric stage.  So, this book was perfect timing for us as we enter this new stage!

Here is one place I read The Conversation, on the dock by the lake! It was very enjoyable summer reading for a mom who loves to homeschool and is always seeking to learn more to do a better job.

Lake House July 2015 020

The Conversation is a paperback book, 254 pages long. It was written by the lady who founded the homeschool/classical education curriculum called Classical Conversations. She has written a couple of other books that could be read before this one (although I haven’t read them yet). The Core is about the grammar stage (elementary age), and The Question is about the dialectic stage (middle school age).

The Conversation guides a mom/teacher through how to use conversations in all subject areas in a high school student’s educational journey.  Specifically, she talks about using the five canons of rhetoric: Invention, Arrangement, Elocution, Memory, and Delivery.  I will tell you that this is a very meaty, but amazing book. After finishing it, I realized I need to read it again to get even more out of it. It is so practical, too. I will need to read it yet again after I start implementing some of what I learned in it!

The book begins with a chapter called “Confident Parents” where Leigh attempts to encourage us to have confidence in homeschooling our rhetoric students.  She says, “If I want our boys to do hard things, I must do hard things. If I say the world is our classroom, I better get out there and show it to them!”  Here are a couple of words of advice she gives: switch to using easier materials if your student is struggling in order to help them develop good study habits, and to read good quality children’s books to prepare yourself to teach. I love that she gives so many examples of good books to read, all throughout The Conversation.

The next chapter is called “Rhetoric Defined.” If you are unclear about classical education, you’ll learn about it here. The rhetoric stage is during the high school years. “Rhetoric is all about conversations and expressing truth. Rhetoricians write essays, present hypotheses, lead discussions with others, and act on the knowledge they have gained about a new subject.” In this chapter Leigh explains about the five canons which will be the basis for the whole rest of the book.

The following chapters go through how to use the five canons with every subject a high schooler will study: reading, speech and debate, writing, science, math, government and economics, history, Latin and foreign languages, and fine arts.  Each chapter has examples of a specific item of study (like writing a research paper or a working through a math problem) and how to go through the five canons with the student. She even includes dialogue so you can really catch on to how to have these conversations.

Chapter 12 is called “A Graduation Conversation” and talks about guiding the student at the end of their high school career. Finally, there is an epilogue and appendices (conversation games, common rhetorical devices, resources, “real parents respond,” and an index).

All in all, this was a wonderful book. It’s just what I needed to get me even more excited about the high school years! I’m looking forward to having some incredible conversations with my son this year!

Classical Conversations Review

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