Rachael Speer is a veteran homeschooler with four children, ages tween to teen, and she’s the Area Representative in the northwestern Georgia area. She has completed nine years of Foundations, five years of Essentials, and two years of Challenge (A and B) as a parent. Here are some of her hard-earned and helpful tips for new Challenge families.
A Learning Experience
When we began homeschooling with Classical Conversations, I was a young mom of a wild and adventurous two-year-old and an inquisitive and strong-willed five-year-old. We would often roll into CC a few minutes late, still eating our half-cold breakfast and likely missing a pair of shoes (and as those in my local community will attest, that last point hasn’t changed).
Ten years later, I’m older, vastly more aware of what I do not know, but equally as encouraged by the opportunity to learn alongside my children. I now have four tweens-to-teens and have had the blessing of completing nine years of Foundations, five years of Essentials, and one year of both Challenge A and B as a parent. What a learning experience it has been for us all!
As I sit here today and reflect on our years with Classical Conversations, I can’t help but smile. The age-old phrase, or perhaps warning, “time passes quickly,” perfectly depicts the last almost decade of my family’s life.
I’d like to share some of my thoughts, reflections, and suggestions with those of you at the threshold of the Challenge years.
Tip #1: Define Your Terms
As a product of the public school system myself, I find myself slipping back into the patterns of how I was taught, despite knowing it doesn’t yield the results I desire.
To properly assess if I am seeking Truth through questions and conversations with my children or simply professing what I know to them and testing if they can remember my knowledge, I’ve found that it’s important to first have some terms clearly defined.
What is a human?
Genesis 1:27 tells us, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him.” Ephesians 2:10 states, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” My children, and yours, are image-bearers created for an eternity spent with God and good works well beyond what we can comprehend.
What is education?
Because God is the Creator and Sustainer of the world, He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things to be studied. When studied rightly, all things point us back to Him and inform us of His character. Made in His image, intentional study informs us of our own character as well. What a gift this approach to education is to our families and communities in an age when identity is such a hot topic.
It really simplifies our teaching job!
What is your end goal?
Defining this term is a personal and important exercise for each family to do. For my family, it’s to raise image-bearers who are in love with Jesus, Truth, and those around them.
These definitions need to steer our educational choices.
Tip #2: Know Your Resources
I also have found that it helps to turn to a set of core resources:
Read your guide.
Classical Conversations believes that God trusts parents with their children, and because of that, our students have program Directors rather than program teachers. We, as parents, are our children’s teachers, and we need to be familiar with what it is we are teaching each year.
Get to know your teen’s Director.
One of the beauties of community is the partnership between parent, Director, and student. I’d like to encourage you to build a relationship with your director.
They will serve as you and your teen’s helper, guide, lead learner, and encourager throughout the year.
Invest in parent resources.
Take initiative to grow in your understanding of the classical model a little more each year. Between books, podcasts, and equipping events like parent Practicums, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. It’s all too easy to turn the Challenge guide into nothing more than a checklist, and these resources will serve as a reminder of the true goal of education and the skills we ought to be practicing through the Challenge years.
Learn to use CC Connected.
We have so many rich, time-saving articles and videos available at our fingertips through CC Connected. It’s well worth the sacrifice of a few minutes each weekend to look ahead at the strand-specific snippets, videos, and literature snapshots listed in the following week’s drop-down. The return on your time investment will be tenfold. Here are some helpful tutorials to help you navigate the website.
Tip #3: Model a Love of Learning
The middle years are beautiful and challenging, full of growth for both parents and teenagers. Our teens are watching us. They are watching to see if we “practice what we preach.” May we continue to model a curiosity for the world around us and a love of discovery. May our teens see us fall more in love with God and His people every day through our studies of both the Word and the world.
In short, stay grounded in Truth, use the resources provided to you, stay connected to community, and have fun!