What You REALLY Need for Classical Conversations Challenge A

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You need a lot of books for Challenge A but you don’t need EVERYTHING on the list.


If you look at the CC Catalog and read through the shopping list for Challenge A curriculum needs, you might feel overwhelmed. By my calculations, the total if you bought everything on the list is $1,011. YIKES! I know that the cost of Classical Conversations can be a deterrent for a lot of families and I really hate that because this program is so wonderfully spectacular. So let me break this down for you and help you save some money. I’l also note whether or not you need two copies if you have multiple children in Challenge A at one time.

  • Under “Parent Preparation” there are three books listed. All are worth reading but none of them are absolutely required. Most likely someone in your community owns a copy of each and would be happy to loan them to you!
  • Logic: Of course, in Challenge A, Logic is actually math. CC recommends Saxon math but if you use a different curriculum, that’s OK. No CC representative is going to show up at your door and force Saxon on your kids. Stick with what works!  And even if you do use Saxon, the $200 DVDs are surely not a requirement. The Math Trivium Table is unneeded in the Logic strand and the Trivium Table White Board, while very nice, is not really needed in class–at home I just laminate pastel colored card stock and we use that for math! Most likely, your director will provide white boards for in class use.
  • Grammar: You need the blue and purple Henle Latin books–that is, the Text and Grammar books. I strongly recommend that you not buy the Henle Latin Answer Key. I highly, highly recommend you get THIS ONE instead. It is well thought out, it includes far more answers than the one CC sells and it’s just a great resource. Plus they have fantastic customer service. One of my CC moms ordered the wrong book and they handled it so well for her.  The Latin Workspace A is a nice resource. I originally told my families it wasn’t necessary  but I’ve changed my mind. As the year goes on and we move from just noun charts to adjective and verb charts, it is really helpful to have blank charts ready for you in the book. The Latin Trivium Table is a very nice resource as well but it is NOT needed. If you can spare the $10 for it, get it. But if you are trying to cut every penny you can, you can live without it. You should get each student you have enrolled in Challenge A their own copy of the blue and purple latin books and the workspace. One answer key can be shared. Definitely not needed: Tour Guide: Latin DVD. Honestly, mine are still in the plastic packaging. I never opened them. There are excellent resources online, like Henle Latin Boot Camp on YouTube. And the Cassell’s Latin Dictionary? I’m sure it’s nice to have but I didn’t buy it. The Henle Latin Text Book has a dictionary in the back and that suited our purposes just fine in Challenge A.
  • Research. Honestly, you don’t NEED anything listed under research. We don’t use Lyrical Life Science for any homework assignments or in class. It’s a nice resource for home but it’s not necessary. The Nature Sketch Journal is lovely. It’s set up so that when they draw a picture for their research papers in first semester, they can flip the notebook around so the audience sees the picture while they read the paper. It is set up with blank paper for drawing and lined paper for writing. You can just as easily use a one subject notebook, the kind that is about seven cents at back to school time. But the journal is nice–if you have more than one child enrolled in Challenge A, they would each need their own. The Classical Acts and Facts Science Cards are quite beautiful but absolutely not needed. They are high quality and jam-packed with information but at $23 per pack and 3 packs recommend for the year… they just are not NEEDED if your budget is tight.
The Natural Sketch Journal in use.
  • Reasoning. You absolutely, positively NEED hard copies of It Couldn’t Just Happen AND The Fallacy Detective for each child you have enrolled in Challenge A. Kindle versions are not OK and sharing a copy is also not OK. Your child’s director will be teaching the students highlighting skills using their book. Translation: they will be highlighting and writing ALL OVER their copies of these two books. They need their own new, clean, hard copy. As for the rhetoric trivium table… well, I just found mine last week (at the end of our CC year) and looked at it and said “Hmm. I guess I bought that.” It’s got some nice information on it but in Challenge A we never actually USED it.
  • Exposition. You Need The Lost Tools of Writing. You do NOT need the set if you are not working along with your students. To be honest, even as the director I did not use the teacher book. I watched the videos online (you get access with your purchase) and I used the student book to see what they were seeing as they worked. Just buy your student the student workbook. I also was confused and thought I needed the “set” AND the “student workbook”. WRONG! The set includes a student workbook. That knowledge right there will save you $39! Thankfully I was able to sell the extra student book to another family! As for all the reading books, you need access to them. Maybe you already own them. Maybe they are a dollar for the kindle version. Maybe buying them through CC is easier. It doesn’t matter how you get them, just get them. But don’t rely on the library–if you have multiple CC Communities in your area, chances are the book will be checked out when you need it! Moving on in Exposition, you only need Words Aptly Spoken if you plan to have book discussion with your child. If you trust that your director is covering that in class and you aren’t reading the books, skip that one. If you are directing Challenge A, YOU NEED THIS ONE! Wakeful Words is one that I never, ever used in class or at home. Skip it. And the two trivium tables, as always, are a take it or leave it. They are nice, and they are good quality. But they will not make or break your Challenge A experience.
  • Debate. You need Exploring the World Through Cartography because they have reading assignments in it all year long. However, I highly, HIGHLY recommend using the Draw the World series at home to prepare for blue book exams. It’s a far better resource than the CC book for the actual skill of drawing the world.  There are versions for each continent. If you can afford it, get them all. They are a priceless resource.
  • Other items listed: Blue Book exam booklets are not something you need to purchase. Your director will provide whatever she wants your kids to use for blue books. Personally I gave my kids loose notebook paper and a folder to put it in.  And the student planner is useful but if you find another planner you prefer, it’s totally ok to buy something else. Your student DOES NEED A PLANNER THIS YEAR! One of the major skills learned is filling out a planner and getting it all done.

I hope this list is a helpful resource to you as you make your purchases for the year.  Of course, if your director has a different opinion, always go with what she says. Some directors plan differently and use different items. But this was my experience with directing Challenge A and I hope that it is helpful to others as they shop over the summer to save some money and make the year a little more affordable.

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