Parents who love to learn never talk about love of learning. Parents assume their kids have it. So the first thing I notice about Classical Conversations is the slogan on their learn more page: “Over 125,000 students worldwide are cultivating a love of learning with us.” Here are other things I noticed.
1. Classical Conversations is a social group.
Classical Conversations is not a curriculum. It’s a religious book club for parents that meets once a week. This is not a way to give kids an education. It’s a way to give kids a community.
And let’s just be honest that these parents are not so interested in education as in not-education. You do not need to take your kid out of school to be part of a once-a-week Classical Conversations meeting. The parents are taking the kids out of school because they don’t want kids to explore ideas that would challenge their family’s values. So this program should be called Un-Classical Conversations.
2. Classical Conversations preys on parent insecurity.
The worst part of school is the premise that kids cannot learn without teachers telling them what to learn. This assumption has been disproven a million times by a million different types of research. Left to their own devices, kids learn on their own just fine, and they ask for help at appropriate times. Which means that parents are completely capable of helping their children to learn. Home is a great place to get an education because parents and kids make a good team.
But Classical Conversations won’t make any money by boosting the confidence of homeschool parents. There’s nothing to sell if you tell parents they are born teachers because they love their kids. So Classical Conversations preys on parents’ fears with words like accountability, support, and resources. Those words reinforce the idea that parents need help doing what’s right. Giving parents tools to follow someone else’s guidelines implies that parents are incompetent—and so are the kids.
Homeschool parents don’t need tools. They need a coach to help them feel empowered to trust their kids.
3. The buzz online is Classical Conversations leaders misuse their power.
I did some googling to see if people are complaining about Classical Conversations, and I found Julie Ann at Spiritual Sounding Board. She has gathered lots of stories from people involved with the company, and it sounds terrible. Here is what Julie Ann has shared on her blog about what some people have experienced:
- Mishandled child-to-child sexual abuse cases.
- An atmosphere of: no talk, no asking questions, especially publicly if the question seems at all critical.
- A blurry line between ministry and business aspects of the organization.
- CC leaders using the Bible to control or silence people.
- Misuse of Matthew 18 when dealing with conflicts.
- A rigid atmosphere: “Classical Conversations is the only right way to homeschool” – others are inferior.
(Proselytizer sidenote: If Christians want to get Jews to read the New Testament they should publish lists like that one. I went straight to Matthew 18 to see what’s going on there.)
4. Classical Conversations is not curriculum. It’s multilevel marketing.
Of course, no scathing review is complete without checking for commentary on Reddit. Some redditors think it is a multilevel marketing scheme. The Classical Conversations homepage has two important pieces of a multilevel marketing scheme: training that you pay for so you can then gather up more people to buy the product the trainers are selling.
This business model should work well. Classical Conversations doesn’t need to pay for marketing. The parents feel incompetent unless they pay for training, and then the parents gather their friends to pay more money to the company. But, like most scams, their biggest expense is making sure people don’t think they are a scam. Which is why I want to introduce you to Kristine Bailey.
She commented on my blog right here on a post titled Why Homeschoolers Fail When it Comes to Diversity. Kristine did not read the post. Her comment begins: “This article was obviously written by someone who has a very limited knowledge of homeschooling…” I kept reading and I was shocked to discover that she was promoting Classical Conversations. I checked the email address that she posted with and I discovered that she works in public relations.
Her comment was largely irrelevant to the topic of the blog post, but that’s not actually what concerns me. The big takeaway from her comment is that Classical Conversations is in so much trouble that the company is paying people who have never used the curriculum to extol the curriculum on random blogs.
The people who use a system like Classical Conversations are people who are accustomed to being told they do not have authority. These people are looking for a hierarchy for homeschool that mimics the hierarchy of the Church. If you want to teach your kids to trust themselves to make good decisions, then you have to model that yourself.
Trusting yourself means gathering information independently, and it means you need to stop seeking external validation for the choices you make. For someone considering Classical Conversations this will be a difficult leap. But if you are considering Classical Conversations then trusting oneself is probably the most important lesson you can teach your kids.