Our family discovered the Classical Conversations program for elementary aged students (Foundations) last year and fell in love! As I learned more about Challenge (Classical Conversations’ programs for middle and high school students) I became intrigued. The constant testimony I hear regarding the earliest Challenge program, Challenge A, is that that it truly helps mature and prepare children for deeper thinking, for high school level work, and for independence. I knew I wanted this for my eldest son and was thrilled to be given the opportunity to help bring Challenge A to our Sacramento Classical Conversations campus this fall.
Challenge A, geared for ages 12 and up**, will meet for 15 weeks in the fall and 15 weeks in the winter/spring on the same day and campus as the Foundations group. Students in Challenge A work within the framework of an academically challenging curriculum while advancing their grammar and dialectic stage skills. Actual subjects studied this year include geography, literature, math, science (biology and natural science), and apologetics, but Challenge A is more than just coursework in various subjects. Students will develop and strengthen the life-long learning skills of grammar, exposition, debate, logic, rhetoric, and research while exploring and learning these subjects. The curriculum is supplemented by weekly classroom time with a trained tutor and peers that are sweating through the same challenging work. Class time will involve practice in memorizing new grammar, games, sharing of assignments, oral reports, and many “Socratic” discussions.
Many parents feel inadequate to home school their students through the high school years and consider putting the kids into school at this time. The older the children get, the more the deep discussions begin to take place and kids start making connections that tie everything together. How can we think to send them away just when things begin to become so interesting? Classical Conversations was created to help and empower you, the homeschool parent, so that you do not have to consider giving up homeschooling. Their philosophy is to come alongside the parents — but NOT to take over for them. The early Challenge programs are designed to help parents and students develop the skills to not only excel academically in high school but to become lifelong learners who genuinely know God and are equipped to make Him known to the world.
Coursework is laid out for the students by the tutor and the Challenge A guidebook, but parents help the students in time management and work ethic. Parents reign supreme in how assignments (or even which assignments) are tackled. Students in Challenge A benefit greatly from being active in a peer group of other children that are adhering to the same challenging standards. Sharing their assignments in front of their peers through oral presentations and having another mentor in their lives with elevated expectations make students substantially motivated to do their best. Kids in this stage of life naturally like to argue; CC capitalizes on this by providing structured class time for the kids to discuss the Bible, history, and science with each other in deep and complex ways. Having peers that come from different backgrounds or worldviews provides a perfect place for students to begin to take ownership over their beliefs and thoughts and to be able to defend those ideas logically.
If you are interested in learning more about Challenge A, please come to one of the informational meetings in June. One will be in my home on the evening of June 16 (please contact me for time and address) and the other will be June 19th at 8:30 a.m. at Ettore’s – the European bakery on Fair Oaks Blvd west of Watt Avenue.
To learn more about Challenge A or Classical Conversations before the meeting, please see CC’s main website: www.classicalconversations.com. This Challenge page has several links to PDF files on the lower right, an audio overview of Classical Education (the CC way), and an audio overview of the Challenge Program. These little audios were also extremely helpful to me in understanding just what the Challenge program is all about and why the curriculum being used was chosen. Please let me know if I should be on the lookout for you at one of these meetings.
**Challenge A will mostly attract students between 7th and 9th grade. CC focuses on skill level rather than grade level, so students will not all be exactly the same age in each class. It is recommended that older students jumping into Classical Conversations for the first time begin with Challenge A or B, regardless of age (We will only have A available on our campus this year). After getting a good year of the basic skills under their belt, these kids could skip a level or two depending upon what they wanted to cover in high school. See the scope and sequence of all the Challenge programs here.