We tried something new in our homeschool this year. We enrolled in Classical Conversations, a classical approach to learning that covers 6 subjects, where the students meet once a week to learn in a seminar format together. Kids can start Classical Conversations Foundations Program at a younger age when children normally begin school, but the Challenge Program is 6 years, starting when kids are around 7th Grade, give or take a year. We began in Challenge A, the first of the 6 years.
If you are considering or planning on registering your middle schooler in Classical Conversations Challenge A Program, you are probably wondering how it all works, and what you need to purchase in order for your son or daughter to be successful in the program.
The curriculum list is extensive, some of which is mandatory, and some of which is optional. Before making purchases, speak to your Challenge A Director for his or her recommendations on what you will need. For this article, I’m just reviewing additional supplies that will set you up for success.
We all want our homeschool learning areas to look like they do on pinterest, right? There are some gorgeous rooms, I know. But the truth is, you don’t necessarily need all that stuff to be successful. We found this year, we could really cut back on the space and ‘stuff’ homeschooling created in our house, and simplify. Regardless of how you set up your learning environment, these are things I think are essentials.
1. An E-reader if you live in a small space, or just want your homeschool to be more compact. The literature book list is extensive, and some texts can also be purchased in digital format as well. I would choose a Kindle Fire as it will display color and pictures, which will be helpful with some texts. While CC technically would rather have your children using print, in some situations, it’s just not practical. For us New York City families, lugging such an extensive pile of books on public transit isn’t realistic, and sometimes, just fitting it all in our apartments is difficult.
2. Copy and plain white drawing paper. Challenge A will have your children drawing every day, and your children will make lots of mistakes drawing maps, animals, and body systems. You will be amazed at what they are able to draw by the end of the year, even if your kids have no notable artistic ability. Stock up on paper and let them draw, draw, draw. Just teach them right away to be recycling at the end of each school day, to prevent an overflow of loose paper!
3. Tracing paper. When learning to draw maps, it’s the single best thing to help them get the hang of sizing and scaling. We traced at the top of a paper, then drew freehand on the bottom, attempting to match the size and scale.
4. Three binders, 2 x 1inch, and 1 x 3inch. The two smaller binders will be used to store your curriculum guide, provided by your tutor upon payment, and for organizing your child’s Latin work. We used the larger one with dividers to store all work from the remaining 5 subjects. It can stay at home week to week, and serve as a record of your child’s school year.
5. Markers, colored pencils, pens and pencils… The basics. Because Challenge A students do a lot of drawing, using colors and a variety of mediums keeps it interesting and enjoyable. We label and color lots of maps when learning Debate/Geography, and for my visual learner, the more colors available, the better!
6. A multi-pocket portfolio. We used this to transport the small amount of work that is due week to week in seminar. This will keep work that is going to and from class organized.
7. Six magazine holders, available cheaply at ikea. We organize each subject into its own holder. This keeps it looking neat and tidy, and makes texts and papers easy to find. I’m a fan of anything that removes excuses as to why papers and books can’t be found, and having a clear and consistent place to keep things definitely helps.
8. Mavalus Tape. I love love love this stuff. It is perfect if, like me, you love to hang things on the walls. It goes up and down easily without taking off paint! You can even often remove it from paper without it tearing the paper! We are always stocked up on this stuff. It comes in lots of colors, including boring old white (my favorite!) and can be purchased on Amazon.com.
9. A white board, or a white binder with a plastic cover, plus white board markers. It’s a perfect tool for drawing and diagramming practice.
10. Flash cards, such as these, from Myndology. Your kids will be making a lot of flash card sets! Color-coded sets really help my daughter learn, and we find the Myndology sets are great colors and sizes. You can also print flash cards, make your own, or buy small spiral bound books. There are lots of options, but what won’t be optional in Challenge A is that your student is going to be making lots of flashcards!
11. A Quizlet account. It’s free, and will allow you and your kids to make lots of digital flash card sets. Your kids can play games which will help them learn facts, and you can even print your sets! For a head start, feel free to copy my sets for Challenge A. Search my username, AmyGarwood.
12. A printer, with extra ink on hand. In Challenge A, assignments are due week to week, such as essays and research reports that your student will need to print and bring to class. Further, there are lots of forms that you’ll want to make copies of. We could not have gotten through our school year without our Epson WF-3540. If you are in the market for a new printer I recommend this one. It’s like having a mini-photocopier right in your house, and is really reasonably priced!