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    Pondering Education

    May 27, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    I am ramping up for Monday, which is Day One of our conversation on the beginning of Norms and Nobility. With that said, there is a unique opportunity for those of us considering classical education for the first time or who are newer to the idea or who just want to continue our education…okay, for everyone…and that is Leigh Bortins’ doctoral thesis, which she has just begun posting online in chunks. Leigh Bortins, for those of you who are unfamiliar with her, is the author of Echo in Celebration and founder of Classical Conversations, a unique bridge of support between the Church and the homeschool which offers academic rigor, training for parents and tutors, structure, and more. I wish we had one of these here, and I have seriously considered getting the training so as to found one here.

    Wish I were braver, but then again I try not to commit to huge, new things when I have an infant, so maybe now is just not quite my time.


    So as I was saying, you, my dear readers, and I have a unique opportunity to read Leigh’s thesis. Here are some snippets to whet your appetite:

    According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress {NAEP} and the data compiled in a report funded by the National Endowment for the Arts entitled To Read or Not to Read, in 2005, 30 percent of 17-year-olds in the U.S. were proficient readers, but only 15 percent of adults were proficient readers.


    But from the 1600s through the early 1900s, America had literacy rates of over 90 percent including black slaves and white indentured servants. No other culture or group of people since the advent of the printing press has raised as literate a culture as America before the 1950s.

    Introduction {Part 1}

    Christian leaders are sometimes at a loss to help these intentional parents. They see two areas of need: 1} Integrating these families into the “family of families,” the church, so all of the congregation can benefit from their commitment to strong family life; and 2} Promoting well-structured, rigorously academic learning for families who are doing the best they know how.


    The details of the academic program’s content and administration are the final project for this doctorate. Currently, thousands of families use this model successfully at their churches. The model develops community and support for the participating members, quality academics for the students, teacher training for home schooling parents, and an inexpensive way to bring academics back into the realm of the church.

    Introduction {Part 2}

    Unfortunately, during the twentieth century, Christendom has looked to the state, rather than to believers, to train up their children in the way they should go. The result has been a loss of Christian culture in America and the rise of many questions needing practical, biblical answers.


    To recover a literate culture, Christian leaders need to give families the tools to teach an image-based culture to think about an abstract God.


    The church knows that the Bible instructs parents to pass a Christian heritage to their children, yet we no longer equip parents with the academic tools to do so. This paper explains a classical model of rigorous, Christian academics that churches have been supporting since 2002.

    Introduction {Part 3}

    I once read that Classical Conversations has 10,000 member families. This is no small sample that Leigh will be documenting.

    The best way to read the thesis in its entirety is to subscribe to her blog, 1SmartMama.

    I thought this would be a wonderful complement to our book club reading because while we are plumbing the depths of a beautiful educational theory, Leigh will be showing us how her program makes the theory successful in a practical way across the U.S. and beyond.

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  • Reply Brandy May 28, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    Does she really? Small world! You know, it really has grown fast, too. When I was reading about it, it looks like she founded it the year my son was born. That is some major growth. I really do want to look into getting something started here. My problem is that I like supporting as compared to leading as a general rule… 🙂

  • Reply Ellen May 28, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    This made me smile. Leigh Bortins lives near my home town, and we have close family friends who have been working with her Classical Conversations chapter for years. Their youngest daughter is still participating in it, and the dad runs a conversation group for teens. I had no idea it’d gotten this big. I remember when it first got started! =0

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