Not satisfied with being conventional aerospace engineers, Leigh and Rob Bortins decided they wanted to educate their oldest son, Robert, at home. This decision helped birth the award-winning entrepreneurial venture, Classical Conversations Inc.
Accumulating information in an era before the Internet, Leigh Bortins spent thousands of hours gathering resources, reading books, attending conferences and learning the different models of education. As a result of her extensive research, she settled on the classical approach and set out to develop a curriculum for her four sons that would allow her to home educate them using the classical model of education, but taught from a Christian perspective.
After moving to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the Bortinses established themselves as pioneers in classical home education. Leigh founded Classical Conversations in September of 1997 with 11 students. In a leap of faith, Leigh decided to enter the annual Piedmont Entrepreneurial Network’s New Business Competition in 2002, and win! Within four years her organization was helping not 11 students, but nearly 3,000 students.
She expanded her educational focus beyond her Challenge I and Challenge II programs with a two new programs: Her “Foundations” program organized thousands of important facts in the areas of math, geography, art, music, science, history, Latin and English grammar into small bite-sized pieces for grammar school students. She also launched the “Essentials” program. This two-hour afternoon program focused mainly in building proficiency for students between the 4th and 6th grade in math and language. But managing the expansions single-handedly wasn’t easy. Soon, she developed a field team to expand the program beyond the central North Carolina area.
Phenomenal growth is a hallmark of Leigh Bortins’ company. Appointing two state managers in 2004, by 2011 she had over 30 managers planting new Classical Conversations’ communities across the country. Classical Conversations celebrated its 10th anniversary in 1997, with over 200 families attending the celebration in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Over the years, Leigh developed many aspects of Classical Conversations, including creating its own educational publishing house to produce books, videos, mobile applications and other educational, multimedia resources in order to better equip the students in her programs and their parents. In 2013, her oldest son, Robert, the reason behind the inception of the whole program soon stepped into her shoes, taking over leadership of the company as CEO. Leigh chose to focus primarily on writing and curriculum development as Chief Academic Officer.
Classical Conversations recently celebrated its 20th anniversary marking two decades of growth and innovation. The company now assists 116,000 students and 45,000 families as they homeschool in 2,500 Classical Conversations’ communities in all 50 states and 22 foreign countries. Robert Bortins is certainly aiming high, as he hopes to reach 185,000 students by 2020, revising their curriculum and providing additional services to help them become exceptional students.
What began as a simple desire to improve the way she educated her sons, grew into the world’s largest classical homeschooling organization that has set the bar very high with its exceptional academic programs and outstanding growth worldwide.