Posted by Jamie Buckland on Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Allowing students aged 13 and up the opportunity to accept the reigns concerning their academic future, Classical Conversations' Challenge B program is the perfect sequel to the rich year that is Challenge A.

My son, Ethan, was turning 12 years old the fall our family began our journey with Classical Conversations.  We were one of 5 families traveling about an hour away to be a part of an established campus.  Out of the new families, I was the blessed mother with the eldest child that needed to go ahead and get a year of Essentials in while the rest of our clan got their feet wet with just Foundations.  Ethan had Cycle 1 in Foundations and Essentials and entered into Challenge A having paid little to no attention that entire year.

Our Challenge A saga is not the same beautiful story of growth and enjoyment that I hear many tell.  Having spent the last 2 school years attempting to figure out life with a 3rd child, I struggled to balance our schedule in a way that allowed quality time for the 20 hour work week we needed to commit to Challenge A.  The holes and gaps that were present from years of fumbling through different approaches created many difficult days as we pulled double duty cramming new grammar simultaneously working through being dialectic.  I made things harder than they needed to be. On a regular basis. It is true.

Looking back, I could have taken a much more relaxed, restful approach to our Challenge A year and probably spared myself so much turmoil.  However, I learned many lessons about my own style of teaching and parenting that year that prepared us for this current year's situation.

To those entering Challenge A, I say read this and really trust my mentor behind the blog when she says that memory work is enough. It is.  For those entering A without a background in Classical Conversations, know that you and your child will be presented with more information next year than you could ever retain. And that is the beauty of it. Challenge isn't a program where you finish a year never to revisit those concepts or material again. Rest in knowing you and your child are not playing catch up and no matter what, the program is not designed to rule your life. I've had to stop looking at our pile of books and assignments with fret and anxiety as though I'm wasting time, money, and effort if there are leftovers we do not devour, and begin looking at our pile of books and assignments as a feast we are simply sampling on for the rest of our lives. The buffet will never be empty, and I never have to worry about my ever present need of returning for seconds. This change in philosophy has done wonders for me.  I hope you are encouraged to trust the program as you read Anne's insight, and also trust that it isn't too late if this is a new journey for you and your family.

I knew a few weeks into Ethan's Challenge A year that I wanted to be his tutor in Challenge B. I had absolutely no idea what that would entail, I just knew that I wanted to be more involved in what he was doing.

Challenge B, as well as the other Challenge programs, offers 6 strands.  There are a variety of resources used to pull off this monstrous year, and I've found that CC absolutely goes above and beyond in getting us resources that make this journey so much more enjoyable.

LATIN (Grammar)

The year begins with students revisiting Lesson 1 of Henle Latin and working at a faster pace in hopes of making it through Lesson 25 by the end of the 30 weeks.  My class has 5 returning students and 2 first year students.  We were able to slow down when needed and plan to finish with Lesson 22 this semester.  I am amazed at just how much the Question Confirmation from Essentials eases the process of translating Latin to English and English to Latin.  This year was my 3rd year in Essentials, and I found Latin to be completely doable thanks to the equipping of our fantastic elementary English grammar program.

Students entering Challenge B would benefit from becoming familiar with their A) 1st through 5th Latin Noun Declensions B) 8 parts of speech C) Question Confirmation in order to parse sentences D) vocabulary lists on page 91-98 and 217-224.

Students will use the same Henle texts from Challenge A.

I did find the guides from Memoria Press to be extremely helpful. They were easier to manage than the other answer keys I had used and had a wealth of valuable information in them that pertained to teaching the lesson and structuring our work at home.

Overall, Latin is consistently a favorite for both me and Ethan.  This strand takes us less than an hour a day, four times a week.

LOGIC (Rhetoric)

If you research Classical Education for any amount of time, you will find the emphasis on teaching students the art of reasoning in their middle school years.

The Introductory Logic text by James Nance and Douglas Wilson is used for the first semester.  The Intermediate Logic is used for the second semester.

You'll recognize the name Douglas Wilson from his work in the classical educational movement of recent years.  His book explaining the need for returning to the classical method is a great read that helps validate this education choice in a really magnificent way. While reading it, you can't help but appreciate his ability to reason.  So when I realized he was behind the text we would be using for this strand, I was truly excited.  

Students will be basically drowning in vocabulary and rules during the first semester.  Having the flash cards made up with the vocabulary on time for each lesson would be incredibly helpful.  Each lesson has the vocabulary set out in the margin. Drilling that grammar will enable students to be more easily engaged with the tough concepts of Logic.  Know that this course can be heavier for some students than others, and is hands down the one course that is absolutely not meant to be independent.  At least one parent will need to be prepared to be learning alongside the student through this course.

I recommend setting aside 3 hours a week to work through Logic. This is probably a minimum, some students may need more than that.

LOST TOOLS OF WRITING (Exposition/Composition)

The first semester is spent reading various elementary level novels that are used as source texts to build the student's ability to write persuasively. Let me correct that, to think persuasively. LToW is much more a program for thinking than it is for writing.  Every 3 weeks another novel is finished and students work through tools for Invention, Arrangement, and Elocution.  

To prepare for LToW, I highly suggest the teacher reads all of the books. We are pulling thought out of minds that are learning this process, they need us to know the material in order to ask questions and have conversations. Read the books. And also be sure to have a copy of Words Aptly Spoken to help you as you read the books. 

There is a new edition for LToW out this year, and I strongly suggest you purchase it and dispose of the old. It will make a huge difference. If this course becomes a struggle for you, hit me up. I happen to absolutely love it and find that once it clicks, many others love it, too.

For this course, you will of course need the time to read, and then 3 hours a week for conversations, assignments, and writing.

SHORT STORIES (Exposition/Composition)

The second semester finds us reading through Words Aptly Spoken Short Stories and learning the tools necessary for the student's to write their very own short story.  Lots of talk on characters, settings, plot, conflict, and helping students critique their own work allows for a really fun project in the spring semester.

This course requires the stories to be read once by the student, read loud by the student to the parent, and read aloud by the parent to the student. Plan for 2 to 3 hours of time for reading, conversations, assignments, and planning towards their short story.


If there were a strand that taught me the most our first semester, this would have been it.  Students begin with Hippocrates and work their way to Einstein studying the contributions and influences many great scientists had on the happenings of the world during their time.  Students learn about laws, theories, research, and the mission to do good science as they study the accomplishments of many of the greats. Every week they recreate a timeline placing the scientists and different events in a way to build a mental picture of history for years to come. This course was priceless. 

Students wrap this up by tackling a Fair Test Science Project. They work on projects over the break and compete within the first few weeks after returning in 2nd semester.

In order to prepare for this strand, students could begin hunting resources for Hippocrates, Archimedes, Copernicus, and the others listed in the guide.  Having great resources at their disposal will help them as they work each week on writing a paper on the scientist for that week.

This will take about 3 hours a week for research, outlining, and writing. Some weeks will require more as students work on poster boards and projects in place of, or alongside, papers.


After the science fair ends, students will begin reading through Defeating Darwinism.   We spend 8 weeks reading and outlining this jam-packed guide to deciphering common jargon that leads so many to find their beliefs attacked by darwinian thought.

Students will need 1 to 2 hours a week for this course.


The last 5 weeks of the 2nd semester are spent working through an introductory course on the periodic table.

Students learn basic terms for journalism and begin analyzing articles for Current Events that help to show the pros and cons of debatable topics.  Fifteen weeks, fifteen topics, and innumerable opportunities for students to begin to put their Logic skills to good use.  Understanding contradictions, being able to articulate convictions, and defending opinions is all part of this first semester. 

To prepare, I would suggest reading the newspaper together once a week and taking real life opportunities to talk geography. This is where all of those geography tools from years past come into play as we begin to connect the dots.


The second semester is quickly engulfed by the process of Mock Trial.  Students compete against another Challenge B program as they act out both the defense and the prosecution in a judged event.  Students put their detective skills to work as they sort through case materials, statements, and legal rhetoric to build a winning case that will be performed on the day of Mock Trial.

SAXON 1/2 (Logic)

Students take a second year to master pre-algebra skills before moving into algebra for Challenge I. As always, students are welcome to continue with their own math curriculum at home, however, Saxon 1/2 is what is used in class.  Students will fine tune their abilities to calculate accurately working through concepts from number lines to probability.  

To prepare, students could make flash cards for the vocabulary in the back of the book. I find that not having the proper vocabulary can become a true stumbling block as you move forward in higher math.

Students can also master their math facts, yes, that's right. The drilling and singing we do with the 4 year olds, yes, they can work on mastering that material to aide them in mental math agility.  Knowing their cubes is definitely a bonus when you're rushing through the last few math problems of an assignment.

Challenge B is a year for students to move on from the OWNERSHIP offered in Challenge A into the DISCIPLINE offered in Challenge B.  In the Bible, Paul speaks of discipline as though it is far from being a negative thing. Instead, he speaks of it as though it is conditioning him for things that are yet to come.  In Challenge A students may get by with forgetting assignments, slacking in their studies, and struggling to rise to the occasion every week. They grow through that and mature in a way that, hopefully, entices them to accept what is being offered to them with a determination to succeed. 

In Challenge B, we hope that students are rapidly moving past the days of halfway done papers and ignored assignments as they begin to map out their own agenda for the week's work and feel the pressure of classmates counting on them to do their part and be able to participate in class.

I've seen students absolutely rise above and beyond where they thought they could just a few months ago, and it is a truly beautiful privilege to serve them as their tutor.

I hope this has been helpful. I do love to talk Challenge, so please feel free to contact me to further the conversation.

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Jamie Buckland
Jamie Buckland
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