Everything was moving along so smoothly this year in our Classical Conversations Challenge B.
Community day had found its groove. Start the day with Logic, then Latin. Celebrate that our two most difficult subjects were completed! Move on to Expo/Comp and work through the newest elements of persuasive writing, then discuss the novel we were currently reading. Math presentations. Lunch. Math games. Research presentations and discussion of the astronomer of the week. End the day with the most fun element–debate. Discuss the current events topic, then split into two groups and create a presentation based on the side of the topic you were assigned. Present the topics. Go home.
And at home, things were moving along just fine. In some ways, Challenge B is so much easier than A because there isn’t nearly as much to memorize. Most of Latin is review from Challenge A. Nearly all of Lost Tools of Writing is review. Math is the same as always in class and at home is moving at the pace appropriate for your student, so it’s not a big deal. Research and Debate are FUN and not a one of my students complained about the workload involved. Logic was our rough spot but we found a way to even make Logic more enjoyable–we have movie nights and get together to watch the DVDs. There is junk food, laughter, and friendship and when you toss a logic video into that environment, somehow logic doesn’t seem so bad after all.
But then came Christmas break and my preparations for second semester began. And I hit a wall. I guess I really did not see this coming even though I knew that things would change gears for second semester. I didn’t realize how completely they would. Our groove? It’s gone.
The thing you really need to know about Challenge B is that second semester is a fresh start in nearly every strand. This can be very, very good. Or it can be very, very bad. Challenge B is more like college, with the new semester being nearly completely different classes than the previous semester.
If you student struggled through first semester, this fresh start is very, very good. I’ve sat done and encouraged students that they get to put first semester behind them and give it another try. It’s fantastic news!
But if your student was sailing along with barely a bump in the road, the big changes that come along with beginning second semester of Challenge B can really throw them for a loop. And if you as a parent or director felt that you had a good groove going, be prepared to have it completely shaken up.
Here’s a run down of how each strand changes for second semester and some tips and thoughts on how to schedule your days at home:
Latin: Put away Workspace A, and move on to Workspace B. The best news in second semester is that now that we’ve moved to Workspace B, you can actually use the assignments listed at the top of each page of the workspace to break up your week. Celebrate! We missed this feature during first semester. As for the work itself, nothing changes, but everything gets a little harder. We are stepping out into the unknown, new topics that were never touched in Challenge A. We are facing new concepts like passive verbs. To me it feels like there are overall less exercises assigned in second semester. If your student struggles with English grammar, this is a great time to spend some of your Grammar strand time on English grammar review–a book like Our Mother Tongue or whip out the good ole Essentials charts and write some of them out. It is not time wasted to do so. Latin should still be done every day four one hour–no more, no less. Students should never be spending six hours a day on Latin. Set a timer for an hour, get as much done as possible, and then walk away.
Logic: Goodbye, Introductory Logic, hello Intermediate Logic! Did your students struggle with Intro? Good news, we are moving on to an entirely different area of Logic. Did your students LOVE Intro? Good news, Intermediate is taking that to a new level, in a new way. Does your student hate Logic but love math?!? This semester is basically applying math to words. We get to put away the Intro book completely and move on to Intermediate. And that begins with the seemingly torturous assignment of copying all of the Appendices 25 times each. Ouch. But trust me, mommas, this is not busy work. This is the classical model at work before our eyes. We are asking our students (and ourselves, if we do it with them) to memorize without understanding. We are asking them to tuck these things away in their brains so that when it’s time to understand, we do not have to waste time memorizing. It’s already there and the process will move along so much smoother from memorization to understanding. Trust the process. Do the appendices. Logic at home should look the same as it always did. Spend an hour per day. Read the chapter. Review the vocabulary. Take the quizzes and tests.
Math: Obviously math doesn’t change. Keep on doing what you’ve been doing. Although, if what you have been doing doesn’t seem to be working, this is a great time to try out a new curriculum because so much is changing anyway.
Those three strands should be covered each of the four days at home for about an hour each. They need the repetition and review. The other three strands, not so much. They can each be knocked out a little more quickly and don’t require daily attention.
Research: Here comes our first major change. Goodbye, astronomers. You shall be missed. I loved the astronomy unit. I loved coming in on community day and hearing nine different papers on these amazing people. My students had a healthy competition going to see who could come up with the strangest fact about each astronomer and we learned all kinds of weird things. We are moving on to reading Defeating Darwinism and then Discovering Atomos. And the thing about this that needs to be really stressed is that we are not reading these books just to read them. We are reading these books to learn how to RESEARCH. Each week as they read the chapter, they should create an outline. They should make a list of vocabulary they don’t know (and then look it up), a list of people mentioned, and then summarize each section of the chapter, listing a few facts they found interesting. It should be no more than 1-2 pages of notes. This is the skill they are learning. This is the entire point. Do not let that slip by and let them just read the chapter. They will be missing out on the research element of the research strand! The good news is, the chapters are short. You can spend one day at home on research and then put it away until community day. When the time comes for Discovering Atomos, it may require a little bit of vocabulary review each day, but probably not a full hour.
Exposition: Goodbye, Lost Tools of Writing! I mean, not FOREVER. We’ll see it again in Challenge I. But for this semester, you can tuck that book away and say see ya later! This semester we need Words Aptly Spoken Short Stories. We’ll be reading short stories each week and the kids are working on writing their own short stories. At the end of the semester, most directors will publish all of the short stories into a book for them all to have a copy. I would suggest that they spend one day reading the short stories, and the rest of the week working on the writing assignment for the week. Some weeks this may be half an hour, other weeks it may actually require an hour per day. When they get really into their stories, you may find them even working on the weekends, who knows!
Debate: Current events is over. I loved this strand so much more than I anticipated and I’m sad to see it go. And that is forever–beginning in Fall 2019, current events is being replaced by American History. I do not know all the details yet. But anyway, Debate changes gears second semester regardless of what first semester looks like. Because, dear mommas, it is time for Mock Trial. It is time to dive deep into the murder of John Barrett and wrestle with whether or not Barbara Barrett is guilty. Is Lee Porter lying? Is Chaney an incompetent officer? Who was Tootsie? Does it matter? We shall soon find out! I would suggest that students spend two days per week on their mock trial assignments. At the beginning of the semester when they are re-writing the witness statements in their own words, they should spend one day bringing the statement down to a key word outline. Then they should put it away for at least 24 hours before taking the keyword outline and rewriting it in their own words. Most likely, your director is going to collect each student’s rewritten statement. Eventually, whoever becomes that witness will get all those copies to help them develop their character and memorize their part. Keep on encouraging your student that they CAN do this.
I’ve yet to find a new groove in class. Research doesn’t take very long when we no longer have nine papers to hear presented each week. Math is getting really dull with the same old presentations week after week after week. Logic is hard and the kids sometimes check out. Short stories is going well, at least. I am hoping to have some grand advice sometime soon on how to make it all work out. But so far, I’m still wading through it and struggling. If you are a Challenge B director reading this, share what’s going well for you in the second semester!