Y’all, please welcome my great friend (and pastor’s wife!) Julie back to the blog. Today she’s sharing what she would’ve done differently as a first time Challenge mom, if only she’d known. I’m excited to share what she’s learned with all of you, so it can aid in your transition!
1. Become extremely familiar with the guide. Read through it as the teacher/parent and then sit down with your student to go over each section. Even if you’ve never seen a Challenge level class before, reading through it will help you gain a fuller foundational understanding of what they will be doing in class AND what their day will look like at home. Doing this one step alone could have helped prevent endless amounts of time and frustration for us at home. I’d been a Foundations tutor for a couple of years, but this was the first year I was to be the Essentials tutor. Therefore, my time was consumed with preparing my three younger ones for CC as well as preparing for Essentials! As I mentioned in my Day in the Life post, I naively thought how nice it was going to be not having to be hands on with my oldest, because she was in Challenge A she would be totally independent! Oh, please learn from me and do not make that mistake! (I’ll discuss the independence more later, but be assured, it comes and it’s beautiful!)
I realize each student is created differently. Your student may already be largely independent and that is great! Others may need more guidance up front in order to foster greater independence later in the year and that is great! Still others may not be ready for independence at all. That’s the beauty of homeschooling. The Lord has placed us as the parent and He is giving us the wisdom to know our student and teach them in a manner that is best for him or her. CC does a beautiful job allowing the parent to be the lead teacher and the tutor to be a guide and resource for the parent and student.
2. Know your student’s strengths and weaknesses. Challenge is aptly named. For us, the step from Foundations/Essentials was more like a leap! Before starting Challenge, my daughter was at a place where she could accomplish her daily work in a timely fashion and without much stress. She is a bright girl and was a three time memory master. Reading is one of her very favorite things to do, which in turn made writing enjoyable. Math, wellll…that’s another story. But I only say all of this to let you know she enjoyed learning! However, Challenge A was a rude awakening as far as the time requirements for each subject. Many tears were shed towards the beginning of the year. (Many of which would have been helped if I would have been more familiar with the guide!) As I talked with other moms who had walked through Challenge A before, it was a tremendous blessing to hear we were not the only ones struggling at the beginning. Even talking with other moms in our class it was not uncommon at the beginning for some students to have work over the weekend. Being homeschooled, this was new for us! But I was thankful, because 7th grade should step things up.
Is your student stronger in language arts? Is your student starting with little to no Latin background? Perhaps math comes easily and naturally? Would your student rather clean the entire house than read and discuss an assigned book and then write a persuasive essay over it? Is science fascinating? Knowing your student will allow you to know which areas they may need stronger guidance with at the beginning. We had three years of Essentials and really enjoy Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW), but I was not familiar with Lost Tools Of Writing (LTOW) at all! I wish I could say I sat with my daughter each time and watched the DVD lessons and discussed each new concept, but that would not be the truth! Just keeping it real here, ladies! We are church planters. We have four children. That was simply not realistic for my family and the Lord knew that. He was gracious. In spite of me not being able to do that, my daughter has thrived with her writing. Knowing your student will benefit as you prepare for Challenge A. But, still be prepared for things to come up that you may not have encountered previously.
3. Practice drawing parts of the world. Geography sent my daughter over the edge! She had three years of Foundations geography information stuffed in her brain. Art was a joy since a young child. Memorizing states, capitals, and countries were not a problem. Drawing….this is what has been a struggle to this day! Within the first month of us starting Challenge A this year, I began my younger children on geography blobbing after seeing her struggle. By November, I was reminded that I was the parent and I could scale the weekly assignments to better fit my student. For us, this scaling was only requiring the major geographical features. If you are not familiar with the curriculum, get ready! It. is. VAST! The information they are asked to memorize from week to week and recall throughout the year is impressive! Now, had I been more familiar with the guide I would have started the year from the very beginning breaking the weekly work into bite size pieces. If you have younger students in Foundations, have them trace every day. For children who are ready, have him or her draw the areas they are studying in that CC cycle. Of all the subjects in Challenge A, I was not expecting
geography to be the one to cause anxiety.
4. Have a morning meeting each week. Our CC day is on Monday so every Tuesday morning I would sit down with my daughter and look at each day’s assignments as well as any extra things such as piano, orthodontist, etc. We would talk about how to manage her time well. I didn’t start this until later in the first semester, but I wish I would have started it from week 1.
5. Encourage and foster independence. This is ultimately what we want, right? We want them to learn how to learn on their own. Our goal is not to spoon feed them everything, but teach them the skills to learn any subject. For some this may come easy. Maybe you have several little ones and you have been looking forward to this for a long time! For others, you’ve enjoyed being very hands on and could sit down each day and teach long lessons…I’m not sure what that’s like, but it must be great! I am one of the moms reclaiming my education, while teaching my children. I wish I could do the Latin lessons or the Rhetoric with my daughter, but like I’ve already said it’s not feasible during this season of life. (I have picked up awesome bits of information throughout the year though!) While my daughter was writing her final apologetics paper, on her own, she picked her topic. On her own, while reading the books she automatically made a Key Word Outline (from IEW) and then decided to make an ANI (Affirmative-Negative-Interesting) chart (from LTW). I could hear the excitement in her voice as she discussed why this point was true or how this one was proven false. All on her own! I definitely could not have done this in 7th grade…just saying.
6. Do a Latin program before. Foundations definitely helped, but I can already see having more of a foundation in the grammar stage of Latin will help my other children. There are wonderful programs out there. Memoria Press puts out a curriculum that is said to feed nicely into Henle. If you are on a tight budget, I’ve heard of families buying the Henle book and simply making flashcards of the vocabulary. I actually LOVE this idea!
While talking with another Ch A mom, she said she would have added one more thing to my list – introduce the books earlier. So my friend’s recommendation is to…
7. Complete assigned reading in the summer before. Now, this largely depends on if your student enjoys reading. I think they will need to reread the books during the school year in order to do their ANI chart, but having read them prior may benefit. Of course, many on the list they may have already read.
We just finished a few weeks ago. It has been a journey. I’ve seen the Lord grow independence in my daughter’s study skills. I’ve also seen Him build character through trials and failures in her study skills. I’ve been blown away with what she is capable of learning and retaining. Even after many tearful days this year, she is already looking forward to Ch B and the mock trial. Challenge is a challenge. By Christmas, there were some in our Challenge A group this year who were thinking about not moving forward to Ch B because of the work load. However, at this point they all see the fruits of the hard work and are excited about the future. It was a large adjustment, yet completely worth the effort!
“And do not let us grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we will.” Galations 6:9