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....

BEEF UP THE LAST YEAR IN FOUNDATIONS & ESSENTIALS

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!

WORK TOWARDS INDEPENDENCE 

  • 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!

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