Though she homeschooled her whole life, Cassidy started her formal high school education with Challenge II without any experience in Foundations or the earlier Challenge levels. We asked her to share her experience of enrolling in Challenge II.
Looking to start Challenge II was honestly a pretty scary prospect for me. I registered for the program rather suddenly, without a lot of time to fully acclimate myself to the idea. There were a lot of unknowns, which made me nervous, especially since one of the unknowns was my own capability. My education leading up to Challenge II was very, um, unstructured, let’s say. Because of that, I had no idea if I would be capable of keeping pace with such a demanding program, especially since most of my classmates had been classically educated since they were little. They seemed to have an arsenal of rhymes and songs and memory work that I didn’t have. I felt at a disadvantage, to say the least. I would never catch up.
Can You Enroll in Challenge II Without Foundations?
If these are thoughts that you (or your student) have or fears you share, then fear no more! I’m here to tell you that it will be okay.
The summer leading up to Challenge II, we students were supposed to read Beowulf. This was my introduction to Challenge II so — I admit — I felt a little daunted even before class had started. I didn’t finish the book, and I felt like a failure. I couldn’t even finish the first assignment?!
But when I got to class, my Challenge II Director and classmates were super welcoming and encouraging. I thought that maybe this wouldn’t be so scary after all.
We jumped into the material pretty quickly, and I was a wee bit overwhelmed as I looked over the schedule for the semester. How in the world could I accomplish all these things I’d never done before?
I asked my Director and classmates so many questions that first semester, which they all answered happily. I slowly got into the swing of things (and figured out I didn’t need to be perfect!), and watched in awe as the quality of my work increased and the anxiety that went into it decreased.
Week by week I became more comfortable and contributed more in class. In areas where I struggled, my Director gave me the tools to succeed, not just the answers, which served me so well in the long run. Time management, prioritizing, and making a successful study plan were just a few of the things I learned in Challenge II. The resources in the Challenge guide were really helpful too: “How to Write a Paper,” “Proper MLA Formatting,” “Creating a Bibliography,” and “How to Cite Your Sources” felt like gifts from God as I wrote my first (ever!) formal essays. The guidelines for debate were perfect for a student who had never debated before.
I took each week one assignment at a time, trying to do my best. Each week, it got a little easier. I became more self-assured, less overwhelmed, and more comfortable. It never came “easy,” but with hard work and perseverance I accomplished so much more than I ever thought myself capable. I realized despite (or maybe because of) my different academic background, I had a lot to bring to the table.
Advice to New Challenge II Students
Often, I looked back during the semester and was astounded by how far I’d come and how much I’d grown. So, from one nervous rising Challenge II-er to another, here’s my best advice:
- Ask questions. Your Director will be happy to guide you and your parents through this new journey.
- Use your resources. Explore your Challenge guide. There are so many tips, examples, and resources in there. Don’t handicap yourself by assuming it’s just a syllabus.
- Be teachable. You’re going to encounter things that are new and difficult. Listen to your Director and peers, and open yourself up to learning the hard things.
- Work hard. It will be so worth it, not just for your high school transcript, but to see what you are capable of.
- Don’t doubt yourself. You are fearfully and wonderfully made! God put you here and He will give you the people and perseverance you need to see it through. Face this year with confidence in the Lord and in your ability to learn.
- Have fun! Some of my favorite memories and best friends were made in Challenge II. Find the joy in the journey—I promise it’s there.
This year was a turning point in my life. I entered Challenge II without Foundations, and the program really pushed and stretched me, taking me out of my comfort zone. The experiences I had and skills I learned equipped me for college, but also life itself. I wouldn’t exchange it for the world. So, good luck!
Not yet a Classical Conversations member and interested in our community-based approach to homeschooling? We’d love to hear from you! To learn more about us, click here.
This post was written in 2018 by Cassidy Street, who graduated from Challenge IV in 2012.