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Challenge II

We believe...

...teenagers can learn to make wise choices that come with freedoms.

The ideas of freedom and the choices that come with freedom are explored in Challenge II through British literature, art and music history, biology, logic and drama, Latin, and math studies. Students work together in a variety of project and activities helping them develop skills in communication and cooperation.

The Challenge II program is a rich study of ideas that challenges students to work hard, write well, and think deeply. Students are given thought-provoking British literature that ranges from Paradise Lost to Out of the Silent Planet. Tutors lead lively class discussions and debates, and students are challenged with writing assignments they complete at home. Students participate in biology labs and read dramas aloud in radio theatre style. In the method of earlier research-based science seminars, students are asked to write their own history of art and music. In conjunction with their art studies, students design an art installation, write a hypothetical art grant, and vote on allocating funds to the various proposals. Students also enjoy challenging each other in formal team policy debates on related topics.

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

The Seminars

Using Henle Second Year Latin, students translate Caesar’s letters and some accounts of Christ. They learn to appreciate history as told from these unique points of view and begin to transition from translating word-by-word to appreciating the content of the Latin they are translating.

Reading British literature takes students on a journey of the imagination, from the exploits of Beowulf to the Canterbury Tales, through the French revolution with A Tale of Two Cities, and into the adventures of Middle Earth with The Hobbit. Seminar discussions revolve around the importance of making wise choices. Students further develop their writing skills by writing essays on novels.

The significance of choices is clearly demonstrated through the lens of western art and music history. Students research and write about significant artists and composers in their own histories of art and music. Seminar discussions focus on Francis Schaeffer’s ideas in How Should We Then Live? Using this insightful book, students learn to define and compare artwork and appreciate its cultural relevance and, as always, hold each idea up to the truth. Students design an original art installation and write an art grant application, then present their ideas to the class. The students vote on allocating funds for the projects.

Students spend seminar time with microscopes and dissections, learning to love and appreciate God’s complex creation. Apologia’s science curriculum, Exploring Creation with Biology, is the guide for these studies. Students write lab reports at home following guidelines for scientific writing.

In the first semester, students continue with the logic ideas that they began in Challenge I. They begin to look at hypothetical rhetoric and complex syllogisms. At home, students study the text and complete daily exercises. In seminar, students study new forms and examine arguments or philosophical ideals for logical thought and validity.

In the second semester, students will be introduced to the idea of Socratic dialogues by reading Plato’s Crito aloud together in class. Then, they will begin a more in-depth study of Plato’s Meno dialogue. They will attempt to define virtue and discuss whether it can be taught.

Students cover all topics that are traditionally covered in a second-year algebra program as well as a considerable amount of geometry. Students work problems in seminar and explain to the class how and why the problem was solved. Saxon Algebra 2 is the guide for this seminar and is recommended (but not required) for use at home. Seminar time is dedicated to having students practice speaking in the language of mathematics, so students are often at the board talking through problems.

This idea of choices is a natural progression from the theme of ‘Freedom’ considered in Challenge I, and prepares the student to examine the resultant ‘Consequences’ of ideas in Challenge III. The significance of choices is clearly seen in the Western Cultural History strand as demonstrated through the lens of Art and Music History, but is also easily discovered in most strands with awareness, and thereby becomes a great tool of integration in seminar.  Additionally, the Five Canons of Rhetoric are practiced in Challenge II, but the canon of elocution is particularly emphasized as students work to improve the style and delivery of both oral and written presentations.

Another exciting element of the Challenge I through IV programs is “Protocol.” This is a formal event held each spring. It is not a prom or dating event; it is a chance to learn and practice the proper protocol during formal events. Leigh Bortins, founder of Classical Conversations, says, “I pray our students will one day be world leaders and ambassadors to unsaved peoples, and I want them to know what to expect.”

Directors and parents arrange a formal meal for students at a local country club or upscale restaurant, followed by a cultural event such as an opera or symphony. Parents and tutors chaperone.

Challenge II FAQ

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

We recommend that Challenge II students set aside an hour per subject per day during the school day.  As with most rigorous curricula, many students will need more time to complete their work. One suggestion is for Challenge II students to read as much of the literature as possible during the preceding summer, in order to save time during the school year.

Why does Classical Conversations require students to attend all six seminars?

All domains of knowledge inform each other and our understanding of the Lord, creation, and humanity. We reject fragmented education that says: “I’m a math person or I’m a literature person." Homeschool parents teach all subjects at home. Classical Conversations seeks to provide a model in seminar, one day a week, for what it looks like to learn and lead in all subject areas, showing how they fit together. Just as interruptions disrupt at-home learning, we believe that students arriving and leaving between seminars distracts and disrupts the students’ flow of thought and the flow of conversation for the day.


Cultivating a love of learning with young people takes relationship, which takes time. We believe that conversation, mentors, and relationship exert a greater influence on students, high school students in particular, than a grade-level textbook does. Such relationships determine how well and how deeply the student will engage in learning. You never know when the “fire will fall” in a given concept, subject, or truth. We call these moments “Pentecost-like” moments, and include not only balancing chemical equations or seeing vice and virtue in literature, but also the times when pride is broken, when blindness gives way to light, when humility enters in, when greater dependence on the Lord is required, or when the love of one’s neighbor wins over love of self. These moments do not follow a syllabus or a time clock.

If you are skeptical, we encourage you to visit a local community and sit in on the conversation. Discover the beauty of a day of conversation around great content, where textbooks are only part of an education, with a mentor who models a love for learning and the skills needed to learn anything.

What if my student has no previous Latin experience?

Students may begin their study of Latin at home with the Henle I text, but we ask that they remain in the Latin seminar with their Challenge II classmates. Regardless of the Latin level that a student is studying, he can participate in the seminar conversation concerning the Latin concept that is being modeled. Students can still benefit from previewing a concept that they will later study in depth. The beauty of home schooling is that students can move at a faster or slower pace as needed when they are at home. The Latin seminar gives them a unique opportunity to learn from students who are more advanced.

Challenge II requires a lot of essay writing, and my student is a struggling writer. Do you teach students how to write essays in seminar?

Most of our seminar time is spent critically analyzing the literature we read. Classical Conversations provides a number of resources and tutorials to help equip parents as they assist their students with writing skills. If you wish to provide additional writing instruction at home, we recommend the Lost Tools of Writing program as a supplementary resource.

Challenge II students read 19 novels in 30 weeks. My student will not be able to read at that pace. What do you recommend?

As the parent, you are your child’s primary teacher. You can best decide which books your student can reasonably read to gain understanding and engage in discussion. It is more important that your student learn how to read critically and how to discuss a work of literature.  As needed, your student may also listen to audio books or read aloud with a parent. One suggestion is for your Challenge II student to read as much of the literature as possible during the preceding summer, in order to give him a head start on the school year

What if my student has already taken biology?

Most students do not master the vast subject of biology the first time around, so we recommend that you enjoy it again and aim for mastery of the material. Take this opportunity to hone skills of research, observation, and writing lab reports. We request that students participate in the labs performed each week in seminar and write the formal lab reports, but if you prefer, your student may opt not to repeat the text work, or he may study another science course at home.

Challenge Scope Sequence

Challenge Scope Sequence

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