Challenge Class of One

Our school year has come to an end.  It was a beautiful year, in which I was the Challenge tutor of one student.  That 0ne student was my daughter, and I set out to prove that CC is do-able in any situation, even when no other students join the class.

We have a full campus that grew to max capacity in just 4 years.  We’re out in the country, where you wouldn’t think to find a campus this size.  I joined it when it began and we were a tiny campus of just a few families meeting together each Monday.  I loved those intimate days, getting to know each family on a deeper level.  I love seeing so many families fill a church now; and I’m thankful to have been a part of it’s growth.  Our campus has been everything we needed for my middle and youngest child; however, my oldest child was just a little outside of the age range for everything happening here.

We had to wait an extra year to find a Challenge A closer to us than 1.5 hours away.  If I’d known how much Challenge would complete my oldest’s education, maybe I would have driven those 1.5-2 hours each week.  Eventually, we were able to find either a close enough Challenge, or find another person driving that route, that could drive my daughter.  Last year, my daughter was worn out from the extra long days and wanted to be local.  Every year, I had made an attempt to start a Challenge level for her at our own campus, but despite my prayers and best efforts, no level could be created for her that would include other students.

This year, however, we decided to make it work, even if only one student, my daughter, made up our class. We set up space at our CC campus’s church, and created a Challenge II class of one.  We hoped that another student might join, so I endeavored to make the class as complete as if it were a class of 10.  Other students did not join our class, but we had a fantastic year just the two of us.  Often, I felt like I was the secret second student!  I learned a few things that made it work:

Tailor the class to the student
I think this is true whether you have 12 students or 1 student.  I began the year trying to make my Challenge II class look like any Challenge II class, at any campus.  I tried making generic plans for a class of imaginary students.  What I found is that class was better when I made the class fit my daughter.  Each week, I asked myself, “What does my daughter need? What would bless her in her studies?”  I wrote up my plans based on that.  Sometimes, we’d get to class, and she had something else to discuss or work on for that subject, and it wasn’t on my plan.  I soon learned to ditch the plan and go with my daughter’s needs.  I believe, now, that this is the key to tutoring any Challenge class, whether small or large.  Next year, I will tutor a class of 8 students, and I will ask myself the same question – “how can I bless them? what do they need?”  I will make plans that can fill a class, or drop the plans if something else speaks to my students’ hearts.

Discussion sometimes happens twice
I found that we’d discuss things at home as mother and daughter, and then again in class. Literature often had two discussions.  It was fun to read and discuss at home, but also fun to continue that conversation in class.

I had to find substitute students, sometimes
Some subjects just need another student.  You cannot have a debate team of 1.  We tweaked debate.  For the first debate, my daughter wrote up a note sheet about debate, and we invited everyone from age 12+ to an Information Meeting about Team Policy Debate. My daughter led the meeting and shared her notes.  We drummed up interest for the next debate scheduled in the guide.  Our next two debates had students.  Often, we’d have to meet outside of CC to hold our debate.  Sometimes it felt like we were putting in more work than the tutor of a class of 2 or more!  But we had an awesome debate experience, and were able to get other students on fire for debate, too.

We teamed up with other Challenge classes
We were able to benefit from having Challenge A and B classes on campus.  If my daughter had a presentation scheduled, we would ask the Challenge A or B tutor if we could present to them.  We were also able to get the students’ feedback.  It was nice for those other levels to see what is on the horizon for them, and learn about Challenge II.  If our guide scheduled a full hour for debate, but our debate was scheduled for another day, we’d ask Challenge A or B if they had any presentations.  We enjoyed watching Challenge A present LTW papers and Challenge B present Science Fair projects.  My daughter skipped Challenge B, and she was able to fill in on Mock Trial for one student that was unable to be there.  This was an amazing experience for her, and she did her role well.

All students have weaknesses and strengths. Go with it!
My daughter is not a lover of Biology.  She gets squeamish if someone says the word “eyeball”, thus the dissections of Challenge II were a “no deal”.  For her, I printed out the most cartoony sheets of creatures I could find, and we brought our science journals and coloring pencils.  We sat on the floor and sketched for that hour.  My daughter said this was extremely helpful.  She did well on her Biology tests because she sketched diagrams.  If we had dissected an animal, she would have missed this opportunity to quietly sketch and soak in the details.  I would love to incorporate the sketching of science diagrams into a future Challenge class, at least to model it as a study technique.

Sometimes, the class falls silent
Sometimes, with a class of 1, there just isn’t anything else to say.  With discussion often getting double duty at home and in Community day, sometimes a topic was discussed as fully as we both felt it could be.  It is very different to lead a class of 1 into discussion, instead of a chatty class of many.  Sometimes, we simply opened the book on the schedule and read aloud.  Sometimes we re-read last week’s reading, but often we’d look ahead into next week’s reading.  When something inspired thought, we’d stop to discuss it.  Many rich hours were filled this way, and I believe it brought new meaning and life into a subject during that week.

Add in movement!
As a class of 1, we were often on the move!  On nice days, we’d walk the parking lot, books in hand.  Sometimes, we’d move locations, out into the halls of the church (as long as it didn’t bother other classes).  When our big, happy campus gathered, just outside our little room, sometimes we’d swap places and borrow their space for awhile.  We moved and it helped us learn (and not fall asleep!)  It was not unusual for my pedometer to reach 8,000-10,000 steps by the end of Community day.  I loved this aspect of our tiny class.

A tiny class can fit almost anywhere
We met in the Mothers’ Nursing Room at our church, and sat in two big rocking chairs.  Sometimes we felt like we were grannies in rockers, and needed a pair of knitting needles and yarn to make the picture complete.  It was a small space that fit two people comfortably, but three was a little more of a stretch.  We have great memories of our rocking chair discussions!  And if we’d had a bigger class, we might not have had space at the church for us.  We were blessed to be small in number.

If you are considering tutoring a Challenge class of 1, I say “do it!”  It is do-able.  Make it work for you and your student.  A Challenge class is meant to be full of rich discussion, and that will look different for any class.  Don’t be afraid to lead a discussion with 1 student (or have that student lead a discussion with you!). Don’t be afraid to simply read from the text, and pause to discuss when thought-provoking material is revealed.  Don’t be afraid to tweak your class to bless Your student.  And don’t be afraid to make your classroom anywhere – or everywhere!