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Challenge I

We believe...

...a free society is dependent upon a well-educated populace.

The ideas of freedom are explored in Challenge I through American literature, Economics, government, physical science, drama and philosophy, and math studies. Through debate teams and science lab partners and group discussions, students form life-long friendships.

(For ages 14 and up.)

The Program
Challenge I is a rigorous curriculum designed to help students develop their thinking and learning skills. Tutors lead students in rich discussions, which become the fundamental mode of learning during seminars. Challenge I includes a large volume of reading and writing in order to help students put these new skills into practice and to explore the theme of freedom. Finally, students build persuasive speaking skills as they are introduced to team policy debate and delivering speeches. Tutors lead discussions on topics that range from Newton’s laws of motion to various forms of government, economics, geography, and philosophy. Students read, study, and write papers in order to be prepared for class discussions. Tutors make an effort to teach the students how to learn the subjects so that they eventually will be able to teach themselves any subject. That is real freedom.

To purchase your resources for this program, visit the Classical Conversations Bookstore.

The Seminars

Students start at the beginning of Henle First Year Latin. The class moves quickly through the first half of the book, which was covered thoroughly during Challenges A and B, allowing them to really master the content. Students translate passages that describe the history of the Romans as they battled with the Gauls. Students translate sentences together at the board and explain to the class how they arrived at their translations.

Literature in Challenge I takes students from the pre-Revolutionary War setting of Johnny Tremain through the Civil War with The Red Badge of Courage to issues of the role of government in Born Again and Starship Troopers. Conversations delve into the complexity of freedom, and papers challenge students to dig deeper into their own beliefs and express themselves eloquently and clearly.

Students enjoy the study of free market economics using the conversational Penny Candy books. They participate in a stock market game and learn about personal budgeting by preparing a fictional (and often very creative) budget in detail. In the second semester, students study the U.S. Constitution, the Federalist papers, and other important American documents in order to create a foundation for the understanding of the U.S. government. Students participate in team policy debate, where they learn how to arrive at the truth of an issue using the tool of debate. Students are also given an opportunity to learn and practice public speaking skills by memorizing and delivering three- to five-minute speeches.

Students use Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Physical Science. In seminar, students complete labs together and discuss concepts. At home, students outline study concepts in the text and take tests provided with the curriculum. Students also spend a semester researching a science topic of their choice. They end the second semester by presenting a major research paper.

As an introduction to Shakespeare, students read The Taming of the Shrew aloud in class and discuss Shakespeare and his themes. Most students enjoy the reading and often act out scenes to get a better understanding of the humor. In the second semester, students read Math in Motion in order to learn the fundamental principles of music in the context of analyzing familiar hymn scores. In addition, this course will provide students with the vocabulary and conceptual knowledge to enrich their study of Western Cultural History, which they will study in Challenge II.

Students solve geometry problems and algebra problems involving one to three variables. Students also explain the processes and laws they used to solve the problems, which helps tutors and students ensure that the students are fully grasping the concepts. Saxon Algebra I is the guide for class activities and is recommended (but not required) for use at home.

Keeping the theme of freedom as a central focus, students in Challenge I consider ideas such as, “How does understanding American documents help me protect my freedom today?” and “How does my knowledge of mathematics or languages improve my ability to function productively in a free society?” Students compare and discuss ideas about freedom and government across all the subjects, from the Romans conquering Gaul in Latin studies, to fictional governments in literature, to the text of the U.S. Constitution. Most importantly, as students study these ideas, they frequently return to the underlying question of “How we can use what we are learning to understand and honor God?”

Another exciting element of the Challenge I through IV programs is “Protocol.” This is a formal event held each spring. It is not a prom or dating event; it is a chance to learn and practice the proper protocol during formal events. Leigh Bortins, founder of Classical Conversations, says, “I pray our students will one day be world leaders and ambassadors to unsaved peoples, and I want them to know what to expect.”

Directors and parents arrange a formal meal for students at a local country club or upscale restaurant, followed by a cultural event such as an opera or symphony. Parents and tutors chaperone.

Challenge I FAQ

How long will it take each day to complete Challenge I assignments?

We recommend that Challenge I students set aside an hour per subject per day during the school day.  As with most rigorous curricula, many students will need more time to complete their work. One suggestion is for Challenge I students to read as much of the literature as possible during the preceding summer, in order to save time during the school year.

I heard there is a lot of reading and writing in Challenge I. I am not sure my child can handle that.

Remember, the Challenge I Assignment Guide is just that: a guide. You are the teacher. You know your student best and know when it is time to slow down or opt out of an assignment. This is the beauty of Classical Conversations and homeschooling. You remain in control of your student’s education. One suggestion is for Challenge I students to read as much of the literature as possible during the preceding summer, in order to save time during the school year.

Why does Classical Conversations teach physical science in Challenge I, when other curricula recommend a different sequence?

Many contemporary curricula introduce physical science in eighth grade, biology in ninth, chemistry in tenth, and physics in eleventh grade. Students who complete physics by twelfth grade, as in Classical Conversations, are better equipped to handle the math associated with those sciences because their math skills are further developed and their reasoning skills are more advanced. Students need to be comfortable with the skills of Algebra II in order to solve chemistry equations. Students in other curricula are often encouraged to take chemistry and Algebra II concurrently. The problem with this approach is that they are being asked to apply algebra skills before they have mastered them thoroughly. The same pattern follows in physics. By following the traditional scope and sequence, Classical Conversations students are introduced to prerequisite math skills ahead of time, at each level.

What if my child already took physical science?

The beauty of our physical science seminar is that it has many goals, and learning facts about physical science is just one of them.  A key component of the class is the time spent learning how to learn from a textbook. This is a critical skill, and one that many homeschoolers have not had the opportunity to practice. In addition, Challenge I students learn the step-by-step process involved in writing a lengthy research paper over the course of an entire semester. It is unlikely that your student has mastered all there is to know about the physical creation. Why not take the opportunity to repeat some information, mastering it further, while learning two new and important skills?

What if our family prefers to use a different math curriculum than Saxon?

No matter what math program a student uses at home, he or she will benefit from the conversation in our math seminars. During our discussions, we travel up and down the spectrum of math concepts from numbers and operations to algebraic equations and geometry and stretch into pre-calculus concepts.  Too often, students are engaged in a math curriculum with little to no conversation, and that leaves them feeling like math is a disconnected series of steps. If math remains a rather silent, robot-like, step-driven subject, students miss out on the joy of math and its beauty as tool for communicating the structure of creation. So yes! Your student should join the conversation whether or not he uses Saxon at home. We will have a great time discovering the joy of math together.

How do I assign grades?

Homeschooling parents desire to give their children a better education than the one they received. However, we often fall back on the same methods that were used in our educations, particularly in the area of assessment. As the teacher, you are most familiar with the quality of the work that your student has done, and thus you are in the best position to assign grades. Keep in mind that your student spends only about twenty percent of his learning time in seminars. You can talk to your tutor and consider peer feedback as well, but performance in seminar should be only one facet of your child’s overall growth as a learner.

With most state colleges now requiring accreditation or making you jump through hoops if you are not accredited, how does Classical Conversations recommend parents deal with this issue?

Most accreditation agencies will let you wait until the student’s junior year to apply for accreditation, which is the time you usually start looking at college choices. If you find out that the college your child wants to attend does in fact need an accreditation, there are many agencies that will accredit your CC classes for a minimal fee.  

Does Classical Conversations provide transcript services during high school?

No. Because Classical Conversations is not a school, we do not assign grades or produce transcripts directly. Beginning in the ninth grade, parents should keep a record of their student’s classes and grades in a permanent high school transcript. Transcripts are necessary for high school diploma, college admissions applications, and college scholarship applications.

Classical Conversations can help, however! Our transcript service,, provides transcripts, medical records, and resume information in a professionally formatted report to print for your records or e-mail for college admissions or scholarship providers.

Challenge Scope Sequence

Challenge Scope Sequence

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