Alicia Offhaus is smitten with Classical Conversations of Conway.
She believes attendees will be also if they visit the homeschool group this Tuesday, March 14, for its Excellence in Education lunchtime gathering at Pine Grove Baptist Church on Old Reeves Ferry Road.
Offhaus is the homeschooling mother of 8-year-old Ayden, a Loris second grader who is flourishing in his studies with the group, known as CC of Conway to those who attend its community day each Tuesday at Pine Grove.
“It’s more than the ABCs and 123s. There’s depth to the program,” Offhaus said. “This year, Ayden is really into astronomy.”
Offhaus, the parent-director of CC of Conway, is eager for community leaders to get to know the local Classical Conversations group.
From 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., attendees will get a sampling of what CC is about through brief presentations by students who range in age from 4-years-old to their teens. After the 30-minute educational program, lunch will be enjoyed as a chance to meet families and ask questions.
“It’s a great opportunity for our church body to see there’s lots of other ministries outside of what we call ‘church stuff.’ We are more than just about Sundays,” said John Holmes, pastor of Pine Grove.
Holmes believes partnerships with churches and groups such as CC of Conway foster tremendous opportunities for families and communities to come together to advance academics as well as cultivate close relationships.
“It could be a life-changer actually and people need to know it’s out there,” he said.
Because CC of Conway is a Christian community, Holmes is excited that children and families are offered what he calls “real life change.”
“They get exposed to the biggest change and that is a relationship with Christ,” he said.
Holmes invites area officials and interested parents to attend Tuesday’s event as well as other community leaders and pastors to see the diversity of families and the impressive talents he sees represented at CC of Conway.
Although CC students meet for “school” one day a week, it remains a homeschool group with parents as the teachers.
A typical CC community day for elementary-age students and parents includes an assembly for pledges and announcements and age-level classes that parents attend with their children.
During classes, parent-tutors model various ways of presenting new material on history, geography, science, math, English grammar, and even Latin through songs, hand motions, or other devices. The classes are fun and engaging for students, Offhaus said, but are designed primarily as a resource for parents.
“CC offers parents the opportunity to teach their children a lot of subjects in a variety of ways,” she said.
Students also make brief presentations each week, draw continental world maps, participate in science experiments, explore the fine arts of drawing and painting, and go over basic music theory.
“Everybody is excited about what we’re learning and I think that’s cool,” Offhaus said. “Parents say they are redeeming their own education.”
Part of what CC students learn is a 161-point timeline of history events, starting with creation and ending with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Kari McEowen of Conway knows firsthand the benefit of her son Josh, 13, having the facts of the history timeline tucked away as a foundation in his education.
“He still sings the ‘Timeline Song’ every now and then,” she said. “I know that it sticks with them.”
This year, Josh is a part of what CC calls its Challenge A program, or 7th grade in a convention school setting.
These teenagers spend Tuesdays drawing maps and studying and discussing literature, natural science, Latin, apologetics, and math.
McEowen said Josh is doing well and particularly enjoys the rhetoric, or persuasive communication, aspect of the program.
CC is based on the classical model of education, which emphasizes three paths of learning. The foundations level is based on memorizing information to serve as “pegs” for future use and is focused on during the elementary years.
Around 4th through 6th grades, students are encouraged to ask questions as they explore material in a more dialectic fashion. In the teen years, the rhetoric stage of learning brings out the communications skills of students.
Josh attended public school up until 5th grade and McEowen said her family choose to homeschool beginning in 2015 for many reasons.
She especially enjoys the freedom of choosing curriculum to match her son.
“You can focus the education on your child’s needs. Every child is an individual,” she said. “Plus, you get to spend time with your child and get to know them.”
McEowen is impressed with the classical model in general because all of the subjects are woven together instead of standing alone.
Although Offhaus had not envisioned herself homeschooling her children, she knew she wanted them to have a rich education.
When Ayden was just three, and son, Anson, had not yet been born, she joined an area homeschool co-op group. After becoming involved and witnessing the merits she saw from homeschooling, it looked like a great option for her family.
“There’s no reason I can’t do this myself,” said the former finance industry professional.
Offhaus said the more she and her husband Bob talked with God and each other, the more clear it became that homeschooling was what their family should do.
“It was a laid-in-the-lap kind of thing,” she said.
Offhaus, knew though, that she did not want homeschooling to isolate her family.
“I didn’t want our homeschool experience to be us sitting around the kitchen table everyday,” she said.
Offhaus was also looking for more than just extra-curricular activities. After becoming aware of the structure and depth of learning CC offered, she knew she had found her homeschooling home.
CC participants are not required to have a particular religious faith, but CC is up front about it’s mission “to know God and make Him known.”
“God is put in the center of what we do,” Offhaus said. “All subjects come from Him and relate back to Him.”
McEowen also was drawn to the Christian component.
“First and foremost, we were looking for a more Christ-centered education,” she said.
In her CC community, Offhaus found excellence in the academics, but also deep friendships among the children and parents alike.
“There are times in our homeschooling journey that are hard,” she admits. “I think we have a wonderful group of people who provide a strong support system in a loving environment. It’s not just socialization.”
As Pine Grove’s pastor, Holmes is a part of the community and frequently interacts with the homeschoolers.
“He has even made our kids breakfast,” Offhaus said.
Those sausage biscuits and chocolate milk went a long way to endear him to some of the CC students.
“He is such a nice guy,” said Graham Anderson, 8. “He loves CC coming to his church.”
CC of Conway is one of five area homeschool communities which are a part of the larger Classical Conversations movement which encompasses communities across the U.S. as well as several other countries.
Along with Conway, local communities meet in Surfside, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, and Georgetown.
Offhaus believes CC can be a good fit for families with children of any academic or social level because the parents remain the teachers and can control the amount, rigor, and depth of all curriculum. She said evidence of such a fit is that one area CC community has special needs students who are doing well.
“They’re thriving.” she said.