One of the most challenging aspects of being a parent of a student in the Classical Conversations Challenge program is communicating with them. Finding the balance between helicopter mom and totally hands off is tough. Even when I have been the director of my child's program, there have been times where we look at each other in class and realize that we had very different opinions of "complete".
This year I'm continuing to challenge myself to improve in keeping up with my challenge students, especially because I will have two this year. I wanted to share with you the tools I've come up with both as a tutor to keep track of assignments, and as a parent to communicate with my student more about their progress.
Assignment Tracker for the Parent/Student:
It's easy to get lost in the guide checking boxes. If you're a totally engaged parent, you could schedule out every assignment to complete during the week, and probably find great results. If you're a "give them freedom" parent, you might just leave them to whatever they can get done, and some students find great results with that.
The challenge is that you can make it to the end of the year and still feel like you didn't quite get all that you hoped for out of the Challenge program. You're not alone. Classical Conversations includes some pretty rigorous material, but if you miss cultivating virtue through the assignments, you may have missed the best part of the curriculum.
How Do I Track Virtue?
I wanted to be able to have a conversation with my Challenge student, and a place to write down where we felt like we were succeeding and where we need to improve. I developed a little form that could help lead our weekly discussions about the work.
Conversation Starts at Home
At home we'll discuss both things that we did well, and ways to improve in three areas:
- Completion of Work - This one is pretty straight forward. Did you get it all done? If you didn't, is there a strand where you did get to finish all that was assigned? While the Challenge guide can be modified, it should be adjusted before the week begins, not excused at the end when you run out of time. Celebrate the successes. Learn from the failures.
- Ownership of Work - Maybe they got it all done, but only because their teacher (that's you mom) had to remind them 1,000 times. In the early years of Challenge, there will be many things that have to be reminded. Look for small ways in which your student expresses ownership. Celebrate the beginnings of a lifelong, self-driven learner. Learn from the reminders.
- Attitude in Work - There is no such thing as a virtuous grumbler. If they get all the work done, and yet complain about it ad nauseam, everyone is miserable. Often we miss the beauty in our workers because all we're focusing on is the ugly. Taking the time to point out the ways they worked with excellence will encourage more of that behavior.
Notice that the conversation wasn't about the nitty gritty of the week's work. While our conversations will include some of that, I want to have a record of what we achieved throughout the year so that when the end comes we don't feel like failures because we didn't get as far in math, draw our maps like we had hoped, or still have no idea what we're doing in Latin.
As a Challenge director, I'd love to see this form filled out and brought to class. It would be an excellent way for students to share what's been working for them at home as well as communicate with their tutor what didn't get done.
Conversation in Class
In class, the tutor is looking for different things to assess than a parent will. Since they weren't at home all week, they really have no idea how much was actually completed. There are some students who can get by with very little work and show up in class with their A game.
Here's the section of the form for in class:
In class there is room for your tutor to give feedback on preparation, participation, and presentation. While the section isn't very large, there is not that much time in class for writing in depth feedback. Your tutor should be giving you a progress report a couple of times a year with more information.
The goal here is both to point out ways that they are "glowing" in class, and areas where they could "grow". In the grow section, I keep it strictly to presentation skills - eye contact, volume, speed, etc. I love to use the Rhetoric Trivium Table as a guide for this.
At the end of the class day, the student can reflect on where they blessed the class, and also how they could improve. With this information written down, there can be a way to track growth. Self assessment is very powerful because they learn to see themselves from an outside perspective.
When the student gets home from class, they can share their report with their parents and better communicate about their time in their Challenge class.
I spiraled my communication sheets with three blank white pages in between each communication sheet so they could "take notes" in class. By take notes, especially in Challenge A, I'm really meaning use it like they would a white board. If they're drawing a map, they'll draw it in this book. I had great success in using sketch notebooks for taking notes in Challenge B, but this time I thought I'd create my own journal.
If you don't have a spiral binder at home, you can take anything you want to a local office supply store and ask them to spiral it for you.
If you'd like to purchase the PDF download of the Challenge Progress Tracker, click the button to purchase below.
Assignment Tracker for Tutors
While having parents and students communicating is wonderful, tutors still need to track the students for their mid-semester progress reports. In the director portal, you'll find a student assignment tracker. It is great for keeping up with the week to week assignments, but leaves little room for making notes that would be helpful for writing up a report.
When I heard about this idea from a friend, I loved it. I printed two copies of the assignment tracker for each student. Since I despise glue sticks, I used a tape runner to paste them into a cheap spiral. Then I left four pages between each student to leave room for note taking. Finally, I tabbed the student's assignment trackers so that I could get to them easily during class.
I've tried so many different versions of keeping up with student's work as a tutor. I'm hoping this combo will work well for me.
Whatever happens, I know that each year I tutor I learn more about communication, the classical model, and grace. We are in progress, and it takes heaps of grace to remain content in the journey.
Are you a parent of a Challenge student? How do you keep up with their work?
Betsy Strauss is an unexpected homeschooler, mother of three, who is in a relationship with a sweet man for life. She loves reading books, drinking coffee, and learning anything with her kids.