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Memorization Versus True Learning

When we decided to revamp our curriculum choices yet again this year, I thought that a more traditional textbook approach seemed like a great option. We all thrive on a more structured layout and routine. On the surface, things are great. The boys do a section of history per day, reading the passage, and answering questions at the end. At the end of each chapter is a review, which we use as a quiz / test of sorts. The guys cooperate, comprehend, and complete their assignments.

What’s the problem, then? First, is the matter of retention. They memorize the facts and dates long enough for the assignments, but then the information seems to get lost in the shuffle. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, is the lack of joy. The guys are not excited about learning, and often cannot wait to “just get it done.” They have forgotten how fun learning can be.  I do not want to train test takers. I want to educate and develop life-long lovers of learning. What I have now are 2 guys who are beginning to resent not only their history class, but school altogether.

So, we have collectively decided to switch to a history-based unit study of sorts. We still want the order of going in chronological order, but we will do so in an activity-based way. This may mean starting back over AGAIN from the beginning of time, but we can spend less time on those periods with which we are familiar, and hopefully this time the guys will enjoy studying those periods again, since we will do more interesting activities and projects this time around.

I really learned a lesson here, and that is to avoid the test trap. The guys are not test-takers, they are learners. I am not a programmer, I am a teacher. We need to keep school an interesting and joyful experience. My kids are the best indicators of what works, not tests and standards. I just need to keep listening. Thank you, Lord, for keeping me aware.


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