During the first week of our family’s homeschooling journey, I taught this verse to my children: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7, NIV). It is a wonderful day when a parent can see the fruit of his or her instruction.
On May 3, 2013, our Roseville, California, Classical Conversations community held our End-of-Year Celebration and Open House. At this event, the director honored six students who had earned the title of Memory Master. My ten-year-old son was among them. What an inspiring journey this has been!
About a year ago, our family attended the same event and saw three students honored for having attained the Memory Master title. To achieve this title, a student must recite from memory all the grammar from every subject area of the Foundations curriculum.
We had joined the community in February, and my son had often been frustrated by not being able to participate well in the review games at the end of class. I tried to console him by telling him it was nearly impossible to do so since we had joined so late in the year and that the following year would be different. We sat at this celebration feeling so happy for those three students and wondering if it would be possible for our children to meet that challenge in the future. My husband turned to my son and said, “If you do that next year, I will give you $100.” My jaw dropped. Was it encouragement or bribery?
We joyfully began the 2012–2013 year and endeavored to review the Foundations grammar material for about ten minutes each day. In December, we attended a Memory Master Review event that gave students an opportunity to practice being quizzed on the material. Our director encouraged us to learn the material from Weeks 23 and 24 early, during the scheduled breaks, i.e., December and spring break, so that we would be ready for formal proofing before the end of the year.
Our director also shared with us a wonderful article titled “The Spirit of Memory Master . . . A Marathon Metaphor” by Sheila Taylor, wherein the author compares the preparation for Memory Master to training for a marathon. Lots of runners train hard and participate in the race, but not everyone wins. That made an impression on us.
I explained to my son that we would work hard together, and that my primary concern was that he would do his very best work. I emphasized that I believed his very best work would prepare him to win, but if he did his best and did not win, I would still be very pleased and proud. I said this to him many times.
We worked hard, reviewing the material together. During the month of April, prior to the proofing process, we spent an hour or more each day reviewing the material. In order to attain the Memory Master title, each eligible student must be proofed—tested—on all the material with his parent, another parent in the community, his tutor, and the director.
On the way to my son’s final proofing, we walked outside for a while, and I told him that I was absolutely confident that he had done his best work and that I was pleased with him regardless of the outcome. We prayed together. I prayed that God would allow what he had learned to come out in the right way at the right time and that our experience would serve as an example and encouragement to others. My son prayed that he would glorify God with his effort.
Needless to say, we were both very happy when my son passed his final proofing, but I believe the process was more valuable than the outcome. I could almost see his brain developing as he trained himself to memorize ever-expanding amounts of information. I think his brain grew stronger from the training, as any muscle grows stronger from repeated and incrementally strenuous exercise. He was also able to experience the very special blessing that comes from earning a desired outcome as a result of persistent hard work: perseverance. What an invaluable life experience to gain at age ten!
No, I do not regret offering him the financial reward. Ultimately, my husband and I regard this experience as a valuable tool for learning and as a blessing from God.
At the celebration, our son was asked to offer his advice to any student considering pursuing the Memory Master title in the future. His advice, unsolicited from his parents and in his own words, was, “Practice hard, enjoy it, and do it for the glory of God.” Praise be to God for this blessing in my son’s life!