How to Make the Most of Challenge A

CC Challenge A curriculum

Welcome to our Challenge A specific page!

Our hope is that this series of pages becomes a great resource for CC families. We cover some of the more general info on other pages:

Challenge A Table of Contents

  1. Logic (Math)
  2. Grammar (Latin)
  3. Research (Science)
  4. Reasoning
  5. Exposition
  6. Debate (Cartography)

I know there’s a lot of information here, but I’m going to try hard to use headings and bold lettering to make it easy to scan!


Help Contribute!

If you have some suggestions you’d like me to add here, please send them to me at: Julie (at) RidgeLightRanch.com


And now for some legal stuff

I try to use affiliate links whenever possible. So, if you use one of these links I may get a few pennies from it. However, the cost to you will be the same. I promise that I never choose what to suggest to you based on the benefit I might receive from it. You can learn more about our affiliate policy here.

Classical Conversations has asked me to tell you that “References to Classical Conversations do not constitute or imply endorsement by the company.” I’m guessing you knew that, but now we’re all on the same page.


I’m assuming you already read about how we do Classical Conversations and about how we do challenge, so let’s move on to the Challenge A specific material!


1. Logic (Math) Strand

Yes, I try to use both names, “Logic-Math,” so my sons get accustomed to the new term- especially in Challenge A, when it’s so new! In the second semester, when they start reading The Fallacy Detective, it’s going to be hard to remember that Logic=Math. In Challenge B, when they are learning formal logic, it’s even harder- so just call it “Logic-Math” from the beginning!

You can use any math curriculum with CC. We love Saxon, but I understand that not everyone does. I’ve seen students using all different math curriculums and I’ve never seen it cause a problem on community day.

Using Saxon in Ch A

If you are using Saxon, I HIGHLY recommend the book, Using John Saxon’s Math Books by Art Reed. It will walk you through all you need to know!

I do, however, have a few pieces of unsolicited advice that I can’t help but give:

  1. Pick a math curriculum and stick with it; switch curriculums only as a last resort!! Each curriculum manufacturer covers subjects in a slightly different order, so when you switch, your students are probably going to miss some concepts. If you HAVE to switch, be prepared to sit down with the books from each manufacturer to compare, lesson by lesson, what is taught in each book so you can help your student catch up!
  2. Help your students understand the difference between “learning a new concept in math” and “math practice.” No one loves math practice. It’s repetitive and boring, but you still need to do it. We do LOTS of practice so the skill becomes automatic- like muscle memory. Then when we learn the next concept, we aren’t struggling with multiple concepts at the same time. We practice math like a pianist practices scales or a basketball player practices dribbling.

What Goes in the Binder?

Just a few loose sheets of lined or graph paper


2. Grammar (Latin) Strand

Yes, again, call it “Grammar-Latin.” It’s the best way I know to get our students used to the new vocabulary.

I have a lot to tell you about Latin but please don’t let that scare you. I think once you take the time to understand how Henle Latin in organized, you’ll be comfortable using it and it won’t seem so scary.

Plan on spending 1 hour on Latin each of your 4 school days. By the time an hour is up, your student’s brain is probably ready for a rest, even if you all aren’t finished with the day’s assignments. You’ll cover about the first 1/3 of the book in Challenge A, the first 2/3 of the book in Challenge B, and the whole book in Challenge 1. So, you’ll see all this again (remember that mastery comes through repetition)! However, you’ll move slower in Challenge A, so do your best to make the most of the slower pace- it probably won’t feel slow.

Henle Latin Books

Henle Latin has been around a long time. I’m a little surprised the publisher hasn’t reformatted it with bigger font, more white space, and clear organization… but such is life. Be prepared to customize your Henle books!

When we sit down together to work on Latin this is what my student needs: Purple Book, Blue Book, his blank spiral notebook, and Latin cheat sheet (see image)

Henle Latin books

CC sells a Latin “Workspace” workbook for each challenge level. We used the Challenge A Workspace the first year and decided we didn’t need it. Now we do all our work in a spiral notebook. We like the spiral notebooks that have a pocket so we have a place to store our cheat sheet (see below)

Each student needs their own purple “First Year” book and blue “Grammar” book. I like to have my own copy as well. (I’m determined to get over my fear of languages by learning Latin with my children and it’s nearly impossible for two of us to look at the tiny font as the same time.) I recommend you take both books to Office Depot and have them cut off the binding and spiral-bind them. Otherwise, it’s really hard to try to get them to stay open. We had a clear cover added to the front and back as well!

The blue Grammar book is a list of all the Latin grammar rules, all in one place, you’ll use it in Challenge years A through 4! People sometimes will tell you to look at a certain page and sometimes at a particular rule number, so watch out for that!

The purple First Year book is your main curriculum. It’s divided into 14 units (You’ll do units 1-3 in Challenge A). Each unit has several lessons. Each lesson has one or more numbered sub-lessons. The new grammar and vocabulary are sprinkled throughout each lesson. Here’s how we mark up our books with colored pencil (since a highlighter would bleed through):

  • Purple: unit header, lesson header, or sub-lesson number
  • Green: new vocabulary
  • Blue: new grammar concepts or rules
Marking your Henle Latin Book

Latin Pronunciation

We do quite a bit of work verbally. In addition to reviewing the flashcards out loud, we do a lot of the Latin-to-English translation verbally. In order to help us learn to pronounce the words correctly (at least according to one system of pronunciation) we also often listen to the Word List audio files from Magistra Jones.

Latin Answer Key

Henle’s white Answer Key assumes the teacher already knows some Latin, so it only includes the answers to the “harder” questions. This was NOT enough for me. I wanted answers to absolutely everything! I found Kathy Shedphard’s Henle 1 Answer Key and I LOVE it! It covers the whole Henle 1 book, so it will be all you need through Challenge 1. You can download the PDF, or save the link to the file in Google Docs. (It’s 500 pages, so don’t plan on printing it!) From GoogleDocs, you can view it on your phone so you have one less book. Plus, you can add comments or questions and she ANSWERS YOU!!! Pure gold I tell you, pure gold!

Flash Card lady Latin cards

Latin Vocabulary Flashcards

We have enjoyed the printable vocabulary flashcards from The Flashcard Lady on Etsy. Some people like to write their own and I think it’s a great learning activity, but no matter how much handwriting practice I give him, my older son’s writing still looks a bit like chicken scratch. Buying these color-coded printable cards was absolutely worth it to me! Full disclosure, it took time to print, laminate, and cut them out, but I was being very picky. You can also purchase them already made and she’ll ship them to you.

Henle Latin Units 1-3 chart

Latin Cheat Sheets

CC has a nice Latin Trivium Table, but I can’t wrap my mind around it. Some how, it’s just not how I think. So, I made my own. I like making tables like this- it really helps me understand the material better! This cheat sheet shows the noun and adjective declensions, pronouns, and verb conjugations we learn in Challenge A. I hope it helps you out! (The little symbols in the bottom left mean that you can share this with anyone as long as you are giving attribution, giving it freely, and not trying to make any money off it!)

Latin Cheat Sheet, Henle Units 1-3, CC Challenge A

Extra Latin Help

I have heard great things about Latin with Andy, Jam with Latin, and many others. However, I wanted a book I could read and not a video. I was given a copy of Magistra Jones’ Latin Companion. I loved it so much that I just bought the next book! She explains each Henle lesson in a slightly different way than Henle, allowing me to really grasp the concept. I don’t make my kids read this (although I’d be thrilled if they did). Instead, I read it on my own before or after I sit down with them. However, it’s written in such a way that students could easily read it!

What Goes in the Binder?

Nothing at first. Throughout the year, the kids end up with some loose papers and we add them here


3. Research (Science) Strand

The Research/Science strand is broken into 3 sections: Natural Science, Science Fair, and Biology/Anatomy.

A. Natural Science

This should be a fun unit for the students! They get to pick a topic, research it a bit, and write a report on it. They can use books you have on hand, library books, or online resources. You can have your students write an IEW style paper, or just have a key word outline on an index card. Ask your director what they’ll be doing in class.

Hopefully, your student will want to sketch whatever they researched! If your student is overwhelmed by the idea of drawing, have them trace an image instead! We can learn soooo much when we trace! As an artist myself, I have so much I want to tell you about tracing, but I’ve already said it all on the Tracing is Amazing page, so check it out!

B. Science Fair

Your guide lays this all out for you. Just remember, Science Fair is NOT about playing around doing science experiments. It’s about the scientific method, the report, and the presentation. If you’d like your student to be curious and try stuff, start that long before science fair time (like over the summer)! Once the Science Fair unit arrives, it’s time to buckle down and follow instructions.

One of the hardest parts of the Science Fair is finding a project where you truly can control ALL the variables but one, so keep that in mind as you plan!

C. Biology/Anatomy

Once again, your guide has all you need! Students will take Biology again in high school, so don’t worry if they miss some here. Trace and draw the body systems, label them, and watch a few YouTube videos about each body system each week.

In class, many communities will do some dissections of animal parts (my son was super fascinated by the eyeball!) toward the end of the semester! If your child is a bit squeamish, view some dissections on video prior to the live dissections. This often helps students get accustomed to the sights!

What Goes in the Binder?

Each week they are adding their homework and such to the binder.


4. Reasoning Strand

Each challenge year has an easier strand. In Challenge A, this is it! The Analogies for All of Us book is simple and straightforward. The Fallacy Detective (did you know there’s an audiobook of this?) is easy and fun!

Proverbs 25

In the Analogies for All of Us book, the students will look at Proverbs 25 (NKJ) during the first semester. If you choose to do this, we have some items to help:

What Goes in the Binder?

We just put the Proverbs 25 handwriting sheets in here


5. Exposition Strand

Visual of 5 common topics

In Challenge A we start Lost Tools of Writing (LTW). For anyone who just finished Essentials, where we use the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW), it’s an abrupt switch! I tutored Essentials for 4 years and I love the IEW curriculum, but it focuses on structure and style- not content. LTW focuses on content!

  • In the “Invention” segment of LTW, students learn how to use the Five Common Topics to brainstorm ideas
  • In the “Arrangement” segment, students learn about new elements they should include in their essays, like the thesis, enumeration, division, proof, and amplification.
  • In the “Elocution” segment, students practice adding style to their essay (similar to IEW’s “dress-ups” and “decorations.”)
Help with Lost Tools of Writing

In my own quest to wrap my head around LTW, I created some tables and forms. Everyone I’ve shared them with has found them helpful, so I’ll leave them here with you!

Lost Tools of Writing Overview and Checklist/Outlines

(The little symbols in the bottom left mean that you can share this will anyone as long as you are giving attribution, giving it freely, and not trying to make any money off it!)

This file also has the Checklist-Outlines I created for my sons. I print one of these off for each essay they’re writing and put it in a high-capacity sheet protector (which supposedly holds up to 100 sheets of paper!). The outline helps them know how to write their paper. The checklist shows them what else I expect them to turn in with their paper. As they complete their Invention work, they slide their worksheets and papers into the page protector. When the essay is finished, they add their final paper to the page protector and turn the whole packet in to me.

What Goes in the Binder?

All their brainstorming papers and their essays


6. Debate/ Cartography Strand

Oh, I have sooooo much to tell you about Cartography! I love this strand and I’ve put countless of hours into making it easier for you and your students! Here are the main things I have for you:

Cartography video course

What Goes in the Binder?

I have my son keep the PDF instructions for the region he is currently learning behind this tab. The rest of the instructions are in a big binder on the bookcase.

I also have my son put all the maps he draws in or behind this pocket tab divider.


Now it’s your turn! Let me know how you make the most of Challenge A!

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