The Conversation By Leigh A. Bortins ~ Review

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When I first started homeschooling 9 years ago I was very attracted to the Classical teaching model.  Over time our family has grown to be more eclectic in style.  Still, as our oldest is starting 8th grade this year my thoughts are very much on high school and it’s coming challenges.

How to homeschool high school with a classical education.

So when I had the opportunity to review The Conversation: Challenging Your Student with a Classical Education by Leigh A. Bortins from Classical Conversations I was really excited!

About The Conversation

The Conversation is the 3rd book in series of homeschooling books written by Leigh Bortins.  The 1st book is The Core for elementary school and the 2nd book is The Question for middle school.  The Conversation is for teaching your high school aged children.

Leigh Bortins does refer back to the first two books however The Conversation is a stand-alone book and they are not necessary to read to understand for teaching your high schooler.

The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical EducationThe Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education

The Conversation is 267 pages and made up of tree parts.  These are:

High School at Home

  • Chapter 1 – Confidant Parents
  • Chapter 2 – Rhetoric Defined

The Rhetorical Arts

  • Chapter 3 – Reading
  • Chapter 4 – Speech and Debate
  • Chapter 5 – Writing
  • Chapter 6 – Science
  • Chapter 7 – Math
  • Chapter 8 – Government and Economics
  • Chapter 9 – History
  • Chapter 10 – Latin and Foreign Language
  • Chapter 11 – Fine Arts
  • Chapter 12 – A Graduation Conversation
  • Epilogue


  • Appendix One – Conversation Games
  • Appendix Two – Common Rhetorical Devices
  • Appendix Three – Resources
  • Appendix Four – Real Parents Respond

The first part of the book, High school at Home is a source of encouragement to parents.  Leigh Bortins talks about how many parents start to second guess themselves when their children reach the middle school and high school levels.

How we start to feel like we can’t reproduce the same resources school institutions can offer.  Because of this many become fearful or overwhelmed and turn from their convictions of homeschooling when their children reach this age.

The goal of the first section is to help encourage and equip parents that yes they can homeschool their high school level children all the way through.

It covers questions like:

How can I spend so much time at home? What to I do if I don’t get along with my student? How can I teach my child when I didn’t do well in School?

The second chapter Rhetoric Defined explains what the 5 canons of rhetoric are:

  • Invention
  • Arrangement
  • Elocution (style)
  • Memory
  • Delivery

In the second section of the book, The Rhetorical Arts is really the main part of the book.  In this part Bortins goes over each subject area that students would use in high school.  She shows examples of how the 5 canons of rhetoric are used in these subjects.

The third section is the appendices.  These include ideas for games, and of course helpful terms and definitions.

What I Think About The Conversation by Leigh A. Bortins

This book has come at a perfect time for me.  As I mentioned my oldest daughter is in 8th grade this year and moving on to high school next year.  WOW where has the time gone.  This is a bit of a mixed year for her.  Some of her classes she’s working at a high school level on and some are 8th grade work.

Unfortunately the book took a long time to arrive for me, so I wasn’t able to read the entire book deeply yet.  I’ve skimmed the entire book and read half of it over again taking notes as I go.  I’m usually a fast reader but there is a lot of material packed into this book!

Much of this book is based on using conversations as a key learning tool.  That conversations are a normal part of our lives so we should use that to our advantage.  Conversations are where we bring up deep questions and work our way to the answers.

One of my favourite quotes came from the chapter on teaching reading.

As classical parents and educators, we sometimes forget that we really only need four things in order to educate someone.  We need pencil, paper, good books and time for great conversations.  We do not need a Smart Board or a flashy PowerPoint presentation or even a doctorate degree in literature.

Isn’t that the truth?!  I really did like that the book isn’t focused on using a particular curriculum for each subject, but instead was about how you as a parent can teach that subject.  Far to often I think we as homeschoolers can become so wrapped up in finding and buying the perfect curriculum that we lose sight of how many times simpler is better.

The Conversation is a great outline for any parent homeschooling their high school aged child.  It provides the background information need to understand what your teaching and why  your teaching it.  It’s really a great source of encouragement along the way!


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