For those of you who know me, you know that my journey through Classical Conversations is a different one from most. I started working with Classical Conversations in 2006. It was small then; I remember once someone saying something about corporate and someone else saying that corporate was just Leigh Bortins and one other person.
In order for the program in my area to grow, they needed Challenge tutors. I needed to get out of public school and stay at home with my little one. The deal blessed both of us (I hope). They made an exception for me to become a tutor and I thank God greatly that they did. (Nowadays, they can be and are more selective. I am thankful that God put me in that position when He did.) My journey is different because I have seen the way the program is laid out from Challenge first and then Foundations. It is like I have seen a puzzle put together in a beautiful form and now I am seeing how the pieces fit together. I saw, early on, how articulate my students were both in writing and speaking. I also saw the scope of literature they read and the intensity of their schedules. They also knew so much about apologetics and Darwinism. I knew that was what I wanted for my children.
With that said, I am finally a Challenge mom! It is so exciting—I feel like I have been promoted to a new position as well. It is so much different than being a Challenge tutor but I relish the new responsibilities. Now I am in charge of grading and tailoring assignments. Now I am the one teaching study habits and organizational skills. I am also the one giving tests and quizzes. Things I have learned that a Challenge mom needs:
- A Good Planner—I cannot stress this enough. This has been a number one factor in why we are getting our work done successfully. You need a planner that has a monthly and weekly view. The monthly view is great for putting extra-curricular activities and big projects. The weekly view is good for breaking up the assignments into bite-sized portions. We divide up each subject into the tiniest portions spread out through the week. I really love the planner we got from Homeschool Story. Our community day is Friday, but you can pick a planner with the last day being your community day. The planner is editable so you can reuse the weekly portion year after year (as long as your community day is the same). I have a bullet journal for myself, but really love the flexibility of the Homeschool Story planner. You might also consider the Student Planner available in the CC bookstore.
- Tabs—I needed these to tab up my guide (the new guides are beautiful and all the levels are uniform—it makes things so much easier!), our Latin books, and our LTW. You need to have so much at your fingertips quickly and the tabs make that possible.
- Timer—Students need to spend an hour on both cartography and Latin each day. My daughter is very diligent about this and so she needs a timer that she can pause and start back up.
- Science books with current research—I did not think about this prior to Challenge A, but with my daughter writing a fused outline and an essay with two sources each week, amassing science books prior to class is important. Sometimes we go to the library, but a few current science encyclopedias are great to have at home.
- A good friend who has done it—Even though I have tutored Challenge for many years, I had no idea what to expect in this level. I was not sure what we should do over the summer or what would take us the most time in Challenge A. I have a friend who has been awesome at helping me and talking me out of my nervousness. She continues to help me work out her lessons.
- Some good friends who are doing it with you—My daughter’s friends who did Foundations with her are doing Challenge with her. I have fostered great relationships with them through the last eight years. However, it is great to branch out and become friends with the other mothers in the group. This summer, we all got together and read the literature to prepare for the year. It was a good bonding experience and I was thankful to have other people holding me accountable as I was reading. I know I’ll be leaning on them when it comes time for science fair!
- A good relationship with your Challenge tutor. We are very blessed to have an amazing Challenge A tutor in our community. I am sure your tutors are wonderful too! Here are some tips from me to strengthen the relationship between you and your Challenge tutor:
- Read her emails. You would be surprised how long it takes to write an email out to parents. Detailing each strand takes so much time! I do not have as much to write as a Challenge III tutor, but it still takes me a long time to write a recap email.
- Ask her questions. This shows that you care about doing the job correctly. Listen to her advice. J However, these questions should not be ones that have already been answered in her emails and the guide—it is good to value her time as well as advice.
- Communicate your expectations of your child to the tutor. Let the tutor know if you have altered an assignment. It is no fun as a tutor to get into a class and expect students to be able to discuss a book if all the students are exempted by their parents and no one has read it.
- Have an understanding heart and give grace. The Challenge tutor is the lead learner. She is not the expert on the subjects. If she makes a mistake or has a bad week, give her some grace. There are just some weeks, for instance, when her kids are sick or the basement floods, that she might not be as prepared as she wants to be. As long as this is not a habit, give her some grace.
I am hopeful that we are setting our kids up to be lifelong learners. This program is such an excellent one and I am so thankful I found it!