Twenty things I wish I had known about CC’s Challenge Program

Everything I wish someone had told me before my daughter started Classical Conversation’s Challenge Program…


  1. Get everything in the guide written on a schedule.  If it’s not explicitly written down, one or both of us forget it!
  2. Give her space and room.  Don’t be a helicopter.  This is her time to make mistakes, grow, and learn to be responsible.
  3. Sit down and do all the math with her every day.  The challenge of “beating mom” has turned math time from agony into a fast-and-furious math throw-down.  She’s in Challenge 1 this year, and this is the first year I’m doing the math with her each day.  The fruit of this hour investment of my time has been beautiful, even though she smokes me every stinking day.
  4. Sit down and do all the Latin with her every day.  I did not do this in Challenge A, or in Challenge B, and I was hopelessly lost and clueless when she needed help.  This year, she is helping me as I struggle to learn it for myself.  (I’m aiming to teach a higher level Challenge next year, so knowing Latin is a MUST!)
  5. Write out the noun declensions at the top of each page of your notebook.  I find that this helps refresh my memory and helps me with translations.  My daughter has a near-photographic memory and doesn’t need it..but I do.
  6. Memoria Press has study guides for Henle Latin.  I bought them not for the study guide but for the READABLE answer key at the back of the book.  If you have 40-something eyes that squint and have a hard time reading the Henle answer key like me, run to your browser and get it today.  You’ll need the guide for Units 1-2 and the other for Units 3-5.
  7. Take breaks after each subject, even for just five minutes.  Get up and walk around.  Take the dog outside.  Listen to music.  Play a song on the piano.
  8. Geography was a BEAR in Challenge A.  It helped her to stick to a routine: trace, copy, copy, copy, draw from memory/make corrections.  The biggest hurdle was getting her to realize she didn’t have to be a professional, perfect map-maker.  This subject took up a lot of time, so plan for it, get used to it, and tell yourself that knowing Geography is a life-long skill.  If you can, do it with her.  I didn’t…and wish I would have.
  9. Use Quizlet for memory work in all the subjects that have facts that need to be memorized.  Quizlet is great: you can input the information.  If you then use the Flashcard Plus Plus app (it connects to Quizlet), you can do a “smart” review that lets you rate each question as to how easy/difficult it was for you to remember.  The program brings up the hardest ones more often to give you more practice.
  10. Have a meeting at the beginning of the week and supervise the writing things down in the planner.  You’ll probably do most of it at first…but gradually she will be able to do it for herself.  For the most part, my Challenge 1 student manages her planner by herself now.  Some people use google calendars or other electronic calendars, but my daughter likes the school planners you can buy at any Target or Wal-Mart.  At our beginning of the week meeting, I tell her what’s ahead in our week, such as doctor appointments, skating lessons, etc, so she can write it in her planner.  Then she fills in the rest of her days.
  11. Don’t be afraid to buck the guide.  As a parent, you are in the driver’s seat.  If your child has had a high fever for the past couple of days, lighten the load a bit.  The homeschool police aren’t going to come after you if you let her skip writing a writing assignment or if you tell her to just do the odd problems in her math lesson for the day.
  12. Use audiobooks for some of the Challenge novels, especially if they are auditory learners or if the pace of the reading is too much.  We’ve never used them because my daughter loves to read, but I know of several families whose dyslexic or otherwise reading-challenged children successfully used audiobooks.
  13. Make sure your child knows how to type.  Then, let her use the computer to write her papers.  I can’t speak much about The Lost Tools of Writing because CC phased that in for the year AFTER us…but I’ve heard wonderful things about it.
  14. Use graph paper notebooks for math. The little boxes help keep numbers in line.
  15. I don’t make my daughter write out the answers to the Words Aptly Spoken questions.  We do them orally.
  16. Challenge B parents — Do the Logic!  I didn’t and wish I had.  Your children will soon tell you that your reasoning behind not letting them do “x” is a fallacy, and if you haven’t kept up in Logic with them you won’t know whether they are being correct!  Also, they will need your older, more logical mind to help them traverse the second semester in logic.  Oh, and don’t expect mastery.  At all.  They will see it again in Challenge 2.
  17. Get a change of scenery.  Go outside to read.  Take some work to Starbucks.  Go to the library.  Go sit on a different couch or in a different room.  All these things have helped us get through “those” days.
  18. Pray!!  Pray when you and/or your kids hit a wall.  This should be at the top of my list, but I confess that too often I relegate it to a last-resort.  Sigh.  Don’t be like me.  Pray before the troubles come, and then when they do, pray some more.  Remember that God created all things, and all wisdom comes through Him.  Ask, and it will be given to you.  Seek, and you will find…whatever it is you are struggling with.
  19. R-E-L-A-X.  Breathe.  There will be days that you wish you’d shipped her off to the public high school…but there will also be days that she will completely surprise you.  I have been bowled over at the difference between my daughter’s attitude towards hard work…in Challenge A, it was drudgery to be endured.  In Challenge B, hard work was rough but becoming more manageable.  So far in Challenge 1, I’m seeing her take responsibility for her assignments not because I tell her to, but because she wants to.  The other day when I was the one in near tears because I couldn’t figure out a lateral surface area problem, SHE brought ME chocolate.  Which brings me to my last tip…
  20. Chocolate!  My daughter’s favorite flavor these days is Dove’s Cookies and Cream candy.  Last year she loved Andes mints.  But every once in awhile if I walk by and see the weariness etched on her face (you all know that look, don’t you?), I grab a small candy and put it next to her.  I think this action has curtailed several meltdowns of epic proportions…because chocolate makes everything a little sweeter.  Even homework.

14 thoughts on “Twenty things I wish I had known about CC’s Challenge Program

  1. Great advice. Especially the learning along with your child. We are on our 5th week of Ch. A and I have started sitting down and learning the Geography and Latin with my son and racing him on any vocabulary and he enjoys it much more. I love the chocolate idea. What a neat little love touch to give them during rough moments.

  2. Great post! My daughter started Challenge A this year. I didn’t realize till after the first week that I need to be more involved than I thought! Question: Do you have any kids in Foundations also? Just wondering how you are able to balance working with both. I have a 6th grader in Foundations.

  3. My daughter is an only child, so I am not having to balance Foundations and Challenge work. However, my friends do the math with their oldest child — that way, they will be better able to assist the younger ones as they come up. Some do the math problems together working out of different books, once the lessons are taught. As the year progresses you will probably be able to be more hands-off.

  4. I wish I had read this before we started. With two full-time working parents it has been a struggle to help our daughter get the most out of this first year of home schooling in Challenge A as an 8th grader. I hope to put most of these into place now despite it being February.

  5. This is the best “Things I Wish I Had Known” blog post EVER! I found myself nodding my head and agreeing with every point. I am directing Challenge A this year and will be sending it to all of my parents. You are SPOT ON!!! Thank you!

  6. Wow. So you wrote this in 2013… I am reading this now, in 2018 as I am face to face with the beginning journey of Challenge A. Thank you. Thank you for taking the time to put these words of encouragement out into the vast internet. It has stirred me with hope and great ideas. Thank you so!!

  7. This is so encouraging! We are finishing up Challenge A right now, and I wish I would have done so much more with her this year! like taken the hour with her each week to schedule her work, draw the maps with her, been more “helicopter” when it comes to consistent work. I love your suggestions! I was also her Ch A Director, so I felt overwhelmed myself at times and tended to let her (and myself) “off the hook” too frequently. Going into Ch B next year, I’m not directing, but stepping up to be her cheerleader and study buddy. Thank you for the encouragement. Printing now! 🙂

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