Preparing Your Student for Challenge B

My oldest and I just completed his year as a Classical Conversations Challenge B student, and my first year directing Challenge B. As I begin preparations for next year’s crop of students, I thought it might be helpful to share what we’ve learned here. (Really, sharing it was a suggestion from a friend. Thanks, Candra!)

Typically, in the summer, directors at my campus send out emails with lists of supplies and summer prep recommendations. For Challenge A and B, we also host a “boot camp” for the parents. I’m not sure what that will look like this year with covid-19 restrictions still in place in our area, but we’ll see. I did send my email already and here’s essentially what I shared with my parents –

  1. Your student is welcome to read the novels ahead of time. We read The Phantom Tollbooth, Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Hiding Place, and Tanglewood Tales in the first semester with 3 weeks to read each novel. We read short stories from Words Aptly Spoken: Short Stories, 3rd Edition, in the second semester.  If your student reads ahead, I highly recommend they underline, make notes, or attach sticky notes to the parts of the story that drew their attention. This allows them to easily recall the stories when it is time for class discussion. As well, they can look for an “issue” to use for their LTW papers, which will be based on these novels. Students will be reusing their LTW Level 1 books from Challenge A.
  2. The American Experience Storybook is also read in the first semester, but each week’s assignment is short. Students tend to forget the details of the stories if they read too far in advance, and can typically easily read them the week they are discussed. 
  3. For Reasoning, students will need the student handbook for Introductory Logic, 5th Edition. You will want the teacher edition also, because it contains the answers. Believe me, you will need the answers! 🙂 The test packet is optional. I use some tests and quizzes in class – just to check in on how the students are doing, but using them at home is up to you. I would also highly recommend the DVD set. There are 2 versions of the DVD set – the original version by James Nance, and a newer version by Brian Kohl. Students had varied reactions to the two. My son & I received the DVD set by Brian Kohl and really enjoyed his teaching style. From my understanding, you cannot select which version you receive when you order online and some of you may have older versions already, but just wanted you to be aware. The information is the same. Throughout the year, if you can choose only one strand to do fully with your student at home, I would do this one. For most students and parents, this is a new area of study and needs some focused attention. It certainly comes easier to some students over others, but they can all be successful in understanding parts of it with work. As a parent, if you wait until your student needs help to learn the logic, it will probably be too late for you to be much help. Learning alongside them each week is the way to go. When we reached a certain part in the second semester where most everyone started to struggle more, I found it really important to encourage everyone that understanding it is success. You may not be able to do the work independently, and that’s okay. It is all new. Understanding it is a huge start.
  4. Defeating Darwinism is read in the second semester. I recommend reading this along with your student as it is a great jumping off point for discussions. It will also very likely be above their reading comprehension level, as it was written for high school or college age students. If this is something you’ll have more time for in the summer, than feel free to read it ahead of time. I would not recommend your student read this ahead of time. Discovery Atomos is also used in the second semester. The Acts & Facts Science Cards are an additional resource that you do not need to purchase. For the first semester, we are doing research and projects (like poster boards) based on well-known astronomers. If you are a library user, that and reliable internet sources should supply everything you need for research.
  5. Practicing terminology would not be a bad way to get a head start as well. For example, begin memorizing Logic terms (bold in the book) or memorizing Latin rules and vocabulary. Reviewing the Latin learned in Challenge A throughout the summer would be a great idea since we start in Latin with only review.
  6. But, don’t do too much! Remember this is a break where they should have freedom for more unscripted learning and relaxation.

Three more quick things: First, only keep from this what is helpful for your child and your family’s way of learning. If they can do all the reading during the year, do that! If they’re a quick memorizer, don’t begin working on the Logic terms. Also, if they are easily bored or finish work quickly, keep the work for the year. Secondly, one of the best parts of the Challenge program, in my opinion, is the conversation that erupts from all that they’re reading and learning. What you don’t want to happen is for all the enthusiastic bursts of conversation to happen at home only in the summer. You know? Finally, please make sure you are also talking with your director to get helpful advice and tips before starting your year. They know your student, your family, and your class in ways that are unique to you guys. Their help will be more tailored.

Any experienced B’ers have extra tips they want to share? I hope this is helpful!

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