It is with much sadness that I am sharing my last review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew and its extraordinarily fitting that it is The Conversation by Leigh A. Bortins.  I was also assigned to write this intro post to this wonderful book :).  It was hard to write the post without gushing all over the place.

The Conversation - Classical Education for High School Why Review

About “The Conversation”

Many homeschoolers are familiar with  the co-op group Classical Conversations.  The founder, Leigh A. Bortins, has written a trio of books to guide homeschool parents through the journey of classical education, completely independent of any curriculum.  To facilitate this review, I received a paperback copy of The Conversation.

Likes & Dislikes

So let’s start with the basics.  The Conversation is, at it’s core, a primer on the Rhetoric Stage of Classical Education.  So, for homeschoolers, we are talking about high school.   It’s a medium length book — about 225 pages, not including appendixes.  It’s a very easy book to read and is so inspiring.  She goes through the basics in such a way that you can’t help but think you can TOTALLY do this because she gives you a pep-talk and gives you the tools you need to do it.  She also defines rhetoric and breaks down each piece of the definition as to what that looks like in practical, every day use.

Rhetoric is the use of knowledge and understanding to perceive wisdom, pursue virtue and proclaim truth.

It sounds like a lofty goal doesn’t it?  Now, I am a bit removed from this stage.   I don’t even have a middle schooler, but I am returning to our CM/Classical roots that I thought I would use when I began our homeschool journey.  But I still have questions, now that we are getting deeper.

I have been wondering how they get from where they are as little people to classical high school.  What does that mean?  What do I do?  What do they do?  How it is different from anything else?  What does it actually look like?  What does it all mean? (imagine that in a Scarlett O’Hara type voice) What kind of curriculum do I use?

The Conversation answers all those questions.  Except the last.  And I LOVE that.  She doesn’t recommend certain curriculum or even subjects, necessarily.  Mrs. Bortin divides the art of rhetoric into 5 canons, which comes from the Greek meaning “points of excellence.”  She shares guiding questions that define the canon and also an action item that explains what your student does that falls under that canon.


And the frosting on the cake?  She goes through 9 subjects showing how  the rhetoric stage looks in real life.  She uses multiple examples and even shares a handy little chart at the end of every chapter about how each of the 5 canons look for that subject.  She shares in depth examples for literature, math, science, writing, speech, history, government/economics, Latin/foreign language and even fine arts!

Because, as she says,

…I want them to be lifelong learners, eager to try new things and equipped with the skills to do so.”


So, we obviously aren’t there yet with my oldest in second grade, but now I remember why I was drawn to classical education.  And now I know where they will go, should we stay on this path.  It’s a place I want them to be.  Heck, it’s the place *I* want to be.


The only bad thing about reading The Conversation is that now I want to read them all.  In fact, now that this review has been written, I’m excited to dig into the first in the series — The Core.  It’s been killing me to wait but I wanted to have this completed first so I didn’t start getting confused :).

Obviously, I loved this book!  If you are curious about classical education or even homeschooling through high school, in general, The Conversation is a fabulous resource.  This one will be dog-eared and flagged even more by the time we finish, I think :).

But don’t just take my work for it–see what other reviewers thought about The Conversation.

Jen S.


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