Classical Conversations: 10 Tips To Prevent Being Overwhelmed

  Classical Conversations: 10 Tips to Prevent Being Overwhelemed

Classical Conversations saved my homeschool.

At a time when my middle schooler was struggling with motivation, and I was struggling to keep a very precocious, bright 8 year old boy engaged and challenged, joining our local Classical Conversations community was a God send. 

Using the memory work as our spine and expanding upon the memory work worked well last year. Knowing that my Challenge A daughter's curriculum was fully planned was a huge relief to me.

I could quickly tell, however, that having children at all levels of CC (Foundations, Essentials, and Challenge) was going to be overwhelming. There is just SO MUCH. 

And... I am not the type of person that does well with SIMPLE. I am a creative type - one who feels the need to expand, explore all of the possibilities, and jump into every possible project. Seeing all of that memory work just meant POSSIBILITIES for extension.

At the same time, keeping up with the reading, Latin (and just everything) in Challenge A really wore me out.

As I got to know many of my Classical Conversations readers here on the blog I found that we had the same problem:

How do you not get overwhelmed by Classical Conversations? 

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There is so much beauty in the program, but I still must manage my home, maintain joy in our homeschool, while at the same time modeling for my children this classical model of thinking/learning. 

Little by little, through veteran CC moms, a lot of reading, and much prayer, I have settled on several ways to lighten everyone's load this year, while still taking advantage of everything CC has to offer. 


1. Pray

I start every day with prayer and devotions, and do the same with my children. Our current devotion book is My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers. I love that this book is a devotional that makes my children THINK. We go to the Bible using verses Chambers references each day and then we discuss some more.

"Unless in the first waking moment of the day you learn to fling the door wide back and let God in, you will work on a wrong level all day; but swing the door wide open and pray to your Father in secret, and every public thing will be stamped with the presence of God. "

 ~ Oswald Chambers

I cannot educate my children without God's help. I take every decision about their education to HIM, and ultimately my prayers have been answered (many times in ways that are a mystery to me).


2. Start Simply 

My first inclination is to plan out the entire year, complete with notebooking pages for all of the subjects and read alouds for each week.

While I like doing this to a certain extent (I did make a history notebook that I'm pretty sure we will stick with), too much of this is overwhelming. I feel like a failure if we don't accomplish everything I have planned. 

This year, for my Foundations student, we are focusing on 20 minutes of memory work review each day, a daily Saxon math lesson, the required Essentials work, and silent reading. I can add in more if need be.

The memory work is enough! 

At the Foundations level I believe our children still need PLAY, CREATIVITY, and lots and lots of read alouds. 

(I keep loads of LEGOS, games, art supplies, and books on hand for when Grant needs to occupy himself.)

3. Close Your Computer and Your Ears!

The irony of this tip isn't lost on me!  

I tend to get a cluttered mind if I see too many ideas and read too many FB groups and forums about Classical Conversations. The temptation to keep up with everyone is just too great. 

I have my favorite resources for CC (CC Connected and Notebooking Pages), and don't veer much from that. 

You might even have to close ears a bit on your community day, because moms love to share what their little darlings are doing at home. You know what I mean. 

No one's situation is like yours, and what works well for one family might not work well for another. 

4. YOU are the Teacher 

 This one is for the Challenge parents out there. 

The volume of work in Challenge is HUGE. It can be overwhelming.  We worked SO hard last year to keep up with the pace, and while I can definitely say my daughter had a huge sense of accomplishment, there were also times when I think I was too hard on her and we were both stressed out.

All of the Challenge guides and literature out there emphasize that YOU are your child's teacher. Yes, the tutor is there for instruction, but you ultimately can lighten the work load, choose a different math curriculum, or do whatever it takes to tailor the education for YOUR child.

Don't lose sight of the freedoms we have as homeschoolers in being a 100% slave to the Challenge curriculum.

Here's a great example: Last year we struggled with Latin. Over the summer we went back through Henle Latin using the Memoria Press study guides. We will go at a slower pace than they do in Challenge B, but that's ok. We are aiming for UNDERSTANDING and SANITY, not keeping up with the pace of some children who might have come in with more experience in Latin.

5. Don't Lose the Wonder

While I am fully committed to the classical education model, there are days when I miss our interest-led style. When my children were young there was just so much WONDER in our homeschool, and I don't want to lose that.

We still make time for nature study, field trips, and TONS of creativity (art, LEGOS, music, etc...). 

Sometimes, especially in the Challenge years, I think we buckle down on the academics and forget there is more to life than math and Latin!  

6. Establish Routine

To balance everything that is required in our Classical Conversations year, I need to be ORGANIZED.

I really don't like that word because it's not my strong point. This is where my husband comes in. He's an organizer by birth and thrives on things running smoothly.  He holds me accountable (in a gentle, not domineering way) and I like that.

Things that help establish routine:

  • chore charts for the kids (made weekly and enforced by dad!)
  • mom and kids getting up at set times each day (I get up at 6:00 a.m. and my kids are up by 7:30 a.m.)
  • an order for schoolwork each day - we do not follow a strict schedule, but we definitely have ROUTINE
  • Lunch together each day, usually outside if the weather is nice - we break for at least an hour to eat and listen to our current read-aloud (having popsicles on the deck is such a nice break in the middle of the day!)

7. Quiet Time (No Matter How Old Your Kids Are)

When my kids were little we always had quiet time at 1:00 p.m. 

Now that they are 13 and 9 quiet time doesn't work in the same way, but we all still take quiet time - almost daily.

At 2:00 or 3:00 when all of our schoolwork is done for the day, I ask the kids to go upstairs to their rooms and occupy themselves and then I close my eyes for 15-30 minutes.

This mid-afternoon nap really helps me tackle the end of the day, and I don't feel one bit guilty about it.  

8. Rely on Your Friends

I got this text from a fellow CC mama just this week. She has a child in Challenge and one in Foundations and it is her first year in CC.  She was pretty stressed out about the volume of work in Challenge and I reminded her that the academics do fall into place, but that it's our children's HEARTS we are after. 

"Mary, I'm feeling like I can't do this. Overwhelmed. I don't usually stress. I do tend to take on more than He wants me to.... trusting HIM makes more sense."

I had a similar exchange with another CC friend of mine. I texted her quickly last Friday to tell her I was praying for her week (she's a first time Challenge mom) and knew this was a hard job we have as homeschool moms.  

Lean on your friends. Share your heart with them and God will bless you (and your friendships) abundantly. We are not meant to go through life alone, so live in community and confide in your fellow CC moms.

 9. Limit Extracurriculars

Busy and exhausted seem to be the new status symbols in our society. It seems to be in vogue to walk around saying "I'm so busy." or "I'm just so worn out."  

If we can't eat dinner together as a family at least 4-5 nights a week, then there is something wrong with our schedule! Last year I was the only mom who said no to tournament baseball. That was ok with me. Homeschooling has taught me that you do not have to do what the crowd is doing!  

I don't want my children to equate being frazzled with being productive. 

Less is more.

Our family decided to limit extracurriculars - for both children and parents! 

I'm not advocating being a hermit (my kids do play sports and take part in outside music activities), but in order to avoid burnout I believe it's best to give our children the gift of TIME.   

The material provided in Classical Conversations is so beautiful, and we need to take the time to assimilate the information and to learn together as a FAMILY. Having discussions around the dinner table is integral to raising thinking adults!

10. Use Paper Plates and Eat Frozen Pizza

I've found that keeping a stash of pretty paper plates (I buy them on sale and then stock up) and frozen pizzas has been my lifesaver.

{Please don't throw rotten tomatoes at the screen if you don't feed your kids pizza from the freezer section!}


On community days my family knows we will have frozen pizza on paper plates. We drink out of our Mason Jars and I might put together a small salad, but other than that I just don't cook dinner on Tuesday evenings. 


When it comes down to it, remember the mission of Classical Conversations - To Know God and Make Him Known.

These are words to live by. THIS is what is important. 

All of the other details will fall into place.

I promise.

Today is the first day of our 2014-2015 Classical Conversation community. I know many communities are starting this week, or have started in the past two weeks. 

I want to know -- Do you have any strategies for NOT being overwhelmed this year?  Let's help each other to make it a wonderful year!

*Read more about our family's journey in Classical Conversations. 

*Visit the Classical Conversations website to lean more about the program in-depth.


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