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What price, then, can be placed on a learning environment where students are given the opportunity to explore great ideas and come to their own convictions?  Where they are taught how to listen carefully to others—even those with whom they disagree? Where they are encouraged to determine what is valuable and figure out how to respond to what is not? Where they gain experience in engaging with others, while avoiding either a defensive stance or thoughtless acquiescence to someone else’s persuasive ideas? - Matthew Gallatin, author of Searching for God in a Land of Shallow Wells

Greetings!

 

If you’re a homeschooler, or know someone who is, you’ve likely heard of the Classical Learning Resource Center. For 15 years, the CLRC has provided quality online classes for homeschooling families, cooperatives, and small schools across the nation (and around the world!). 

 

I’m Matthew Gallatin. I’m an author, musician, retired philosophy professor, and longtime friend of the CLRC’s founders, John and Anne Van Fossen. For 8 years, I served as the CLRC’s technical administrator. My purpose here is to briefly acquaint you with the CLRC’s important mission, and to encourage you to become a partner in its vital work.

 

 

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LIVING YOUR CONVICTIONS

One morning 15 years ago, I sat with John and Anne around the kitchen table in their little rented farmhouse on the west side of the Kootenai River valley. They wanted to share with me a new idea they’d had. They were thinking seriously about offering Greek and Latin classes to homeschoolers online. Knowing that I had helped pioneer the distance education program at the college where I taught, they hoped I might provide some useful insights and advice. 

My immediate reaction was that they had hit on a great plan for making a living in the economically depressed Idaho Panhandle! But it didn’t take long listening to them for me to realize that a tidy profit-turning venture was the last thing on their minds. Rather, their desire to launch this online teaching endeavor was rooted deeply in educational convictions they fervently held, and still hold today:  

 

  • Studying Classical languages and Classical literature is transformative.

  • The home school can be the best of all learning environments, and homeschooling parents deserve the resources and support they need to provide their children with the highest quality education.

  • “Community” is both the foundation and the aim of authentic human life.
     

 

A VISION COMES TO FRUITION
 

From its beginning the CLRC has been a labor of devotion to these compelling ideals. A quick visit to the Testimonials page on the CLRC website will confirm that, by all accounts, it has successfully fulfilled them! 

 

The Power of Classics
 

From the early days of 9 students in two classes to this fall’s 893 students in 200 classes, the CLRC has enriched a host of young lives through the study of Classical languages and literature. Works of ancient literature examine the human struggle with unparalleled clarity and insight. To learn the original Greek and Latin languages in which they are written opens them to the most enlightened analysis. A student’s critical thinking skills and a focused attention to detail develop naturally in this process. Through their studies, they come to a wiser understanding of themselves and their relationships in the world.  

Whether students aim to become farmers, doctors, carpenters, priests, or lawyers; whether they are heading to an Ivy League school (as many CLRC students have), an academy of music, or an apprenticeship in the trades; what a rewarding thing it is for parents and teachers alike to know that the CLRC experience has made their students “capable of telling the truth even when those around them falsify; willing to do what is genuinely good even when it is inconvenient; and able to recognize the beautiful and the extraordinary in the midst of all the ordinary things of life.” (James Greenaway – St. Mary’s University).

Inspirational Teachers

 

Now, I should note here that not all CLRC students enroll in Greek or Latin courses. Part of the CLRC’s commitment to supporting parents as the directors of their children’s education is allowing them to enroll in just the particular classes they feel they need. For many years now, the CLRC has offered courses in all core subject areas, plus elective programs like Modern Languages, Fine Arts, and Christian Studies. Some parents enroll their children in just that one class they don’t feel comfortable teaching themselves. Others may build their student’s educational program entirely around CLRC courses. 

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An outstanding team of teachers form the backbone and greatest strength of the CLRC. That’s mainly because, as it has expanded, the standard the CLRC has employed in deciding which teachers to bring on board has been set by an incomparable instructor named Anne Van Fossen. Anne’s teaching is grounded in her passionate love for Greek and Latin. But she also possesses great compassion for her students, and a genuine interest in their lives. She challenges her students. Yet at the same time, her students confidently know that she will do whatever it takes to help them meet those challenges. All this creates an atmosphere that nurtures a love of learning. 

 

As Anne works with the CLRC teachers, she helps them each to draw from their unique strengths and expertise while maintaining this same supportive atmosphere. Parents and students know that they can expect a combination of subject matter expertise, flexible teaching strategies, and genuine care and interest from all their CLRC instructors (who currently number around 70). Helping its teachers to develop and hone these skills and attitudes is something to which the CLRC has devoted much effort. Most instructors come to the CLRC with advanced degrees and teaching experience. But what makes them special was summed up nicely by one former student:

“As a student, I have been truly impacted by the way CLRC teachers love learning and seek to inspire their students to love learning as well. While many teachers focus on simply imparting information to their students, my CLRC teachers have inspired me to love and dig deeper into the information I have been given. I will always be grateful for how they shaped my perspective on learning.”

How Can We Serve You Better?

That is a question the CLRC has always asked of the homeschooling parents it is committed to helping. When parents have spoken, the CLRC has eagerly listened! Many years ago, parents said, “We love our Greek and Latin classes! Do you know a Literature and Composition instructor who teaches like you do?” John and Anne found one. Then they did the same for a science teacher, and then a math teacher. Each passing year has brought more courses and more instructors. 

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Today, the CLRC is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.  It has:

  • Developed a full spectrum of core classes for middle school and high school

  • Expanded classes for elementary school, especially in both ancient and modern languages

  • Added an accredited diploma-granting high school—the CLRC Online Academy

  • Expanded consulting services for parents and schools

  • Enhanced teacher training and support

  • Explored more relationships with homeschool co-ops and private schools

  • Provided classes for kindergarten and early elementary school children

  • Offered training for parents in integrated curriculum

     

A Community of Goodness
 

Sometime during my tenure with the CLRC, I posted this testimonial from one of our parents:

 

“Thank you for your work in choosing such incredible instructors, offering such high caliber courses, and creating an academic culture of communication, respect, and trust which elevates us all.” 

 

“A culture of communication, respect, and trust.” What higher tribute could be paid to my friends the Van Fossens, and to the vision that was born in their hearts 15 years ago? I am blessed to have had the opportunity to watch that culture develop. Relationships built on mutual discoveries, shared intellectual struggles, and common knowledge have a special richness. Many CLRC students have become fast friends with classmates that live clear across the country from them. Teachers have formed relationships with other teachers, and with parents. Families have befriended families. Vacations have been planned around traveling to meet others in the CLRC fold. 

 

For so many, then, the CLRC has become much more than just the place to send their children, or the web address where they go to school, or the online meeting room where they pursue their passion for teaching. It has become part of the framework of an authentic, rewarding community. 

 

 

THE COSTS OF A LABOR OF LOVE

 

Who wouldn’t want to support such a beautiful educational legacy? Right now, the Van Fossens are looking for kindred spirits who will help them assure that the CLRC continues to grow and thrive in its mission to bring the benefits of an exceptional education to more and more families.

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From the beginning, the Van Fossens have been dedicated to keeping CLRC classes affordable, and to making certain that instructors are fairly compensated. They have done everything they can to assist families on tight budgets by providing family discounts and scholarships. At times, they have subsidized a new teacher’s compensation if their classroom enrollment was a little low. But tuition revenues alone have never been sufficient to cover those commitments. John and Anne have personally made up the financial shortfalls. 

John and Anne have also personally borne the cost of employing a small staff to assist them in meeting the many administrative demands of the CLRC. Those duties have included:

 

  • IT support: maintaining, updating, and improving the CLRC website; helping parents, students and teachers navigate the technical aspects of the online educational experience

  • Operations: integrating and overseeing the automated registration system, student information system, and learning management system

  • Registration: overseeing registration of over nearly 1300 class enrollments per semester; processing enrollments; producing class rosters

  • Finance: collection of tuition; arrangement of payment plans; processing charter school invoices; payment of instructors, etc.

  • Teacher Training: including data analysis of parent/student evaluations of teachers

  • Marketing: advertisement materials; social media postings; blog articles

  • Liaising and maintaining compliance with accreditation boards, state education departments, school systems, state labor departments (background checks and private contractor requirements for teachers), and more 

 

For most of the years that the CLRC has operated, the administrative staff has comprised 2 full time employees. Looking at that list of duties, it’s not hard to reach the conclusion that 2 people are just not enough—especially when you want to lay a foundation for meeting the needs of more and more students. 

 

Anne—who still teaches a full slate of classes—also does all the teacher relations/teacher development work. She oversees marketing, heads the accreditation team, and works with other CLRC staff in consultations with parents who need advice about what classes to choose, or tips on effective homeschooling.  So help is needed here, too.  

 

Realistically, the CLRC needs to hire at least 2-4 more employees to share the administrative load. The website also needs improvements, and marketing is an especially critical need. 

 

The bottom line is, after 15 years of personal sacrifice, the Van Fossens are no longer able to shoulder the extra costs of the CLRC on their own. They need the financial support of beneficent, like-minded partners to help them sustain and develop the CLRC through the coming years. 

 

 

BECOME A FINANCIAL SUPPORTER OF THE CLRC COMMUNITY

Is the CLRC worth helping? You decide! We live in a world where cultures of “communication, respect, and trust” are steadily disappearing from the landscape—especially in the realm of education.  In our increasingly contentious society, many parents worry that much of what passes for education these days is just peremptory indoctrination. 

 

What price, then, can be placed on a learning environment where students are given the opportunity to explore great ideas and come to their own convictions?  Where they are taught how to listen carefully to others—even those with whom they disagree? Where they are encouraged to determine what is valuable and figure out how to respond to what is not? Where they gain experience in engaging with others, while avoiding either a defensive stance or thoughtless acquiescence to someone else’s persuasive ideas?

Truth and beauty are alive and well in the CLRC. I invite you to become a valued and integral supporter of this vibrant community of learners!

How to Give

The Van Fossens continue to investigate becoming a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation to make donations tax-deductible. There are aspects of the CLRC which have made that difficult to do. So I appeal here to your generosity and heart for its mission. 

 

If you’d like to make a gift to the CLRC, you may do so here: https://give.clrconline.com/. Or if you wish, you can send a check to: 

 

CLRC Holiday Campaign

c/o Classical Learning Resource Center

P.O. Box 270

Naples, Idaho 83847

 

If you’d like to know more specifics about the CLRC’s needs and future plans, John and Anne would love to chat with you! Contact them at annevanfossen@clrconline.com. Within 10 days, they’ll reply to you to set up a Zoom meeting. 

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Thank you for listening to my story, and many, many thanks for your gift to the CLRC!

 

Wishing you and yours a blessed holiday season,

 

Matthew Gallatin

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