What’s So Special About Challenge A?

Classical Conversations Challenge ProgramIt seems like the age when many parents begin to wonder how much longer they can homeschool their children… Middle School.  When kids are around 12 or 13, we start questioning whether or not we should send them back to public school, or enroll them in a private school, and allow them to finish high school with a diploma in their hand.

I won’t lie – we wonder this as well.  We have discussions about whether or not our daughter should head to high school next year with her friends, or whether we should stay on the path we are currently on – which is the Classical Conversations Challenge Program.

For those unfamiliar with Classical Conversations, for younger children, CC has Foundations classes, then Essentials classes, all for elementary students.  At 12, or around 7th grade (but many start much later), kids can begin the Challenge Program, which is A & B, then Challenge 1 through 4, which cover the high school years.  Many students end up graduating out of Challenge 3 as the course load in Challenge A & B could count as high school courses in many states, thus allowing them to earn credits at a rapid speed.

We started Laine in the program a year later than necessary.  We had only just learned about CC when she should have been heading into 8th grade, but we decided to place her in Challenge A, feeling that the pros of an extra year of middle school outweighed the cons.  The bulk of the positives lay in the material being taught in Challenge A.

Challenge A lays the foundation for the rest of the Challenge Levels, and while CC Foundations and Essentials courses for elementary kids could be helpful, they aren’t necessary for success in Challenge.  CCC (Classical Conversations Challenge) covers 6 topics.

  • Grammar – students learn Latin for the first 4 years of CCC
  • Exposition and Composition – an ambitious literature curriculum where students will lay foundation for essay writing
  • Debate – a dynamic geography course where students learn to draw the world in Challenge A
  • Research – where kids apply research techniques to learn and write about many biology and anatomy topics
  • Rhetoric – a course designed to introduce young Christians to apologetics, argument, and clear reasoning
  • Logic – math class – many CC families do not use the recommended math curriculum, which is fine.

These 6 strands are built upon year after year, covering all kinds of topics by the end of CCC 4, such as Chemistry, Philosophy, Economics, World History, and Shakespeare!  Because the Challenge Program is laid out so beautifully, it makes the typical high school educational experience pale in comparison, and so, it is our hope to continue the Challenge Program throughout the rest of our daughter’s educational career.

Classical Conversations Challenge ProgramMany people toy with the idea of jumping over CCC A for reasons such as their child is older and could move to B, or they don’t want them to graduate behind their age level.  Also, some communities don’t offer Challenge levels, due to low enrollment or lack of interest, forcing families to move to other communities who are only offering B.

We have a few weeks left in our Challenge A year, but I already know for sure that I would not trade this year to have my daughter graduate with her eighth grade friends.  I am so thankful we started with A, and here’s why:

Firstly, the topics covered in B are complex, and not all students will be ready to embrace those topics right out of the gate.  Challenge A gives a comfortable yet challenging introduction to CCC without being overwhelming.  CCC A is difficult when compared to a public school curriculum, yet is also adaptable for each learner.  Even though your kids will meet in seminar once a week and have a tutor, you are still the teacher, and are able to adjust the coursework to how you see fit.  Some kids don’t do all research papers, or they are condensed to one great paragraph, instead of multiple paragraphs.  Others opt out of Latin altogether, instead focusing on developing better English grammar skills at home.  All of this is up to you as your child’s teacher.

Still, even with modification as necessary, there is room to enhance the curriculum for your student who may want more than the regular course load by adding in projects, longer research papers, or more difficult math curriculum.  It’s the best of both worlds – a great curriculum as is, which means less work for us as parents, but a customizable program which means greater success for your kids.

Challenge A introduces your homeschooled child to accountability to someone other than you!  This is powerful.  I witnessed this when my daughter would pour herself into a paper like never before because it would need to be presented to her class!  Challenge A introduces kids to responsibility for quality work, which many homeschooled kids do not experience.  We struggled with this in the previous year, and it is my favorite thing about CCC.  She tries her absolute best because she wants to impress her tutor.

Classical Conversations Challenge ProgramThe geography curriculum in CCC A is unlike any I had seen before.  I truly had never even given a thought to drawing the world before this year.  Around Christmastime, my daughter told me that she felt about geography the way she felt about reading when she first learned in primary school – it was like an entire world had opened up to her.  Suddenly she understood the news better, had a grasp on current events and politics, and recognized cities, nationalities and features of our earth better than I did!

The introduction to Latin was challenging, yet necessary to move to higher levels of Latin should your child wish to continue in CCC B.  While there is a review of the work in B, it is fast paced, and is definitely a review, not a great intro to a new language.  In literature, students learn from Lost Tools of Writing, a curriculum which teaches great essay building from the ground up – a step you don’t want your kids to miss.

An unexpected by-product of CCC A for me was my daughters ability to become much more independent, taking a huge leap away from being taught each day, to being self-taught.  I’m still always around to help her, but she’s become driven to be a self-starter, usually needing very little prodding to get her work done.  This is an answer to prayer in my house, as she has always been dependent on someone sitting beside her, helping her with each step.

Many strands open up great topics of conversation for you and your middle schooler, as well. Literature gives your child the power to build essay topics of their own, defending decisions made by characters in each book. This allows great discussion about right and wrong, and is a window into the moral compass of your child. Rhetoric and apologetics can almost be approached as devotion time in your homeschool.

Within our Challenge A families, we have varying opinions on certain topics, which I believe is important and powerful to expose our kids to. We want them to learn to defend their faith and beliefs, but just as important is that we learn to love each other and be respectful. Exposure to environments that put these things into practice is critical. If you’ve ever felt like your child is too isolated and needs more community, CCC might be the perfect solution to provide your child with relationships, different points of view, conversation, presentation skills and confidence building experiences.

For these reasons and more, I wouldn’t trade our CCC A year.  I think for most students, it is necessary for success in the Challenge Program.  Not only that, but I would recommend any middle schooler jump into CCC A, even if they haven’t done CC in the elementary years.  I wouldn’t have said this a few years ago, not knowing much about it, but the classical model of education is incredible, even for learners who struggle with dyslexia, dyscalculia, or ADD.  I am thankful everyday that we were introduced to this community.

A few things to know about Challenge A…

It isn’t free! Tuition is roughly $1100/year. Beyond that, there is a registration fee, a facility fee (different for each location), and curriculum, books and supplies. It takes financial planning for my family, but I have never once thought it wasn’t worth it!

CC recommends that your child spend approximately 6 hours a day at home completing schoolwork. Depending on your student, this might be shortened, but I don’t think many middle schoolers would ever need more time than this.

The reading lists for all Challenge levels are challenging, full of pieces from many time periods, and lots of classics. While I love that the kids are being exposed to this great literature, some younger students, or very weak readers might struggle.

Challenge levels are very self-directed, and require your student to take a lot of responsibility for their learning. It’s worth having a serious discussion with your middle schooler before enrolling to be sure they understand their responsibilities.

Each Challenge level builds on the previous one. While I’m sure there are kids who would be fine jumping a level, if at all possible, start with A and build from there. I think of Challenge like 6 steps of a staircase. Each one is important, and builds a firm foundation with which to take the next step.

Whatever your plans, I wish you success, and leave you with the encouragement that only we as parents truly know what is best for our kids. Take heart, have faith in yourself and your children as you make these tough decisions together!

I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about Challenge A, or hear about your favorite things about each Challenge level!

37 comments on What’s So Special About Challenge A?

  1. emzelf
    August 20, 2018 at 11:42 pm (2 months ago)

    Yes, you summed this up perfectly! I finished Challenge A a few years back and am now entering Challenge 1. I totally get your choice to start your daughter in Challenge A, not B. It’s really a great choice; my sister was in a similar scenario and is entering Challenge 1 this year.

    I just started a blog documenting my journey through Challenge 1, as well as any tips I may have on Challenge! Please visit! survivingthechallengeyears.wordpress.com

  2. Lisa Moser
    June 22, 2017 at 10:48 pm (1 year ago)

    My 12 year old son has the opportunity to attend a very small private christian school (total 7 kids per class) where he would have godly teachers and some great interaction with them. I was considering doing Challenge A either this year or next. My question: is it insane to consider combining the two some way? Would say a history or a science lecture be a frivolous or cumbersome addition along with the memory work and drawing of Challenge? Torn between the pros of each. Have you heard anything of private schools using CC? Thank you

  3. Kim
    March 23, 2016 at 8:13 pm (3 years ago)

    I am wondering about Challenge as it compares to the Foundations program. It seems as though Foundations is more of the one-room schoolhouse, where you are teaching your children during the week, with multiple kids following at different levels…and then it all breaks off once they get to Challenge. Is that accurate?
    It’s kind of hard to determine without having been to the class to see, but I have the impression that once the child reaches the Challenge levels, the Challenge tutor is really their teacher, assigning the week’s work, and the child just spends the rest of the week at home completing the tutor’s assignments. So, for my family, I would have a couple of children still at the Foundations level, but if I had two older kids in different Challenge levels, they would both be doing all their own work independently of me (aside from checking it over). Could you tell me if that is correct? And I assume the parents are not sitting in the Challenge classrooms with their children?
    Thank you so much for your help!

  4. Tammy
    March 7, 2016 at 12:02 pm (3 years ago)

    I was curious about your opinion. My daughter had been primarily homeschooled and private schooled (very small private school). Due to a move and a series of other things, we let her go to public high school as a freshman this year…big, HUGE, mistake! Anyway, her birthday is August, she is just 14 (will turn 15 just before this next school year). My question is, in your opinion, would it be unreasonable to think that she could start at Challenge I never having done CC?

  5. Denise
    November 25, 2015 at 1:53 pm (3 years ago)

    Amy, I just found this blog and know this thread is a little dated. But I am thinking of pulling my son from 6th grade public school after Christmas break and starting him in Foundations/Essentials just so he grasps the concepts before jumping into Challenge A in the fall of 2016. What do you think of that idea? Or should I just wait to enroll in Challenge A. (Your blog did help settle my fears that he would be overwhelmed by CC methodology having never been homeschooled.)

    • Lindsay
      December 27, 2015 at 11:32 pm (3 years ago)

      The beauty of cc is you can jump in anytime. Putting your child in for one semester would benefit in the long run and they can start making connections with friends! Good luck.

  6. Carrie
    August 3, 2015 at 2:35 pm (3 years ago)

    Did your daughter draw or trace the above maps?

    • amygarwood
      August 4, 2015 at 4:20 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi Carrie 🙂 No, she didn’t. We printed these HUGE maps in small pieces from Mega Maps. As a way to learn where each country was located, we started each continent by coloring and labeling these big wall maps. We’d color a small portion of the map, then learn to draw it from memory. Then, we’d add a little more. It was very helpful, and made gorgeous wall maps while we were learning.. FOR FREE 🙂 Here’s the link! http://www.yourchildlearns.com/megamaps/print-world-maps.html

  7. Nicole
    June 14, 2015 at 4:14 pm (3 years ago)

    Just came across your site! I’ve already found so much useful information as I embark on my first year directing Challenge A! Can you tell me where you got your student’s notebooking journal in the photo above? Did you make it yourself? Is there a template somewhere that is available for families to use? Thanks for all your insight!

    • amygarwood
      June 14, 2015 at 4:46 pm (3 years ago)

      Hi Nicole! I’m so glad you are finding the blog helpful! The journal you see above (if we are taking about the same picture) is directly out of the Challenge A supplies list in the catalog! It used to be called the Sketch Notebook, but now it is called the Nature Sketch Journal I believe 🙂 Hope that helps.

  8. Debbie
    June 5, 2015 at 6:33 pm (3 years ago)

    We’ve been in Foundations for 3 years and Essentials for 1. In looking ahead toward Challenge, I have one main concern. My husband and I do not subscribe to the creationist theory but instead the theory of evolution. Is putting our kids in the CC Challenge program an unrealistic option?

    • amygarwood
      June 8, 2015 at 4:58 pm (3 years ago)

      There really are kids of every faith and belief in our campuses. I think there are a lot of parents in Challenge classes who share your beliefs. It seems reasonable to say, yes, you can absolutely do Challenge. But when that time comes, talk to your child’s tutor and find out how they plan to approach varying viewpoints in their classrooms. It’s fair to say though, that Challenge does lean more to the young earth creationist theory.

  9. Sue Lewis
    April 20, 2015 at 12:47 pm (4 years ago)

    I have the opposite question. We have completed two years of Foundations and Essentials. Our campus will have Challenge A for the first time in the fall. The students that my son has been “hanging with” will all be going up to Challenge. He wants to move up with them. He has a fall birthday that would allow him to move up even though I have only considered him a 5th grader this year. He is academically capable, I believe, to handle more work, but my greater concern would be socially… Do you have any thoughts on moving one ahead?

    • amygarwood
      June 8, 2015 at 4:56 pm (3 years ago)

      I value the social component very highly. For Challenge to be successful, a kid has to WANT to do the work, and participate in community day. Further, friendships at this age are so delicate and so important. I have definitely placed the social stuff above even the academic stuff in my daughter’s education! I would do what your gut is telling you!

    • Shannon
      October 20, 2017 at 5:49 pm (1 year ago)

      Just out of curiosity did you enroll your son a year earlier and if so how did it go? My daughter’s bday is in Sept and I am considering enrolling her a year earlier as well since she meets the age requirement.

      • amygarwood
        June 23, 2018 at 1:44 pm (4 months ago)

        Hi Shannon, Actually, we were sort of a year late! We used Challenge A as 8th grade, and B as 9th!

  10. Mindy
    March 14, 2015 at 12:52 pm (4 years ago)

    We are looking at CC for our two children. Our oldest will be in 6th grade this fall and I was concerned that she would be behind since we’ve never homeschooled, let alone used CC. Your article has eased my fears. It will be challenging but I know she can do it.

    • amygarwood
      June 8, 2015 at 4:55 pm (3 years ago)

      So glad you are feeling better! Really, any kid can be successful in Challenge – I’ve seen so many different kids and each one bring their own uniqueness to the group! Good luck!

  11. Amy
    October 27, 2014 at 10:04 am (4 years ago)

    Hi Erik, that’s a great question! I think A is pretty flexible for numbers. It is certainly more fun to have a larger class, in my opinion. But I would think that if there were 4 kids registered, it would suffice. Really, Challenge A isn’t too dependent on a lot of conversation or interaction. But it does keep things interesting and helps with being able to play review games and such.

  12. Erik
    October 26, 2014 at 3:44 pm (4 years ago)

    Is there an opinion on a minimum number of kids for Challenge A?

  13. Rachael
    July 30, 2014 at 2:02 pm (4 years ago)

    Hi Amy! Yes, I will certainly send you an e-mail. We really loved our breakfast binders, and it was a wonderful quite time for the kids to open their day with. 🙂

  14. Rachael
    July 28, 2014 at 3:04 pm (4 years ago)

    Amy, thank you for sharing your knowledge. Our son will enter CCC A in just a few weeks, and I am working on preparing us both for the year. Last year was our first year of homeschool (EVER) and he did well using a breakfast binder each morning for review. I am not finding good resources for what to put in a breakfast binder set up. CC Connected has been wonderful for a Foundations breakfast binder, but I am struggling to find good material to put in his. Right now I have his prayers, thanksgivings, and will also have him working on his mapping during this time. Do you know of any CC connected users, or other resources that might have some printables I can put in his notebook? Thanks so much! 🙂

    • amygarwood
      July 30, 2014 at 10:50 am (4 years ago)

      Hi Rachael, this is very interesting. We didn’t do foundations or essentials. So.. I’ve never heard of a breakfast binder. What kinds of things are in it? Could you email me some links? I could take a look and see if I’ve seen anything like it. It’s amy@sixmoresummers.com It sounds like a great idea!

  15. Jeannette surbaugh
    May 21, 2014 at 10:58 am (4 years ago)

    My son just turn 13 and he will be going to challenge a he is really in 8 grade. So for 9 grade how do you add the grades so they can count for high school grades.

    • amygarwood
      May 21, 2014 at 2:34 pm (4 years ago)

      Hi Jeannette, you know – to be honest, I’m not 100% sure, other than to create a transcript and include the Challenge B marks as part of 9th grade. You need to be sure that what is covered in Challenge B matches up with what your state requires. You can also sign up for online transcript services through CC. I would verify with CC though – I’m just investigating this myself 🙂

  16. Sherry
    April 3, 2014 at 9:09 am (5 years ago)

    What are your thoughts on a child doing challenge A for 8th grade knowing that she will be attending public high school as a freshman?

    • amygarwood
      April 4, 2014 at 10:34 am (5 years ago)

      Hmmm.. so your plan is to put her into Public HS next year regardless? Well, I can say that Challenge A is a challenging program, and it will improve her writing skills, for sure. Math is actually at 7th grade level in Ch A so you’d have to consider that, but I really don’t think it would be much of a problem. The things to consider are whether or not she will be missing skills that will be needed in her freshman year. I can’t imagine she will be missing much, but history is not covered in Ch A at all. If you have any really specific questions, I’d love to answer them for you, or help you find the answers 🙂 Just email me at amy@sixmoresummers.com. Thanks!

  17. excited!
    March 19, 2014 at 3:18 pm (5 years ago)

    Wow! $1,100 plus more! I’m wondering if there is a reduction in fees for the 2nd child. And if I understand correctly, you then still have to buy other curriculum for the other 4 days. Is this right? Or is this the whole curriculum?

    • amygarwood
      March 19, 2014 at 4:45 pm (5 years ago)

      You can get more detailed info from visiting the CC website. Tuition is $1100 approximately, and I don’t think there is a sibling discount, because most of this pays for your child’s tutor. The curriculum (texts, books, etc) is separate and additional, but the whole program is a curriculum that can carry your child through the school year, nothing additional required. Of course, you can always supplement if you want to, but it’s not necessary.

  18. Kristin
    March 17, 2014 at 10:47 pm (5 years ago)

    Thank you so much for your candid thoughts! My oldest goes into Challenge A this fall, and I will be directing it for the first time as well. We are extremely excited! I wish every homeschooling family had the opportunity to participate in CC. It has been a tremendous blessing and value to us, and I agree with you that it has been worth the expense (and I have six children!).

    • amygarwood
      March 18, 2014 at 10:38 am (5 years ago)

      Thanks for dropping in 🙂 Good luck directing next year! What a great task you’ve taken on. The Challenge A curriculum is so much fun. You guys are going to have a great year, I’m sure.

  19. Mary
    March 17, 2014 at 5:47 pm (5 years ago)

    We are in our first year of CC — my daughter is just finishing Challenge A, too. You summed it up PERFECTLY. I’m glad it has been a good year for your daughter!

    • amygarwood
      March 18, 2014 at 10:39 am (5 years ago)

      Hi Mary, thanks for dropping by! I’m so happy that so many people are having a great CCCA year 🙂 It’s awesome to hear.

  20. Tonya
    March 17, 2014 at 5:26 pm (5 years ago)

    Amy, I love your article. May I share this on my blog? I am going to be sharing our journey on my blog as well. I look forward to getting to know you.

    • amygarwood
      March 18, 2014 at 10:39 am (5 years ago)

      Hi Tonya, I’m going to email you 🙂 Thanks so much for dropping in!

  21. Tricia
    March 17, 2014 at 5:20 pm (5 years ago)

    Thank you for this. We are getting ready to join a CC community next year with a brand new CCC-A and a F/E 6th yr student. Looking forward to the journey.

    • amygarwood
      March 18, 2014 at 10:40 am (5 years ago)

      I’m excited for you 🙂 You’re going to love it, I’m sure. It’s a lot of work but the outcome is so worth it. Best of luck!


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