How to Make the Most of CC’s Challenge Program

teens walking in field

Welcome to our CC Challenge-Specific Page

I’m dedicating a corner of my website (which is mostly about teaching art using the classical model of education) specifically to how we made CC’s community-based curriculum work in our family and community.

On this page, I cover some general ideas about Challenge. However, the majority of my tips and files can be found on these other CC level-specific pages here:

Please also talk with your CC Director. These pages are one mom’s advice and each CC group does things a little differently!

Table of Contents for This Page

  • Organizing for Challenge
  • Summer Prep
  • CC’s Challenge Guide, in digital format
  • The Student Planner
  • Keeping a Timeline Journal / Book of Centuries?
  • Grading in Challenge
  • Transcripts

And now for some legal stuff

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Organizing for Challenge

Each of my children (do I still get to call them that when one is taller than me now?) has chosen to organize their Challenge supplies differently, so I’ll try to share both when applicable

The Guide

I have my OWN copy of each guide (I took the guide to Office Depot and they made me a copy). This allows me to give my guys full reign in their copy of the guide and I think that helps them take ownership. If I had to share a copy of the guide with them, I’d either go crazy or refuse to let them write in it and neither of those would be good.

I leave ALL the pages in their guide. Some parents remove the articles in the beginning, but I keep hoping the boys will read them. The articles are well-written and explain the “why” behind a lot of what we do. During his ChB year, my oldest had a friend ask him why he was learning Latin. I pointed him to that article in his guide and we pulled out a few key reasons. Hopefully, that stuck with him more than if I’d just rattled off a few reasons.

My younger son wants it inside his giant 3-ring binder. My older son likes his copy of the guide spiral bound, by itself.

CC Guides

We segment our guides with tab dividers or sticky tabs, marking the sections we think will be most useful. For example, here’s how we broke down the Ch A Guide:

  1. Table of Contents
  2. Semester Snapshots
  3. Weekly Assignments
  4. Appendices
  5. Logic (Math)
  6. Grammar (Latin)
  7. Research: Natural Science & Science Fair
  8. Research: Biology-Anatomy
  9. Reasoning
  10. Exposition
  11. Debate
  12. Extras

Last, we add a simple post-it note to mark the week 1 tasks in the Weekly Assignments section. That post-it note moves every week and will have to be replaced a few times over the year.

The Challenge Binder

Each student has their own 3-ring binder with a “Pocket Tab Divider” for each strand. Pocket tab dividers have a pocket where you can slide an 8.5×11 sheet of paper in and out without removing it from the 3-ring binder. This means they’re wider than a regular tab and will stick out past any page protectors in the binder. (yay!)

I’ll talk more about what goes behind each tab below when we talk about each subject

The Challenge Bookshelf

We own a lot of bookcases, so each kid has their own section of a bookcase. We have several magazine file boxes (as pictured below) for workbooks and spiral books- without a box, they tend to fall over and get in the way. I have yet to find cheap magazine file boxes that fit our big 3-ring binders, so they sit on their own. Exposition books tend to sit together without a box as well.


Summer Prep

I know many families like to do some prep work for the year during the summer. If your student is not a fast reader, reading some of the novels ahead of time might be helpful, however, their retention will need to be really good if they aren’t going to need to re-read them to write a paper on them.

In our family, we use the summertime to catch up on math and work on other projects (like Boy Scouts).

CC’s Challenge Guide, in digital format

Did you know (as of fall 2023) the full challenge guides are now available in digital format on CC Connected? They are stored in week 7, which is only available after you’ve paid your full 1st-semester tuition. You can’t download the guide, but you can print a few pages, which is handy if you don’t have your guide yet!

I try to direct you to other especially helpful CC Connected resources throughout the other challenge pages, but I never include them on my site since CC holds the copyright to everything there.


The Student Planner

Most students start keeping a planner in Challenge. The CC Challenge Guide lists out a week’s worth of work and it’s up to you and your student to decide what to do each day.

Both of my sons have used this printable student planner. It’s a MS Word document so we tweak it as needed.


Keeping a Timeline Journal / Book of Centuries?

Some students keep a Timeline Journal (aka Book of Centuries) in the Challenge years. Some people start in Ch A and others start in Ch 1. (A few even start before that!) Here’s some helpful info about what it is and how to maintain it!


Grading in Challenge

Whether you’re in a situation that requires grading or not, it’s good to stop and think about some key questions:

  • What is your purpose in grading?
  • What are the benefits/advantages of grading?
  • What are the costs/disadvantages of grading?
  • What’s the best way to grade each subject
  • What grading scenario will each of your students respond best to?
  • What does your state require of you in regard to grading?

Once our students are in high school, we’ll need to be creating transcripts. That means we need a way to grade for each class. However, in middle school, I think it’s great to help students become accustomed to being graded. So, in our family, we grade in all Challenge levels. However, the grading is less intense in Challenge A and B than in Challenge 1-4.

Each family has different ways of grading, but here’s how we’ve done it: My older son needed firm deadlines with clear consequences so I created a spreadsheet for each semester. I post it in the school room and my son, my husband, and I tried to go over it once a week (or two) to see if he was on track to make all A’s.

Is it logical to expect all As? Yes, I believe so! We “work until mastery” so if either of my students turns in sub-par work, we have them do it again. If their grades are low, they need more practice, so I find them some extra credit work to do. In this way, we’re ensuring they master each subject before we move on.

My Grading Spreadsheets

I’ll be sharing my Excel files with you on each Challenge page. For each of these, I start with the CC guide and go from there. So, there are a lot of abbreviations that probably won’t make sense until you read the guide.

Please tweak all the numbers to emphasize what you want! Here’s the framework that I started with:

  • I want an A to be challenging but achievable.
  • I want to emphasize the big projects my students work extra hard on.
  • I like to give all-or-nothing credit for any daily practice-type work they do in subjects like math and Latin.
  • I generally don’t give a grade for the student’s blue book exam, especially in the lower levels of Challenge. Instead, we embrace the idea that this is a time to celebrate and show off what they know. Also, I usually just go with whatever the tutor is giving as a blue book exam, so it’s not always what we’ve focused on at home. Who knows, I may change this later and you can always add a line to your spreadsheet if you want to use that as part of their grade.
  • We never actually finish the math book in a school year. Instead, we go at the pace that works for each student. The grade is made up of how many exams we covered, so I have to edit this part of the spreadsheet for each student at the end of each semester.
  • I also like participation to be around 10-20% of the overall grade.

I also think it’s important to sit down with your students and explain your grading system. I like to emphasize that grades typically do a poor job of measuring actual learning, but they’re required and it’s good to learn how to jump through hoops as we learn the subject material. I have a lot of mixed feelings about grades, but I know they’ll be graded in college, so I might as well start now and help them learn how to navigate this type of system.


High School Transcripts

Talk of grading usually leads to talk of high school transcripts… It’s easy to feel overwhelmed at the idea of a transcript, but you can do this, I promise!

A high school transcript is simply a record of what classes your student completed in high school. It doesn’t have to be in a specific format or use fancy language. You can find a wide variety of samples online because every school formats their transcripts a little differently. Whether your student is in Challenge all 4 years of high school or not, you can begin with CC’s sample transcript (it’s usually in the catalog each year- it was page 99 in the 2023 catalog) and adjust. Let’s go over the basic steps:

1. Make a Plan

The first thing you need to do is create a plan for high school so you’ll know your student can fit in all their key classes and the things they really want to do.

Some states have specific requirements for graduation and most colleges (and by colleges, I mean universities as well) have additional requirements. Contact your local colleges and any colleges your student might want to attend and get a copy of their minimum requirements.

(An Aside: Arizona has specific graduation requirements for traditional students, but not for homeschooled students. Homeschool educators are required by law to provide instruction in at least the subjects of reading, grammar, mathematics, science, and social studies. HSLDA has a great AZ-specific page I highly recommend! Arizona Government and Arizona History are required for tradition students in AZ, but not homeschooling. However, you may want to include them over a summer.)

Following CC’s challenge curriculum will be enough for almost any college out there. However, most students end up doing a few extra things in high school (Your local state Government / History, Driver’s Education, Health, Work Study…) and you should count them!

Check out my Math in Challenge page to help you create a math plan through high school

Keep in mind that while you might label some CC courses as “honors,” you can’t just call a class “AP” unless it is certified by the College Board.

2. Stay Up To Date

At least once a year, as your students make their way through high school, note down all the extra-curriculars your student is participating in- things like athletics, employment, and community service. Detail out:

  • Activity title
  • Activity description
  • Time commitment,
  • School years participated,
  • Position
  • Recognition or awards
  • Possible references (people they could ask for a letter of reference)

Each semester, complete your grading sheet and assign a grade for each course. If you haven’t already, write out a course description (there are examples on CC Connected and in the Facebook groups). Each year, photocopy the Table of Contents and the ISBN of each textbook so you can always refer back to it.

Then tweak the high school plan as needed.

3. Keep Learning

Read up (or listen to podcasts) on topics that interest you or your student:

  • Dual Enrollment- AZTransfer.com website can help determine what will transfer in Arizona.
  • CLEP and AP tests (CC has an article about CLEP vs AP.)

I’m no expert here, having no high school graduates until 2026, but I’ve read and researched the subject a lot. Here are some of my favorite resources:

  • Possibly the best resource is HSLDA. They have so many helpful resources about high school and beyond, including info on testing, transcripts, college, and careers.
  • CC usually has several articles about transcripts and homeschooling through high school. I believe they also recommend their AcademicRecords.net service.
  • The 7 Sisters are fun and have great recourses, including a blog and podcast, where they often help you get a feel for the whole homeschooling high school thing!
  • I’ve heard great things about Transcripts Made Easy by Janice Campbell, but I haven’t read it myself.
  • Kathryn Graunke gave an excellent breakout at the 2022 Arizona homeschool convention titled “College Bound: Tips for Arizona Students.” If you’re local, I highly recommend it! I believe you can purchase it for $5 here (#65)
  • Check out my Math in Challenge page to help you create a math plan through high school.

Testing in Challenge

This is about this time in our homeschooling journey that we start thinking more seriously about college prep testing like PSAT, SAT, ACT, and CLT. Most students take the PSAT or CLT 10 in the fall of their junior year and take the SAT, ACT, and/or CLT the Spring of their junior year. This allows students to retake any test they think they can score higher on. Check with the colleges your student is interested in to see which tests make the most sense.

This year, we had our sophomore take the CLT10 in April and had our 8th grader take the CLT8 in May. We thought it was helpful for test practice and general assessment. The report you get back from CLT gives a lot of detail on how the student scored on each type of question. For example, they gave me the actual % of questions he got right in each section so I could see that my son did great on “Grammar- Punctuation and Sentence Structure” and “Algebra- Arithmetic and Operations.” However, he didn’t do as well on “Grammar- Agreement” and “Geometry- Plane Geometry.” Now we know some things to work on for next time! CC has a discount code for CLT, so ask your CC Director or SR about it!

I’m going to refer you to HSLDA for more details on this:

HSLDA: The Alphabet Soup of High School Testing

Other Thoughts About High School


Help Contribute!

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


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