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Challenge A

We believe...

...teenagers will rise to a challenge.

When students take ownership in their education, they can achieve great things. This theme runs through the Challenge A literature, natural science, cartography, Latin, analogies, and math studies. Students are challenged, and they discover they are capable of more than they thought possible.

(For ages 12 and up.)

The Challenge A program is aptly named. It offers many challenges, and students often surprise themselves and their parents by how much they can learn when they use good study habits and apply themselves. This program offers a full course load of six subject areas. Students study at home under their parents’ guidance and come to the seminar once a week ready to discuss the subjects, share a paper, make a presentation, solve problems together, and hear ideas from peers and their mentor.

The highlight of the year is when students demonstrate that they can draw an entire world map with countries, states, provinces, capitals, and geographic features labeled. They also learn research skills, writing skills, memorization skills, and presentation skills. Directors lead discussions and give feedback and encouragement to support parents, who are the lead teachers at home. For students who have been in the Foundations and Essentials programs, this is an exciting transition year because they move to a full day with one group of peers. Their parents do not have to attend seminars with the students, so students get to discover the fun and responsibilities of independence. (Parents and directors continue to provide lots of guidance in keeping organized, staying on track, and managing time.)

To purchase your resources for this program, visit the Classical Conversations Bookstore.

The Seminars

Students start at the beginning of Henle First Year Latin. Seminar usually begins with a review of an English grammar concept, and then students discover how that concept is treated in Latin. Together, students and the director practice translating sentences that contain the day’s concept. There is an emphasis on memorization of vocabulary and word endings. Students gain skills for learning any language through this systematic approach.

Students read inspirational novels of heroes who overcome obstacles and follow Christ such as Amos Fortune, Free Man; The Bronze Bow; and Carry On, Mr. Bowditch. If students have not discovered a love of literature by now, they may discover it this year! Students enjoy lively discussions during seminar time and use their notes to compose persuasive essays at home. They begin to use a composition program called The Lost Tools of Writing, which lays the foundation for higher level thinking, writing, and speaking skills.

Come along on a thrilling adventure aboard one of CC’s new resources, Exploring the World Through Cartography, which will ignite the imagination of the entire family, while integrating material from Foundations through Challenge IV. Challenge A will use this in the Debate strand to draw a map of the world, compare a variety of maps from ancient times to the present, navigate a user-friendly index and read insightful stories from around the globe. This non-consumable, flat-lying resource will allow families to travel throughout time, terrain and tales from the comfort of their own home.

Instead of giving students a textbook to read, in this seminar we give them a blank book to fill. Following the director’s guidance, each student researches one sub-category of a topic and presents it in seminar with illustrations. Topics range from fungi to aquatic mammals. In the final quarter, students do an intensive study of human biology, drawing body systems daily until memorized.

Science Fair will be a unique opportunity for students to creatively explore the art of inquiry through scientific research.  The students will use the common topic questions to expand their knowledge of the scientific method as they perform an experiment of their own choosing.  The process will include: developing a research plan, performing an experiment, formulating a research paper and enhancing presentations skills.  Through this experience, they may discover the scientific laws which govern our universe, and the God who designed them in all of their complexity.

Two general topics are discussed during the year: connecting ideas by constructing analogies, and thinking and speaking truthfully. Both courses set the foundational premises upon which other Challenges build. Students will be assigned weekly readings and exercises, including recognizing analogies, writing with stylistic devices, and identifying fallacies in arguments. In seminar, tutors will lead discussions on the materials studied and students will share their creations from the week at home.

Students discuss math in class by working problems together and describing the problem solving process to the director and other students. Saxon 8/7 is used as a guide for seminar practice and is recommended (but not required) for use at home. Mathematics has its own language, and seminar time is used for practicing “speaking the language” of math. No matter what math level or curriculum the students are doing at home, they will all benefit from this practice time. More advanced students find that they build a stronger foundation by learning how to help others see and understand new concepts, while students who may be working at a lower level at home benefit from a preview of what they will see soon at home.

The theme of Challenge A is ownership. Students learn through the year that one can and should take ownership for one’s own education.

Students are challenged to think about questions such as, “How does the entire created world illustrate God’s invisible attributes?” and “What do math or Latin studies tell me about God’s character?” As students dive into these and other fascinating questions from literature, their awareness of God’s magnitude is enlivened.

After a year’s study in Challenge A, students become solid owners of the skills of learning, especially memorization and discussion. Students find the discussion format and small group setting much more conducive to learning than a large, lecture-style format. The fellowship that forms in this setting builds supportive friendships that last all the way through to graduation and beyond.

Challenge A FAQ

What is the benefit of having one director for all six seminars?

Classical Conversations' directors acknowledge that Christ is the Creator and the sustainer of all areas of study. The beauty of staying with the same director all day is the student is able to observe the director weave the various seminars together and learn how the various areas of study are intertwined. Being with the students across all subjects helps directors mentor each student as a whole person. One director writes, "I think being with the students across all the subjects helps me love them. Perhaps they aren't great writers, but they are brilliant in Latin, and they can quote a Bible verse for any occasion, so it's easier to appreciate that God made us all different, and He is wise…. It gives you patience: a patience that doesn't communicate that students can slide, a patience that communicates, 'I know you'll get this; you're going to be great; I'll do what I can to help you get there.'"

How long will it take each day to complete Challenge A assignments?

Classical Conversations recommends that students spend an hour on each of the six seminars every day, for a total of six hours of study each school day.

What is so special about Latin? Why study Latin?

Because over 50% of our English words come from Latin, the study of Latin provides context and meaning to the English language. Learning Latin also brings richness to the study of math, science, and logic, as many terms in these areas of study are Latin words. Additionally, knowledge of Latin provides the student with a tool to study literature. Lastly, Latin trains a student to think critically and well as they wrestle through translations. Students who have studied Latin perform better on the SAT as a result of having learned how to think well. Dorothy Sayers, a British educator and contemporary of C.S. Lewis wrote, "I will say at once, quite firmly, that the best grounding for education is the Latin grammar. I say this not because Latin is traditional and medieval, but simply because even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin cuts down the labor and pains of learning almost any other subject by at least 50 percent" (The National Review).

Why do students stay together when they are on different levels of math or Latin?

The Challenge programs emphasize discussion. Regardless of the Latin or math level that a student is studying, he can participate in the seminar conversation concerning the concept that is being modeled. The concept might be review, it might be exactly where the student is at, or it might be a preview of a concept the student will encounter shortly. Each scenario is highly beneficial to the student's education. The beauty of home schooling is that students can move at a faster or slower pace as needed when they are at home. Our communities give them a unique opportunity to practice compassion, helping students who have more difficulty with the subject, or humility, asking for help from students who find the concepts easier to grasp.

Why does Classical Conversations use The Lost Tools of Writing?

Just because a student can speak English does not mean he can write well. Good writing, like any other skill, is taught and honed through systematic study and practice. The Lost Tools of Writing is the perfect writing program for students in this age range. As they transition from concrete to abstract thinking, they need tools to help them transfer their thoughts from brain to paper. The Lost Tools of Writing (LTW) equips students to think and arrange their thoughts well by breaking the writing process into small, attainable steps.

Why do you include cartography/geography?

A timeline of world history provides one kind of structure, placing events, people and ideas in the context of time. A map of world geography provides another kind of structure, locating events, people and ideas in the context of space. Knowing where to find places and features of the world is foundational to understanding other areas of study. For example, in The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the main character, Mary Lennox, moves from India to England. The story becomes much richer when you realize the distance that Mary traveled, the climate change, and the differences in culture that she experienced by moving to a different region of the world.

Why doesn't Challenge A or B use a standardized curriculum for science?

Since high school credits are not an issue during the middle school years, CC has seized the opportunity to have students study science in a purely classical manner. That means students learn about God’s creation through observation, research, and drawing, acquiring tools to study the world around them throughout their lives, not just in a laboratory.

Why do you do Saxon 8/7 math when most 7th graders are doing Algebra ½?

Challenge A provides a bridge between the Foundations/Essentials programs, where the emphasis is on naming, memorizing, and reciting; and the Challenge programs, where the emphasis is on discussing and presenting. Saxon 8/7 is also a bridge between basic and higher mathematics, making this book a perfect fit for Challenge A. The book begins by reviewing the vocabulary, basic operations, and laws of math and then transitions to exercises that require problem-solving skills. To help students make the transition, directors introduce math concepts in a way that engages all of the students regardless of their math level or ability. The math seminar is not a lecture; it is a discussion.

Why don’t Classical Conversations directors grade papers?

It is our desire to let parents experience the joy of homeschooling their children in the manner that best fits their family dynamics, while still using the Classical Conversations model.  Directors exist to demonstrate this model to parents and students. They support and encourage, but they do not take over the role of the parent. When parents grade their student’s papers, they see the areas where their student needs help and further study. This information is not as beneficial to the director as it is to the parent, who remains the primary teacher.  Each family has their own standard of acceptable and unacceptable work. Having parents grade the work keeps parents in control of their goals for their students.

Challenge Scope Sequence

Challenge Scope Sequence

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