What Is Rhetoric? Practicum Day 1, 2014

What_Is_RhetoricMy family participates in a classical group learning environment for homeschoolers called Classical Conversations.  There are campuses all over the world, and there’s probably one in your backyard if you live in the USA.  If you would like to learn more, visit  ClassicalConversations.com.  To find out why I love the CC Challenge Program for middle and high schoolers, read my post about it by clicking here.

I’m so thankful for days that fill me up with encouragement and life-giving wisdom. Today was a day like that. I have the privilege of attending a Classical Conversations Practicum event, a free 3-day parent and tutor equipping seminar that aims to give parents the tools to be better home educators of their children. I am in Pennsylvania right now, in a hotel room, enjoying some quiet ‘me-time’ after a day with many moms, dads and their little ones.

I am being poured into by the fabulous Erin Barry, who’s humor and wit coupled with her wisdom and knowledge are making the days enjoyable and meaningful. In case you missed practicum, or just want to know a bit more about classical education or rhetoric, I wanted to share my top takeaways from Day 1.

I was reminded today of just how special the ability to home educate our children is. I love traditional schools, and lots of teachers are really gifted and genuinely want to love and pour into their students. But homeschool is so sacred. Homeschool allows learning to be about so much more than just STEM, or the 4 Basics. It allows learning to also be about relationship. Namely, the relationship between you and your children. But also, between siblings, and between the people in your community and extended family. Yes it can be a struggle somedays, that relationship that is sometimes tumultuous, with disobedient children, and imperfect parents who lose their tempers…

But, today Erin used this example to encourage us: the outcome of homeschooling is like eating a homecooked meal. It takes planning, preparation, and lots of time in the kitchen. It takes making mistakes and trying again, sometimes measuring wrong or burning the butter. It takes standing over the hot fire and sweating it out and sometimes even cutting a finger. But in the end, you have a beautiful nutritious meal that can feed you and your family. Homeschooling takes all of these elements. The sweat, the blood, and sometimes the tears. But the outcome is so possible, so powerful, and so worth it!

It also gives us the ability to instill in our kids more than just facts – we can teach our kids skills that can be taken into the world at a younger age than many. And skills open doors to greater opportunities. Being able to do a task can often lead to a job that others might not have the ability to get. Spending deliberate time developing a skill in our children, and having the time to teach them is a gift that, if our kids were in traditional school, they may not receive.

We also talked about the gift of mastery, which is also, really, the gift of time. Time to spend working on a skill until it is known well. In traditional school, kids receive a grade. If they failed to master a skill, the learning does not stop to accommodate them. The class moves on, and a student may in turn, never master the skill. In contrast, when our children work at their own individual pace, they can be rewarded with the self-confidence that comes from mastering a difficult skill or concept.  And further, they learn the character trait of perseverance.

And finally, an in-depth exploration of rhetoric leads me to answer the BIG question of the day… What Is Rhetoric?

Often rhetoric is thought of as ‘smooth-talking.’ You know, the way a politician can spin words and advertisers can develop simple catch-phrases that can become cultural phenomenons. But true rhetoric is neither of these things. Simply put, the art of rhetoric is learning to communicate truth in a manner that is persuasive.

I want to do that. Communicate truth. Communicate truth persuasively. What a beautiful idea.

I want my daughter to be a light in the world who not only knows the what and why of her beliefs, but also, knows how to communicate those things to others in a loving way. Isn’t this the goal of so many of us?

I’ll leave you with this quote from Plato, which I am so inspired by;

Rhetoric is the art of soul-leading by means of words.

What a privilege – to lead souls. I am so excited to dig deeper into this topic, and to bring you more highlights of my days here at practicum.

Have you attended practicum? What are your BIG takeaways? Add them to the comments, below.

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