My wife and I started homeschooling in earnest twenty years ago this month. Our fourth, and last, child graduated from Challenge IV in May. Classical Conversations didn’t come to our area until our oldest two children were already graduated; fortunately, they enjoyed a similar classical seminar program for their last few years of high school—similar in that it taught the classics, logic, philosophy, theology, and rhetoric; taught them to think deeply and ask good questions. Our two younger children both got to experience the Challenge programs, our youngest son benefitting from all six years of Challenge.
Our three oldest have also graduated from college and our youngest heads to Lee University in the fall as an Honors student with a Presidential Scholarship. My two oldest sons are both married, working full-time jobs and are about halfway through their master’s programs. Although we really are very proud of all of them, that’s not why I mention their accomplishments.
I want to encourage all you Foundations’ parents out there—you can do this. There really is light at the end of that dark tunnel, even if it is years away! My wife and I both have college degrees, but we weren’t particularly good students. Please don’t ask me what my GPA was or how many years it took me to finish. My children all turned out to be far better students than I, largely because of classical education, and specifically, Classical Conversations.
So much of what is taught in Foundations and Essentials I either did not learn or learned on my own. I did not learn the parts of a sentence or how to diagram a sentence until my junior year of high school. I discovered Greek mythology and classic British and American literature on my own; it wasn’t taught in my junior high school. We studied contemporary young adult fiction that left no lasting impression whatsoever, and we wrote our own juvenile, banal compositions that were completely forgettable. It wasn’t until college that I learned to research and to write well and persuasively. Public speaking? Not until I was an adult. These are all skills my children were beginning to learn in their middle school years.
Foundations and Essentials provide the building blocks of a true and godly education, but it is the Challenge programs that teach Classical Conversations students how to use those building blocks most effectively. In Challenge, students learn what all the information they memorized in Foundations means and how it goes together. More than that, they learn how to think deeply and argue persuasively using that information.
The vast majority of Challenge graduates are well equipped to go into higher education and defend their faith while gaining in knowledge, wisdom, and favor with God and men. They are also well equipped to go out into the world and build a career, earn a living, raise a family, contribute to their community, and bring honor and glory to their Heavenly Father. Parents of Foundations and Essentials students, run the race set before you with your children and finish the Challenge years well. I promise you’ll be glad you did.