Challenge A – What I Can’t Live Without Must Haves for Challenge AWe 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

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!

Those are my picks for must-haves in Challenge A.  What are some of your favorite things?  What am I missing?  I’d love to hear your suggestions below!

39 comments on Challenge A – What I Can’t Live Without

  1. moviegirl33
    August 13, 2018 at 2:14 am (1 month ago)

    You mentioned that your Quiltzlettes for Challenge A can be copied. Is there a way to import yours into our accounts? If not, how do we copy those?

  2. Haley Huber
    February 26, 2018 at 10:51 am (7 months ago)

    You mentioned somewhere that you used a Jenga game with the Cat. questions…how did you do that?


  3. desitvforum
    June 3, 2017 at 3:04 pm (1 year ago)

    I am excited to be starting Challenge A in the Fall. Thank you so much for your tips..

    • amygarwood
      August 15, 2017 at 5:37 pm (1 year ago)

      You are welcome! I hope it helps!

  4. Debrah Brown
    June 5, 2016 at 3:44 am (2 years ago)

    We are excited to be starting Challenge A in the Fall. Thank you so much for your tips and for sharing your quizlet information.

  5. Karen
    February 14, 2016 at 8:44 pm (3 years ago)

    Thank you for your helpful information! Is it possible to print the quizlet flash cards on the myndology? Or are the myndology cards just for handwriting?

  6. Stephanie
    September 22, 2014 at 1:09 am (4 years ago)

    Can I ask more about the magazine holders? What it looks like and how you set it up. I’m all about organizing to help make it easier and with two kids in one room…not much space to be unorganized in. BTW, I’m so glad I found all your posts about Challenge A. We are in our 2nd year of homeschooling and our 1st year of CC…we were also joiners at last minute because we moved! We’re at week 5 and I just shared with the tutor some of our struggles and how I wish someone would have shared about being prepared and what we can expect or experience! Thank you!

    • amygarwood
      September 22, 2014 at 10:17 am (4 years ago)

      Hi Stephanie 🙂 Thanks for dropping by Six More Summers! I’m glad that you’ve found some helpful posts here, especially about Challenge A. I remember how overwhelmed I felt, and how many questions I had, when we first started Challenge! I have lots of pictures of my spaces on a guest post on Tales of a Pee Dee Mama. I think it shows how I set things up pretty well, and the whole thing didn’t cost more than about $200 dollars. I sprung for the heavy duty magazine holders, so they would hopefully last all of our Challenge years! Best of luck! Here’s the link 🙂

  7. Terry
    August 14, 2014 at 3:27 pm (4 years ago)

    Could you elaborate more on the note book system you used? We are starting challenge a next week and I’m really confused about the notebooks. Some mom’s have a large “everything notebook” and extra smaller binders/folders. I don’t understand why they are not putting everything into the “everything notebook”. Some people have small binders for every subject.
    ANY light you can shed on the note book deal would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks, Terry

    • amygarwood
      August 18, 2014 at 2:27 pm (4 years ago)

      Hi Terry, I’m going to email you now 🙂

      • Holly Sheppard
        July 10, 2016 at 3:23 pm (2 years ago)

        I would love to see this answer as well. I am three weeks out from my oldest son’s first Challenge A class and I haven’t started organizing anything because I am so confused about how to proceed!

  8. Chris Abbott
    August 6, 2014 at 9:01 am (4 years ago)

    Can you tell me which cards you got from myndology? I’m having trouble telling which ones would be the best to use.
    Thank you.

  9. Tracy
    August 3, 2014 at 9:00 pm (4 years ago)

    Hey Amy!

    Thank you so much for this list and the great tips! We are doing our second year of Foundations, our first year of Challenge A and my first year as a Foundations tutor. I am truly excited but definitely feeling overwhelmed. It is so nice to hear from survivors. lol Thanks for sharing!

    Blessings from TX,

    • amygarwood
      August 7, 2014 at 11:48 pm (4 years ago)

      It can feel overwhelming 🙂 I totally understand that feeling. Soon, it will feel so natural. Just have faith in those of us who tell you you need not worry! Best wishes for a great year, Tracy!

  10. Lada
    July 29, 2014 at 9:34 am (4 years ago)

    FYI regarding spiral-binding Latin books.
    Definitely get them spiral bound! But…be sure to thumb through the pages immediately after it is done to see that none of the margins are cut off and pages are in order. This happened to us and the Staples store bought us a new book and then tried again. The next book was cut correctly but about 3/4 of the way through, the pages were hole-punched on the opposite side of where they should have been, so a big chunk of pages were then in descending page order! Again, Staples bought us another Latin book. Finally they got it right!
    Also, the purple Latin book is perfectly bound in a 1 1/2″ spiral and the blue in a 3/4″ spiral. If the spiral is too small, the pages don’t turn well and they bend and rip. Make sure they put clear plastic covers on the books, as well (I think that is standard but our girl forgot).
    Lastly, if you have your books, get them spiral bound NOW before the mad rush of back-to-school. You probably will have to leave the books because it takes a little time and not all employees know how to do it

    • amygarwood
      July 30, 2014 at 10:44 am (4 years ago)

      Great suggestions. I didn’t check these things when I had my books spiral bound. I’ll take a look! Thanks!

  11. Kelley Nyenhuis
    July 26, 2014 at 9:20 pm (4 years ago)

    I just finished three days of practicum and our Challenge A meeting. This is our second year in CC and it will be my first year teaching Foundations with my daughter as a student. I came to your site very overwhelmed and bleary eyed. I even asked God if my 40+ year old brain could handle all of this. But, reading your article has had such a calming effect on me. Thank you for all of the work you did to put together that list of essentials for Challenge A and for sharing your flashcards. What a gift!!!! It feels more doable now that I’ve visited here : ). Thank you!!! P.S. Which flashcards did you print out and which ones did you consider it important for your daughter to write out on the Myndology cards? If you can’t remember, no worries! Thanks again!

    • amygarwood
      July 26, 2014 at 10:18 pm (4 years ago)

      Hi Kelley, I emailed you. Thank you so much for visiting!

  12. Belinda Sullards
    April 26, 2014 at 4:52 pm (4 years ago)

    The myndology cards are blank, correct? I am so new to all this. Will they be making their own? If so, how many cards would you recommend purchasing? Are they wipe on/off or permanent? Thanks!

    • amygarwood
      April 26, 2014 at 5:03 pm (4 years ago)

      Hi Belinda! Don’t feel worried! It won’t feel foreign for long. Trust me, I felt the same way last fall. The myndology cards are blank, yes. The kids will make a LOT of flashcards. They are permanent, not wipe off, which is great because then they are available to review over and over 🙂

    • amygarwood
      April 26, 2014 at 5:04 pm (4 years ago)

      I would purchase at least 6 of them. I think on the website they are sold in packs of 6, so that’s perfect.

  13. Tonya
    March 17, 2014 at 5:30 pm (5 years ago)

    Nice list, thanks.

    • amygarwood
      March 18, 2014 at 5:39 pm (5 years ago)

      Thank you! I hope it helps!

  14. Claire
    February 28, 2014 at 4:03 pm (5 years ago)

    Great list!! We have been in CC for 7 years (!) and my oldest is getting ready to start Challenge next year. Challenge is a whole new ball game, and this post was very helpful. Thanks!

    • amygarwood
      February 28, 2014 at 5:57 pm (5 years ago)

      You are welcome 🙂 Thanks for dropping in, and good luck with Challenge A!

  15. Stacy
    February 27, 2014 at 3:26 pm (5 years ago)

    I purchased the game Jenga to practice our Catechisms. The guide recommends Jeopardy but it gets old. Jenga comes with 54 wooden blocks. I wrote a number 1-54 on each block and on three blocks I wrote an additional number on the opposite end. This yielded the 57 catechisms. So to play they tried to remove the block and earn five points. Tell me the number and I ask the question. If they get the answer another five points is awarded. If the select one of the three “Daily Double” blocks and get the block and both questions they get twenty points. This has proven to be fun and faster than Jeopardy.

    • amygarwood
      February 27, 2014 at 9:07 pm (5 years ago)

      That is an awesome idea! I love it! We might have to make one for our Challenge A group 🙂 Thanks for dropping by.

  16. tonja
    February 26, 2014 at 11:41 am (5 years ago)

    We had our Latin books spiral bound at Kinko’s. I’m sure other copy places have that service as well.

  17. Erica
    February 26, 2014 at 10:48 am (5 years ago)

    How do you spiral bind the Latin text books?

    • Regina Huaracha
      February 26, 2014 at 10:10 pm (5 years ago)

      Staples, Kinkos or Office Max. Many office supply store offers spiral binding 🙂

    • Stacy
      February 27, 2014 at 3:20 pm (5 years ago)

      First you must have the spine of the book removed. Then, you can choose to have it 3-hole punched or bound. I prefer the 3-hole punched in a notebook. I can take out only the pages we are working on at the time.

  18. Angie
    February 26, 2014 at 10:32 am (5 years ago)

    This is my first year as a Challenge A director and this list is spot on! I even have the same printer. I am going to have to check out those flashcards. We have so many stacks of cards. I love challenge and am completely sold on this program.

    • amygarwood
      February 26, 2014 at 2:58 pm (5 years ago)

      I am hooked as well. Even without Foundations and Essentials, my daughter is loving the program, and working at a higher level than I’ve ever seen. I can see the benefit in F/E though. Wish we had been doing CC all along. I love the myndology cards. I found that at Target when they had back to school supplies but have only found them online since.

  19. Regina Huaracha
    February 25, 2014 at 9:36 am (5 years ago)

    Great advice. One thing we did was that we spiral-bound our 3 Latin books. It make Latin life much easier. 🙂

    • amygarwood
      February 25, 2014 at 10:25 am (5 years ago)

      Oh yes, I’ve heard of others doing that, and wanted to do it all year and never got around to it!


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