How to Make the Most of CC’s Essentials Program

Welcome to our Essentials-specific page!

Our hope is that this series of pages becomes an excellent resource for CC families. We cover some of the more general info on other pages:

I know this is a lot of information, but I’m going to try hard to use headings and bold lettering to make it easy to scan!

If you have some suggestions (or photos!) you’d like me to add here, please send them to me at: Julie (at)

And now for some legal stuff

I try to use affiliate links whenever possible. So, if you use one of these links I may get a few pennies from it. However, the cost to you will be the same. I promise that I never choose what to suggest to you based on the benefit I might receive from it. You can learn more about our affiliate policy here.

Classical Conversations has asked me to tell you that “References to Classical Conversations do not constitute or imply endorsement by the company.” I’m guessing you knew that, but now we’re all on the same page.

What is CC’s Essentials?

Classical Conversation’s Essentials program is comprised of 3 separate components:

  • Essentials of the English Language (EEL)
  • Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW)
  • Math Games

I’ll talk about each separately, showing you what you need as a parent and offering some extras for tutors!

Before I get started, I want to give you my favorite Printables for Essentials. This PDF includes pages for all three of the components of Essentials I mentioned above:

Help for CC Essentials

Essentials of the English Language (EEL)

In this segment, students learn to parse (label all the characteristics of each word) and diagram sentences. The EEL’s Scope and Sequence page will give you a great overview. Here are a few tips:

  • Weeks 1 and 2 are overviews. You’ll be drinking from a firehose, but don’t let that overwhelm you. You will hear it all again and again!
  • Keep a copy of all the English Grammar you learned in Foundations handy because you’ll use it ALL in EEL!
  • Use the free Printables for Essentials (shown above) to as you learn new elements each week.

Editing Exercises

Within the EEL curriculum is a set of editing exercises. It’s not a core part of the curriculum, so it can easily get overlooked. However, I want to encourage you to do them, even if it’s only 15 minutes per week. Editing exercises are important because they help your student:

  • Practice their capitalization, punctuation, and spelling
  • Understand what they’re seeing when YOU edit THEIR papers
  • Score better on standardized tests (if you care about that) since most standardized tests use editing exercises in some way.

The editing exercises in the 5th Edition of the EEL curriculum are a lot better than what we had in the 4th edition of the guide, but I still think are too hard for most first-year students. (Mostly because they are from a translated work- the Bible- and so, they won’t have the most natural modern English in them). Several people have created alternate editing exercises which you should be able to find on CC Connected.

Whether you’re using the CC editing exercises or others’ editing exercises, here’s how we do it:

  • Give student(s) a copy of the rules of capitalization, punctuation, and spelling. This will give you both a common vocabulary of why something is wrong. (There are a bunch of different copies of rules out there! EEL has some in the curriculum and IEW usually has one in the appendices of their History-Based Writing Lessons.)
  • Complete one exercise per week.
  • The first few times, sit with your student(s) and show them how to pick out the errors and how to mark up the paper. Warn them that they most likely won’t catch all the mistakes at first! 
  • Then look at the answer key together and mark in all the things you missed. If there’s a correction pertaining to a rule they don’t know yet, you can skip it or just correct it and tell them they’ll learn the rule later.


The EEL curriculum includes a list of the most used spelling rules on one page. It’s a handy list, but it doesn’t substitute for an actual spelling curriculum.

We used All About Spelling and were quite pleased with it. No one in our household is a natural speller (except perhaps my husband), so we all benefited from working through the 7 books! No matter what grade you’re student is in, you start on book 1 and work through all the books (although book 7 might be considered optional). Older students just work through the books faster than younger students. You can purchase these straight from the publisher, wherever books are sold, or my favorite place to buy used curriculum: Ebay.

What do parents need to buy?

  • Essentials of the English Language (EEL) Curriculum (written by CC, you must join a CC community to be allowed to purchase it. if you follow the link above to CC’s Bookstore, you can find several free helpful documents like FAQs, Errata sheets, comparisons to previous editions, etc.

Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW)

In this segment, students learn to write papers. IEW provides the content and writing prompts so the student can focus on structure and style. Page 7 of the TWSS gives you a great overview of how you’ll move through the structure patterns over the course of the year. In each lesson, you’ll add another style element, so the papers will progress stylistically over the course of the year as well.


CC doesn’t include a specific list of books to read in Essentials, but IEW does include a recommended list of books to read alongside their curriculum. You’ll find the list on the Scope and Sequence page within the History-Based Writing Lessons spiral book. Typically, you can find most of these books at your local library.

What do parents need?

Math Games

In this segment, students play math games to increase their speed and accuracy with math facts. There are a bunch of great math games out there. One of my favorites is one that my sons and I created ourselves and is available to purchase in our store!

What do parents need?

Nothing!! If you want to recreate one of the math games at home, you’ll probably want some dice!