Preparing Your Child for Challenge A

My family participates in a classical group learning environment for homeschoolers called Classical Conversations, in New York City.  There are campuses all over the world, and there’s probably one in your backyard if you live in the USA.  Find out more by visiting  To find out why I love the CC Challenge Program for middle and high schoolers, read my post about it by clicking here.

Preparing for Challenge ASometimes, I see posts and pictures from well-meaning Foundations/Essentials parents, posting pictures of their kids who can draw the world.  They know every country already.  They have been teaching them Latin in preparation for them to learn Latin (?).  They can draw every human body system from memory…  Don’t get me wrong – I’m proud of your kiddos.  And what they can do is truly remarkable.  But I’m not sure what they are going to do in Challenge A!

Challenge A is not an easy year for many kids.  But it is doable!  As a fellow homeschooler, I understand the pressure to have kids who aren’t just ‘on par’ with their public schooled peers, but are exceeding them.  I understand the desire to be more than prepared, and to ensure our kids are as ready as possible to take on the next stage of their learning. But having them pre-learn their work is a bit much, don’t you think?

If you are looking to spend the summer getting your kids prepared for Challenge A, here are my suggestions for what to focus on.  And mom or dad – just relax!  Your kid is going to do great in Challenge A, regardless!

In preparation for Exposition and Composition (Literature)
Consider ordering some of your literature curriculum early, namely, the first few novels on the book list.  Let your kids get a head start with their reading, to take some pressure off of them when the school year hits.  Most of the books are set in past time periods, from Biblical to Medieval to Colonial.  Perhaps place them on a timeline, or at least discuss when the story takes place.  Some readers may struggle with vocabulary, so this will give them plenty of time to look up words without feeling the rush of an entire course load from week to week.

In preparation for Grammar (Latin)
If your child hasn’t memorized a noun declension chart, make this priority number 1.  Drill it every day.  The CC iPad app has some great songs to help you and your child memorize (I highly recommend parents learn this one, too!).  This was all the preparation we did for Latin, and my daughter, having never even looked at Latin before, did fairly well.  Remember, Challenge B will review all the Latin learned in A, so if some skills are slightly lacking, there is hope!  Also, strengthen your child’s English grammar skills, and be sure they can diagram a sentence.  I like these resources from Rod & Staff Publishing.  Simple, quick and easy to get through!

In preparation for Debate (Geography)
If they aren’t already, familiarize your kids with the continents, oceans, and hemispheres of the world.  In Challenge A, kids will be drawing the entire world, country by country.  Our tutor gave us the best advice to prepare us for this course – draw, draw, draw.  All summer long, just draw.  Draw anything and everything.  When kids are watching TV, set up a table and have them draw (or even trace!) while they watch.

In preparation for Research (Science)
I don’t feel you need to do much prep work for Science.  Perhaps build your collection of research books on plants, animals and the human body.  I am a huge fan of purchasing used books on Amazon to grow our collection, and especially loved this Encyclopedia of the Human Body which I paid a total of $7 for with shipping!

In preparation for Rhetoric, and Logic (Math)
Rhetoric will be very straightforward, and your kids will learn the vocabulary and nature of the subject throughout the year.  In our CC math class, every student was in a different place.  No need to catch up if your child is behind!

Other things to help you be prepared
Organize.  Organize.  Organize.  This will be a year of tremendous growth for your son or daughter – they will be learning to organize their own time and work.  Help them develop a system of keeping their work organized.  Clean out old things so they can start fresh.  Teach them how to keep their typed papers organized on the computer.  Be sure your supply cabinet is stocked up with things from this list. Being organized at the start of the year was instrumental in us having a successful year – how you begin will set the tone for how you finish.

Have a great discussion with your student about the expectations you have for them in Challenge A.  Prepare them for a larger course load, longer school days, and greater personal responsibility over their school work. We had hard days in Challenge A, where my daughter felt discouraged, overwhelmed, or simply slacked off and got behind.  The reminder of our conversations about her commitment to Challenge A repeatedly helped her get back on track!

Above all else, relax, and enjoy this final summer with your child before only having six more left!  After this, your summers are going to change.  I promise you.

So sleep in.  Go to the park.  Make pancakes and eat popsicles more than you worry about Latin.  There’ll be time for that soon enough!  Spend a bit of time each day preparing for the important year ahead, and then let tomorrow worry about itself.

All the best for a great summer with your kids!  If you have any questions, or helpful suggestions for other parents preparing for the Challenge years, please enter them in the comments, below.


9 comments on Preparing Your Child for Challenge A

  1. Teri Fehrman
    June 29, 2016 at 11:01 pm (2 years ago)

    Wonderful material list! Very helpful!

  2. Christine
    May 10, 2015 at 2:26 pm (3 years ago)

    Wonderful post! This helped put my mind at ease since my reluctant learner has only had about six weeks of Foundations this year. Which iPad app has the Latin declensions? There are three cycles. We have cycle 3. Do you know which weeks?

  3. Carey
    July 29, 2014 at 8:02 am (4 years ago)

    Thanks for the great advice… I do have a Challenge ? Is it a problem if you decide to NOT use Saxon math in Challenge and use another curriculum? Thanks in advance! Great blog….

    • amygarwood
      July 30, 2014 at 10:48 am (4 years ago)

      Hi Carey, no it is not a problem at all. CC is encouraging tutors to focus more on concepts and dialectic conversations regarding the terms and concepts, so everyone should be able to gain knowledge from the seminar. You will be responsible for pretty much taking care of all of your students math teaching though, as their curriculum won’t be addressed in class. But – we don’t use Saxon. I find that using curriculum that just WORKS for my daughter is more valuable than using what they cover in seminar. But I’ve also never tried Saxon with my daughter. We use Teaching Textbooks. Works for us, so we aren’t rocking the boat!

  4. Joani
    May 22, 2014 at 6:34 am (4 years ago)

    Thank you so much! My daughter is starting Challenge A in the Fall, having not done CC in the past. This is very helpful!

    • amygarwood
      May 22, 2014 at 1:38 pm (4 years ago)

      Hi Joani, you are welcome – I’m so glad it helps! I was so scared last summer! We had no CC experience, either, so I’m happy if you feel a little more relaxed now — don’t worry, things will be so much clearer and everything will make sense. Just have faith in the program. It’ll come together 🙂

  5. Tim N.
    May 20, 2014 at 10:34 pm (4 years ago)

    This has been a really helpful post, my son is starting Challenge A in the Fall and these are great ideas for summer prep!

    • amygarwood
      May 20, 2014 at 10:36 pm (4 years ago)

      Thanks! Best wishes to you in your Challenge journey. Let me know if you felt prepared, and thanks for stopping by 🙂


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