Friday, March 28, 2014

Foundations to Challenge - Bridging the Gap - Meet the Director Series #3

This is the third post in our series, where we are continuing to explore the advice and experiences that Directors have to share with us, regarding ways families can not just get to, but make it through, the Challenge levels successfully with their kids and what some of the obstacles are along the way.  

Today's interview is with my dearest friend, neighbor and Sister in Christ, Andrea.  She has Tutored Foundations and now is stepping up to Direct Challenge B this fall!  

Today meet...
Andrea Pontani
Cary, NC

Challenge B Director 2014-2015

Tell us about yourself, your background and your family? 

My name is Andrea Pontani and first and foremost, I am a daughter of The King. I am blessed with three children, Gabrielle 10yrs old, Kyle 13 yrs old and Justin 15 yrs old. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Business from Wilkes University. Education has always been a priority for me. Early on, I desired a unique education for my children. We began our educational journey in an A.M.I Montessori school in New Jersey. While I was intrigued with the philosophy and the educational lessons presented to such young children, I thought that the upper level, did not present enough of a challenge. We then spent two years in the public school before beginning our home school journey and I have never looked back!

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

Summer 2012 I attended the parent practicum and I knew I had found the education that I wanted for all three of my children. My son Justin, began his Classical Conversations® journey going right into Challenge A that fall. It has been the best thing for him. He has been challenged and has understood the meaning of owning his education.  My other two, both headed into Foundations that first year.  Now, Justin is in Challenge B, Kyle is in Challenge A and Gabrielle is in Foundations.  I have seen all three of my children excel in the CC program and it has brought such a blessing to our homeschool lives. 

Since you have 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?

Having the opportunity to see where all of the memory work from the grammar stage leads to, has been really cool. All of the English and Latin that my daughter memorizes in Foundations is used throughout Challenge in Latin studies. In order to learn Latin, you must understand the English language first. Recently, I sat in on a Challenge 1 class and I smiled as each of the students recited the presidents, something that our Foundation students do each year, along with the timeline.  By the time they get to Challenge 1 they will study American Government and actual historical documents (some of which they memorize parts of in Foundations, such as the Bill of Rights and the Preamble for example). The Geography memory work that is learned at the Foundations level, prepares the Challenge A student to draw the entire world and all of its capitals and features. It also provides a point of reference for the various scientists that they study in Challenge B and birth places of various authors of the literature books that they will read. Not to mention, the locations around the world are better understood, for the settings of their literature books. Crispen, read in Challenge A is set in 14th century medieval England, the Foundations student has already memorized various history sentences concerning the middle ages and has familiarized themselves with the Feudal System; therefore the student is prepared to have a richer dialectic discussion about the book. The science sentences memorized in Foundations, such as the Laws of Motion and the Laws of Thermodynamics, lay a foundation for the Challenge student, as they further study and write papers on many of the early renowned scientists such as; Copernicus, Isaac Newton, Samuel Morse, Michael Faraday, etc. All of this knowledge aids the Challenge B student in preparing their own science experiment for the Science Fair competition as well. The science facts memorized at the Foundations level, is researched in great detail in Challenge A as they memorize and draw various organs of the human body for example. Classical Conversation® is thoroughly and purposefully designed to model the Trivium, providing a rich integration of all the subjects created by our Creator. Foundations memory work provides many of the learning pegs that will later be studied and discussed in various Challenge level classes.  I encourage all Foundations parents to visit the Challenge classes so they can see for themselves, where all of the weekly memory work is headed and what a rich classical education CC really offers.  

What made you step up in your Community to become a Challenge Director for next year? 

I love the program and I want to be an encouragement to other moms. Plus, I figured that if I am going to be doing all of the work with my own student, then I might as well get paid for directing it.

What support are you getting as you endeavor to Direct for next year? 

I will be doing Director Business Training and then I will have access to all of the online tutorials. In addition, I will receive training at the practicum this summer.  Lastly, there are local Directors who are supportive and help with advice and information, as I have begun to prepare.

What does a Challenge B day look like? 

There are six seminars. Latin, Math, Logic, Composition, Science and Debate.  Debate consists of current events and a mock trial.  The mock trial is a really rich experience for the kids and has been a highlight for my own son this year.  

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

I think that Latin & Logic are a little daunting. But honestly, it is doable! The gift of a classical education is to learn “how” to study and learn. So with Latin and Logic, you start with the basics (grammar) and build upon that. What I would like to see at our Cary Community, are moms encouraging one another and praying for our Community. We are all on this home school journey together. Let’s face it as a true, Christian family and Community.

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

I think parents are scared of it, but really it is a gift. It can initiate such rich conversations in the home between student and parents. Our children are growing quickly and will be in the world in the blink of an eye. I am so pleased with how Challenge A & B prepares our students to understand the “whys” of what we believe as Christians. The discussion of current events and learning how to detect a bias point of view or reading and discussing Defeating Darwinism, has provided my son with a lot to think about. I can’t wait for Challenge 1!

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

I think that parents doubt themselves, fearful of actually home schooling through high school. Some families make the decision that they want their child to attend a private high school and that is a personal decision. I desire to home school through high school and I believe that is the best decision for my family. If a family wants to home school through high school, Classical Conversations® is a great opportunity. It has been a tremendous blessing to me and my children.


  1. I have a question. Is CC at the upper levels a full curriculum? In the six lectures you mentioned I don't see history or literature, though I feel like I've heard people talk about both of those things. How do those things fit in to the Challenge levels? Thanks in advance!

  2. The Challenge program is a complete curriculum. The students memorize the timeline from creation to the present at the Foundations level and this serves as the basis of history discussion throughout Challenge. Within the Challenge levels, history is integrated in the discussions that occur. In Challenge A, the students are reading literature books from a variety of eras and then write papers while memorizing the world map. Challenge B focuses on scientists who lived in varying periods of history from various time periods and they study current world events. Challenge 1 focuses on American literature & government, as well as economics. Challenge 2 discusses British literature and Western Culture History. Challenge 3 discusses American history and Roman History. So, we can see that while there is not a history text book, the timeline and geography serves as the starting point of learning history through many living books and historical events.

  3. I see! Thank you so much for the response!