Saturday, July 27, 2013

Summer Catch-Up, Part 2: A Master of Memory

This was our second year of CC. During our first year, everything was new to me, and everything was new to the kids. I had my doubts, people. Max and Sam were four years old when their year started, and it seemed a bit ridiculous that they were memorizing John 1:1-7 in English and Latin when they could barely tie their own shoes. I'd read The Well-Trained Mind, and it resonated with me, and I became passionate about choosing a different academic path for the education of my children.

But seriously? Max and Sam were, and are, very typical little boys. They like to climb trees and wrestle and joke about poop. They don't like Latin. So this course of teaching that we chose, in which they spend a lot of time when they're young memorizing vast amounts of information that they can't yet comprehend, well... let's just say the jury was still out for me. I'd made tons of great friends, and the kids loved CC, but I wasn't convinced that it was working in an academic sense.

As year two came to a close, I found myself amazed at the large quantity of facts that all three kids had cumulatively memorized. One of CC's mantras regarding the early years (called the grammar stage by classical educators) is that we must train the brain to retain. That means lots of repetition with singing and motions thrown in to make it fun. It means lots of books, read by them and to them. It means limited TV, limited computers, limited image-based learning that does a lot of their brain's work for them while they zone out in front of it. The kids, by and large, have great fun with it, as they haven't been made privy to the misconception that learning is a drag. As a parent, it can be hard to persevere. It's work, for sure. It's discipline. But I can tell you at the end of year two that it's worth it. And it's working.

On her own, my little firstborn determined at the beginning of last year that she wanted to become a Memory Master. In short, a Memory Master is one who is able to recite every single fact that he or she has learned that year in order, from memory, without making a mistake and without needing any help. They are tested by a tutor, and the recitation alone takes over an hour without taking a break. When Chloe decided this was her goal, I sighed was super proud. I also knew it meant a lot of work for me, in order to keep her on top of the quickly accumulating weekly facts. Our director constantly reminded us of something I came to understand well: just because you can't do it doesn't mean they can't! As parents we often foolishly assume that because we can't memorize all of this information, there's no way our young children can. Nothing is further from the truth. They are far more capable of memorizing than we are, and a classical education takes advantage of that.

Chloe worked extremely hard. Greg and I were so very proud of her work ethic and determination. She sailed through her Memory Masters exam with flying colors - not even the slightest stumble over a single fact, according to the tutor who tested her. Here's a list of some of what she memorized this year:

-161 events and people in a chronological timeline
-44 U.S. presidents
-24 history sentences
-120 geographic locations and features
-24 science facts
-5 Latin noun endings and their singular and plural declensions
-24 English grammar facts
-Math multiplication tables up to 15x15, common squares and cubes, basic geometry formulas and unit conversions
-The entire passage of Exodus 20:1-17

She was rewarded with a trophy and special recognition at the end-of-year ceremony. We were rewarded with a newly defined understanding of what our children, with God's help, are capable of.

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