Stephanie Froehlich: A pioneer in Classical Conversations

Stephanie Froehlich is a pioneer in Classical Conversations in North Dakota.

Classical Conversations is an international home-centered education program focusing on classical education and reclaiming the lost tools of learning.

After Froehlich and her husband, Col. Eric Froehlich, commander of the 5th Maintenance Group at Minot Air Force Base, moved to the base from the Washington, D.C., area in July 2011, she started Classical Conversations here, although its start was delayed for a time by the Souris River flood and its aftermath.

Froehlich is the director of the local Classical Conversations campus the only one in North Dakota as well as in South Dakota and Montana. She’s also the program’s service manager for N.D.

For 24 weeks, each week the winter program meets at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Minot where home-schooled students and tutors/parents come together for a day of learning and to be with their Classical Conversations campus “family.”

The students are divided into several groups. Elementary includes 4- and 5-year-olds – the abcedarians; 6- and 7-year-olds – the apprentices; 8- and 9-year-olds – the journeymen; and 10- 11-year-olds – the masters. The middle school or seventh- and eighth-graders are in the Challenge program. The Minot program does not have senior high at this time but other Classical Conversations campuses have that level.

“Eight students per class is the cap,” Froehlich said.

Classical Conversations was founded in 1997 by Leigh Bortins, of Pinehurst, N.C., who worked in the aerospace field for many years before she became an educator. Bortins developed the curriculum.

“We do not vary from the curriculum or the way that she set up the program,” Froehlich said. She said it has been found that varying from the program has resulted in its failing.

A board in the 4- and 5-year-olds’ classroom at St. Mark’s listed that age group’s curriculum including history, geography, English, Latin, math and science.

She said a full campus for Classical Conversations is 64 students. “In our case, ours is not full. We have a total of 38 students and we’re not full yet. We have room to grow,” she said.

A tuition-based program, Froehlich said all fees stay local.

Froehlich has been involved in Classical Conversations proper for three years and home schooling for nine years. All of the Froehlich children from Hayden, 13, Meredith, 11, to Ethan, 6, are home schooled. Amelia, 3, also was at the Classical Conversations program Thursday with her mother and siblings.

A former labor and delivery nurse, Froehlich was a Classical Conversations tutor before she became a director/service manager. She worked with the program in northern Virginia before coming to Minot AFB.

She was hired last year as the service manager for the state of North Dakota. “My job as Classical Conversations service manager is to oversee new areas that want to start a campus,” she said. She will interview the potential directors and then guide the directors in getting started with their own campus.

“Each of these campuses are sole proprietorships,” Froehlich said. She is the owner of the Minot Classical Conversations campus.

“All my guidance comes from the corporate Classical Conversations but all of these campuses are remotely run,” she said.

When the Froehlichs moved here, she said there was no Classical Conversations program in the state. “I wanted to make sure we both cover the whole state as well as get something started right here in Minot,” she said.

“We are pioneers and I like to tell all my students that pioneers usually don’t have it easy they have to work really hard to get the word out about the program but also their material is very hard,” she said.

She continued, “We like to talk a lot about being pioneers, like I gave each one a North Dakota ornament with a horse and wagon on it – the pioneers. These ornaments say the pioneering spirit and that’s kind of what our motto is for this new campus – that we are pioneers.”

“We are very proud to be the first one in North Dakota. I love North Dakota, I love the people up here and I really do think this program is valuable and worthy to keep going in this area,” Froehlich said.

“This program is about what we can do when we are a group – when we come together. When the group comes together we can really encourage and support each other,” she said.

She said the program revolves around the group and the natural outpouring of meeting together each week.

“It’s a blessing nationwide for many, many people who, especially here where you are somewhat isolated as a home-schooler. So every week you get together with another group of people who are like-minded who are homeschooling, and their children. You can bounce ideas off of them, and you can encourage and support each other, and it becomes a very powerful group for you that you can be a part of,” Froehlich said.

Froehlich will be hiring a coordinator for the program who can carry it out after the Froehlichs leave Minot AFB.

“The goal is to keep the program going,” she said.

“I know this program will continue because the people that are in the campus now, most of them are not leaving so it’s not going to fall apart when I leave. My goal is to raise up and equip and empower these other families to feel that they can do it just as well as I can do it,” she said.

For more about Classical Conversations, visit the website at (www.classicalconversations.com).

(Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944 or Managing Editor Kent Olson at 857-1939. Either can be reached at 1-800-735-3229. You also can send e-mail suggestions to mdnews@minotdailynews.com.)