Are you are parent that has heard of Classical Conversations as a great supplement and co-op option for your homeschooled children? If you have, you might be contemplating, researching, and deciding whether Classical Conversations fits (and fits well) into your homeschooling plans.
We have participated in Classical Conversations the past three years in both Foundations and in Essentials and hope that we can help answer some of your questions you have.
And please note, our review and opinion considering the costs are especially from the perspective that we were attempting to use CC for our family as a supplement to our homeschool – not a replacement for it (which some families do). This means that our opinion of these costs are especially reflected that they are over and above our full-time cost of materials for our normal homeschool.
But before we begin to break-down the costs, let me first give an extremely brief explanation about what it is.
Classical Conversations is an international program where homeschooling families in general come together once a week and memorize and learn information from several subjects and then provide the tools and resources for parents to follow the classical education model in their homeschool. The classes are taught by parents of enrolled children , called tutors, and trained to tutor in the Classical Conversations method. They meet in local churches or other buildings that will rent space just like any other co-op would. There are campuses all over the U.S. and many international ones as well.
The easiest explanation I have given to others is that it is basically a private homeschool co-op – a cross between private school and co-op. Although the tutors are not allowed to “teach” as this is the parents’ job, they are tutors who guide the children through the week’s information. Parents then take this information and use it how they wish throughout their homeschool week. Some use it as a supplement while others use it to base their core curriculum around. It’s very flexible.
Finally, it is typically one morning a week for Foundations (grammar stage), a couple of hours a week for Essentials (dialectic stage) all day one day a week for Challenge Programs (rhetoric stage).
Is there a fee associated with my local Classical Conversations Community?
Yes, it does cost money. In fact, it’s not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. This is where the private school concept comes into play. Children attend for a few hours (generally a 9:15-noon) a week, so for the cost, you are probably paying a nice private school tuition equivalent for the hours spent a week for the cost. In the past it came out to $14 per child, per day tuition (not counting all the other fees and book costs – see below for more). The cost is astounding and then there are continual fees, some of which are unique to the needs of each community, but it should be weighted heavily as a major factor in anyone deciding to participate. It’s a serious decision and commitment.
When we decided to join, we did have the money saved in our homeschooling budget, but there were additional costs throughout the whole year that added up very quickly. We did feel nickeled-and-dimed, and from speaking with others, our community’s costs were very low as our director made sure to keep costs as low as possible. So even our costs listed below are conservative.
So how much does it really cost?
We are going to write a follow-up to this post regarding our review of Classical Conversations. We actually began writing the review and the post was becoming a lengthy article – essentially a small book. One of the major parts of our review was discussing the costs associated with Classical Conversations. We decided this was an important enough aspect of deciding whether or not to participate that it deserves it’s own article. Thus, the reason for this specific article. In a few days, we will follow-up with the rest of our review of Classical Conversations (will be now noted as CC for the rest of the article).
So let me give you the breakdown of a conservative cost from a conservative community and all of the fees WE paid:
- Tuition = $335 each student for each program (last year, two of our kids were in both Foundations and Essentials = $670 each). These fees go to pay the tutor and director. I don’t know the exact breakdown, but I think the director of the CC community (think principal) receives 30% of everyone’s tuition and the tutors for each specific class receive 70% of the tuition of the kids specifically in their class.
- Registration Fee = $85 first kid and $55 each additional kid. This goes to CC Corporate.
- * Supply Fee = Our supply fee last year was $50 for the year for each student in Foundations and $20 for each student in Essentials.
- * Building Rent = $25 per family donation to the hosting church. This is going to be a BIG factor for many communities. Some have free rent, some have expensive rent that is split between all families. It is unique to each community.
- * Nursery = Since the parents are required to sit-in on the classes and be helpers, I needed to utilize the nursery all three years. I actually had two that needed nursery, but my toddler wanted to stay with me in the classes so thankfully I only paid for the baby. It was $4 per kid each week for the three hours. CC is a 24-week year = $96
- * Uniforms = This price will vary, but it is a cost to consider. Our community required khakis and navy blue polos. Both Children’s Place and Walmart sell these uniforms. I used all of my money-saving tricks to get the best deals, but with 4 kids and a couple of changes, it is still a cost of at least $100 for our family ($25 per kid).
- * Snacks = Our community tried to keep costs as low as possible, so our snack fee was $5 each kid for the year = $20.
- * CC T-shirts (can be used in lieu of polos for uniforms – we bought the cheapest option and ordered as a large group for the biggest discounts), $9 each for four kids = $36
- * CC Connected = Online forum and site to find ideas on how to teach and use the week’s lessons in your homeschooling at home. This is a fee of $6 a month = 9 months for $54.
- * Misc. Fees = from field trips, to fundraisers, to T-shirts, to you-name-it. This was estimated to be around $150 extra for the year for our family.
* A star (*) represents costs unique to each community and prices will vary based on needs and prices do seem to increase a little each year.
Note: All costs above are based on 2015-2016 actual costs.
Finally….The BOOKS! Honestly, I felt like I was enrolling my kids in college. This is the part that always catches me by surprise. Thankfully, for Foundations, once you purchase the basic materials, they can be used for all three-cycles. There are supplements that you can add (of course) but I think the materials are highly over-priced and CC is very protective about where you can buy these. They do try and stop all non-CC book sales in homeschool book exchange groups and other places online, and you can only order most materials if you are actually enrolled in CC. Meaning, that if you just wanted to follow the program at home (which you could), they make it very difficult to get ahold of materials and make it very difficult for anyone to resell their gently used books outside of CC. So your options are very limited and you really have no choice but to purchase it from them. If you are going to spend the $335 in tuition and the $85 registration fee, it would be useless to not buy the materials…and they know this.
Foundations Materials (prices have changed since I first purchased):
When you start, you need the basics. The first year, this is what I bought:
- Foundations guide = $60 (it is now $75)
- 4 Sets of Timeline Cards (you need a set from each of the four ages) = $88 (Now they are $92)
- 4 Tin Whistles at $10 each = $40 (they are now $11 each)
- Cycle CD’s (need a new set each year) for $35
Total = $223 plus free shipping (for the basics for Foundations, no additional supplements or resources)
Essentials Materials (the most basic order):
- Essentials of the English Language = $65 (can be reused)
- IEW TWSS Syllabus = $35 (can be reused)
- History Teacher’s Manual = $24 (can be reused)
- History-Based Writing Lessons Student Book = $29 x 2 (for two students, not reusable)
- I also purchased $39 in extra supplements
Total = $221 plus free shipping
As you can see, the materials are ridiculously over-priced in my opinion. But…what do you do?!? I have spent a minimum of $200+ every year in materials, despite having many of the basics that can be reused. This year was even higher due to having kids in both Foundations and Essentials. Buying the materials is optional, but again, when you are already spending that much on tuition, you want to make the most of the education and so you are most likely going to have to spend the money on books.
When it comes to homeschooling, we have been able to find, reuse and utilize quite affordable materials for the core of our homeschool studies. For CC being a supplement, I find this to one of the most expensive supplements known to homeschooling. It’s the part that I don’t like and the part that I would highly advise anyone to deeply consider the costs and thus the commitment.
In the end, for four kids enrolled in Foundations and two kids enrolled in Essentials, the materials, uniforms, etc. came to a grand total of $3,565.
If we had just one kid in Foundations, here’s how that would look as the most basic (because we know that not many will be enrolling that many kids at once):
- Tuition = $335
- Registration = $85
- Supply Fee = $50
- Facility Rent = $25
- Uniforms = $25
- Snack Fee = $5
- CC T-shirt = $9
- CC Connected = $54
- Misc., field trips, fundraisers, etc. = $38
- Basic Materials for Foundations ONLY (except for tin whistles – one set can be used by all students)= $213
- TOTAL: $839
One thing that you will notice is that we don’t have the costs associated with the Challenge Programs. I do not know these costs exactly because we haven’t participated in these programs, but they are more than the other programs because it is a full-day course and program. However, the above list will at least be a guide to ask the questions needed regarding costs to your local CC director and tutors.
We will share our review of CC in a few days, but again, we felt the associated fees were an important enough topic, they needed to be highlighted on their own.
When you are a family living within a tight budget, every expense needs to be heavily considered. Education is our top financial priority, but we still could not make a decision about educational fees without deep consideration and a close look at the education budget and a close look at where to allocate the monies for education, especially since CC is only a small portion of home education.
Although some of the above fees are fixed, many are per campus basis. We’d love to hear from your personal experience about the costs associated with your CC community and any comments that you want to add, clarify or disclose as many are deciding on the right educational choices for their children. What can you share?