Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Classical Conversations ~ Let’s Talk about Challenge A

We are wrapping up our fourth year with Classical Conversations. Can it possibly have been that long since we took the plunge?

I wrote a detailed post about Classical Conversations a short while into our third year, and not much has changed. All three boys are in the morning Foundations classes for the fourth year while Lola hangs out in the nursery. This is Levi’s second year in the afternoon Essentials class and Luke’s first. Leif attends an afternoon play camp and then an early elementary choir class. (Levi and Luke attend beginning choir after Essentials.) Levi, Luke, and I are all working toward becoming Memory Masters again this year (Cycle 2).

But next year opens a whole new chapter. Challenge.

Levi will be enrolled in the full-day Challenge A class for 7th grade, with a full plate of assignments for his week at home.

The Classical Conversations Challenge levels include 6 “seminars”: Grammar, Exposition and Composition, Debate, Research, Rhetoric, and Logic. Students complete work at home and come prepared to present and discuss during class one day each week for 30 weeks.

This is going to be a tremendous transition for Levi. Half of me is excited for the new opportunity and half is filled with trepidation. It is fairly easy for me to pinpoint what will come easily and what will be a struggle. Time will tell if I’m correct.

I’ve spent some time thinking over the ways in which he is prepared, and where we might be able to close the gap during the next few months.

:: Grammar—“Latin A” using Henle First Year Latin

We’ve been progressing slowly with Latin for the past 4 years using Prima Latina, Song School Latin, Latina Christiana, and First Form Latin. I think Levi will be well-prepared for a strong start in Henle Latin if we can finish up First Form Latin in the next few months.

The strong grammar foundation he has received in Essentials will be helpful as well.

:: Exposition and Composition—Literature, Discussion, & Persuasive Writing

Challenge now uses The Lost Tools of Writing, and I’m excited that Levi has the opportunity to use this program. I have the teacher’s manual and the DVDs. Now I just need to find some time to read and watch. I did attend a Lost Tools of Writing workshop a year ago, so I’m hoping that gives me a little head start. Levi has been writing with IEW’s history-themed writing books for the past two years in Essentials, but prescribed writing is definitely a struggle (he enjoys free-writing on his own topics). He has two big writing assignments coming up at the end of this school year—a research paper and a persuasive essay. I’m praying for a strong finish.

I think Levi has previously read all of the literature selections, and both of us will re-read them over the summer. It should take him a day or so, and me all summer long. [sigh]


:: Debate—Geography

Levi has had a lot of geography exposure through CC Foundations, but drawing the entire world from memory is going to be a huge challenge! I hope to have him regularly draw maps through the summer, and he’ll be spending quite a bit of time on the geography quizzes at Sheppard Software. I’ve purchased the recommended Compact Atlas of the World to get him started.

::  Research—Natural Science

The first semester involves researching an assigned topic each week. The students record their research, illustrate or make a model of their findings, and present the results in class during the seminar. If I understand correctly, the students are able to use the IEW model for writing these papers. Levi and I might try a practice run or two with our own science topics over the summer.

The second semester involves drawing, labeling, and memorizing nine body systems. I have the biology worksheets used in class, so we will probably just browse the book so that we can familiarize ourselves with the general idea. The Foundations classes will be memorizing human body systems during the first half of the year (and Levi went through that cycle a couple years ago).

::  Rhetoric—Clear Reasoning

The first semester (I believe) uses the book It Couldn't Just Happen: Knowing the Truth About God's Awesome Creation, which I’ve purchased and will pre-read. Students are assigned weekly reading, outlining, and summarizing, and also memorize a series of catechism-style questions.

During the second semester, students work through The Fallacy Detective: Thirty-Eight Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning. Levi attended a 3-day logic camp (using the same book) last summer, has read the book, and has watched the DVD. He enjoyed it all, and I think he’ll be glad to go through it in-depth.

[Edited to add] This is a fantastically fun illustrated book of fallacies, online for free, that complements The Fallacy Detective. I’ll have Levi read through it a few times.

::  Logic—Mathematics

Levi has been using Teaching Textbooks, but the recommended text for Challenge A is Saxon Math 8/7. Since Levi has just finished Teaching Textbooks 6 and it is not necessarily a rigorous program, I’ve purchased Saxon 7/6 with the Teaching Tapes (recommended by Leigh Bortins). Levi will work through 7/6 over the next five months. He won’t finish it (I don’t expect that he will complete a lesson daily over the summer), but I’m hoping it makes the transition to Saxon 8/7 a little easier.


This Challenge program will be a new experience for us, so I’ll keep you posted as we go through our year!

(Nothing will change for Luke and Leif, though Lola may spend our community day off-campus with my mom or sister. She doesn’t turn four until the first of October, and I’d like to wait another year before enrolling her in Foundations.)

Have you had a child go through Challenge A? Would you like to share your experience or tips that might be helpful?

[Edited to add] The recent post, What’s it like to be a Challenge parent?, at Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood is a great resource and encouragement. Check it out!


ohio12 said...

This is SO helpful!

Can you help me know what to order for First Form Latin? Did you just order the whole kit? I have a daughter one year behind your son so I have a year to prepare her for Challenge A. I am not worried about any individual subject as much as the overall rigor. So much writing and intensity!

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to give you encouragement that it sounds like Levi will be very well prepared for Challenge A. My son is nearly done this year and we were no where near as prepared and he has done pretty well. Much of it was new to us, although he did have two years of Foundations and Essentials, but no formal Latin and hadn't read most of the books. It has been great for encouraging his independence and keeping him on a schedule. We don't do the full hour a day which is suggested for each subject, just because it hasn't been totally necessary and we have History to cover as well, but he has kept up with the class very well. Best of luck! It is fun to see the changes in my 12 year old and it is wonderful to have a little outside accountability. It will be a great year!

Heidi said...

Ohio12~ I ordered the whole kit including the DVDs for Levi, but I wouldn't say that's absolutely necessary. It has been nice to put in the DVD for the boys to watch, though. :) The flashcards have been super handy. We definitely have used the teacher's manual, student text, and workbook. (My 4th grader is following along with us, but I don't have him do the workbook.)

Anonymous~ That's great to hear! As prepared as Levi is, I still have some big concerns. He is incredibly distracted and has great difficulty staying on task and working independently. He prefers a dynamic, interactive, verbal atmosphere. ;) Writing is also a big challenge for him, and I'm concerned about the quantity of writing across the subjects. We'll see. I'm planning to schedule at least an hour per subject, and trying to plan for my own time to help him with writing. If that goes well, we'll add in more history and reading. I know there will be a lot of adjustment as we go through the year! Thanks for the encouragement!

KellyinPA said...

This is so timely! We, sadly, cannot participate in CC but I like the curriculum choices in some areas and use it at home. Looking forward to future updates concerning Challenge A:)

pinkdaisyjane said...

We'll be joining a CC community Foundations class in the autumn. I love reading about what the Challenge students are doing! It helps me to press forward. Thank you for sharing!

Unknown said...

I would suggest that you pick up a copy of Apologia's General Science book. I bought one at our local used books sale AFTER my daughter finished Challenge A last year. It covers classification of living things (fall semester) briefly & has a unit on each body system (spring). The first unit of the book is about the history of science, which is the fall semester of Challenge B. Oh well, we have it now for daughter #2, who will be in Challenge A this fall. The high school biology book is also helpful for fall, for use as a research resource.

We have been very happy with the Challenge program & plan to continue. In my opinion, success in Challenge is directly related to how much mom is willing to stay involved. I have seen many moms who seem to think that it is a "drop off & someone else will teach my child" program, like many other homeschool tutorials in my area. It is NOT! It really is a discussion/study group - all the hard work has to be done at home before CC day. That means that you will need to learn Latin, logic, & any other subjects along with him in order to assist him. Our Challenge director arranged her schedule so that Latin (in A) and logic (in B) were the first subjects of the day, so parents could stay & participate. I found that to be very helpful! Good luck next year, it sounds to me like he has a great foundation & will do just fine!

pnix said...

I just have to tell you that I came across your blog searching for CC info the other night and I am hooked! I have really enjoyed listening to Andrew Kern and reading your posts this week. And I also love Story Warren! Thanks so much for your honesty and insight, I feel like we would have tons to talk about over coffee : )

Kate said...

My first grader is just finishing his first year of Foundations, so Challenge is a long way off for me, but I appreciate hearing how thoughtfully you're preparing for next year.

I'm curious about your prereading plan. Would you mind sharing a little about why you're planning to do it, and what you're hoping to get out of it? I can see how it would be very helpful to have a jump start on the year's content before you're in the thick of teaching!

Heidi said...

Thanks for the tips, Em D! I've put the Apologia books on my wish list at Amazon and will probably go ahead and get them before September. I am definitely planning on staying involved. :) I'm not sure how to juggle our days (including CC day) with the younger kids, but I know that Levi needs my involvement!

pnix~ Thanks for taking the time to say hello! I hope you stick around. :)

Kate~ In my experience, just reading through a book is very different from reading with the intent to discuss and write. The more familiar Levi is with the books, the better he will be able to pick out details and spend more time on the writing portion. I know that it will be extremely difficult for me to find the time to read them during the school year, so I plan to take notes this summer and do some analysis (the story chart from Teaching the Classics). That way I'm prepared to discuss the books and help Levi with writing as they are scheduled throughout his school year.

The Vosslers said...

Hey there ... having had a Challenge A student ... you can take this advice or not. But you might like what I'm about to say. :)
- Challenge A isn't THAT hard. It's actually fun and a breath of relief to see that it's designed to be age appropriate.
- He won't need to draw maps all summer. If he has done Foundations and drawn maps there, he'll be FINE. I would advise to let him learn the information new when it's presented. And you can totally count "art" when he's doing it. My son's drawing skills improved astronomically through the geography strand.
- Latin ... if you've memorized the work and already done some other Latin, just relax. It's not a rapid pace. It's okay. It doesn't really even get challenging until the second semester and they REPEAT it next year. It's okay. It really is. If you're going to do anything, just pre-memorize the noun declension endings and keep up on the verb endings. That'll be the most useful of ALL. Besides if he's done Essentials ... that'll make it a piece of cake.
- writing. If he's been doing IEW, he's prepared. It's okay. If he's already read the books, don't make him read them again. Let him read something new this summer. Especially if he's a fast reader, then let him relax and read them when they are assigned. He'll have time.
- Science ... super fun and easy. It's FUN to pick their topic. It's FUN to find the books and sources. All it is, is making a couple outlines from sources, fusing them and writing ONE paragraph a week. ONE paragraph. And a drawing. It's actually a delightful part. Sort of a break in their assignments. No pre-reading necessary. Just enjoy.
- Rhetoric --- good for you to pre-read it, but don't worry about him. I don't know if you planned on having him pre-read, but it's a notetaking and discussion class and moves at a VERY reasonable speed. Love your link!
- Math ... consider having him do the NEW learning portion of each lesson in 7/6 over the summer so he feels comfortable with Saxon and any new material. 8/7 is really just a review of all foundational developmental math in prep for algebra. So, it's really a great big review book. Or, just have him complete a Saxon placement test. It might even work better to have him go straight into 8/7 over the summer and get a little ahead to give you some leeway for harder weeks later on in the year or illness and such.

What's it like to be a Challenge parent? I parented a child through it with some other tremendous struggles which I can't really talk about on a public forum. We actually had to stop Latin and stick with review halfway through the year and I had to hold his hand through so much of it ... but not at all because of the difficulty of the material, because of meltdowns due to other things (all while 4 younger children were running around). A typical child will be just fine, and you'll be perfectly fine. No need to really prep. He's prepared. :)

Kate said...

Thanks for responding, Heidi! I agree, there are very different types of reading...and the lit books on Challenge A list are well worth knowing well. One thing I've really appreciated from my listening to lectures on classical Ed is the "multum non multa" approach, as it has helped me see the value of reading fewer books, but choosing the best and spending a lot of time on them.

Heidi said...

The Vosslers~ Thanks for sharing your experience! I appreciate the words of wisdom. :)

Even though he is really prepared in some ways, I'm still concerned about the writing and detail work. Levi's a verbal, big-picture kid. Specific "complete these exercises" lessons are a challenge for him (math, Latin...) and writing (even a single paragraph) is very difficult. He's fairly good at memorizing the geographical locations and he enjoys tracing maps, but he struggles with drawing maps freehand. I'm super curious to see how he does this next year. Reading and talking are his strong skills. ;) I hadn't planned on him reading It Couldn't Just Happen, but he saw it yesterday and asked for it. And finished it today. Ha! I could give him the stack of assigned literature and he'd have it done in a flash (a couple days, truly) with plenty of time leftover for many more books this summer. It's difficult to figure out how to deal with his reading. Someone else mentioned not having kids read the books ahead of time so that they aren't bored with them, but as Kate mentioned above there is value in reading fewer books but digging deep into them. I don't know how to get a lightning-speed reader to dig deep other than to read a book several times and spend more time on discussion. Luckily he enjoys reading most books more than once. :)

Kristy said...

HI--Just came across your blog while searching for Challenge A support information. My daughter will be entering ChA this fall with only one year of Foundations & Essentials experience. I will be following your journey with interest and will hopefully have useful things to share as well!


Unknown said...

Oh my goodness I just read your blog on Challenge A and my son is in the same dilemma with math. We just finished teaching textbooks math 6 and I didn't realize it wasn't a rigorous program either. Now we are heading into Challenge A and when we did the placement test he should be 7/6 not 8/7 which is what they do in challenge. I was wondering what you ended up doing concerning the math while Levi was in Challenge A. Thanks Blessings and I love your blog!

Heidi said...

Heather, we did use Saxon 8/7 in Challenge A for my oldest, but it was torture for both of us for many reasons. We switched to Khan Academy this past year for all 3 boys and I LOVE IT. We'll be using it through high school. You can read a little more about it here.