A Guide to Honestly Assessing Your Home School Year

Most of us are wrapping up our school years right about now. The sun’s been shining, the weather’s warming up, and the kids are playing outside! It’s the most wonderful time of the year, isn’t it?

It's summer!
Time to play outside!

You may be anxious to shove all your curriculum into an out-of-the-way place and forget about it. But before you do, I highly recommend taking a few days to assess yourself and how the home school year went for you. I’d suggest adding your assessment to your planner so that when you begin working on next year’s school plan you can see your notes and thoughts and use it to work out what you want next year’s plan to look like.

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Get Your Family Road Trip-Ready


Enjoy the view!


We are two weeks away from heading out on a short road trip. We’ll be doing a test run of traveling on Route 66 to help us over the next year as we plan for our big cross country trek on the famous roadway. From all my reading and research so far, it’s a little complicated to follow and stay on the route, so we want to get a couple hundred miles under our belts.

So over the next two weeks, I’ll be getting us ready to road trip! It’s important to be prepared before heading out. Here’s my top  tips for getting ready to hit the road! Continue reading “Get Your Family Road Trip-Ready”

What You REALLY Need for Classical Conversations Challenge A

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.

How to Spend a Week in Santa Claus, IN

Museums and national parks and roller coasters, oh my! It’s always Christmas in Santa Claus, IN–but the area has a lot more to offer than just a jolly fat dude in a red suit. We spent just about five days in Santa Claus, and we probably could have stayed at least ten and not been bored! One of my biggest frustrations while planning to head there was how little information I could find online about the area. I found a couple of blog posts but they were outdated and not as helpful as I had hoped. So, here’s my tips, tricks, and suggestions for a lovely week in Santa Claus, IN.

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Ten Steps to Happy Feet at Disney World

There’s a dark side to Disney, and it has nothing to do with Star Wars! It’s all about how rough the parks are on your feet!

Did you know that most people who record their steps at Disney World report walking eight to ten miles PER DAY while at Disney World?!? Your feet will take a beating. Add in the heat and humidity and you are looking at the perfect recipe for blisters. Disney World may be the most magical place on earth but if you don’t take care of your feet, they’ll be feeling less than magical by the middle of the week!

After taking seven trips to Disney World in eight years, I’ve got foot care down to a science. It takes some careful prepping and planning but if you take care of your feet, they will take care of you. Here is my ten step process for happy feet at Disney World. Continue reading “Ten Steps to Happy Feet at Disney World”

Eight Ways to Prepare for Challenge A Over the Summer

As a Classical Conversations family, is Challenge A on the horizon for your family? Last year, we were facing the transition to Challenge after two years of Foundations and Essentials.  I was also  facing the transition to being the Challenge A director after being the Foundations/Essentials director AND the Essentials tutor. It was a huge change and there are many things I wish I had known a year ago to help me get started.

Over the past year, I completely fell in love with the Challenge program. It offers so much to the students and the parents.  Sometimes I think I am learning more than my students. But I don’t think I was adequately prepared for it at the beginning, so here’s my advice for the next few months as you prepare yourself and your student for an amazing year in Challenge A!

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Our Niagara Falls Reading List

There’s so many books on Niagara Falls–here are a few of our favorites!

In July, we are headed to Canada for the week to experience Niagara Falls. We are “camping” (translation: staying in a nice cabin with air conditioning and a bathroom) and plan to do many of the super touristy attractions around the falls.

One of the best ways to prepare for any trip is to read anything and everything you can about the location. I’m the queen of travel books–I have read just about every Disney travel guide ever written and if I’m completely honest, I read the revised versions every year, too. Continue reading “Our Niagara Falls Reading List”

What’s In Our Morning Basket?

A few of our favorite things in our morning basket.


I can’t stop raving about the way that loop scheduling and a morning basket have completely changed our home school mornings around here. It’s only been two weeks since we made this change and already I know that this is IT. This is what works for us.

So what is IN our morning basket? It’s not a simple answer of a particular curriculum or collection. I pulled from all different places but mostly I pulled from my curriculum shelf. I looked at all the things I purchased with such good intentions that we’d FOR SURE use that and then life gets crazy and schedules go off course and we’d quit. But that’s why loop scheduling is helping us now, because when you loop, you are never behind. You just pick up where you left off and keep on rolling. Continue reading “What’s In Our Morning Basket?”

The Five Common Topics

The Five Common Topics are the key to learning through conversation. It is a fantastic way to move your conversations with your kids past, “What did you learn today?” and getting an answer of “I don’t know” or “Something about coins” to a fully engaged conversation where you get to know your child better and learn together at the same time. It’s something I’ve been working whole heartedly on mastering this past year and I am getting better but still have a long way to go. It is a huge part of classical education but also seems to scare people off. But it’s not so scary at all! It’s about learning to have a conversation with your kids by knowing what types of questions to ask. It also helps you take all your random memory work and knowledge and tie it together–which is the absolute overall point of Classical Education.

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