Happy 20th Birthday, Classical Conversations! IEW and CC: Celebrating Fifteen Years of Collaboration and Camaraderie

Oct 18, 2017 | Posted by Julie Walker


Today is October 18, 2017, and while Andrew Pudewa is heading to Charlotte, NC for Classical Conversations’ 20th anniversary event, I am heading to Dallas, TX to join the live video simulcast from Charlotte where Leigh Bortins, Mike Farris, Andrew Pudewa, and others will be speaking. Joining in with the throng of homeschooling parents who enjoy and serve the Classical Conversations (CC) community, I can’t help but reflect back on my first introduction to CC ten years ago when I first joined Andrew Pudewa and IEW as the director of marketing. Although the journey was at times rather bumpy, I reflect back with fondness on where IEW and CC started and how far we’ve come as I look forward with great anticipation of what our continuing partnership will bring.

Scrambling over boulders high atop Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park, I heard my cell phone ring. It was June 2007, and I had just started working for Andrew Pudewa after leaving my job of ten years working as director for Biola Youth Academics. Who would be calling me on my vacation between jobs? It was Keith Denton, Chief Operating Officer for Classical Conversations. Andrew had suggested the two of us get acquainted so that IEW could better serve this growing influence in the homeschooling world. And while I didn’t expect the conversation to happen there, it was wonderful to find our stories filled with so many parallels. I shared that I had started STAR Academics, a program similarly structured to Classical Conversation’s model, on the west coast ten years prior. I learned that at almost the same time, Leigh Bortins had started Classical Conversations on the east coast. I had wanted to add a writing component to the program and discovered IEW. Similarly, only a few years later in 2012, Classical Conversations also added IEW to its course materials. And on and on they went.

Impressively, Classical Conversations eventually grew to become a national program with communities popping up all over the country. However, with this rapid growth came the challenge of finding dedicated parents who would serve as tutors. This was around the time when we started to hear stories from our customers who were enrolled in Classical Conversations: “My child doesn’t like to write. He cries when we open the History-Based Writing Lessons materials!” Wait, what? This was not what we were known for! We turn reluctant writers into success stories! What was going on and how could we help?

Many conversations with Keith and other Classical Conversations leaders, as well as IEW author Lori Verstegen resulted in many new IEW initiatives:

  • The Structure and Style Overview, a two-hour DVD for parents who have enrolled their students in CC who want a taste of the full training

  • Revised Ancient, Medieval, and US History-Based Writing Lessons to better match the schedule and pacing of Essentials students

  • Monthly webinars for Essentials Tutors who meet with Andrew Pudewa and learn how to teach the next set of lessons and get all their questions answered

  • A Facebook contest for Essentials Tutors who have #PreparingwithPudewa events for their communities

  • International resources, such as our Canadian History-Based Writing Lessons for CC communities in Canada

  • And more to come! Check out this video with Andrew Pudewa and Jaime Kovanda, Essentials Academic Advisor! This segment will appear on Informed with Rob Lowe, scheduled to air sometime this month on local Public Television stations across the United States.




And while these initiatives have taken time to develop, it has overall been a joy-filled journey. I think most of all, however, is that deep friendships have formed over the years, and a mutual commitment to excellence is being realized. I am so blessed to know and consider as friends Keith, Leigh and Robert Bortins, Laura Smole, Jaime Kovanda, Dan Griffin, Scott Whitaker, and others who have contributed so much to successful homeschooling communities across the United States and around the world.

Happy birthday, Classical Conversations! May our view from the top be as breathtaking as mine was ten years ago from Glacier Point, and yet may we find that this is only a plateau as we look ahead to more adventures together.



Julie Walker, the Director of Marketing for the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW), was a schoolteacher and homeschool leader for many years. She and her husband of thirty-three years provided a home education for their three sons, and after their youngest son graduated, she went back to school herself, completing her MBA at Biola University. Although she relocated with IEW from California to Oklahoma, Julie finds many reasons to go west, the latest includes visits to her granddaughter, Lucy!

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