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Homeschool community learns together

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A community of parents and their children found learning opportunities this week in Roswell as a homeschool curriculum company conducted its annual local practicum.

About 50 adults and 65 children who use the Classical Conversations homeschool curriculum gathered at Christ’s Church, 2200 N. Sycamore, on Monday and Tuesday. The majority were from Roswell, but families from Artesia, Carlsbad and Ruidoso also attended, said Shirley Bailey, support representative for Classical Conversations.

While the parents participated in sessions to help them teach their children, the kids were in different rooms of the church for camps where they learned lessons through music, art or mathematics or put together a newsletter on the practicum.

Classical Conversations provides a Christian homeschool curriculum based on classical education, which emphasizes three stages — grammar, dialectic and rhetoric, said Amy Owens, a director with the company. As a director, she said, she helps parents stay organized within the curriculum. She’s been with the company for 10 years, and her husband, Lonnie, is associate pastor at Christ’s Church.

The practicum gives parents the tools for teaching, she said.

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“It’s an encouraging and equipping event that spurs us on to understand more about what the program is about,” she said.

For example, Tuesday morning, parents gathered in the church sanctuary for “Socratic Circles” in which they discussed how the Psalms apply to homeschooling. In each of the three groups, an inner circle of more experienced parents conducted the discussion while an outer circle of those newer to the program listened.

The exercise is similar to how students learn debate in the higher levels, Bailey said.

“They’re taking big ideas. They’re learning to listen to others, hear their side and be persuasive,” she said.

Bailey is a former elementary school teacher and said classical education is a better way for children to learn than traditional education. She became involved with Classical Conversations when she was working as a children’s director for a church. Her own children were in private school at the time when she learned about the curriculum through Owens.

“I saw that it was such a different way of learning,” she said. For homeschooling parents, Classical Conversations offers support to help each other learn and teach, Bailey and Owens said.

The classical education model approaches learning in stages. The grammar stage teaches the basics through memorizing facts and learning the skills of reading and writing. In the dialectic stage, middle-school age students learn to ask questions and analyze subjects. In the rhetoric stage, high-school age students take what they have learned and apply it to problem solving and persuasion.

Owens’ daughter, Courtney, has been homeschooled using the curriculum since first grade. Now a junior, she said she liked that all of the subjects relate to glorifying God and said she thinks the coursework is more intense and advanced than public school or other homeschool programs.

Learning formal debate, both as individuals and in teams, has taught her about communication and studying literature and art have given her and her peers a different outlook on current events, she said.

“It’s kind of really cool to see me and my class as 16 year olds to be able to interpret all this talk about what’s going on. Not a lot of teenagers are thinking about their future or what’s going on right now,” she said.

Amanda Fox said the support was one thing that attracted her to the curriculum for her two children, son Cayson, 11, and daughter Carlette, 6. Students in a community meet once a week in a group with a tutor and continue the lessons at home the rest of the week. In Roswell, that’s on Mondays at Christ’s Church.

“I really wanted to be able to meet with people one day a week at least, because I think community is so important,” Fox said.

“We’re all on different walks, and we have different journeys, but we still come back together one day a week and that’s like our lifeline,” she said.

The once-a-week tutoring sessions allow parents to get together and support one another, too, Bailey said.

Bailey said the communities saw enrollment increase last year as the pandemic closed schools to in-person instruction. Several of the families attending the practicum were in their first year with the curriculum, she said.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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