However, there are 3 reasons that I'm especially thankful for this program this year....3 reasons why our school year looks so very different from last year.
The definition of retention is "An ability to recall or recognize what has been learned or experienced; memory."
My CC Director told me that after just a few weeks of doing the work I would feel like I have a new brain. It's true! Our brains crave order and "pegs" to hold information. Without those pegs, new information enters and exits our brains rapidly, but when we have a memory peg, that information has a place to hang...like a lost hoodie on a coat hook.
As a child/teen I had an incredible memory like my dad. My classmates called me The Living Dictionary. I have often wondered how big of a part memory plays in IQ scores, good grades, and success in life. Is it actual smarts, or just recall of information? Can someone have a photographic memory, but not be very intelligent or can someone who is extremely smart be forgetful? Ahhh, that's another question for another day!
For those with an excellent memory, it is easy to saunter through the school years, getting straight A's without working very hard. Growing older and having kids (I think each child kidnaps more of Mom's brain cells when they are born) has made my brain a lot fuzzier, and I have to work harder to memorize these days. So, while I did learn and memorize a lot of information growing up, I could have been learning soooooo much more, and could have been challenged to not just learn it short-term, but also to retain it for life. A great short-term memory gets you 100% on tests and then the information is quickly dumped. At the end of the year, one is only able to recall the things that were practiced again and again.
A huge difference between My Father's World and Classical Conversations is that there is retention with CC. I've talked in other recent posts about learning less and learning it well as opposed to learning more and not retaining it. I loved the content of My Father's World. We read tons of stuff in the Bible, made adorable crafts, learned a lot of character qualities, and read loads and loads of excellent, living books that engaged the kids and drew us in. We read about every state in the USA and made foods from each of the states and learned about things in God's world that corresponded with each letter of the alphabet. Yet, just 5 months after finishing last year's curriculum, I am hard-pressed to remember anything we learned! The things that I can recall are the things that we reviewed constantly, like "The letter A stands for apple,....If I stay in Jesus, I will bear much fruit" or "S stands for sun....Jesus is the light of the world." All of those neat facts about the states and things we learned about pioneers are gone! I'm thankful for the beautiful States Notebook we have as a memento that we can re-read to remember things about each state and for the fun books we read together that we can go back and re-read, but there isn't a whole lot in the noggin to show for last year.
Though I went through the Kindergarten curriculum TWO YEARS in a row, loving it and delighting in my little ones' excitement over the animals they were studying and the crafts we were making, I recall very little of the facts we learned. There were just too many! Every day we were moving on to the next thing and the next thing and the next thing. At one point, my mind, which I now realize was desperate for some memory pegs, was crying out to find a list or something in the curriculum guide that we could memorize to review the info from the year and try to retain it. I was even thinking of making my own list, but I didn't know where to start because the information was so vast. My brain was begging me to figure out a way to retain....I was frustrated.
There is no doubt in my mind that CC is the best homeschool curriculum there is on the market today in regards to retention. I've looked at it all, and I've chatted with kids from scads of different homeschooling backgrounds and I've seen and heard the evidence. In Junior High, CC kids can draw a map of the entire world, with countries, capitals, rivers, mountains, etc. from MEMORY. Our 4 and 5 year olds can recite a Timeline from creation to 9/11 with over 160 key historical facts. Skip counting up to 15, as well as other math facts and equations are reviewed yearly. They drill together, drill at home, listen to CDs with their grammar on it, learn songs to remember facts, and do memory work tutorials on the computer. Memory masters must recite over 500 pieces of information perfectly at the end of the year...remembering everything they learned over the entire year. The retention is INCREDIBLE! What's also great is knowing that my little ones may not catch everything this time, but they will review each of the 3 cycles at least once before they get to Junior High. Katrielle will review it 3 times! If you want to remember something for the rest of your life (like your alphabet, multiplication tables, Scripture passages) you must review it again and again until it is in the long-term memory bank.
Homeschooling is hard. There are days when you just don't feel like giving it your all. Even for an extremely-driven person like me, it can be tempting to cut corners in some areas. The homeschooling mom needs accountability, and so do the kids. In all honesty, I have to admit that if I wasn't doing CC we would have skipped a lot of the science projects that require time and effort. "Let's imagine how big the universe is and look at a book about planets instead of building the scale model." It's easy to let your homeschooled kids off the hook because we're weary and they can be persistent. "I suppose you can write that report tomorrow and go bike with your friends." Knowing that you have to show up to community weekly with your work done, your grammar memorized, and your presentation ready is an excellent motivator! It provides accountability for the parents as they are teaching their kids to not slack off, and also inspires the kids, who want to be on the winning team and get a prize during review games. They want to keep up with the pace of their peers.
#3. CONSISTENT FELLOWSHIP WITH HOMESCHOOLERS
In addition to accountability, it's important just to share life with a community of friends who are "in the same boat." Before we were involved in CC, our family did have some fellowship. My kids wanted to do playdates with friends, I had a weekly fondue date with my buddy, I helped lead Pray and Play, and we attended church and AWANA faithfully. Yet, due to busyness, circumstances, illnesses, etc. often playdates would be cancelled or rescheduled, Girl's Nights were rare treats, and weeks would go by before I'd see this or that friend as they'd have to stay home from church with a sick kid. My homeschooler friends were the hardest ones to connect with, understandably so, because they were all so busy working at home teaching their children. So, there was a definite lack of unity and consistency amongst most of my friendships with other homeschoolers. As I've written about before, investing in CC is a commitment. Because you are paying for your child to be in the community, you have a financially-backed drive to be there every week unless you have a very good reason not to be. Tuesday mornings are set aside to be with our community, and we're not just wasting time that we could be using to do school because we're doing school together! This consistent, united, fellowship with other homeschoolers is such a blessing. We swap ideas, encourage one another, rejoice over each other's children and their growth and successes, eat together, and share laughs. Some folks in bigger cities have excellent homeschool co-ops where they meet weekly for this kind of fellowship, so this is not limited to Classical Conversations, but in our area, being a part of CC is the only option we have for this kind of consistent homeschool fellowship.