Leigh Bortins has delivered another gem of a book in her newest release, The Conversation. Her first two works, entitled The Core, and The Question, delve into the expression of the classical model of education in the elementary and middle school years. The Conversation focuses on the high school years. I was given a copy of her book, The Conversation, published by Classical Conversations, to read for the purpose of this review.
In classical education, each subject is learned through three distinct phases: the grammar stage, the dialectic stage, and the rhetoric stage. In the grammar stage, we learn the basics and vocabulary for a subject. In the dialectic stage, we ask questions about the process, and explore how things are done. In the rhetoric stage, we dialogue about the material and look for the truth.
Leigh gives examples for each stage of learning. Let’s look at gardening, as just one example. In the grammar stage, Leigh explains that “you learn terms for soil acidity, sunlight, and the spacing of seeds.” In the dialectic stage, “you learn what plants grow well in what types of soil. You ask what will cause a plant to die in one environment and thrive in another.” In the rhetoric stage, “you might plant a tomato, harvest it successfully, and prepare a salad for your family.”
Leigh Bortins is passionate about classical education, and has educated her four sons by this model. She’s also given significant input into thousands of families around the globe through her development of Classical Conversations communities. We participate in a CC community with our kids, and so we are familiar with her work!
I love that Leigh spends the first part of our book encouraging parents that we can indeed homeschool our older students! It’s easy to get intimidated by more challenging subjects like physics and calculus, and to throw in the towel and send them to school. Instead, Leigh challenges us to not abdicate our responsibility towards our kids, but to instead act as a managing director, helping them find ways to learn the different subjects! We don’t have to be their instructor for each subject; instead we are helping them learn how to learn. Nice!
She also challenges us to examine the idea that the goal for our children’s education is not to prepare them for college. It’s instead to train them to be virtuous, which will in tern prepare them to succeed in college and in life! We keep our eyes on the goal: training our students to love and serve the Lord, and to be diligent in all they do. Then they will bear much fruit!
Leigh also takes time to give us plenty of glimpses into their daily life, to help us understand the practicals of HOW to classically educate a high schooler. She explores different subjects, including Reading, Speech and Debate, Writing, Science, Math, Government and Economics, History, Latin and Foreign Languages, and Fine Arts and how a student in the rhetoric stage will engage with them. It is an exciting and challenging world, and Leigh gives us a great guidebook to help us navigate.
If you are currently homeschooling a high school student, you need this book! If you are homeschooling younger kids, you need a copy of this too! It will give you vision for the future and practicals to help you get there!