What We’ve Learned As First Time Challenge A-ers

First Time Challenge A

Y’all, let’s talk Challenge. My oldest started this year. It feels like one more sign that he’s growing older. Men’s clothing, taller than me, deepening voice, and starting Challenge. Whew. We started with Classical Conversations when he was 5 and Challenge seemed a long way off. But, here we are 12 weeks into his first year. He’s doing great! And I’m (mostly) keeping up! I credit a lot of our success to a director who prepared us well and a campus of supportive moms. I’m going to do my best to share what we’ve learned so far. If you’re looking for more information, drop me a question in the comments. I’m excited and I want you to be encouraged, so let’s talk about it.

1. We plan his week together. Our community day is Monday, so after getting home on Monday, we pull out the Challenge A guide and enter his assignments in his planner. We break them down by subject and over the four remaining weekdays. I’ve found that if we wait till Tuesday morning to split up his assignments, he gets a late start.

2. Speaking of late starts, they are bad for us. We both crave them sometimes, but if the day is delayed, the work is still there and we’re just done later when we’re both worn out.

3. We scale, because when we do less, it’s still enough! For most subjects, he does all the work, but for Latin we do half of each exercise. It’s proven to be what we can handle for now. When we traveled for 2.5 weeks in the middle of the semester, we dropped any assignments that didn’t build. This was advice from our director. So, for example, cartography builds – he did that. Research presentation don’t build week to week, so he did one before we left that he could share in class when he returned and skipped the other two.

4. Some of the time, some assignments get left for the weekend. We’re homeschoolers! We’re not used to “after hours” homework! But on occasion, a busy week squishes our days too much. In those cases, we keep some work for Saturday or Sunday. That’s new for him and me, but it’s been better for us than trying to do work in the evenings.

5. Do it together. Have you noticed how much I’ve said we and us? It’s because I am doing a good chunk of work with him or next to him. He certainly does not need my help for everything, but for now, he’s still getting his bearings and so am I. I want to understand his work to help him when he needs me and not try to force him into more independence than he’s ready for. Plus it’s more fun together.  And as you’ll hear if you hang around enough Challenge directors, we are, after all, the lead learners. Learning alongside him is the best approach.

6. Get outside help when needed. For the first time this year, I signed us up for some membership sites. We subscribed to a year with Nicole the Math Lady and Latin with Andy. My son watches Nicole the Math Lady and completes the practice problems that are part of the video before doing his Saxon lesson. Together we watch Latin with Andy before we do each exercise. I do not read each Latin lesson, and I’m not in class, so this is where I learn what’s what. I paid for these services this year, because I was not sure how overwhelmed I would be with teaching my younger kiddos and my older guy starting Challenge. We have really liked both services and they have been helpful. Could we have done without them? Yes, but I am very glad for how they have added to our set-up this year and I could see us employing them again next year.

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Some practical things that have worked for us:

1. Most of the time, he uses Quizlet online for reviewing Latin vocabulary and rules. Quizlet is an online flashcard site. We joined with a free account. There is an app too, but we haven’t tried that. Quizlet sets are created by users, so be sure to verify the set you use is accurate. Our director recommended the two we use – Challenge A-B Latin by carmen_miron and Challenge A: Latin boxed rules by Hailey_Joy. We added these sets to a folder on our account that we named Challenge A. Quizlet online has lots of modes for practice: flashcards, learn, write, spell, test, match, gravity, and live. Play around with them to see what you like for your student. My son mostly does learn and then gravity.

2. We bought premade Latin vocabulary flashcards. Directors encourage students to handwrite their Latin flashcards. I opted for this shortcut, because I thought the cards would be neater and stronger material (they are), which means they would last our family for more than one student. He practices with them some, and I use them to occasionally check in on his progress in learning the vocabulary by quizzing him. I hope to use them when I practice too – that just hasn’t happened yet.

3. When he was doing science research papers weekly, we stopped at the library on the way home from community day. Again, it was about not delaying his work. He could start on Tuesday, so long as he had the resources. Because we knew the topics before he began Challenge, I knew there were some weeks we’d have the books he needed in our personal library. When that happened, it saved us some time.

4. We got the Samsonite Wheeled Underseater (large) for his books & supplies. I really went back & forth before finally settling on this case. It has been great! All of his supplies fit. His books are neat and not squished. The hard exterior protects the contents, no matter how indelicate he is with moving it around. The case went on vacation with us, and goes in and out of the trunk each week for class. So far, it’s been very sturdy. Also, because it unzips fully, it’s really easy to access everything. Bonus – I appreciate that it could do its originally intended job as a suitcase, if we needed it.

5. The Draw Canada, etc series of books by Kristin J. Draeger are a great help for beginning free hand map drawing. We did not practice doing this before Challenge A, but I know some families did. Either way, they are a great resource.

Okay, if you’re a family with a Challenge A student, tell me what you’ve learned! Or if you’re approaching Challenge A, tell me what you’d like to know. We are loving it and we want you and your middle schooler to be excited and encouraged too.

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