Debunking 5 Myths About Challenge A

We are finishing perhaps the most abundant, joyful, and beautiful year of my son's homeschool career. 

Yes, it's also been challenging, but isn't that the point?

This is the second time through Challenge A for this mama, so I feel like I know the drill now.

Challenge A is the springboard into the Logic stage of learning. It is the springboard into deeper inquiry, discipline, and connections. 

It is so, so rich.

To the parents all over the world stressing about preparing for Challenge A or wondering if their children are ready for Challenge A, I pray this will help you. I talk to a lot of upcoming A-ers and seem to hear the same fears over and over - they have turned into common myths.

Let's debunk those and then you'll feel better, ok?

Debunking 5 Myths About Challenge A

5 Myths About Challenge A


You won't be successful in Latin unless you've done a Latin curriculum the year before.

The Latin text used in Challenge A is Henle Latin.

A few facts about Henle (from our perspective):

  • It is challenging.
  • It looks daunting.
  • It will take a significant amount of time each day.

These things are all true. But guess what? 

Your child can DO IT. 

We had no prior Latin experience other than the CC memory work. We did a very gentle Latin book (Getting Started with Latin) during our Morning Time. This was sufficient preparation, and even if we wouldn't have done that it would have been ok.

I would, however, sincerely recommend a command of English grammar - preferably a year of Essentials before Challenge A. Knowing grammar is invaluable in the study of Latin!

From watching my own children in Challenge A, here are three tips to help your child succeed in Latin once they get to Challenge A:

  • Work through the exercises with your child - if you learn along with them you will be there for assistance and your child will feel like they aren't in it alone.
  • Write declensions each and every day - memory work is still very important! Start your Latin time with 10 minutes of writing declensions, conjugations, whatever you are studying at the moment. 
  • Focus on vocabulary with Quizlet. Both of my children have found Quizlet to be an extremely helpful tool in Challenge A.

You might also want to read Preparing for Latin in Challenge A to put your fears at bay.


The literature selections are too easy. 

This one kinda drives me bonkers.

(I once had a mom attend a Challenge A info meeting who was quite indignant about how she wasn't going to bore her child to death with such easy literature. I found this to be a very short-sighted point of view.)

Literature Selections in Challenge A

The books have been carefully chosen to provide a rich variety of interesting literature for our children.

The point of this strand in Challenge A isn't to have our children stretch their READING abilities. It is to develop their WRITING abilities, and specifically to help them generate WHAT to write. 

After going through the Lost Tools of Writing for many years now I can see the method to the madness if you will. Our children need books that can be written about and not struggled through - they need quality literature with characters facing difficult choices and situations. 

When you combine the selections with the discussion points in Words Aptly Spoken you will find the Challenge A year to be rich and rewarding. (I'm sad to see it end.)


There is NO WAY my child can do all of that work.

Repeat after me: YOU are the teacher.

You know what your child is capable of. You know if your child is giving it 100% of if they are being lazy. You know your family circumstances.

You can alter the workload without taking away from the integrity of Challenge A. In fact, you will find many ways to do this as the year progresses.

Just remember that your children are receiving such a RICH education. I like to tell myself, "Everything is gravy!".

The dynamics of my son's Challenge A group are such that the children spur each other on to excellence. They all strive to complete all of their work and have developed a tremendous amount of personal investment in their learning. 

Give your child the chance to SHINE - you may need to make some adjustments along the way, but you can because you are the teacher!


There is no HISTORY in Challenge A.

This is just false.

History is beautifully woven into nearly every strand in Challenge A.

The geography strand alone provides so much opportunity for interesting discussion about geopolitics and history. The cartography book has extensive readings on each part of the world that provide history.

The literature selections bring forth history.

Challenge A student learn history through their Latin studies. 

Our children discover that history is not an isolated subject. History occurs in and through all other subjects.


Challenge A takes all of the freedom and wonder out of our learning life.

Of all of the myths, this is one I  can understand. This was my greatest fear - losing the wonder in our learning life.

I have had to be intentional about structuring our days so that there is time left over for relaxation and hobbies. I have had to search for field trips and opportunities that coincide with our Challenge A studies.

Also in the front of my mind is the motto of Challenge A - Personal Investment Builds Ownership. The Challenge A year is a time for buckling down, working on organizational and time management skills, and experiencing the fruits of our labor.  This year is a time for cultivating other skills - and wonder may not be cultivated as much as it was in the past, but it doesn't have to be lost altogether.

 A few things that have helped my child keep the wonder alive:

  • Get up early each day so work is completed when we are fresh and happy - this leaves time in the mid and late afternoon for other things.
  • Don't give up a read-aloud time in your homeschool. We still read aloud each and every morning during breakfast - something NOT related to Challenge A.
  • Have a morning time that might consist of some Challenge A memory work, but also of other things like classical music, art, poetry, or whatever your child and you decide you want MORE of. If you have younger children, let your Challenge A student lead the morning time.
  • Vary work environments - study with a friend, go to the library, hang out and read in the hammock outside.
Keeping the Wonder Alive in Challenge A

Sitting at lunch today I looked at my son and said, "I can't believe this year is almost over, buddy. I would call Challenge A this year a rousing success, wouldn't you?"

His response? 

"Of course it was. Did you ever doubt it?"

There you go. Maybe those fears are just ours and not our student's. Maybe we need to follow their lead and just tackle the next big thing.

Challenge A is a year full of truth, beauty and goodness.  A few bumps in the road will occur, but it's how we respond to and learn from those bumps that will shape the year.


Do you have any particular fears about Challenge A?

Have you been through Challenge A and would like to offer suggestions?

Let me know in the comments below!



Five Ways to Foster a Love of Geography

A knowledge of our world is central to all other knowledge. 

This knowledge provides context to everything - science, history, literature, math, fine arts, and more.

Providing our children opportunities and resources to build their geography knowledge is simple, but it requires commitment and intentionality. It should be part of our ongoing committment to continually set a beautiful educational feast before our children in our homes.

Through homeschooling, we are able to provide this knowledge so much more effectively because we can immerse our student in the world - literally.

Five Ways to Foster a Love Of Geography

Following are 5 simple strategies to foster a love for geography in your children. I've seen these work with my own children.

Their knowledge of the world amazes me. It has inspired me to reclaim my own geography education. 

Recently, I posted a free hand drawing of Africa that my son had completed - I was shocked by the response this picture received.

So many of you asked what I did to help him achieve this. 

The answer is simple: provide tools, opportunities, and inspiration

This post outlines what we've done in our homeschool to inspire a love of geography.

5 Ways to Foster a Love of Geography

1. Surround Children With Geography

We've always surrounded our children with geography. Easy ways to do this:


  • Invest in Globes

Keep a learning globe in a place where your child can easily access it. Encourage them to play with it often. Talk to them while they play. Play together. Show a fascination in the globe and your child will follow your lead.


  • Hang Child-Friendly Maps

Dry-Erase Map Decals are fun in a child's room. 

A simple map of the world hung in your home will always provide a point of discussion.


  • Use Map Placemats

Don't you remember these from when you were a kid? (I do!) Geography placemats are one of the most simple way to cement that geography knowledge, and it's so easy to strike up a conversation or an impromptu quiz during a meal, right?


  • Talk to Children When You Go Places

Even if it was a simple day trip, I always was talking with my kids about geography.  

When they see you in the car with a physical map (shocker - don't use your phone with Google Maps!) they make the connection that following a map leads to interesting destinations and events. 

When we would take trips I would print notebooking pages and have the kids create a notebook for that journey - a great way to learn more about the place, but also to help with our knowledge of geography, too. 

(Pictured below are the state pages, but we've used Notebooking Pages for tracing countries of the world, too!)


2. Create a Geography Table - Blobbing & Tracing

This is the SINGLE MOST effective thing I did to nurture an interest in geography.

Read this post and watch the video below to see exactly what I included as part of our table and also what time of day we used the table. 

In the post and video I mention blob mapping quite a bit. My dear friend Brandy has an excellent post and printables that help with this!

Have your children blob map DAILY. I had five and six year olds in my CC Foundations class who had such a wonderful grasp of the continents, bodies of water, and things like the Tropic of Cancer, Capricorn and the equator. 

A whiteboard and a dedicated five minutes each day can go A LONG way!


Trace maps - A LOT of them!

Tracing maps turned out to be a bit of an obsession for my son. There's something about tracing paper, Ultra Fine Sharpies, and a collection of wonderful maps that just excites kids. 


Once your child is good at blobbing and tracing then they will move on to drawing freehand. This takes time, but with enough exposure and time, it will come naturally to them. 



3. Own Atlases & Geography Books/Read Widely

I've included my favorite geography books below. We have a geography section in our homeschool shelves that my children use liberally!

What's hard to include, however, are all of the beautiful picture and chapter books we read that took place ALL OVER the world. Each time we would read I would point out where things took place in the world. 

This goes back to surrounding your children with geography - have that globe nearby and talk to your kids about where stories and events take place. 


There's a Map on My Lap!: All About Maps (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library)National Geographic Kids Beginner's World AtlasThe Geography Bee Complete Preparation Handbook: 1,001 Questions & Answers to Help You Win Again and Again!The National Geographic Bee Ultimate Fact Book: Countries A to ZDraw Asia: Volume IDraw Asia: Volume IIDraw AfricaDraw EuropeDraw the USADraw Mexico, Central and South AmericaDraw the World: An Outline of Continents and OceansWhere on Earth? AtlasNational Geographic Family Reference Atlas of the World, Fourth Edition: Indispensable Information and More Than 1,000 Maps and IllustrationsLift the Flap Atlas



4. Play Geography Games

Anything is more enjoyable when it is a game. 

We started a collection of the 10 Days games a few years ago - these are hard to find, so if you see them at a thrift store or garage sale, or a used book sale, grab them! 

At some point in time, we have played each of these games, and they all inspire more geography knowledge. 

Even my youngest (who is 13 and in Classical Conversations Challenge A) asks me to sit down quite and often and play a geography game with him. It is just part of his daily geography time, and I LOVE that. 

Kids are never too old to play games! 


10 Days in Africa Game10 Days In The USA Board Game10 Days In Europe Game10 Days in Asia Game10 Days in the Americas - The Unpredictable Game of Making ConnectionsPassport To Culture® GameScrambled StatesGeo Bee Challenge GameBrainbox All Around The WorldGeoBingo World - Educational Geography Board GameProfessor Noggin's Countries of the World Card GameLearning Wrap-ups States & Capitals - US Geography KeysTicket To RideTicket To Ride - EuropeTicket To Ride Asia: Map Collection - Volume 1Ticket to Ride Map Collection Board Game: The Heart of Africa, Volume #3Ticket To Ride India: Map Collection - Volume 2Ticket to Ride: France/Old West Map 6Ticket To Ride: Nordic CountriesTicket to Ride Map Collection Volume 5 : United Kingdom Board GameTicket to Ride Germany Board GameTicket To Ride: First Journey



5. Challenge - Draw the World!

Because both of my children went through Classical Conversations Challenge A, they were required to draw the entire world. 

This is an incredibly valuable skill. Not only did they learn every country, capital and feature in our world, but they also developed a habit of discipline and perseverance to learn the sheer amount of geography knowledge necessary to complete the task. 

My son is steadily working his way through each continent and takes a tremendous amount of pride in his drawings. 

Keep in mind, this has been accomplished in large part because of a commitment to geography we've had for many years. 

I'm so impressed with Challenge A and the geography strand in particular. 

5 Ways to Foster a Love of Geography
Five Ways to Foster a Love For Geography

Geography is one of the most accessible, enjoyable, and valuable subjects we can expose our children to in our homeschools.

We have a unique opportunity with ample time, resources, and motivation -- seize the opportunity and give your children the WORLD!


Do you study geography in your homeschool?  What does it look like? Leave me a comment below!