Analogies for All of Us: Thoughts on Classical Conversations and Communicating Well (with Marc Hays)

Analogies for All of Us Marc Hays Classical Conversations Homeschool Conversations podcast

Many of my friends have found Classical Conversations to be a good option for their families. While CC has not fit with our family’s personal or educational priorities, I know so many folks love CC, and several have asked me to include a Classical Conversations perspective on the podcast. Marc Hays is not only a curriculum developer for Classical Conversations, but he’s also an old friend. In fact, I once lived with the Hays family for several months and helped care for their newly adopted infant triplets! So when I decided to bring on a guest from the CC world, I knew Marc would be a perfect fit. Our conversations touched on topics like Christian classical education, analogies (and why they matter), and the true purpose of skillful communication. Regardless of whether or not you’re interested in Classical Conversations, I know you’ll love this chat!

Be sure to check out all the other interviews in our Homeschool Conversations series!

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Analogies for All of Us Marc Hays Classical Conversations Homeschool Conversations podcast

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Who is Marc Hays

Marc Hays is husband to Jamie, father to six (now seven), and grandfather to Peter. He is a graduate of the CiRCE Teacher’s Apprenticeship and serves as a curriculum developer for Classical Conversations MultiMedia. He is the author of Analogies for All of Us published by CCMM. His wintertime hobbies include cutting firewood, hauling firewood, chopping firewood, and burning firewood. He is happy this hobby includes every member of the family.

Analogies for All of Us Marc Hays Classical Conversations Homeschool Conversations podcast

Watch my conversation with Marc Hays

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Amy Sloan: Hello everyone. Today, we are joined by my long time friend Marc Hays. Marc, it’s really great to have you with us today.

Marc Hays: It’s good to be here. Thank you for contacting me, remembering me, and having me on the show, thank you.

Amy: I think the only guests I’ve had on Homeschool Conversations that I’ve known longer are Wes Callihan and Dr. George Grant. You’re in pretty good company there.

Marc: That’s highly esteemed company right there. I’m honored.

Amy: Marc is husband to Jamie, father to six now seven, and grandfather to Peter. He is a graduate of the CiRCE teacher’s apprenticeship and serves as curriculum developer for classical conversations multimedia. He’s the author of Analogies for All of Us published by Classical Conversations. His wintertime hobbies include cutting firewood, hauling firewood, chopping firewood, and burning firewood. He’s happy this hobby includes every member of the family. That definitely sounds very cozy.

Marc: It is much cozier than central heat and air definitely.

Marc and Jamie Hays Begin Their Homeschool Adventure

Amy: Marc, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your family and how you guys came to start homeschooling?

Marc: Sure. Jamie and I were married in 1998 so we’re looking on our 23rd year, I believe. 23rd year in December. I have wanted to homeschool or I wanted to homeschool since college. When we changed churches while I was in college, I was still living with my parents and went to church with them. There were a couple of homeschool families in the church that we were in. I was impressed; it was memorable. I was impressed by the children. I just appreciated how they interacted with me, how they interacted with their parents, and these are kids so it wasn’t like there were halos around. It was just they were distinctively different and I wanted to know what was going on, what was at play in there, why are they so distinctively different than a lot of other kids that I’ve met?

Once again, great people, just I really liked what I was seeing. I want my kids to be like that. Ever since college, I’ve wanted to. Then Jamie was raised in a small church school that was certain days of the week tutorial and then certain days at home. Then in her high school, she even did just some all-home homeschooling aside from the tutorial. She had an experience with it and was thankful for her education growing up. It was a consensus before we even talked about it that it was what we wanted to do. Then we started out doing the paces with ACE, the accelerated Christian education which is what Jamie did all the way through. It was what Jamie knew, and I was at work, and it’s what Jamie knew, so that’s what we did. We did that all the way up to when Lily was in fifth grade, my oldest daughter, Lily, who is 21 now.

Then a friend of ours approached us actually at a yard sale from church and she said, “Marc, there’s this homeschool curriculum community thing happening in Hartsville this year and I think you’ll be interested.” Indeed, we were interested.

The way the story goes, and I don’t quite remember it this way, but the way the story goes I had already volunteered Jamie to be a tutor before we left the yard sale. I don’t remember it that way. I’m sure I’m much more deferential than that, but that’s the way the story goes. That was when Lily was in fifth grade and she’s 21 so I think we’ve been doing it for 11 years this year.

We have triplets and twins as Amy well knows. Amy lived with us for some time while she was in college. She boarded with us and helped take care of those triplets when they were teeny tiny and used to feed them their midnight and 3:00 feeding so Jamie and I could sweet sleep. We have triplets and they are 17 now. They’re in their junior year. Calvin’s in his challenge four year which is the senior year, but he’s got a little bit to do next year. Then Rosie’s in her junior year officially. Then my twins after we adopted the triplets, we had twins, and that Seth and Laurel are in basically ninth grade this year and in their first year in high school. I guess that’s how I got involved in Classical Conversations.

Classical Christian Education

Amy: Obviously there’s been some growth and changes in your ideas about education over the years. You heard about this thing at a yard sale. How then did that affect and between then and now, how have your ideas about education broadly and then specifically for your family grown and changed?

Marc: Well, I heard of Classical Christian Education, I think it was before we got married. Like ’96, ’97, I was on the mailing list for the Canon Press Books up in Moscow, Idaho. Along with some of the Canon Press mailers, I also got some Logos school mailers for their private Christian school there. I would read the articles in those and I remember when I was still in college, but I remember thinking hey, that classical education thing sounds good. Christianity’s really old, all those books that they’re reading are really old. This all sounds like it goes together very well, although I don’t know that much about it. But back in the late ’90s there was no thought that I would ever have the income to be able to afford private school. This was all in the context of a private five-day week-day school.

I wanted to homeschool, knew I wasn’t going to be able to afford a private Christian school, and so I just thought, that’s nice. It’s too bad I’ll never be acquainted with any of it beyond what articles I read. That was 10 or 11 years before we were approached at the yard sale. When we got into Classical Conversations, Leigh Bortins, the founder of it, was in the midst of doing four years for what she called “seeking the quadrivium,” “finding the quadrivium,” something like that. It was just four consecutive years of these weekend conferences going through the classical quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, harmonics, and astronomy. We missed the first one because we didn’t know about it back when it happened, but then Jamie and I, we went to the rest of them in Atlanta and Cincinnati.

We attended these weekend events. Wes Callihan was at the astronomy one, and Mitch Stokes and James Nickel were at the mathematics one. These speakers who were very well-versed in the ancient liberal arts I was introduced to through Leigh’s quadrivium conferences. That’s where it began to just to be more than the idea of grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric being stages of development. Which is kind of the Dorothy Sayers’s essay model, which is a big part of CC, but that’s a small part of classical education. I was introduced to the 20th-century ideas first through Dorothy Sayer, a classically educated lady who translated Dante’s Divine Comedy and from what I’ve gathered, it’s a highly reputed translation of Divine Comedy.

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Amy: It’s my favorite. I would like to take a moment to also say she didn’t just translate it. She first learned Italian so that she could translate it and then she translated it into English keeping the same meter scheme of the original. Brilliant woman but continue.

Marc: That’s amazing. I didn’t know that about her. But through these quadrivium events, it really got me thinking about classical education. Not just what Dorothy Sayers’s insight into it of the 20th century, but also just going all the way back and to the Greeks and the ancients. That was intriguing and then I became friends with Matt Bianco, who at the time was an academic director. He was the head of the academic department for Classical Conversations. He and I blogged for the same blog called Kuyperian Commentary, Yuri Brito down in Pensacola Florida has been heading that up for well over a decade, but Matt and I blogged together but I didn’t know him. I just read his bio one day and there it said he was an academic director at Classical Conversations.

I went, that’s cool, we go to Classical Conversations, and I asked him what he’d been reading, just because I liked his articles. I like what this guy’s saying; I wonder where he’s getting it. He would send me recommended reading and I would read it and from what he’s told me, I would read it monthly. He’d send me a book or he’d send me a name and I’d buy it and read it, write him back and say, “You got any more,” he’d send me a name. I’d buy it and read it. “You got any more?” Eventually, Matt invited me to his home in North Carolina and said, “Would you like to spend the day together teaching one another lessons and becoming better teachers by teaching one another?” I said that sounds fantastic and so I would travel to North Carolina two or three times in a year.

I traveled to North Carolina two or three times that year and Matt and I would spend all day Saturday in his living room teaching one another lessons and assessing one another and he was a mentor in the CiRCE Apprenticeship, CiRCE Institutes Teacher’s Apprenticeship. He had a plan. I showed up just ready to soak it in and he had a plan; he was there to teach me how to teach and he did. Then I joined the CiRCE Apprenticeship.

So classical education is more than the content it’s also a pedagogy. Even though Mortimer Adler is a 20th-century teacher and educator as well, he really coined it well when he talked about education being made up of three particular components, being facts and skills and ideas, and that’s a really great boxed summary of the way to think about pedagogy, because if you have three things being taught, you also have three ways to teach those things.

This was something that I learned from Matt and from Andrew Kern at the CiRCE Institute regarding classical education, that there’s ways to teach depending on what it is you’re wanting the students to learn.

Now as you approach a lesson, it’s not just, “I have information in here. I want the information to get in there,” but it is, “What am I teaching them?” Then you can ask the next question, “How am I going to teach it?” The CiRCE Institute taught me how to do that. Formally as I looked back at what I’ve been learning through my classical conversations, summer trainings that we would receive as a challenge director, it was all coming together. It wasn’t one thing over here and one thing over here, it was just different ways to approach the same ideas. The ideas of teaching facts and skills and ideas is the way Adler said it.

I was in the CiRCE Apprenticeship for three years. Had the wonderful, wonderful blessing of being mentored by both Andrew and Matt. There’s not much else that’s happened to me in my life that I will be more thankful for. That’s definitely in the top five of being to be their apprentice for those three years. Do you have any question or should I just keep going?

Liberal Arts, Great Books, and Classical Christian Education Wes Callihan

Misconceptions about classical education

Amy: Oh no. Well, I think you’ve already maybe shocked some people. “Wait, that’s not my conception of classical education.” Do you think there are any misconceptions that people have about classical education?

Marc: Yes, I’ve definitely come across a few and it usually ends up being where you end up with an either-or instead of a both, and where there are a whole lot of parts and influencing factors. If we go back to Pythagoras and Socrates and Plato, if we go back to ancient Greece, where the idea of curriculum of the liberal arts of the Socratic method, where all of that began to just germinate and congeal. If we go back 2500, 2600 years, that’s a long time with a lot of people endeavoring to educate a lot of people.

To see classical education as monolithic, to see it as classical education is this one thing and it could just be because that’s all you’ve been taught, you’re new to it or it’s just the circles that you roam around in, but I think a lot of the misconceptions come from making the part the whole and sometimes the content is made the whole and you’d better be learning Greek or it’s not classical.

All the while I will just say my son and I are studying Greek right now because I want us to learn Greek. I would love to be able to read Plato in the original one day.

But to say that you’re not doing classical because you’re missing X, I think oftentimes displays the misconception that everything that I know about it whoever’s talking is everything there is to know about it. Even though nobody would say that, but you hear it like, oh, that’s what it is and then when you hear something else coming in, you’re like, no, that’s not what it is and so it ends up being a sliver of it, which is still a good thing if you go through all 12 homeschooling your kids with whatever sliver you’ve gotten because all of us had just gotten a little bit out of what’s available, but it does result in, I think the word misconceptions is right.

Amy: That’s really helpful to think about taking just that part and making it the whole. I think we all do that in different ways, whether it’s about classical education or other things, but you can also have this is the book list that everyone has to read these books and not that there might not be books that I would say yes, I think we should read those books, but to make like the book list the education is to miss the point.

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Classical Conversations

Well, moving on from that to your work as curriculum developer for Classical Conversations, could you tell us specifically what your family loves about homeschooling with CC and then what guiding principles you think about as you develop curriculum for the program?

Marc: As a family, I’d say the top two things that we love would be the community day where we are coming together throughout the year, elementary school is 24 weeks, high school with 30 weeks. That time together with the rest of the people we’re doing this with is definitely one of the highlights for all of us, for the students to have buddies, to have classmates, to have somewhat of a classroom experience, which isn’t the same thing when it’s us around the dinner table at home. It’s a great thing. It’s just not the same thing. To get together with friends and then for us as parents to get together with parents.

One of the reasons that such a blessing is because of the other thing that is our favorite, which is the guide. For the elementary school years, as the foundation’s guide for your grammar lessons, there’s the essentials guide, and then for all six challenge years from 7th through 12th grade, there is a guide for each year and so those are unifying, so that when all the students from class go home, they see what their assignment is and even though each of those assignments will be embodied in a different way at home between the parents and the students and the artifacts they create, there’s still something holding us together.

As the assignments come together for the next week and we get back together as a group, everybody has been thinking about the same thing and then when we get back together, it allows for that interaction together in class.

As far as at home, we’re thankful for the guide because Jamie and I are not sitting down every July to plan what this next year is going to look like. Some people love that and love that about homeschooling. It’s like, “I’m going to the conference and I’m going to figure out what I’m doing next year, wonderful.” Jamie and I did not want to continually be figuring out what we were doing next year and which is not to say that everyone’s experience is the same as in our house either.

The kids are different, the kids have different needs and sometimes the pace needs to be slowed down. Sometimes the pace needs to be sped up, but overall there’s a foundation rock. We’re starting here. It will wiggle around it and all the teachers and students will wiggle around it, but we’re starting here. We’re very thankful for those two things, especially.

Principles Marc Uses as a Classical Conversations Curriculum Developer

Amy: Then what are some of the principles you use as curriculum developer? What does that mean exactly? What are you developing?

Marc: The first thing that I was tasked with as curriculum developer didn’t go to an entire year’s curriculum. Oh, let’s start out with this.

The word curriculum is from the Latin and it originally was, if you went to the arena to watch the chariot races, and you’re sitting up there, the name of the loop that they ran around was the curriculum that they raced around because the curriculum was the path that they followed. It wasn’t cross country. There was a path that in order to win the race, the chariots all followed around and so that was the curriculum.

When you look at a curriculum for education, and the reason it works so well for education is because the curriculum is the path that we follow. It’s just analogous, which is funny that that word comes up because the first thing I was assigned to do with CC as curriculum developer was to write the analogies for All of Us text.

Right out of the box I wasn’t looking at a whole lot at once in thinking about curriculum being a K to 12 curriculum or even the seventh-grade curriculum. All of those things are many many parts, working in conjunction, but the analogies for All of Us was just one of those parts, and it was just a semester-long. Just due to the decision for one of the books that was in the curriculum to no longer be in the curriculum, it created a gap. If this book is no longer in the curriculum, what will the students be doing there for that semester, in that particular subject matter?

Do we want it to be a lot like what the book we no longer have or is this an opportunity to say, what do we think would fit better there? Even though a lot of Classical Conversations is set, a lot of parts of the curriculum are just the way it is. That’s what we’re doing. Things like that do happen to where there’s gaps. Different books go out of print. There’s all sorts of reasons why there might be a gap in the content. Then when there’s a gap, that’s the opportunity to say, “What can we do to do things better now that we have a gap?”

That decision was made to have an analogies book. When we first decided to do it, it was Leigh’s idea, and the rest of us looked at each other like, “Okay, what is it we want?” We just started ordering and reading analogies books. The idea was just that we would find one. The goal was that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. People have been studying analogies for years. What we found was that there are good ones for much younger ages than we were aiming at, and for much older or more mature people than we were aiming at. For the early junior high, seventh, eighth grade years there’s not much of anything available.

We decided then to create the resource, and it eventually made its way to my desk, which was a blessing because I was in administration at the time. I actually got Matt’s old job when Matt went to CiCRE Institute. I was Academic Director, which is supervisory, administrative. I did okay at it, but it was not my strength. As we looked at the upcoming years in my role with CC, I was shifted over to curriculum, to development and writing from the administrative side of things for which I’m very thankful.

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Analogies for All of Us Marc Hays Classical Conversations Homeschool Conversations podcast

What are analogies and why do they matter?

Amy: Explain to me and to anyone who’s listening and is thinking, “Analogies? That sounds like the SAT and those boring drills I had to do.” What exactly are analogies? Then how do they train us to think and communicate better?

Marc: That’s a great question. The SAT’s that we’re all familiar with. Even one of the books that I read was one of the how to prep for the analogy section of the SAT and it was a great book. I learned a lot about analogies from that prep book. I’m definitely not dogging it. What it did was very limited in its scope, because its purpose was to prepare people for the SAT. This was not a treatise on analogies, this is how to get ready for the SAT. Once again, it was just part of what we mean by analogy.

I was blessed by CC with a library budget and time to read and to learn about this. I read some fantastic books by modern cognitive scientists but also by modern Thomists on Thomas Aquinas’s view of analogies and the role that it played in his writing. I got to read Aristotle’s poetics and metaphysics because you go all the way back to Aristotle. As far as with the formal lessons and analogies, we’ve been analogical thinkers ever since we were created. Once again, what happened in Greece was pretty uncanny. Aristotle began to look at it and categorize what he had learned and it’s very helpful. If I were to say to you, “Glove is to hand as sock is to?

Amy: Foot.

Marc: Foot. I use that one all the time because no one ever gets it wrong. I put wrong in air quotes because there could be another answer that is still analogical, but all of our experience here in the United States, which is the only country I’ve done these talks in, that’s our experience. You put the glove on your hand, and it matches. If you say a sock is to, then you know what I’m looking for is the thing on which the sock goes that it’s going to match the shape of, but I’ve never told you to think I want you to give me the word for the thing that the sock goes on, and that it’s going to match the shape of.

You understood that that’s what I wanted, simply by the flow of that single sentence, glove is to hand. When I say is to, you may not know, “Hey, I’m supposed to categorize that.” In a sense, you probably don’t until you hear the second part. You hear glove is to hand and then I say, “As sock is to,” and your mind knows exactly what to do it and it does the analogizing. Our experience, especially and not by experience, I mean, in the same time, basically in the same place being modern America, because different people groups in different times have, in different eras might make different connections.

If they didn’t know what a sock was, if you’re looking at a jungle people that walk barefoot for their entire lives, it won’t help. They probably don’t even have a word for that. Here in America, we have thought patterns that are just as structured as our verbal patterns. Even more than that, if the analogy you’re making is appropriate for the culture that you’re talking to, then we all have this faculty.

An analogy is not just a thing on paper on the SAT but that’s there because it’s a thinking faculty that we’ve been given by our Creator and the SAT wants to know how well you use that faculty.

With analogies, what I learned was that you don’t have to teach people to think analogically. Then I was stumped. I was like, “Why am I writing a textbook about it? If people don’t have to learn to do this, then they don’t need a teacher if they just do it naturally.”

The direction I’ve decided to go in with the book was that I don’t have to teach you to do it, but I can help you practice it. I can give you opportunity to practice it and I can give you opportunity to see just the sweeping scope of it so that whatever that relationship is, between the terms of the analogy glove is to hand as sock is to foot.

You have four terms. What’s the relationship between glove and hand? What’s the relationship between sock and foot and that it matches. There’s all sorts of aspects of our language that allow us to do that and they result in oftentimes the figures of speech that we use. They also result in the different kinds of stories that we tell and the different genres of literature that we have. That’s why we have different genres and that’s why we have different figures of speech because different relationships call for different categories. On the simplest level, that’s alliteration.

If I say to you, Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, without telling you, those all start with P, you can say it to the youngest kid, they may not know what P is yet. You say Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers and they giggle because it’s funny because it’s a weird relationship. I say weird because there’s seven or eight words in a row and we don’t typically speak that way but it’s a relationship between words. They start with the same consonant sound and that’s a relationship.

We’re comparing. We’re finding similarities. We’re finding differences. What I found in my study is that this is why we’re able to communicate with each other because it’s not simply that we use the same words, but that the words that we use, whether we have studied it or not, fall into the same categories of thinking so that we are able to communicate.

It’s interesting the word communicate sounds a whole lot like the word community and a whole lot like saying we have a lot in common in our community where we communicate.

This idea of commonality is a unifying aspect of all of us being made in the image of God and bearing that image and that likeness and so, therefore, having a relationship to words, as well as to reality around us. Every living thing interacts with its reality, it interacts with its ecosystem, with what’s around it. I’d say not many of them have words. There’s some animals that communicate better than others but they don’t have words for it. There’s something about the Word of God making us that also made us to be users of words. Think about the tower of Babel? What did he do to confound that endeavor? Language, tongue, which immediately resulted in different religions. The understanding of the world was no longer held in common.

I think one of the beauties of studying analogies is that these 12-year-olds, that was written for basically the 12-year-old age group, is that they have opportunity in class or they’ll go home and do their work and when they come back together to share their work and to get their next lesson, what they find is that they don’t all think exactly alike, but they also don’t think entirely differently. The thing that makes the lessons work is that they already have that same faculty and their experience might lead them to a different D term. It’s funny. If you switch up my original analogy a little bit and you were to say, “Hand is to glove, as foot is to–

Amy: It could be shoe, whatever.

Marc: it could be shoe. Just by swapping the terms, it could still be sock, but it could also be shoe, but then again, the way we did it the first time, shoe was excluded automatically. Some of their exercises are very pointed because one of the things they study are antonyms, opposites and antonyms. If it’s light is to dark, as white is to– More than likely, nobody’s going to say charcoal there, but if they were that’s fine. They’re just being clever, but the common thing would be, it’s like, “Oh, white and black and light and dark.”

You would fill it in mostly with the similar answers, but then there’s a lot of examples where you flip it like with the sock and shoes so that the last term is open-ended. Then they come back to class and realize that we all categorized it the same, but I had different words to fit in that category. It feels like it’s a practice of not only these grammatical categories that they’ve been learning and are learning the figure of speech categories maybe for the first time, but it’s also that experience of coming back together to see that they think in the same way, even though they sometimes end up with different answers,

Amy: Well, it’s almost like you’re emphasizing to them their shared humanity, their shared image-bearer-ness, and also teaching them to love their neighbor and see that their neighbor isn’t going to think exactly the same thoughts. You’re having to think about the way that other person is categorizing but that has implications for a lot of life.

Marc: I say too, when I’m talking to parents about the texts and trying to acquaint them with it, even the open-ended ones– An open-ended analogy could have dozens and dozens of correct features that fit the relationship, but because of how many words we have in our language, there’s thousands of wrong answers. This is not relativism. This is not saying, “Oh, everybody’s answer is right.” What we’re saying is everybody’s made the same.

God’s put us here to live together and like you said, to love your neighbor. This is an opportunity to see that we’re not all exactly the same in everything, which is way different than saying, “Oh, let’s play soccer without a ball so that nobody loses.” That’s not what this book is about. It’s to see where we overlap. If somebody puts an answer in that you don’t understand, it doesn’t get a big red X, and you clearly don’t understand, it gets a question, it gets a conversation.

You put this as the final term, what do you mean by that because I don’t see it yet? Oftentimes a 12-year-old is far more imaginative than the adult that’s teaching them and so they may see a category that you don’t see. In my mind, if they’re able to explain the category and it’s coherent, it makes sense with the world, then it’s right. It’s right because analogies work that way. We’re not all going to make the same exact relationships, even though so many times we are, which is what allows us to communicate with one another.

Amy: One of the things I love about Christian classical education in particular (the emphasis on the word “Christian… I think that’s a distinction too, of being a Christian classical educator, as opposed to, I don’t know, a secular classical educator) is we see that connection between words and the Word of God and the character of God Himself and so the creative power, the ability to create and to transform dead hearts.

I love that. I think it’s so important. One of the things I’m really passionate about is that these concepts we talk about to understand don’t just exist in a vacuum. Truth, goodness, and beauty aren’t just these things that exist that God’s like, “Yes, I’m going to like take on that truth thing.” He defines it Himself. It’s true with words too. They have value because Christ is the Logos. They have value because of God Himself.

Analogies for All of Us Marc Hays Classical Conversations Homeschool Conversations podcast

Marc: All the figures of speech, this is something in line with what you’re saying about manifesting in the word and embodying truth, expressing truth in the word that it really hit me about figures of speech is sometimes figures of speech are presented as ways so that your writing is more interesting or it mixes it up every now and then to do a good, strong stimuli. Then your reader is not just stuck in this, but it’s a little different. That is all true.

It’s nice to have variation in what’s being written, but as I thought about the analogies and the figures of speech that flowed out of those categories of thinking, it became more clear that the role of figures of speech is to communicate better. It’s to express the truth better, not simply for it to be more fun to read.

Even with similes, add a simile to the sentence so that you’ve got an explicit comparison.

If you think about what you’re able to do with a simile and your neighbor is that if you’re explaining something that’s somewhat abstract perhaps, or somewhat personal, maybe, and it’s hard to communicate what you’re wanting to say, if you can think of an unlike thing with a shared characteristic and make a direct, explicit comparison by using like or as then, you’ve just communicated more effectively because you have the shared experience of a cheetah.

John ran like a cheetah. Your friend may not know John and so you could say, “It wasn’t just fast. It was crazy fast. It was like a cheetah.”

Then, all of a sudden, there’s an experience that’s shared that allowed for more effective communication, not just prettier communication. All the way through the idioms– I’m sorry. Idiom was just one of them, but all the way through the figures of speech, it was just evident that, “Oh, these aren’t here just for fun” or these aren’t here just to pretty things up.” They are ways for us to communicate more effectively with our neighbor. I appreciated what I learned there.

Amy: I have never thought about that. I’m almost like, “Wait, we need to stop the conversation. I need to think for a few minutes.” I’m going to be pondering about that idea about figures of speech and not just a flourish. They’re not just to add a little flare. It’s really to be a better, more effective communicator.

What Marc Hays is reading lately

Well, this has been so exciting. Thank you for chatting with me about these things and giving me lots to think about. Here at the end, I want to ask you the two questions that I’m asking all my guests this season. The first is just, what are you reading lately yourself? It sounds like you’ve pretty much won the job lottery because you get paid to read awesome books.

Marc: It is the best. What am I reading lately? Well, I’m working on– For the upper challenges, for the high school years right now, we’re endeavoring to get better at what we do. One of the things we decided that we could get better at in the curriculum is to give some clear writing assignments for some of the high school years. We are working on clarity, which also requires a lot of study. What is it we’re wanting to say clearly? If we want to say clearly, what is it we want to say?

One of the things that I am reading a lot of right now are rhetoric texts. On the ancient side, I’ve been able to read some more Aristotle, went back through his On Rhetoric again, which is just wonderful. Then I also read some Quintillian, a first-century teacher, and then some Cicero right around the century before Christ was born. I’m learning a lot from the ancients, but then I also found a book called New Testament Rhetoric, which is by a living author on the ancient categories using that lens to look at the speeches and the way that the New Testament writers communicate. That’s a pretty exciting book as well.

Then I’ve gotten back into music after a lot of years of not doing much with it and so, I’ve been helping create some tin whistle tutorials and exercises for classical conversations. The younger students play tin whistle each year for a six-week time each year.

I’ve been trying to develop more helpful things for them and their tin whistle time. I thought, “Well, if I’m going to be assigning tin whistle exercises, I better learn how to play the tin whistle.” For the last year and a half, for work, I’ve been learning to play the tin whistle and it’s just loads of fun. I’m playing it with my kids. Not all of them love it as much as some of the other ones but we’re playing tin whistle together. I’m back into reading about music and music theory and just trying to get better at that. I’m thankful to be back thinking and reading about music again.

Amy: Oh, that’s really fun. This all sounds great. I’ll have to get the author of that New Testament Rhetoric book from you because that sounds really fascinating.

Tips for the Homeschool Day Going Off the Rails

My final question for you is what tip would you give to the homeschool parent when the homeschool day seems to be going completely off the rails?

Marc: Oh, wow. Okay, as you asked that question, particular events from the last week come to mind, here in the Hays’s house. First, you have to assess the situation. This is not a– It’s not a simple answer but in assessing the situation, you’ve got to identify the problem, and sometimes– Maybe this will be the helpful thing, sometimes homeschool parent, you’re the problem. That doesn’t mean that you’re the only one to blame in the situation, but it could be that you are exacerbating the problem. Perhaps by not rightly assessing what their problem is but being pretty sure you do know. Therefore, you’re going swoop in and fix it. Then come to find out, an hour or two later and 10,000 tears later, that that wasn’t the problem to start out with.

Or it was only part of the problem, it was a very minor part of the problem and swooping in, without pausing to assess, which usually requires asking questions and listening. Sometimes, swooping in results in much longer frustrations than if we started out more slowly. Sometimes, we don’t know what questions to ask. Sometimes, it just takes some long moments of silence to find a better question. I say all this personally, because I’m super guilty of it. Super guilty of thinking, I know how to teach, and they’re not learning so it’s their fault. Quite often it has nothing to do with teaching or learning. It has to do with what’s going on with them.

Amy: Yes, I am so guilty of talking way too much at my children as if, in the multitude of words, I’ll somehow fix their issues. In my head, that’s how I think of it. Then you read proverbs and it’s like, well, in a multitude of words, sin is not lacking. Maybe I should be quiet. One of the things my husband does that I just really appreciate, he’s really good at instead of immediately trying to go in and like deal with the situation, he has everyone stop and pray. Sometimes, in the middle you really are– It’s irritating because you’re like, “No, I want to fight. I don’t want to pray right now.” That’s really what we need a lot of the times, it’s not to just start running our mouths and trying to fix the issue but just stop, pray, listen, and be still. Sometimes, that’s a lot, ends up being more productive.

Marc: That’s the best advice. That’s the advice right there. Stop and pray.

Find Marc Hays Online

Amy: Well, Marc, where can people find you around the internet?

Marc: Well, I have a Facebook account, still, and probably won’t give it up in the midst of sometimes wanting to very badly. I’m on Facebook. If you spell my name right, I don’t think it’d be too hard to find me. I don’t do much else online. If I have an Instagram account, I don’t remember that I do. I haven’t seen it probably since the day I made it. I’m not there but I do try to stay active on Facebook.

I’ve written some articles. There’s some articles, both on the Classical Conversations website and there’s a handful in the CiRCE Institute website so you can find some articles there.

I have a YouTube channel and I play some music sometimes. Sometimes when somebody videos a speech of mine, I’ll upload it there, so there’s some lectures on my YouTube channel. I guess those are the places.

Amy: Well, fantastic. I will link up to your Facebook and some of your articles in the show notes for this podcast episode of and I might even find a YouTube video to embed. If you’re listening in your podcast app, you should go check out the transcript and see which ones I picked. [laughs] Thank you so much, Marc. Please tell Jamie and your family that I said hello.

Marc: I sure will. Thank you for having me, Amy.

A few of Marc’s articles

Check out all the other interviews in my Homeschool Conversations series!

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