At the beginning of the year, our Foundations Director, Stephanie Ross, posed the question, “Are there any mothers who want to be Memory Masters?” As someone who is a lifelong learner, I secretly wanted this. Besides the fact that I love challenges, I wanted to experience the process for myself because my daughter would be doing it for the first time this year.
Make no mistake, IT IS HARD! I earned my undergraduate degree from the College of William and Mary and my masters from George Mason University. The Memory Master test was the hardest test I have ever taken! I nearly did not make it because I could not remember the word “shelf” in continental shelf and I nearly forgot the card “Immigrants Flock to America” after “The Missouri Compromise.” My director was very patient with me, because she knows that I am in the rhetorical stage rather than the grammar stage. I understand now why it was easier for my eight year old: she did not let things she already knew get in her way! If I tried to think too hard, I had trouble remembering the facts. My director had to remind me not to think so hard because I did know the material. The only block in my brain was my brain trying to think much too hard.
Here are some pointers I gleaned from this experience:
1) Grammar stage students are much more capable than we adults are at becoming Memory Masters.I always say that once someone has a mortgage, it is harder for them to learn things (I know it is definitely true for me). Not only do we not have as much time to devote to studies, our brains almost have to be reconditioned to work on grammar stage material. I had to stop thinking so hard and almost divorce myself from the things I already knew because they would interfere with the memory work.
2) The methods employed by Classical Conversations are effective! The songs were instrumental to my learning. Information which the CD did not give, Amy Joy Tofte’s songs and other resources on CC Connected provided! There is something for every kind of learner. If we were having trouble, we first found a song on CC Connected. If that did not work, then we would use some kinesthetic trick that the tutor taught (good job, Loura Tippey, for teaching Elizabeth the stages of photic, bathyal and abyssal by having different stages of covering her eyes). If that did not work, we would find a poster on CC Connected to help us.
3) Dry erase markers were instrumental in our studies. I love dry erase markers with the eraser on the back (Quartet Rewritables work amazingly on the Trivium Tables—that was a tip from Christy Bradley)! I shudder to imagine the world prior to dry erase markers! We used the markers to mark out the places on the Geography Trivium Tables and to mark through the dates on the Timeline Cards. Then, for geography, we would go through the places systematically (North to South, country then city, all rivers and seas). We would erase the marker. If we made a mistake, we would color over it again. For the Timeline Cards, we would take ten to fifteen and cross out the dates. Then we would have to put them in order. Again, if we made a mistake, we would color over the date again.
4) Students are excellent teachers. My eight-year-old daughter, Annie, was very instrumental in helping me learn the material (which, in turn, strengthened her learning, I hope). Not only did she coach me, but she also proofed me. I loved watching her move into teacher mode! Once Elizabeth is old enough to go on the Memory Master journey, Deo Volente (God willing), she and Annie will be reviewing with each other and proofing each other.
5) Do not get behind! Miniproofs throughout the year are imperative. I loved using lapbooks during our breaks to help review. We spent most of our time during the first day of each week learning the new grammar. We then used opportunities in the car to listen to the new grammar. On Thursdays, we would review all the preceding weeks to make sure we were ready.
6) Block off the last two weeks of Classical Conversations for Memory Master study. We really did not get much math done, because we spent a lot of time reviewing. We knew the material, but just wanted to make sure she had over studied before the proofs.
7) Pray, pray, pray! Pray at the beginning of the year that you are equipped for the endeavor. Pray during the middle of the year that you will finish the fight and keep the faith until the end. Pray at the end of the year that you and your student will not falter or blank out during the proofing.
My director told me she wanted to get me a Memory Master shirt. I told her that I did not need one; however, when I received it, I was overjoyed! I wear it with pride because it really means something. (I may even frame my certificate and put it beside my college diplomas.) Alongside my daughter, I had the opportunity to learn things I never knew. The test was so rigorous—I appreciate the fact that we had to work hard to attain the title Memory Master.
I humbly encourage you next year to begin the year planning for you and your students to become Memory Masters. Even if you do not test for it, your lives will be richer simply by having made the effort!