The Classical Conversations Essentials program, geared toward fourth through sixth graders, is a program that focuses on the structures and patterns of language. The primary goal of the Essentials program is to give students a firm grasp on the grammar of language and a core set of dialectic skills for analyzing and understanding language. The Challenge B Latin program is generally geared toward eighth graders and uses the Henle Latin: First Year Text. The primary goal of Challenge B Latin is to build upon the English grammar learned in Essentials and the Latin forms, basic syntax, and vocabulary they master in Challenge A while reading and translating simple sentences. The Essentials program is therefore a solid stepping stone to Challenge-level Latin—it provides the basic learning skills, basic grammar skills, and basic dialectic skills that will be applied not only in Latin, but in all areas of study.
Both Essentials and Challenge B Latin help students acquire and perfect certain basic learning and study skills. Each program teaches a systematic method of learning that moves from the known to the unknown. By using simple sentence structures that grow in complexity, students build knowledge gradually, but firmly. Working systematically, students learn to study intelligently and effectively while they develop habits of concentration and orderly thinking. For example, in Essentials, English grammar is taught using lists, definitions, and charts. This technique is duplicated in Latin studies, where students memorize vocabulary as well as paradigm charts to show the relationships of words and ideas. Students begin to understand why vocabulary and forms matter as they develop and strengthen their minds. These basic skills will carry students through a lifetime of learning.
Along with basic learning skills, basic grammar skills are honed in both Essentials and Challenge B Latin. The Essentials program works to prepare students by building, strengthening, and mastering the grammar of the English language. Each week, Essentials lessons focus on one of the eight parts of speech and one of the basic sentence structures. Overlearning these parts of speech and sentence structures lays a solid foundation that will be utilized in the study of Latin. In Essentials as well as in Challenge-level Latin, nouns and verbs are defined and categorized by type, attribute, usage, and tense. Knowing these core classifications in English allows students to easily translate the ideas to Latin. Challenge B Latin further develops students’ foundation in English grammar by applying Latin language rules to the memorized English forms. Students who have overlearned this basic grammar are well prepared to dive into Latin studies.
While mastering learning skills and grammar skills are critical, bridging the gap between grammar and dialectic is the key to the Essentials and the Challenge Latin programs. Beginning in Essentials and carrying on to Latin, students are guided from grammar to dialectic as they move task to task in order to analyze words and sentences. Using a dialectic exchange or a discussion-based format, teachers/tutors and students work through tasks together, discussing the thinking process as they go. This dialectic discussion allows students to analyze, or parse, sentences while confirming their understanding of the information. As Essentials students examine sentences in detail, they tell everything they know about each word in the sentence. The same approach is employed in the Challenge program. Students parse sentences in English as well as Latin. Using a similar system of investigation, students categorize parts of speech and examine sentence details, working toward a mastery of both English and Latin. Students are able to take patterns learned in Essentials and apply them effectively to new concepts introduced in Latin. These basic dialectic skills train the brain to think and process in an orderly manner, which students will naturally apply to other areas of study.
Essentials and Challenge B Latin courses share common goals. Both programs use a systematic approach to building basic skills that are vital to mastering both English and Latin grammar. Both programs bridge the gap from grammar to dialectic. Once students have a solid grasp on English grammar, transitioning to Latin becomes an easier and more manageable task. Essentials students come to Challenge B well prepared for Latin study, with a primary set of dialectic skills that continues to be developed in community and at home. Basic learning skills, basic grammar, and basic dialectic skills are foundational to learning any new subject. The preparation Essentials provides results in stronger language skills, which translates to stronger written and oral presentations in English and in Latin. Challenge B students successfully put these skills into practice as they clearly, persuasively, and logically influence the world around them to know God and to make Him known.