The Conversation – Book Review

The Conversation

I recently had the chance to read The Conversation by author Leigh A. Bortins, who is the founder of Classical Conversations. This book is about the homeschooling the high school years. My son has one more year before he reaches high school. In all reality I was starting to panic and wondering if I could do it. I have debated whether it would be better for him to go to a public school again who could probably help more then I can with some of his disabilities. After reading this book I have really changed my mine about even considering it.

This book has three parts to it: High School At Home, The Rhetorical Arts, and Appendices. There is a lot of information in this book and it really had me thinking about things. I am only starting to put together a Classical Education for my kids. As I learn more and more I am changing things as we go. My kids really do seem to enjoy the classics.

The first part about high school at home is very encouraging to parents. Getting to the high school age is intimidating actually. Many parents think they can’t do it, but they can. I was encouraged because I could relate to the rebellious child. My son really doesn’t like school and it’s been really tough. I really like what she had to say about talking to your child. I am going to try that when I need to have that talk. My daughter on the other hand has the want to learn. Things are changing and I see some of the things that she mentioned about her family in my own family. She talks about others helping teach the children. My neighbor isn’t a homeschooler as his kids are much older but he takes the time with my son and has such a bond. He has been showing him things such as how to work on a semi truck and landscaping. My son actually has shown intrust in fixing trucks. That is amazing in itself. It kind of reminded me how she talks about construction with her family. The whole more then book things and real life experiences are so much more then a classroom. She really has a point. I guess I never thought about some of things he is doing as life experiences but they are. Now is the time we have to start thinking about transition and career interests and if he wants to go to college. I also like how she talks briefly about transcripts and college.

The second part is defining rhetoric and how to use it with each subject. “Rhetoric is the use of knowledge and understanding to perceive wisdom, pursue virtue, and proclaim truth (p. 38).” I like that this chapter talks about how you cannot effectively persuade someone of the truth until you know what the truth is. I also like that you gear your rhetoric towards your audience. It is based on the five canons by Aristotle: invention, arrangement, elocution, memory, and delivery. It goes into depth about each one. Once finished the explanation of rhetoric the author teachers you how to apply it with each subject. I honestly never really thought about the way she pointed it out.

The third part appendices is a wealth of information as it contains conversation games,  common rhetorical devices, and many other resources.

Something really caught my attention in this book as she references another book about help to tailor a classical education to special needs. I am going to read that resource that she mentioned. She also talks briefly about how students with special needs deserve a longer incubation period. Honestly having a experience with this, is very true. When my son was in school there was unrealistic expectations and not meeting his needs. It also talks about spending more time on fewer subjects with less pressure to perform. I have to look into that a little more. She mentioned that the classical education works special needs kids. So I have to do some more research as I know my son gets overwhelmed with a lot of subjects in one day. I have even went as far as cutting down the time we spend on the hard subjects as the less time we spend the more he can recall the information. When we spend to much time he then loses that information. Her brief touch on that has me really thinking and needing to do more research so maybe things won’t be such a battle. I know we will be adding in more living skills and real life experiences then we have been.

I really truly appreciated reading this book as it gave me some new things to think about. Applying conversations strengthen and unify the family. Conversations also provide accountability for good habits that make learning possible. It makes me realize we need to have more conversations as well. I really liked how each subject was broken down and you were shown how rhetorically speak. The examples of real life students were great too. I think my favorite was The Fine Arts, when the students said why would someone pay so much for that, and made another comment that they could do that as well. The response of the teacher or the author was It’s not wallpaper and then they go into explaining why. There is so much to say about art and my kids really enjoy art as there is a story to it and we talk about lines, shapes, and contrast of each painting.

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