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:

Table of Contents for This Page

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 also 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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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!

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