Home-schooling families say cooperative benefits students

NEW ULM – For many parents quality education is a top priority. Every year thousands of parents nationwide choose to educate their children through home schooling. However, some parents who want to home school feel under-equipped to meet the challenge.

Classical Conversations is a nationwide organization that provides support to families who home school. It operates as a cooperative. Currently 10 local families belong to the New Ulm area chapter.

Its purpose is to lead the home-centered education movement by equipping parents and students with the classical tools of learning and to inspire others to do the same, according to its web site.

“If it didn’t work I wouldn’t do it” said Jana Makela. Makela is a parent and member of the home school co-op. One of greatest challenges in home schooling is ensuring students are socialized and engaged in healthy competition, she said.

Four days out of the week, students receive lessons in the home. On Wednesdays, the students come together for group activities, which include time with professional educators.

On Wednesday, students met at First United Methodist Church in New Ulm to present their “Faces of History Project”?before their peers. Middle school students each dressed as a person from the Medieval period and gave a report. Students in the audience participated by trying to guess which historical person their fellow students were portraying.

Parents and students were treated to presentations on Martin Luther, Catherine of Aragon, Atilla the Hun, Queen Isabella of Castile and Elenor of Aquitaine.

This school project has a two-fold effect. The middle-schoolers learn about their individual historical figure and pass that knowledge to the younger students.

Classical Conversations bases its teaching model on the one-room school house. All age groups learn the same subjects together, with the older students receiving more challenging lessons. For instance, the younger students are instructed to find the nouns in a sentence and the older students are tasked with writing the sentences. The lesson plan for each member of the co-op is the same from week to week. Students in Minnesota are learning the same material as students in other states throughout the nation.

Memorization is a core component of the program. Makela explained that her six-year-old son has the multiplication tables memorized. “He probably does not understand it,” Makela said, “but once he gets older he will.”

One of the more effective memorization tools is music. After lunch the students recite the “Timeline Song” which recounts human history from Mesopotamia to the present. The idea behind the song is to create connections for the students. During the “Faces of History”?presentations many of the younger students would hum a verse or two in attempt to identify the historical figure on stage.

The Classical Conversations co-op method of home schooling provides students with the best of both worlds, according to its advocates. Children receive individual attention from parents and core curriculum.

“Many parents may feel they are not qualified,” said Makela. “But by working through a co-op we create accountability.”

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