Getting Parents Ready for the CC Challenge Years

Being the parent of a Classical Conversations Challenge student means that you are their teacher. Yes, you enroll in a class, and yes, you pay someone to tutor that class, but you are the teacher. The tutor supports what you are doing at home. Often, this relationship gets flip-flopped and the expectation (either intentional or unintentional) is that the tutor will instill enough learning in that one day to float a week's worth of work. For some children, this may work out just fine, but for many, this turns into frustration - I experienced some of this myself this year with my own child...and I was the tutor!

As directors we're given a handy list of what we should be working on throughout the year. It was especially helpful my first year, but every year I keep appreciating that I don't have to do everything in the job description at all times. I thought this document would be a lovely type of resource for parents to have to help them navigate their role as a Challenge parent. I've come up with an Unofficial CC Parent month-by-month checklist to help keep you on top of your game. (I'll provide a downloadable PDF! Keep reading!)

CC Challenge years

Disclaimer: I was not hired by Classical Conversations to write this. I'm just a director of a local campus who would love to bless CC parents with support in finding success in navigating the Challenge years. All opinions are my own.

I recently read a great article by Marc Hays about getting in the trenches with his Challenge II daughter. It really resonated with me, as I've experienced similar struggles with my own student. Even though I was with him in class every week, I struggled keeping up with where he was at in his work at home, and I wanted to blame it all on him. This is hard work people! It's called Challenge for good reason: it's challenging. That's exactly why we've joined a community. We want others to help us stretch beyond where we could go on our own. Marc shares:

Even though every student cannot have a custom-fitted Challenge Guide, every student does have a custom-fitted parent. That is the whole point of homeschooling, and that is exactly what my wife and I forgot. We blindly required every assignment in the Guide, but the ones for which our daughter was not ready were more than she could bear and they had been crushing her.

What I've found as a challenge director is that many times parents are confused or unequipped to keep a hold of the reigns when their students reach the challenge years. They're told that they are the teacher, but they're given this "Challenge guide" that looks so much smarter than they think they are, and therefore they slip back into that public-school-expert mentality, and just wait for their Challenge director to tell them what they should be doing.

By the time you receive your Challenge guide, you've really just about run out of time to make the necessary plans to get in gear as a teacher to guide your student through a year of great study. The good news is that you don't even have to wait for the guide to get started on your plans...actually please don't wait!

I've learned through my time tutoring Challenge A, B, and I that you must always start by defining your terms. Teacher - what is this exactly? Well, I can start by telling you what it is not. This teacher expectation is not hour lectures every day on each subject. It's more of a mentor mindset. You're the one who has the final responsibility for educating your child, not the tutor. The tutor is there to support the teacher.

Where to start:

  • First, get registered. In order to ensure your spot is secured, you need to fill out the Challenge registration forms, and submit $125 to your local director (checks are made out to the director, not Classical Conversations). Registration opens for returning students in January, and for new students in February.
  • Second, get out your calendar:  Here are some important dates - (they're on the registration forms)
    • July 20th - Your fees and 1/2 of the tuition (for the Fall semester) are due
      • NOTE: The guide comes with your tuition - you'll get it after you pay! It doesn't come out until sometime in July though, so you won't get it early if you happen to pay early.
    • January 5th - The second half of the tuition is due (for the Spring semester)
  • Get a Catalog - This will give you sufficient information to begin your teacher planning until you get your guide. There's a shopping list, which includes the book list for whatever level you're registering for

Planning Before You Get Your Guide:

Like I said, you don't need the guide to get started with your teacher prep work. Don't try to buy an old guide. They're updated every year, so it won't help you much (and it's against the copyright to sell them). The catalog is a rich source of information. You can find a wealth of direction right there! Here's what you can do while you wait for the guide:

  • Read, Read, Read - I can almost guarantee that you'll struggle keeping up with the Challenge reading schedule if you wait for the school year to start. This is your student's full time job - to study, but you're not going to have the time if you have more than one kid. You can pick the longest books from the list, the ones you're the most interested in, or the first books on the list. Order doesn't really matter! It's great if your student starts to read in the summer as well. If you mark up your books, you'll have a great resource to discuss with during the year!
  • Pick the one or two seminars that scare you the most, and start studying! If you're afraid of a subject, and it's hard work, chances are that your student will feel similarly during the school year. The beauty of studying in the summer is that you have less on your plate, and you can gain a bit of compassion along the way. I felt this way about Logic in Challenge B. I was so afraid of it, but I sat down with the DVDs and a student's book in the summer and learned most of the first semester's worth of material in the span of a couple of weeks. This gave me confidence throughout the year to help my son with his Logic! I'm sure it would have fallen off of my list if I wasn't prepared.
  • Read Jennifer Courtney's article about Restoring the Education of Two Generations at Once

 Once You Get your CC Challenge Guide:

  • Your first step should be to go make a copy of the entire guide FOR YOURSELFIt's actually legal to make a copy for use in your own home. Frequently parents get disconnected from their challenge student's studies because it's hard to share a guide.

CC Challenge Guide Copyright

  • Once you get your own copy of the guide, read through it cover to cover!
  • This year they've added great symbols to add emphasis to the types of assignments listed in the guide. Get out your highlighters and mark it up:
    • Highlight Pink for the books and papers due!
    • Highlight Blue for extra projects (the guide will introduce projects, and give the due date, but often it doesn't remind your student to keep working on them in between)
    • Highlight Green for any class presentations - you'll want to watch for news from your tutor (or ask them) about coming to sit in and observe those days.
  • Tab special sections:
    • Scope and sequence
    • Appendices
    • Fall Semester start
    • Spring Semester start

The Right Things in the Right Time:

Every director will have their own style, but know that they are only one person, and their position does not require them to be an expert in every seminar. We really love the support of our fellow teachers. If you've taken the time to investigate your year's studies, you'll be better equipped to work well with your student.

Don't get overwhelmed by it all! There is a time for everything, and you don't have to do it all at once. I've created a PDF version of The CC Challenge Parent's Unofficial Year Checklist to download and hopefully give you peace as well as purpose throughout the year. Keep in mind, this is from one director and not Classical Conversations official, so these are suggestions, not mandates!

One of the most important things you should note is that this is not a one size fits all list! You might need to spend more time with your student during the week to get their work done. I've listed "meet with your student weekly" during the school year, and I also gleaned that idea from Jennifer Courtney's article The Two Best Hours of the Week. The Classical Conversations Writer's Circle is such a great wealth of information. You'll find great encouragement there.  Click here, or on the image below to download your checklist!

CC Challenge Parent's Checklist

Aren't you excited to be on this journey with your student? I promise the work is worth it. There is a great harvest coming, but you do have to work in the field!

What questions do you have about preparing for Challenge?

Here are some tips for preparing your student for Challenge A.

Are you curious about what a CC Challenge student thinks? Here's a conversation about the Challenge programs from a student's perspective.

Are you struggling with Latin? Check out my Latin resources for mastering declensions and conjugations.

Latin Noun, Pronoun, and Adjective Declensions charts for practice.

Latin Verb Conjugations (1)


  1. Jennifer B. on May 23, 2016 at 6:50 am

    Thank you. This is a wonderful resource and help.

  2. Robin on June 13, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    Great checklist!

  3. melanie on May 13, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    This looks like a great resource, thank you for taking the time to make it. I get an error when I try to download the pdf – any chance you can update it?

  4. Brandi on March 13, 2018 at 11:52 am

    Oh my! Where has this blog post been all my life (cc life)? I homeschool a large family. I have 2 Challenge 3 students, 2 in essentials and two in foundations only, and two in the nursery. I have struggled with juggling the challenge years, and this article is a God sent. I want to thank you so so much. I feel this checklist will save us many frustrations.

    • Betsy on March 14, 2018 at 8:47 pm

      Wonderful! I hope it helps stay connected! It is really hard to not just let our big kids take care of themselves (because they can be very good at that). I’ve struggled to stay connected myself, but I’m always blessed when I check in with my kids. Blessings on finishing out your year!

  5. Susan on May 1, 2018 at 2:45 pm

    Can parents sit and stay during challenge A like they do in essentials?
    Is it optional?

    • Betsy on May 1, 2018 at 10:52 pm

      Parents are always welcome in the Challenge classes, but if you still have foundations/essentials kids, you’re required to be with them in their class. I always love having parents come sit in and listen to the conversations we’re having. It’s good for staying connected!

    • mmclassics on May 6, 2019 at 10:08 am

      Check with your Challenge director. We consider it a time for more autonomy, so the parents don’t regularly stay in class. On the other hand, our Ch A director definitely has an open door policy. Parents are welcome to stop by at any time. Find out the time of the strands that interest or confuse you the most. I have dropped by to stay for a little while on a couple days. I tend to take yearbook photos, so the kids don’t seem to be concerned about me sitting in the back. It is definitely a season of growing independence, so our tutors (and the students) would prefer that parents would not stay all day.

  6. Jennifer on October 31, 2018 at 10:56 pm

    This is excellent! Thank you for sharing it!

  7. Katie Woodruff on April 5, 2019 at 5:38 am

    Thank you for writing this. We will be starting CC for the first time next school year with my oldest in challenge B. When you said that I should start this summer but I don’t get the guide in late July…how to I get started? Also what are some things I should do with my son this summer to help with get ready for challenge B sincehe didn’t do challenge A.

    • Betsy on April 7, 2019 at 10:20 pm

      The best way to start in the summer is with reading some of the books. They are listed in the catalog in the order in which you read them, so you’ll always know what’s coming first. If you’re new to CC, I’d recommend starting with Latin. Get the Henle book and start working through it. He can get as far as he can, and then start back over with the guide when class starts back. It would be a great way to get your toes wet!

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