Wednesday, April 10, 2013

classical conversations memory master...what? why?

cc memory master!
Last week Tristan officially earned the title of Classical Conversations Memory Master for Cycle 1. I know that makes zero sense to about 99% of you but let me tell you -it's a big deal! 
Every year in CC, the kids memorize information in seven subjects: English, Geography, History, Latin, Math, Science, and a history Timeline. Over the 24 weeks of classes this year they learned: 

-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

creating the volcano
That doesn't sound all that hard, right? OK, then let's have some fun! Here is your very own memory master quiz. Try answering or filling in the blanks for the following questions...

-Tell me some parts of an animal cell (and be sure not to confuse them with the parts of the plant cell!)
-What is the name of each continents highest mountain?
-Can you count by 14s?
-Tell me the definition of a preposition -and then list 53 of them.
-(fill in the blanks for this history sentence) "During the Age of _______, the _______ established rule over India in (year)____, and Queen _______ was declared the Empress of India in (year)____.  Before his assassination, _______  ______, led the passive resistance movement which helped win ______'s independence.
-Did Jerome complete the Vulgate before or after the Council of Chalcedon?
-What are the 5th Declension Latin noun endings?
-On a map, can you point out the locations of Ancient Songhai and Timbuktu?

sharing the volcano with the sisters
So, how did you do? (For the record, before CC, I couldn't have answered any of these questions. Before CC, I didn't know Timbuktu was a real place!) That little quiz basically consists of 10 of the more than 400 facts that a Classical Conversation student learned in 24 weeks of Cycle 1 this year. Memory Masters cannot simply cram the information and regurgitate it one time and call it a day. My son had to recite these facts from memory, with no help or hints or fill-in-the-blanks whatsoever, first for me, then for his Dad, then his tutor, and finally the director. He mastered this information.
exploding the volcano
What's the point of this, you ask?
Diligence, confidence, goal setting, commitment, hard work...
Yes lovely, but what's the point???
Leigh Bortins, founder of CC, answers this better than I:

"Modern education scoffs at the first tool of learning -memorization. Why learn to memorize if you can just look it up? Isn't critical thinking more important than rote facts? My response is, 'What can I think critically about if I know no facts?' I can offer only my opinion, my point of view. Yet shouldn't truth play a factor? For the Christian, absolute truth exists. His story is unfolding. I want to know who did what, where, when, and why for Him. I want to see His creation revealed through science. I want His word to be a lamp unto my feet. That means I must acquire, nurture, and expand my ability to store information, words, and abstract ideas. I want to be able to repeat truth and think about how truth affects my life. This requires hard academic work -brain training- habits of character."

painting the volcano
So do we sit around listening to cheesy memory songs and flipping flashcards and drilling math facts all day? Yes. Just kidding -NO! We do those things, but in healthy, small doses -usually in the morning while my coffee is still hot and before I have grown tired of the noise and sent them all out to the yard to play. We use games like Jenga and games we make up. We sing songs that are certainly cheesy but keep the kids laughing and asking for more. And in the last few weeks leading up to Tristan's final proofing we just did a little bit more every day, focusing on the memory work he hadn't fully mastered. We played the CC songs in the car on the way to the beach and we practiced the Timeline while he waited his turn at piano lessons. We very much try to fit CC into our family life rather than arranging our lives around CC. Tristan's favorite method of review has been to sit with a bucket of Legos while I ask him questions. For every answer he recites he takes a Lego and by the end of a full 24 week proof (which could take about an hour) he would have some elaborate creation built. This also cut down on the annoying swaying and finger tapping and pencil chewing he would do otherwise. Last week he took one of those creations to CC for his class presentation (see the top picture.)
And what does the paper mache volcano have to do with any of this?
Week 16 Science: What are the four kinds of volcanoes? Active, Intermittent, Dormant, Extinct. And Week 17 Science: What are some parts of a volcano? Magma, Vents, Lava, Crater, Gases.
Sometimes you just have to see it in action!
I'm proud of my son, not just for becoming a memory master, but because I've watched him become a kid who loves to learn.


  1. Awesome job, Tristan! I'm in CC and I still couldn't answer some of those questions. :)

  2. Am I smarter than a fifth-grader (or whatever level he's at -- collegiate, maybe)? Definitely not!

    Great job, Campbell family!

    Sharon M.

  3. Great job, Tristan! I don't know that I knew any of those questions....and now I feel a LOT less educated:o)

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