Classical Conversations’ Challenge B

Exactly four years ago in the restless discontent between winter and spring, my good friend Marcia persuaded me to consider becoming a tutor for a Challenge program in Classical Conversations.  I was ready to chuck textbooks, to which I had moved out of reluctant necessity. All of my children would move to Classical Conversations in the fall, but this community had yet to establish a Challenge program for junior or senior high children.  Another mother was ready to offer Challenge I and Marcia said the community would be happy with either Challenge A or Challenge B, my choice.

Challenge A intrigued me with its geography strand–after a year of that I would learn the countries and features of the world. Attractive.  Students get a semester’s review of the Institute in Excellence writing program (my kids needed that) and practice it on Newbery books for the second semester. They do mini-reports in biology weekly in a nature journal. They began to study Latin. All this sounded good to me.

Challenge B offered science reports on important scientists as well as essays about Newbery literature. It had the kids discussing current events and participating in a mock trial. It included beginners Latin. Science fair, a mini Chemistry lesson, and a 10 week study of the controversy over how life began–these looked good to me. But the star of the program–logic–kept pulling me back into its orbit.

In the end I realized I could not let anyone else teach this program. Fact. I would be consumed with envy and regret if I passed up this opportunity to learn these things for myself.

So, in April I committed to preparing to become a Challenge B tutor.  Since there was no training available in the north, the Challenge I tutor and I flew to Wilmington Delaware for training, where I met a veteran Ginny Franklin, who laid a solid foundation for my summer studies.  Throughout the golden summer days I worked through Introductory Logic, drew countless documents off the portal for study, read several chapters of Soul of Science, looked into the current events topics, and advertised for students.

My five students and I had a wonderful-scary year, culminating in a mock trial played out in the living room of one of my families and a short story anthology I still show today as a model of what excellence students can achieve at this level.

During the school year I worked hard–maybe too hard–to know my material and a wide ring around it, putting in maybe 20 hours a week in preparation.  Why so much? I was learning what it meant to be classical, studying the material, and researching websites to recommend to my families for their research.  That first year I took debate way too seriously, not understanding at the time that I simply needed to get the students dialoguing. I also needn’t have done the research for the children, since the research skill was the very thing they needed to learn.

Community day more than paid off the work I invested every week. We thoroughly enjoyed our time together. I absolutely love working with young men and women; they are full of life, of life’s questions, of lively conversation. I could tell they felt enormously affirmed in class  together, where their thoughts were taken seriously, where they were challenged to think seriously about what they studied.

Four years later I am still teaching at the same level. Living at a tutor has changed my life.  The material I teach still fascinates me and I find connections everywhere I go. I am getting an education, learning everything I can about classical education and how its goal is to make the man whole, giving glory to God as His image-bearer. I have seen my own children develop in their thinking and writing, in their self-discipline and self-respect.  Classical Conversations has helped my family achieve the goal I dreamed of but despaired of achieving: it prepared my children for the future by giving them the tools of learning so they would love to learn and be able to learn anything on their own.

It gives me great joy to be a Challenge tutor in Classical Conversations.

About lettersfromheartscontent

Mother of six, wife to a forester and educator, former homeschool teacher and tutor with Classical Conversations. Now retired from teaching music at a small Christian school. In my retirement I am quilting, decluttering, and calling country dances--contra dances and more for people in my community who want to get out again.
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18 Responses to Classical Conversations’ Challenge B

  1. CC is finally coming to my town this fall. The current classes are about 30 miles away with a whole lot of traffic in between. I am considering tutoring for Challenge A, but I am not an experienced teacher beyond my only child (grade 6). Considering that writing is my weakest subject, how much prep work is involved in tutoring? My child is a struggling reader and writer. How do you work with students that have that struggle?

    My I re-blog your article in its entirety? Whether I join or not, I want to promote this wonderful program. The purpose of my blogs are to provide a Hemet-centric source for resources. My homeschooling blog is at My other blog is about DIY self-reliant living.

    • Driving through 30 miles of traffic is no picnic. Glad CC is coming to town.

      You are absolutely going to love the writing portion of Challenge A! It is new this year, and it teaches student (and teacher!) the rudiments of writing, building well from the steel structure to the gorgeous stonework and painted trim on the outside. You will come out of your first year a confident writer –and speaker–of persuasive argument, I assure you. This coming year students will spend three weeks on a book at or below reading level for each cycle; that should give you and your child time to read it together and dig deep.

      For what my friends tell me, Challenge A does not take us much prep as Challenge B. For Science, you need to find a children’s book that covers the theme each week–that sounds pretty easy. The math is not hard, the Latin moves at a comfortable pace even for beginners, the readings for ‘rhetoric’ are well within an adults capacity. My Challenge A tutors had my children help lead that strand after a few months, and that too must have relieved some of the burden.

      Tutors need a few essential qualities: they love the Lord and want to serve families joyfully, they value of homeschooling and have experience, and they love to learn. They need to be humble enough to recognize they have a lot to learn about classical education and be willing to be a model of a humble, joyful learner.

      Sure! Re-post the blog. You do me quite an honor.
      Blessings, Ruth

  2. Pingback: Classical Conversations for Older Children | Hemet Sonshine

  3. Hannah Shultz says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience as a Challenge B tutor. I am a home school mom of 5 children, who just found out about Classical Conversations this year. I am considering taking on the role of tutor this fall. Your positive post has encouraged me greatly.

    • It made a huge change for good in my life. The first year my children saw less of me than I would have liked but what we learned anyway was far beyond what we had been learning when they were all “working” alone with their taped teachers.

      God will lead you. And it really is true–He doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called.

  4. We are new to CC and my son is in Masters but he’s only 9 so I am prepping myself for when he is old enough for Challenge. . . and making sure it’s what is right for our family :)

    • I wish I had started earlier!

      Every effort you have put into his work at the Foundations level will pay off in Challenge. I can’t tell you how many times something comes up in class and the kids connect to their Foundations grammar. Foundations was created to support Challenge work. Glad you are looking ahead!

  5. Thank you for this post. I am possibly tutoring Challenge B this coming year, and I’m excited and nervous! Any specific supplies or teaching methods you implemented that you feel are very helpful? Any tips would be welcomed by me!! :)

    • Challenge B is awesome! Definitely carve out a block of your day for the rest of the summer for prepping. Start with the videos in your Learning Pathway in the Classical Portal. Do you know how to get in there? It was my lifeline for my first year. We have Discussion Forum (even if you don’t post, watch the questions and answers that come by), and Learning Pathways (My Plan tab: archived training webinars, links to register for live ones, and under Resources: documents). Subscribe to CC Connected, for a small monthly fee, for many more tutor-made documents and templates and cool stuff. There are some talented people out there!

      Teaching method: print out a copy of the Five Common Topics and use them to get dialogue going in your seminars. Eventually, you and your students will know them by heart and will use them naturally.

      Supplies: get lots of dry erase markers and prepare personal white boards for your students (and yourself). An enterprising family in my community buys sheets of shower stall board (?), cuts it into boards, covers the edges in pretty electrical tape, and sells them for something like $3. But white boards are also sold online somewhere.

      Have you been to your training yet? Your trainer will have some ideas, too.

      This is a fantastic program–hard work, exciting, fun, enriching, rewarding. Your class will become a family, and those kids will grow from children into men and women in your sight over the year. Wait till you see them in suits for Mock Trial!

  6. marykprather says:

    So glad I found your post today! My daughter has finished Challenge A and will be starting B in just a few weeks. We are very excited! Do you have any pointers for us?

    • Awesome! If you can get it, read Archimedes and the Door of Science this summer, at least the first chapter. That helps tremendously with the first eek homework assignment. Read Phantom Tollbooth before classes begin, and maybe Little Britches and Hiding Place. Those are long books and they may be hard to complete once school starts. If you don’t get World Magazine, I suggest it. Fantastic for Current events strand, especially when you consider the digital archives on the website.

      Enjoy your journey! It is a special program.

  7. Angie Franks says:

    Question for you. We need a challenge b tutor in my community. However, my own child (the only one still at home) will be in challenge a. How hard would it be for me to do b and her to do a?

    • Hi Angie,
      I think that depends quite a bit on where you are in your classical journey. If you and she have been with Classical Conversations for some time, you already have a good foundation. It sounds like you are an experienced homeschooler too.

      TO be honest with you, I found the first year I tutored B strenuous because I was ignorant and had so much to learn! I did a lot of things wrong, like trying to learn how to do debate, instead of letting students discuss openly. I entered CC with six kids and took on Ch B all at once. Not recommended! But I believed Leigh, and still do, that ordinary people can do this if they love to learn, love students, are willing to apply themselves, and rely on the Lord.

      If I were you, I would now go to someone in your community who knows you and your style, and ask them for an honest, loving opinion. Can she see you doing it? Challenge B is a lot of fun and rewarding work, and deserves a director who is enthusiastic, humble, and able to learn with the students. Is that you?

      Is your daughter able to work on her own some? You’ll need to work with her a few of hours a day, but she should be able to work increasingly independently. You’ll need to check her work. Both she and your husband will need to accept that you will be spending some time studying this year.

      Let me know what you decide!

  8. Dana says:

    Thank you!!! I am beginning my journey as a challenge B tutor, with no prior experience in Classical Conversations~a little intimidating, but I am beginning my studies now as we begin mid august! So thankful I found your page!

  9. Katherine says:

    I wanted to let you know about a resource that’s available to help parents and teachers better understand and review the students’ knowledge of the Defeating Darwinism book. There is a study guide out there called Tips for Teens on Intelligent Design.

    I put together this guide when my two sons went through Challenge B, and I had so many parents ask for it that I checked with Phillip E Johnson’s publisher (Viking) and got permission to put it out there to make it available to the public.

    Since then so many Challenge B directors and moms have really enjoyed it. But many of the newer directors don’t really know about it.

    Just wanted to make you aware of it. Hope it blesses you. Here’s the link for it. Tips for Teens on Intelligent Design.

    Please remember that it’s meant for use by the educators, not the students. Students benefit from reading through Johnson’s original text.

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