A friend recently emailed me asking what I thought of doing CCM (Classically Catholic Memory) in terms of Anthony Esolen's most excellent book Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child that I reviewed a few years ago. I love Esolen's work for many reasons, but mostly because he was able to articulate many things I thought and felt, but could not properly put down on paper. That's why I read books like his. I knew I would agree. His book gave me the words and arguments to support my opinions.
Now, one must remember that Esolen's book is ironic, like Screwtape writing letters to his nephew, Wormwood, in the Screwtape letters. So, it requires you to look at his advice as contrary to your desired goal. In the first chapter, he talks about Mr. Gradgrind in Hard Times. Mr. Gradgrind asks Cissy (who is a horse breaker's daughter) what a horse is. She is unable to answer him. Mr. Gradgrind declares she knows no facts about horses. Esolen warns about the danger of facts :-). In fact on page 8 he asks,"of what use to us now are Facts? Surely in the case of homeschooled boys, we have seen Facts run amok." He spends the entire chapter bemoaning anyone learning facts, because once you learn a fact you might actually learn more about the subject! Oh no! So the danger he is really pointing out is memorizing the facts only.
If you have a right brain kid, memorizing is hard work. The way you get it to work is to explain the big picture and drill down to the fact they are memorizing, which not only helps them (whole->parts learning) but also give them the context about why they are memorizing this information.
CCM is not focused on just memorizing the facts. It's learning the why's and what's about the facts. So, our CCM classes are not simply rote memorization. They are not just about reciting the facts. Our class time each week is spent explaining why we are memorizing these things and in what context the facts exist. We are not just chanting and reciting...
This week, in fact, WEEK 7, if you are wondering, we were able to make many connections about things the kids have learn within the context of Religion, Timeline, Geography and History. The Science class, the most interesting so far, keeps building on fact they have already learned, broadening their horizons in areas I've never approached with my kids on my own. How many homeschoolers do you know have dissected an earthworm and lived to tell about it? We have. And, really looking at the earthworm hearts wasn't nearly as interesting as the looks on all the kids' faces. The kids really will remember that forever.
So, is CCM just about facts? No. It could be, but with the right teachers and kids with the right attitude, it is not.
"A fact may not be much, by itself, but it points toward what is true, and even the humblest truth may in time lead a mind to contemplate the beautiful and the good..."