Challenge II

Freedom allows opportunity for noble choices


Flowing from the examination of freedom in Challenge I, the theme of Challenge II leads students to weigh the value and impact of choices executed by literary figures and heroes, historical leaders, artistic greats, and other persons of influence.

Students study the flow and development of ideas that shaped Western thought and culture and how they have led to twentieth-century thinking.

British literature, Latin 2, traditional logic, algebra and geometry, Western cultural history, and biology provide the academic core.

Advances in language skills, research, writing, dialogue, and debate continue as Challenge II moves into a more rhetorical format than earlier Challenges. Elocution or “style” in written and oral presentations gains importance as students learn and practice new types of rhetorical skills, including persuasive, impromptu, and debate presentations.

The theme of Challenge II leads students to weigh the value and impact of choices executed by literary heroes, historical leaders, and other persons of influence. Students contemplate the choices made by leaders in history: Were these choices wise or unwise? Students practice the art of questioning in order to gain clarity and insight, which leads to deep and profound conversations that consider consequences.


British Literature (First and Second Semesters)

This rigorous seminar, as in Challenge I, allows students to develop strong exposition, composition, and rhetorical skills using classical literature.

Through the study of literary terms, the practice of Socratic dialogue, and the refinement of persuasive essay writing, students examine the literature and scrutinize the value of their own opinions.


Latin 2 (First and Second Semesters)

This course builds on the framework established in Challenges A, B, and I of language and mastery of vocabulary, rules, and endings.

Students progress to advanced Latin grammar and sentence structure, allowing for more complex translation practice and the ability to learn the Latin vocabulary in context with Roman history.

In the second semester, students integrate overarching themes of Challenge II, including Western cultural influences, as they read, translate, and discuss the conquests of Caesar in seminar.

The third step in learning anything is to communicate winsomely in word or deed what you have learned.


Western Cultural History (First and Second Semesters)

Students sift through the origin of ideas as they discuss, debate, and present analyses of Western culture and its shaping influences from a Christ-centred worldview.

Integrating the skills of research, exposition, and logic, students compile summaries of various artists and composers and come to seminar prepared to discuss how the arts influence (and are influenced by) culture.

The creation of a timeline enables students to integrate major persons and events with the art periods and philosophical ideas of the time.

Throughout the year, students work on enhancing their elocution, or rhetorical style, through a variety of formal speaking events, including team policy and Lincoln-Douglas debates.


Biology (First and Second Semesters)

The biology student is introduced to the beauty and complexity of God’s creation.

The biology seminar provides a fully hands-on comprehensive laboratory experience that correlates with the concepts taught in the text.

The scientific method is reintroduced and practised in each of the weekly seminar experiments through microscope use and dissection techniques.

Students sketch their observations and record their methods and data in their journals, and complete formal laboratory reports from selected experiments.

In Challenge, our content, assignments, and discussions help students progress from knowledge to understanding to wisdom.


Algebra and Geometry (First and Second Semesters)

Each week, students further their understanding in maths as the conversation centres around the ideas of numbers, laws, relationships, shape, simple proofs, equations of higher orders, knowns and unknowns, and variables.

Students may work from the Saxon resource or any other maths book of their choice as the nature of discussion and problem-solving employs the universal building blocks of algebra and geometry.

Students recognize maths in the geometry of nature, the proportions of art, and the ratios of music.


Formal Logic 1 (First Semester)

Logical thinking skills are foundational for strong rhetorical skills, and logic is an important subject within the classical method.

In Challenge II, students study formal logic to learn the classical syllogism, the four logical statements, and the seven rules for validity.

On a deeper level, students gain an appreciation of logic as it serves to lead them from one truth to another and to a basic understanding of the Christian theory of knowledge.

Socratic Dialogue (Second Semester)

In keeping with the study of Western tradition and thought, students read the ancient text Gorgias by the classical Greek philosopher Plato.

The dialogue is read aloud in seminar as an introduction to the Socratic method and the dialectic process.

As they read, students pause to discuss the meaning and personal application of logic and reasoning in man’s search for truth.

Abstract thinking is now put into practice as students solve problems, write original papers and speeches, and lead discussions.


We recommend that Challenge II students set aside an hour per subject per day during the school day. As with most rigorous curricula, many students will need more time to complete their work. One suggestion is for Challenge II students to read as much of the literature as possible during the preceding summer, in order to save time during the school year.

All domains of knowledge inform each other and our understanding of the Lord, creation, and humanity. We reject fragmented education that says: “I’m a maths person” or “I’m a literature person.” Homeschool parents teach all subjects at home. Classical Conversations seeks to provide a model in seminar, one day a week, for what it looks like to learn and lead in all subject areas, showing how they fit together. Just as interruptions disrupt at-home learning, we believe that students arriving and leaving between seminars distracts and disrupts the students’ flow of thought and the flow of conversation for the day.

Cultivating a love of learning with young people takes relationship, which takes time. We believe that conversation, mentors, and relationship exert a greater influence on students – upper secondary school students in particular – than a grade-level textbook does. Such relationships determine how well and how deeply the student will engage in learning. You never know when the “fire will fall” in a given concept, subject, or truth. We call these moments “Pentecost-like” moments, and include not only balancing chemical equations or seeing vice and virtue in literature, but also the times when pride is broken, when blindness gives way to light, when humility enters in, when greater dependence on the Lord is required, or when the love of one’s neighbour wins over the love of self. These moments do not follow a syllabus or a time clock.

If you are sceptical, we encourage you to visit a local community and sit in on the conversation. Discover the beauty of a day of conversation around great content, where textbooks are only part of an education, with a mentor who models a love for learning and the skills needed to learn anything.

Most of our seminar time is spent critically analysing the literature we read. Classical Conversations provides a number of resources and tutorials to help equip parents as they assist their students with writing skills. If you wish to provide additional writing instruction at home, we recommend the Lost Tools of Writing program as a supplementary resource.

As the parent, you are your child’s primary teacher. You can best decide which books your student can reasonably read to gain understanding and engage in discussion. It is more important that your student learn how to read critically and how to discuss a work of literature. As need, your student may also listen to audiobooks or read aloud with a parent. One suggestion is for your Challenge II student to read as much of the literature as possible during the preceding summer, in order to give him a head start on the school year.

Most students do not master the vast subject of biology the first time around, so we recommend that you enjoy it again and aim for mastery of the material. Take this opportunity to hone skills of research, observation, and writing lab reports. We request that students participate in the labs performed each week in seminar and write the formal lab reports, but if you prefer, your student may opt not to repeat the text work, or he may study another science course at home.