Sunday, March 16, 2014

Foundations to Challenge - Bridging the Gap! Meet the Director Series...

How do we bridge the gap in our understanding as Foundation's parents to the Challenge levels later on?  How do we get through, not just to, the Challenge level in Classical Conversations®?  Are Communities able to raise up Challenge level Directors easily because parents are fully committed to the model and feel confident to step into those rolls when their children are heading into that phase of their education?  What does all this memorization of these facts in the Grammar stage of CC have to do with Challenge later on anyway?  

These are questions that I have seen discussed over my four years with CC.  I thought I would go right to the source for answers - Challenge Directors!  So I started at my local Community.  I wanted to find out some perspectives and answers and share them with you!  I will be posting interviews with various Directors and give you their perspectives.   Let's find out why some folks have stepped up to teach Challenge, how much support and time it takes to Direct, how they handle and see the benefits of having children in the various levels of Foundations, Essentials and Challenge and how they all relate to one another.  It is my hope to encourage not only myself, but those who are also in need of seeing more clearly, the "long view" for CC!  So stay tuned as we explore this topic over the next 4 weeks.

Today meet....

 Christina Dunn
Cary, NC 

Challenge II Director  

Christina has 4 children and she has been homeschooling for over 12 years.  She has always been a classically educating Mom.  She has been involved in the homeschooling community for the last 10 years, teaching writing (composition, literature) science and Latin classes and now, Directing Challenge II for Classical Conversations®.

Tell us a little bit about how you got involved with Classical Conversations with your children to start with and your journey so far with CC.

I got involved with the very first Classical Conversations® program in the Raleigh area many years ago and have been a part of the program for five of my homeschooling years. My youngest two children have been in the Foundations program for the last two years. My oldest has graduated from my homeschool and is planning on attending NCSU to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Since you have had both Foundations and Challenge level kids in your family, what do you see that applies from the memory work in Foundations to your Challenge kids classes?

Over the years, I have seen much fruit in how my oldest benefited from Classical Conversations®. She has graduated from our homeschool and now attends North Carolina School of Math and Sciences.  She has an excellent memory, which I in part, attribute to all of the memory work she did as a young child. Additionally, even though she is a very shy person, she has no problem getting up in front of a group for a presentation or to give a marketing pitch or speech. Adults often comment on how poised and professional she is. I truly think this came from week after week of doing presentations in Foundations.

In my current Challenge class I am teaching, I don't have any students who also went through Foundations, and I regularly have to go back and help them to put historical events into context that my 10 year old already grasps from being in Foundations.

What is your biggest joy from being a Challenge Director?

I LOVE being a Challenge Director. I see it as one of my biggest joys to be able to train students to think. That’s what I spend most of my day doing; drawing the thoughts out of my students. I see myself as the facilitator of our group, keeping the kids on topic, making suggestions, gently challenging their logic and most importantly cheering them on. It’s really fun to teach all of the subjects as a cohesive unit. For example, I get the opportunity to relate our science to our math and our literature to our debates. It also gives me the opportunity to discuss the complete revealed world of God’s creation all together. 

Another aspect of my role that I really enjoy, is helping my students see the benefit of learning and doing “hard” things. Some of the subjects we study are tough. I want my students to be able to pick up any book on any subject and to have the confidence that they can teach themselves. 

What is your biggest challenge as a Director?

My biggest challenge is getting some of my students to daily, consistently work on some of their subjects. Things like learning a foreign language and mastering math skills require daily dedication. I do like the CC model though; I think it is much closer to what will be expected of my students in college. It is still a learning process for some of them. 

How much time does it require to prepare to Direct Challenge II each week?

Ha! I don’t want to scare anyone away from thinking they may be called to Direct. Granted, this is my first year directing, so there is a lot more work at the beginning. I generally spend between 10-12 hours a week preparing for teaching. This includes making sure I understand everything we will cover for that week, reading books, and checking/grading assignments. One of the fabulous things about directing Challenge is that if you stay with one level for a couple of years, you have a big portion of the work done. When I was teaching on my own, I constantly had to develop new courses myself. This is so much easier!  

What support did you get when you started out as a Director?

I felt tremendous support through the training I attended this past summer. My trainer shared invaluable information and files with me that has made my job MUCH easier.  I’m not being  asked to re-invent the wheel every week. I go through the material I have and then put my own spin on what I do.

What is the biggest misconceptions that you previously, or others you've talked to have about the Challenge levels?

I think that a lot of parents are afraid that they can’t homeschool though high school successfully. Classical Conversations® comes alongside the parent and the student to give them the support they need to be successful.

What do you think accounts for the drop off with families, beyond Challenge B level and how would you encourage parents to stay in Classical Conversations® and why?

I think ninth grade is sometimes a time when families are looking for a change. Students want to experience high school or if they’ve been with one particular program for a long time, they may think it’s a good time to try something new. Sometimes parents want to give their students sports opportunities that only a high school can provide.

I do think that it is beneficial to show our families with younger children that homeshooling through high school is a real and viable option for our children

What are the key things you think prevent parents from feeling like they can become a Challenge Director for their Community?

I think that many parents don’t feel equipped to teach the subjects required in the upper levels of Challenge. I do want to encourage parents. So what if you don’t remember how to do Chemistry? You learn it alongside your students. It might feel time consuming and sometimes difficult, but doing hard things is always worth it. There is also an amazing bond that forms when you learn a subject alongside your older student. It is one of the most beautiful things I have experienced as a homeschool parent

What does a Challenge II day look like?

      We start our day with Latin and move onto Algebra 2. Then we spend about an hour and half studying Western Cultures, which is the spine of this year. In this period, we study Art and Music History, Debate and Christian worldview. After lunch we do British Literature and Biology.  We finish up our day with Logic in the fall and American Drama in the spring. 

What at this level relates back to the Foundations memory work?

Challenge II students learn about both the philosophy and culture of the Middle Ages primarily through Francis Shaeffer’s How Should We then Live. They also read Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and The Canterbury Tales.

Are you interested in the Cary, NC CC Community for Foundations, Essentials or Challenge programs?  
Contact Dawn Hogan at for more information!


  1. Colleen, I am happy to see more posts about Challenge. I am definitely feeling called to direct's a little scary. ;) My daughter still has one more year of foundations before Challenge though. 10-12 hours of prep is a lot but I guess I didn't expect it to be less either. Looking forward to seeing more of these posts!

  2. Heather - Yay! You go girl! We need great Directors and I'm sure you will be one of them! Stay tuned for more posts about the Challenge levels coming over the next few weeks! :)

  3. This is really helpful, thank you! I have had a hard time figuring out what the CC Challenge program is like. A lot of you guys talk about the Grammar stage at CC, but not many about the upper levels. I guess that might be because how you mentioned that sometimes families drop off toward the end. I look forward to hearing more in this series!

  4. Amy - yes it is a bit of a "mystery" to many folks -even those in CC sometimes! I hope to demystify it some in this series. Thanks for stopping by! :)