Wednesday, October 21, 2015

cc cycle 1 wk 7:: the plan

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This week has been one of reminding myself to just breath. Ever had homeschooling weeks like that? Yep, I know we all have. It is just part of the package. But at least we can purpose to rest in the grace found in Christ and trust that the bumps in the road can work together for good in His ultimate plan.

So part of that has meant that things haven't gone 'according to plan' in many ways. While we are almost done with the week, we still have many things on the docket. Here are some things we have done and some ideas we still hope to incorporate for cycle 1 week 7.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Challenge A...what we did & what we are doing

This year we have entered into a whole new world, both in parenting and in homeschooling. Our oldest turned 12 and graduated from the Foundations stage and entered into the Challenge program with Classical Conversations. It has been a huge adjustment for our family and our student. Challenge A is, well, a challenge. It is an intense program but one that I am growing to appreciate more and more as we continue to dig in. Yes, we are only at the beginning of our Challenge A experience. I have been asked by many of you about our experience so far and have been asked again more recently what things helped us prepare for Challenge A and what are we doing now that is helpful. So my thoughts have been swirling lately on just what was helpful as we prepped this past summer, and last year as well, that have eased our transition as well as what we are doing now to make it work.

{Below are just the reflections of a homeschooling mama and the lead learner in our CC journey. For a more complete description of the Challenge program please visit the Classical Conversations website.}

What we did to prepare:
Some of the most helpful things that we did in preparation for Challenge A were....


For us that meant a lot of things and I suspect would look different for each student. Here are some things we did to kick it up a notch.

Raise expectations in areas such as presentations and Essentials work.

  • We tried to focus on more academic and solid presentations in his Masters class. He presented his Essentials papers quite a bit which helped him improve his skills in speaking. We worked on delivery by practicing his presentations at home and memorizing part or all of his presentation ahead of time.
Extension activities at home to build on what was done in community pertaining to science.

  • Having cycle 3 for 6th grade was great prep for Challenge A, especially in regards to the human body. He researched some of the body systems and organs at home and used his Essentials skills to create a key word outline and turn that into a short paragraph. We began to focus on adding scientific drawings to his research as we thought ahead to Challenge A. He isn't strong in this and it is still something we are working on but this practice during 6th grade made a big difference. These also made for great presentations in his Masters class. 

Read more and increased the expectation for good, quality literature.

  • I purposed to provide more quality literature to expound on our history memory work. I began to ask him to summarize what he was reading.  I knew that would be a skill he would need in Challenge A. It began simply. What were you just reading? What is happening so far in that novel? Then moved to questions about the characters and the plot.  This helped build the skill of pulling out the main idea and then expressing it in his own words as clearly as possible. This has helped him so much in the Lost Tools of Writing strand.

Read through the book It Couldn't Just Happen together and began discussing some of the content.

  • We found that beginning to read together and then discuss the material was an enjoyable experience for us but also prepared him for participating in the larger discussions held each week in the Challenge A seminars. 

Squeeze everything we could out of Essentials.

  • His two years of Essentials really has helped him in so many ways. Units 4 and 6 of IEW were AMAZING preparation for the research/science strand. From week 1, he was able to pick his topic and run with it. I sat there almost shocked with how easy it was for him to gather his sources, create his outlines and produce a well-written paragraph. I'm telling you. So many times so far in this Challenge journey I have had those ah-ha moments where I have seen the connectivity between the Foundations/Essentials and Challenge programs and how they marry so beautifully together. I see now why specific material is covered in the Foundations level and how it casts a vision forward into the Challenge years.  Hang on Foundations mamas. It all becomes clear the farther you travel down the road!


  • Beginning in 5th grade, I used checklists and weekly assignment sheets for my son. Gradually, sometimes oh so painfully so, he learned to work independently and to move through his assignments will little guidance from me. I was still introducing and teaching but he was able to see what needed to be done and work through his assignments without me helicoptering over him.  This has proved so fruitful in our homeschool and in his relative ease in adapting to Challenge A. I have checklists and assignment sheets for my younger two and we are working to lay the rails for them as well. Training takes time but the rewards far outweigh the investment.

Some of the most helpful things I did as the lead learner were:

  • read The Question by Leigh Bortins
  • emphasize Latin in the memory work {wish I would have done more with this}
  • read the literature selections over the summer myself
  • have my student begin to read some of the literature
  • read through the Challenge A guide
  • attend the first class day with my student
  • set aside the first week to work solely with my Challenge A student (I began our 'regular' homeschool year with my other children after the first week of Challenge to free myself up to do this. It was a huge benefit in showing him how to practically move through his day and tackle the work load. Eating that elephant one bit at a time.)

What is working now:

The most important thing that I can say about what is working for us now that we are in it is working it all out one day at a time and covering it all with grace. I need to be my student's cheerleader in this big adventure. I need to recognize his weaknesses and give him grace. This is speaking more into his life at this moment than any other one thing. We are both growing and being stretched and it is a beautiful thing.

There are some practical things that are also working well for us at this point.

  1. Having a weekly debrief. I have a meeting with my son over hot tea the evening of his seminar day. We talk more about his day and the assignments for the week. We map it out together and formulate our plan. We are growing to love these meetings.
  2. Doing math along with my student. We sit down together and approach math very dialectically. We discuss the lesson (we are using Saxon 8/7) and verbally go through much of the practice problems. Math is becoming a joy.
  3. Prioritizing Latin. Latin is by far the hardest part of the program for us. I took Latin for 2 years in high school and I know the benefits it will reap in my son. In order to communicate clearly to him how much I value it I am doing it right along with him. We have one intense Latin day each week where we work side by side. I am also keeping in mind that Latin is something he will come back to in Challenge B and again in I. We are also relying heavily on our Essentials charts as we go. All that grammar memory is coming in handy!
  4. Staying tuned in as the lead learner. While Challenge is a drop off program, it is certainly not something I can check out of as the parent. I am enjoying the independence that is continuing to emerge but there is still training to be done. I need to check in regularly with him throughout the day to make sure he is on task and being productive. It would be so easy to get wrapped up in my younger two and I must fight against that. My Challenge student still needs instruction, direction and encouragement. 

I am so thankful for how CC is encouraging and equipping us on this journey. While this stage is indeed challenging...we are seeking God through it all. In the end, it's not about checking items off of our lists and getting all of our assignments done but knowing Him and making Him known.

Blessings to you wherever you are on your homeschooling journey!

Monday, October 5, 2015

cc cycle 1 wks 5&6::the plan

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Wow! Where have the last few weeks gone?!?
I have found myself swamped and my plate a little too full. While we've been busy schooling, I've neglected to post our plans. It is never my intention to "let the ball drop" but it has been completely necessary for me to focus on the most important thing in front of me at the moment and simply get through these last few weeks of busy.
It's been good busy. Even soul filling busy but yet I am finally at a place of total exhale and it is with words of His praise that I do.
So, all of that to say that is where I've been. "All in" in too many areas to be fully present here.

Here is what we are up to for weeks 5 & 6 for cycle 1. So happy to have you along for the ride:-)

These 2 weeks are all about the Roman Empire. We are enjoying watching little videos and short snippets of Roman themed movies. We watched a few S H O R T clips from the Gladiator movie...and I do mean short because, is pretty graphic. But the images of the colosseum and the grandeur of Rome are amazing. Just search on YouTube and use your discretion. 
This documentary on Rome is quite good but not all content would be appropriate for everyone. I would recommend viewing ahead of time and maybe even showing just clips to your kids.
If all else fails this week, we may just wrap up in sheets, call them togas and go around shouting Hail, Caesar! Et tu Brute?

Rome: Engineering An Empire
{video via YouTube}
We borrowed some Drive Thru History DVDs last year and loved them!! We hope to get this one on Rome to watch.
We've also had fun playing with this app on the iPad called Britannica Kids: Ancient Rome found on iTunes.  It is a 4.99 app but full of images, games and articles about the Roman Empire. The kids love it.

Ok, so we have really enjoyed having fun with our food so far this year with our various "treats that teach" and during these weeks we are hoping to make an edible Roman Road. Via shall see;-) {Sorry, too much Latin lately;)}
Check out this post at for the how-to.

Here are a few books we have in our book basket.

The Bronze Bow is a Challenge A book but since it fits so well in the memory work right now we are reading it aloud as a family. My Challenge A son will thank me for it later...I think;)

So, there are just a few ideas for beefing up weeks 5 & 6. Hope your first quarter of cycle 1 has been nothing short of wonderful. Enjoy the break in the year and we will see you soon for week 7!

Pinterest boards for weeks 5 and 6:-)

Friday, September 18, 2015

cc cycle 1 wk 4:: the plan

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This week has been a bit different for us as we have enjoyed a late season beach trip. It has been a fabulous week of rest and refreshment. And oh, how my soul needed it!

We have actually done a bit of memory work and even dragged some Challenge A work away with us. Yes, I know... mean mom;) We will hit the floor running and play a little catch up this week.

We are still reading our Story of the World match ups and spending time in our Morning Meeting looking over our readers and reference books. {You can find a full list of SOTW match ups here on Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood which we use.}We picked up a copy of the book When on Earth?while we were out of town and can't wait to add it to our basket. It's a pretty cool resource with lots of CC tie ins for the little guys.

Here are my ideas for week 4...which may take us well into week 5;) A few more ideas are up on the Pinterest board for week 4.

We will add to our Ancient Greece lap book from week 3 and complete a section on the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Did you know that only the Pyramid of Giza remains today? Don't you love CC for teaching us something we didn't know before?

Here is a documentary that we will watch this week. 

{video via YouTube}

We will print some coloring sheets from the Super Coloring website for the different wonders. 

IF we are having a need for something really fun and have the time on our hands, we may make this edible temple and tie it in as the Temple of Artemis;) Directions are located here at

We will be catching up on some readers and adding our new book to the book basket. 


For an art tie in at home that will draw on our history as well as the upcoming emphasis on perspective we will follow the directions found on for drawing a pyramid. 

That's about all for us this week. It will be a catch up week for sure. But hey, it happens from time to time and you just roll with it. Positioning myself from a place of rest and trusting in the Lord to lead our homeschool makes it possible to see changes in our schedule and routine as part of the plan and something to embrace. It was a long process to learn but such a valuable lesson.

Praying that you all find joy in your journey friends!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

cc cycle 1 wk3::the plan

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We love making CC the spine of our homeschool and have seen the rich fruit it produces. I truly believe that the memory work is enough but sometimes we like to dig a little deeper. When my older ones ask questions I want to be prepared to enter into those great conversations with them. I absolutely love our book basket and try weekly to have it stocked with readers and reference books that compliment our weekly memory work. I've also started having the Timeline cards and Science cards available there as well. What great discussions and jumping points we've had already this year! When I free up time in our days to pursue truth and beauty I am continually amazed with the richness of our days. Yes, somedays are just plain hard, but sometimes there are those moments that make me gratefully smile and praise God for this time at home with my children.

Here we go with a few ideas for how we will try to do CC at home for week 3. So glad you stopped by!

We are having fun with the Greek and Roman gods. When we went through cycle 1 before, I honestly didn't do anything beyond the history sentence. I just didn't know what to do exactly. But this time around we are using this as a spring board to talk about the culture of the Greeks and the Romans. The history sentences for the next several weeks will build on this foundation so we will really just be wetting the appetite this week.
 I have several ideas on my Pinterest board but ones we will try to fit in are below:

-make a Ancient Greek lap book (but add it to our classical notebook for storage)
-have our own family olympics complete with metals;)
-visit a Greek restaurant
-use our readers to learn more about the cultures
-and, maybe, make this gingerbread Parthenon;) How cool!!
{image via flicker}

With my oldest in Challenge A, I am seeing the need to drill, drill, drill the Latin with my younger two during these Foundations years. Can I get an amen from any of you other Challenge mamas!? 

 I totally L O V E this method shared by another CC mama for reviewing the declensions and Noun Cases. We have made our set of Latin condiment cups and will be adding the endings as we go!

{click over to view on YouTube}



Fine Arts:
We will be drawing on our OiLs skills (every pun intended;) using the Draw and Write Through History: Greece and Rome (book 2) this week. We will likely use this just with my middle child since the drawings are a little harder for little ones. 

Thanks so much for stopping by! Rich blessings as you school through cycle 1!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

cc cycle 1 wk 2::the plan

We are into the swing of things and starting to enjoy our school year routine. I am purposing to be present in the moments as a mama and pausing long enough to enjoy my children and draw out the wonder as we observe our world. We are still working on balancing it all with Foundations and Challenge A but we are finding our groove. Yay! 

Here are a few quick ideas for week 2! 

We are still giving time to learning the 10 Commandments this week. We are having fun with the CC song and we will make a simple lap book following the directions found at Spark and All seen below.
I really want to spend time this week building this foundation in my youngest children for how we are commanded to relate to God and to others. How amazing to be able to place the great and mighty works of our God into the context of our history timeline.

For the kingdoms of living things, we are looking for various living things to sort! We are already eyes wide open to the numerous created beings all around us. What a marvelous opportunity to point our children to the amazing work of their Creator! If you went to Practicum this season, remember how we were encouraged to draw out the wonder in our students? Here is an opportunity to do just that!
We are pulling out of CC Nature study journals and doing some simple drawings (we even found spiders in their webs after doing the telegraph experiment!) but we will also use the sorting craft found here at Line Upon Line Learning. What a cute freebie. My castle loving girl will love using this! 

In addition to reading our Timeline cards and Story of the World (we follow the suggested reading correlations found here on Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood) we will also dig into some great books. Here are a few in our current book basket.


For more ideas check out my Pinterest board for week 2!


Friday, August 28, 2015

cc cycle 1 wk 1::the plan

We have begun our first week of cycle 1! I am so excited to dig in this year. We are repeating cycle 1 and there is a familiarity that makes this cycle feel like an old friend. I think back to where my kiddos were 3 years ago and marvel at how small they were and how much we've all grown and changed. I am particularly excited to see how I will approach planning this time around. I have grown so much in my understanding of the classical model and have found a homeschooling groove that I hadn't quite found the first time we took this path. I appreciate the idea of previewing, viewing and reviewing information that goes along with the classical process. I am so looking forward to 'viewing' all of cycle 1 again!

For much of our CC memory work we will simply be reviewing using stick in the sand methods. We love the CC app for reviewing on the go and using notebooking pages for our Classical Binders. I love Sheri Ellis's notebooking printables. Wow! What a blessing to our homeschool! I'd love to hear who your favorite CCC user is!

We will be working to memorize the Scripture selection for cycle 1 from Exodus 20. We have it broken down to learn it slowly over the course of the year. We are using the hand motions found here on YouTube from Mega Verses to help us hide this passage in our hearts.
{check through site to view video}

We will spend the next 2 weeks studying the 10 Commandments. We have a few books to read and some coloring pages. I love the note booking pages created by CC mama Sheri Ellis and will be using her History pages for both of my Foundations children in their Classical Binders. 
We will be making this cute printable for an origami "cootie catcher" to help review the Commandments. (click here to go to Rachael's Book Nook)
I love this site for reviewing the classifications of living things! See how scientists look for observable features and then group living things into various subgroups. Click on the various groups and see what belongs in it! 

Something we will be doing at home this year is attempting to recreate the hands-on science experiments from class. So many of the experiments and projects this cycle lend themselves to further exploration. We will be using sites like Mad in Crafts and Mama Owl's Lab to learn more about how plants germinate and grow! Our little beans will be soaking up some sun in a ziploc bag in our kitchen window over the next few days so we can come back and see the germination process. 
My Foundations kiddos are a young ABC and an Apprentice student so our readers this year will be much shorter than when I was beefing up 6th grade for my oldest last cycle. {He has moved on to Challenge A this year and I hope to soon blog about all we are learning in this process.}
Each week I will try to pull books from our collection or from our local library to compliment our studies. I am planning a few longer selections for read-alouds as well. 


So that is all I have planned for this first week. For more ideas check out my Pinterest boards organized by week for cycle 1.

Blessings as you start your cycle 1 journey!