To know God and to make Him known.

Rising to the Challenge

After directing Challenge B for a year, I’ve come to a conclusion. Classical Conversations’ curriculum choices are pure genius. They effortlessly intertwine to produce a beautiful tapestry of knowledge—one telling God’s story of mankind’s humanness, redemption, and hope for the future.

However, I do know that a source of frustration with the program for some has been the firm age requirements for the Essentials and Challenge programs. I’m not one to blindly follow rules. In fact, I usually need to be convinced that the rules are worthy of my attention. Nevertheless, after being involved with Classical Conversations for eight years, I can say with no hesitation that there definitely is a method to the madness.

As we all know, children mature at extremely different levels in extremely different ways. Placing as many as twelve to sixteen kids together in a class is tricky enough, but if they’re spread apart by a wide age range, a difficult teaching situation could be created for both tutor and students. There is so much more to readiness than academics. I’ve tutored Essentials as well as directed Challenge B and I’m thankful for the age requirements.

Classical Conversations provides a bounty of curriculum just waiting for teachers (you and me) to delve into. Yes—there are age requirements, but we are entirely free to pursue more advanced work at home if we feel our student needs an extra challenge. I’ve always bumped up my children’s curriculum by looking ahead and combining the younger one’s learning with what the older one is doing. Nobody is holding us back from getting a head start on advanced subjects at home. There are many ways to tap into the Essentials and Challenge program, and all of these resources are available at our own Classical Conversations bookstore!

Is your child too young to be enrolled in Essentials? Work through Our Mother Tongue. I love this book and have pretty much worn it out over the years. It’s user-friendly and offers interesting history tidbits in the sidebars. Do you want to learn how to diagram sentences? Grammar and Diagramming Sentences provides a plethora of sentences to dissect. Quick Flip Arithmetic helps to solidify math facts. Any student playing these games at a young age will be a math game whiz when officially enrolled in Essentials and the experience will make all future math lessons more enjoyable.

If you have an older student in Challenge A or just want to work ahead, learn the geography together as a family. CC Connected has flashcards available to download and print as a fun memory game, and the new resource Exploring the World Through Cartography promises to work well across age levels and abilities. Drawing the different systems of the human body also lends well to inclusion of a younger sibling and by learning together, everyone will excel.

Literature is easy to steal from Challenge. This year, I’m planning for my sixth grader to read and narrate from some of the Challenge A and B books. These include Amos Fortune, Number the Stars, Little Britches, The Hiding Place, and Where the Red Fern Grows. Word’s Aptly Spoken: Children’s Literature is an excellent resource that can spur parent and student into rich conversation. Word’s Aptly Spoken: Short Stories is full of classic stories, questions to ponder, and a guide to literary analysis.

What about Latin? There are so many choices, but if you’re headed towards Challenge, why not take the plunge into Henle Latin? I’m using the Memoria Press guide to help us get an introduction before Challenge A.

Two more excellent Challenge studies that work well with the younger set are Challenge B’s Discovering Atomos and Intermediate Logic’s lessons about digital logic. Discovering Atomos is an introduction to chemistry that is very doable for younger students. Digital logic is the math of today. Although Challenge B students normally don’t study these lessons at the end of the book, that doesn’t mean we can’t tackle them on our own at home. These intriguing lessons have inspired my family to dive into learning computer coding over the summer.

I can’t end without encouraging everyone with a student in or nearing Challenge to subscribe to the CC Connected Challenge Tier. It is overflowing with information and inspiration. The Classical Learning Center has enough instructional videos to provide learning for a lifetime!

Classical Conversations has so much to offer us as parents and as teachers. Don’t let yourself feel stifled by age requirements. Explore the bookstore and CC Connected, and work ahead. Being prepared and feeding our children’s interests are not only our jobs but also our delights as homeschooling parents.


CATEGORIES: Articles, Classical Christian Education, Dialectic Stage (ages 12 to 14), Grammar Stage (ages 4 to 11)

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