Challenge IV Resources & Ideas for Making A Memorable Senior Year

Not many make it to the final year of the Challenge program. Our son was old enough to graduate at Challenge III (just barely), but we opted to finish out the program, and we are so thankful that we did. Challenge IV is such an incredible year focusing on cultivating leadership.

The students really take charge this year leading three out of the six seminars: reasoning, literature, and debate. This gives them so many opportunities to practice those leadership skills.

Reasoning: Theology

Students read through most of the Old Testament and New Testament in the Reasoning seminar of Challenge IV. In addition, they're reading through some great books as they go including:

One of my all time favorite resources for reading through the Bible (and understanding what's going on) is the outline videos from the Bible Project.

Exposition - Ancient Literature

The exposition strand walks students through five ancient texts including:

Peter Leithart's book, Heroes of the City of Man, walks students through these texts while pointing always to the Christian truths and themes that flow through these pagan tales.

I also appreciate the worldview guides from Canon Classics. It's always great to have an additional source to lean on in difficult texts.

One of the first tasks to do in Challenge IV is to make a family tree or chart of the gods. Here are some resources that helped us understand that:

Students who had read the Percy Jackson series knew all of this information already and didn't have any troubles!

Debate - World History

In this seminar, students use Daniel Boorstin's The Discoverers: A History of Man's Search to Know His World and Himself as their World History text.

They also have six speeches (some impromptu) in this seminar over the year. One helpful hint is to keep a timeline or reference list of the "discoverers" that are discussed and where you can find them in the book.

I found this two volume boxed set of The Discoverers at Half Price Books. It has beautiful full color pictures throughout that just enhance the text.

Tutor Led Seminars

The three seminars that are led by the tutor are math, Latin, and Physics. Although they are tutor led, there is still so much student discussion and participation that the richness comes from what the students bring to class.

Making the Senior Year Memorable

There are some major events that are included in the senior year that parents and tutors have to keep an eye out for. It's so helpful when parents partner with the tutor to help make them happen.

Senior Thesis Retreat

One of the options for students in the Spring Semester is to write a Senior Thesis. This is a persuasive paper that ranges from 12-20 pages in length. They get to choose their topic, research it, and then present it before a panel of judges to defend their stance.

In February, to encourage students to get a strong start on this project, and as a way to motivate them to keep pressing on in their Senior year, my husband and I took the class on a Senior Thesis Retreat.

I found an inexpensive Airbnb (which was easy because it was the off season for travel) and we took the class to Austin for three nights. It was really the highlight of our year.

The first night, to warm us up to discussing thesis ideas, we played Bring Your Own Book with the books they brought to research their thesis. This was such a fun way to play with the ideas they were thinking through in a lighthearted way.

We ate five meals at the lake house and so I assigned each of them as the star of the meal. During that meal their thesis topic was the focus of the group's discussion. This was a great opportunity to get to know their thoughts and heart behind the topic they chose and to help them think through challenging aspects of their idea.

We also spent one night out in Austin, TX just exploring the town and enjoying one another's company. This trip really solidified their friendships and made the final weeks of class really special.

Senior Thesis Night

The Senior Thesis replaces the Blue Book in the Spring Semester of Challenge IV. We had our Senior Thesis night the night before graduation. This allowed family members who had come into town for the graduation to attend both events.

Each student had thirty minutes of focused time on their thesis. Two judges stayed the same for all of the students and each student invited one judge to join them on their turn to present.

If you ever get an opportunity to attend one of these events, go to it! It was simply amazing to watch them stand and share their heart on a topic that was important to them.


Not every community hosts a formal graduation ceremony, but our group wanted one so we worked together to put one together.

Each student put together a table to represent their achievements over the years. This was a fun way for friends and family to get to know all of the students better. Some things we included on our table were:

  • Favorite books read throughout the years
  • Awards from academic and athletic achievements
  • Pictures through the years
  • Future plans (like college paraphernalia)
  • Objects that reflected interests (travel, gardening, wood working, music, etc.)

The students decided that they only wanted to wear the cap and not the gown. They also decided to keep the ceremony simple by allowing each student to have a slide show and then their parents to say one or two sentences as they presented the diploma.

This was a good thing, because nearly every parent that attempted to speak was quickly in tears. We were all so proud of our graduates!

Instead of having a speaker come talk to the graduates, our graduates gave the commencement speech themselves. They worked together to write a speech that talked about the importance of leadership. Each student wrote and delivered a piece of the speech. It was incredible to see the students expressing the joy of the education they had received.

I'm so thankful that we encouraged our son to finish out the Challenge program. His class was such a blessing to him. I know for certain that he's ready to be launched and that he'll be a confident leader wherever he goes - leading others towards truth, goodness, and beauty.

Looking for resources from another level?

Challenge A

Challenge B

Challenge I

Challenge II

Challenge III

Challenge IV


  1. Julie Anderson on May 27, 2019 at 2:30 pm

    This is just so full of encouragement and excitement! I can’t wait to get to Challenge IV…well, I’m not in a hurry, but I am very excited for what awaits us in just a few short years! Thank you so much for sharing and leading us in this way Betsy (and Jason & Andy!).

    • Betsy on May 27, 2019 at 7:50 pm

      You’re welcome Julie! It really is a rewarding journey!!

  2. Debbie on May 27, 2019 at 10:11 pm

    How will you transcript this final year? Did you delay his graduation from high school or consider Challenge IV a post-high school gap year? Our son just completed II as a 17yo junior; he’ll do III as his senior year and is open to IV as a super senior or gap year, we just have to figure out how to do it. His PSAT & SAT already have his anticipated graduation date as 2020, so to extend that makes it look like he’s failed a year. Freshman scholarships are also an issue — I don’t want to inadvertently disqualify him because I’ve documented things incorrectly. I’d love & appreciate your input.

    • Betsy on May 28, 2019 at 1:18 pm

      It was always in our plan to have him graduate out of Challenge IV, even though he turned 18 right before class started. I’m not sure how colleges would perceive the delay in graduation, and you might just want to check with the school he’s interested in as you make your decisions. I totally understand about those freshman scholarships! I think the issue there is really just about it being his first time in college…like a first time freshman whether he starts immediately after high school graduation or not. Just as long as he hasn’t taken any college classes post graduation. Hope this helps!

  3. Eileen Hopkins on June 5, 2019 at 3:04 am

    Thank you for documenting all these wonderful things! My son will be in ChIV this fall and I absolutely LOVED all your ideas–and am stealing them! Thank you for your inspiration, I am heading in with excitement!

    • Betsy on June 6, 2019 at 2:33 pm

      Yay! I love hearing that! Have a blessed year!

  4. Susanna on August 23, 2020 at 8:32 pm

    I am considering tutoring Ch IV, and would love to know how much prep time it took you? Approximately? Your site is SUPER helpful!

    • Betsy on August 25, 2020 at 8:57 am

      Exciting! Thanks for the encouragement. Prep time for Challenge IV, independent of you reading/studying the material with them is fairly minimal. The students do almost all the leading (that’s the Challenge IV theme after all!), so you’d just need to make sure to know the big picture, plan the rough schedule for the day, and just work with them on whatever plans you make. Give them lots of chances to take the reigns. Reading and studying with them is important inasmuch as your personal participation goes. They will likely need help with a few of the subjects, and you can anticipate lulls or other reasons your intervention might be needed. Anyway, again outside of your own study, you can expect to spend maybe a couple hours per week on the preparation. That’s my best guess, but there are many variables! The secret is that since they are leading so much, the latter end of their Challenge years gives you more flexibility as their tutor.

  5. Allene H on June 1, 2023 at 10:39 pm

    I am directing Challenge 4 this next year for my son and daughter’s class and have not found much info online to help me. Thank you so much for this information! It was very helpful and encouraging! I love the idea of a retreat for their senior thesis. I will ponder and pray about how to do something special like that with my students. I have 10 students and am so excited about the studies they will have in Ch 4!

    • Jason Strauss on June 2, 2023 at 7:04 pm

      That’s wonderful! I’m tutoring my daughter’s Ch4 class this year and looking forward to a retreat with them as well. Sounds like you’re going to have a great class!

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