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Rationale for Classical Composition?

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    Rationale for Classical Composition?

    Hello! Could you point me toward any helpful resources on the rational behind the Classical Composition series?

    I am currently using "Intro to Composition" with my bright fourth grader and am evaluating whether to continue with the CC series for fifth grade next year, and beyond. She is naturally great with words, so our main focus at this point is on proper grammar/sentences and organizing thoughts.

    I'd really like her to be challenged with argumentative writing + research in the upper grades.

    Would love to know of any resources that you'd recommend as I consider whether CC is the best fit for her or to hear any "success" stories from parents/teachers who have taken students through the CC series.

    Thanks so much!

    You'll get PLENTY of argumentative writing in the later levels.

    My oldest daughter went through Intro to Composition, all the way through Common Topic. We opted not to continue with CC at that point, because she needed some breathing room in her schedule. Her composition teacher (we hired out the CC classes) assured me that she was doing very well as a writer, and would simply need instruction regarding style and notation. (MLA, etc) She'll be tackling her first research paper this fall as a junior, in US history, and I'm confident that she will do fine.

    My boys, who have some learning challenges (dyslexia, dysgraphia, and auditory processing disorder) are working their way through as well, currently in Chreia/Maxim. Despite their challenges, they ADORE composition class.

    I had a few hurdles to overcome in order to be comfortable with CC as a program.
    1) I had to realize that it's like nothing I've ever seen before, but it's time tested.
    2) I honestly wasn't taught how to write. Not systematically, but rather, one of those, 'here's an idea, now run with it', sort of approach. As such, my children are far better writers than I am.
    3) CC gives students the tools to create great writing -- slowly and systematically.

    I'd encourage you to steep yourself in some of the videos available from prior conferences (scroll down to ones marked Composition), as well as the YT videos from Abigail Johnson .

    Plans for 2022-23

    Year 12 of homeschooling with MP

    DD1 - 27 - college grad, bakery owner
    DD2 - 16 - 11th grade - HLS Cottage School - online classes, looking at dual credit - equestrian and theatre
    DS3 - 14 -7A Cottage School - soccer/tennis -dyslexia and dysgraphia
    DS4 -14 - 7A Cottage School -soccer/tennis -auditory processing disorder
    DD5 - 10- 5A, Cottage School - inattentive ADHD - equestrian and tumbling
    DS6 - 9 - MP 1 - home with momma


      I second Abagail’s videos! You will for sure gets lots of training in argumentative writing with CC! It excels at that. Combine it with the four logic books from MP and you will have excellent training in formulating a good argument. CC isn’t a course in modern writing, but rather exercises to build strength and “muscle memory” for writing. Students then take these skills and apply them in other classes. MP offers tons of writing opportunities in high school literature, classical studies, and history. It is in those classes that they learn to bring research into their writing. MPOA even offers a senior thesis class where they spend a semester writing a college level research paper.
      one technique students learn in the Chreia level is to use an analogy to make their point. So consider this analogy. Writing can be thought of like a martial arts class. A beginner student must first learn “basics”. They learn punches and blocks and kicks and how to put them together into short combinations. In order to write, a beginner must first learn to spell words and puts those words into sentences. A martial arts student then starts learning “forms”. These are choreographed routines that put the basics together into useful forms. First they master the white belt forms and then later the yellow belt forms and eventually the black belt forms. These forms are quite formal and scripted. They aren’t making up their own routines, they are mastering the same ones that their teachers had to master and their teachers before them. This is the Progymnasmatra (Classical Composition). The progym is a series of writing exercise, “forms” if you will, where they learn the same choreographed routines that all the masters before them have learned. It can seem tedious and repetitive at times and you start to wonder why you are doing these exercises over and over rather than actually sparring, well writing. See, sparring/fighting is the end goal of learning those basics and forms in martial arts. When a black belt spars another black belt, they are using all those basics and forms they have drilled for years. Those moves come naturally because of the muscle memory. The more they practice the basics and forms, the better they spar. Their free sparring is their own. They assess their opponent and decide how to attack and how to defend, but they do so rapidly and strongly because they have that background training. Students of composition learn the basics: spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. They master their forms: the stages of the progym. Finally they are ready to free spar: writing their own essays and research papers. But just like a martial arts student begins to learn low level forms before mastering all the basics, and gets to practice sparring before earning a black belt, so composition students begin the progym even while learning more grammar and spelling and they begin to write essays and research papers before finishing the progym. And just like we wouldn’t take a white belt student and tell them to go spar a black belt and assume they will learn to become a black belt by sparring over and over, we also don’t tell a 4th grader to go write an essay and just keep writing till they master it. We need to give them the tools and training , step by step, to become a strong writer. So the progym is only a part of learning composition. Students still need to learn spelling and grammar (yeah Latin!). They also still need to “spar” or write their own essays as they go. The farther they get in the progym, the more polished their essays will be, but they still need to drill these “forms”. Eventually they will be “black belt” writers and able to handle themselves well when making their own argument. They can practice this “free sparring” in literature, classical, history, and other classes. Classical composition works together with together with Latin, Logic, classical studies, literature, and history to make a very strong thinker who writes strong, clear, persuasive papers.
      Debbie- mom of 7, civil engineering grad, married to mechanical engineer
      DD, 27, BFA '17 graphic design and illustration
      DS, 25, BS '18 mechanical engineering
      DS, 23, BS '20 Chemsitry, pursuing phd at Wash U
      (DDIL married #3 in 2020, MPOA grad, BA '20 philosophy, pusrsing phd at SLU)
      DS, 21, Physics and math major
      DD, 18, dyslexic, 12th grade dual enrolled
      DS, 14, future engineer/scientist/ world conquerer 9th MPOA diploma student
      DD, 8 , 2nd Future astronaut, robot building space artist


        Agreeing with Dianna & Debbie above.

        My oldest has completed Classical Composition and my second oldest is currently in the final book (Thesis & Law). My younger two are currently in Ref/Con & Fable. We have been doing CC for 9 years.

        I can testify that CC, if used faithfully over a long stretch of years and if the student is given constructive feedback along the path about specific ways to improve, will teach a person (of any age!) to write. That said, there are a lot of different forms of writing which can be mastered once someone knows how to express themselves clearly and move an argument through its logical stages.
        I concur with Debbie above about how CC is best viewed as a part of a larger program of classical education. If you are looking for research, the will be opportunities to do that in other subjects or classes. Research is best guided by a knowledgeable guide, whether that is you or whether that is an in-person or online teacher. A student who can already communicate clearly can be taught how to put together a research paper.

        A last tidbit: The composition program is actually a prologue to rhetoric. Keep that in mind for later. An ideal sequence puts a student at or near the end of Classical Composition when they are taking Traditional & Material Logic, then Rhetoric.

        Festina lentē,
        Jessica P

        '22-'23 • 13th year HSing • 11th year MP
        DS Hillsdale College freshman
        DD 11th • HLN & Latin online
        DD 8th • HLN & Home
        DS 5th • HLN & Home
        Me • Memoria College, MPOA Fourth Form for Adults

        Teaching Third Form Latin and co-directing @
        Highlands Latin Nashville Cottage School, est. 2016


          Hello fellow educators!
          Well, as I have often said, the tried and true testimonials of fellow educators often is the BEST explanation of CC! Thank you momgineer for that fabulous analogy. It is right on target. One must learn a rigis set of forms to gain mastery of the skills, then later on in Rhetoric is learning the "freestyling" which practices a student's own combination of skills for a specific opponent.
          The only thing I would add to this lovely conversation is that Traditional Logic I and II go beautifully with the Ref/Con year! That is HS II for MPOA, starting next year, or somewhere around 7th grade for the book by year sequence. Don't feel like you have missed out if they have not had it yet; for it continues to compliment CC at any stage beyond Ref/Con (Book IV) Thank you also DiannaKennedy for the video links. There are also video links of the "big idea" on each book stage of CC in the Catalogue portion of the website, toward the bottom of the page.


            Hi ladies! This was so kind of each of you. Thank you DiannaKennedy , momgineer, pickandgrin, and Abigail Johnson! (not sure why only the first name is tagging you all here =/).

            I especially appreciate the links and the mentions of how CC fits into a larger, classical curriculum with Logic, Rhetoric, etc.

            Thanks for taking the time to help me out!