Inspiring Children

Apr 7, 2012
Children love knowing, but they seem to hate studying. Why is that? It might be that we are not thinking about knowledge the way they experience it. Here's a long reflection I engaged in this morning about some distinctions that I consider important. It's a response to a question on Susan Wise Bauer's amazing forum, but it was too long for that site. It might help you plan your teaching and frame your own thinking to distinguish between two kinds of knowledge:
  • Conventional
  • Natural
Natural knowledge is knowledge of things as they are. It's what we get first, but it's pre-verbal, so it's hard to measure and identify. But it's what humans love because it is personal and direct. Conventional knowledge is knowledge of what humans have come up with to record the knowledge of things as they are, or often to dissemble. In other words, names. People don't mind having this knowledge, but they don't value names for animals they don't play with. Let me explain that a little and see if I can connect it to your original question about inspiring children. When you and I think about knowledge, we almost always have in mind names for facts. For example, we think about the civil war in 1861-1865. The Civil War is a fact. That it took place in 1861 - 1865 is another fact. But if you think a little harder about it, you realize that in fact that "Civil War" is a [B]name[/B] that we give to an event that occurred in the past. The proof that it is a name and not the fact itself is that people can refer to it by other names, such as "The war between the states," or "the war of the northern aggression" etc. Hold on to that distinction between a fact and a name, and let me draw an analogy. If you tell your child that a dog in a picture is named Rex, do you think she would care or remember for very long? The answer, I would suggest, is, "It depends." So what does it depend on? More than anything, it depends on whether she knows the dog personally. If it is her own dog and she loves it, she'll remember. If it is her friends dog, she'll probably still remember. If it is a dog in a book like those Lewis describes at the beginning of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader ("of fat foreign children doing exercises" - ie of decontextualized factoids that give superficial contacts with irrelevant things), then she won't. Why not? Because she doesn't know the dog. Now push it a bit further: if you were to give your daughter a dog for Christmas, do you think she would care about its name? When do you think she would care the most about its name? The week before? Six months before? After receiving it? My guess is that at six months she would care, but not as much as at one week, and nowhere near as much as when she had the puppy in her hands. The reason is because knowledge, classically understood, and especially as understood in the Christian tradition, is always personal. But school makes knowledge impersonal. It reduces it to names without puppies. Look at how the Lord had Adam name the animals: they came to him and then he named them. He didn't give them a list of names. This would have given Adam quite a challenge with his own children. He would have been interested in the names because he had to come up with them. That challenge aroused his interest (inspired him). But how was he going to get his kids to care? The good news for Adam was that God had given him the pattern. 1. Order all education to his purpose as a human, which is to steward the creation as its high priest. 2. Prepare the environment before putting the student in it so that the environment itself draws out what the student needs to fulfill his purpose. 3. Provide challenging tasks without a whole lot of detailed instructions so that the student has to discover and develop his own faculties and skills. 4. Provide tasks that reveal to the student his own inadequacies and his need for suitable partners. 5. In a specific assignment, when knowing and naming is the goal (as it almost always should be), draw out the students mind by challenging him to do the naming, which will require attention and will arouse interest. I think the most common mistake we make as teachers is to confuse the name with the fact. Kids love to know facts, but they don't like disembodied names. Two very important qualifications: Sometimes they just need to show the discipline of obedience and memorize the names so they can benefit later. I am using the word name here in a very broad sense. Names can be a great deal more than just a word. A name is a symbolic representation of an actual thing. But that symbolic representation could take place in other ways than mere words. For example, you have given your children names, but you also, no doubt, have pictures of them. That picture is also a symbolic representation. If you are a musician, you might sit down at your piano one night and compose a tune that embodies in music your perception of your child. You might write a poem about her. All of these are, using a somewhat expansive definition, names. In other words, we are artists by nature and the main thing we do as artists is name things. So when we are teaching children, we are always teaching them how to name things. But you can only rightly name something that you accept into your soul and you will only accept something into your soul if you approve of it. And that takes us full circle back to the original question. How do we get our children to approve of what we want them to accept into their soul. Here's the magic truth: children/humans love to know things personally. Let them know the puppy before they have to remember its name. Or at least get the name of the puppy as close to the truth of the puppy as possible. Puppies are truths. Names are ways we remember and order them. The distributive property is a puppy. Before they get that long name and its abstract definition, show them that they have already been playing with it and that it is fun to play with. Then name it - or even let them come up with a name. You could use that name for a while and then tell her what other people call it later when she better understands what it means to distribute things. The readiness is all. That a sentence is a complete thought is a puppy. That every sentence has a subject is a puppy. That every sentence has a predicate is a puppy. That you can't think of a subject without giving it a predicate is a puppy. This little litter makes up the foundation of everything you need to know about grammar. These puppies will grow up and bear lots of additional litters, but if your poor child has to raise all those additional litters without ever having got to know those first puppies, they'll be lost in a thicket of names that will drive them nuts and, frankly, make them frustrated and angry. And because little children aren't allowed to get angry at their parents, they will get angry at themselves. Every subject is made up of puppies that children love to play with. As much as you can, let them play with the animals so that the names are invested both with meaning and love. I know this doesn't make your job easier, but it at least makes it possible. And as you figure out ways to do this, you will love teaching your child more and more because your child will love learning. This was long (sorry) so let me summarize: * Distinguish names (symbols that represent truths) from things or truths. * Recognize that it is the thing or truth the child loves by nature. * Use names to call (ie remember) and take care of (ie sort and use) truths learned. * Put the act of naming as close to the act of "playing with" (ie studying, experiencing, perceiving actively and attentively) the truth as you possibly can. * Let knowledge mature and breed more knowledge, but don't ask for mature knowledge in an area where it was never immature. Now that I am done I fear I have thrown a bunch of names at you and not let you play with the puppies first. If so, please pardon me and ask me questions about the puppies that ran away. Blessings on your teaching, ajk
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Andrew  Kern

Andrew Kern

Andrew Kern is the founder and president of The CiRCE Institute and the co-author of the book,  Classical Education: the Movement Sweeping America

“Fern was enchanted.”

Charlotte’s Web is my favorite children’s book, and I think that Fern’s love for Wilbur embodies exactly what you are writing about, natural knowledge and knowing personally. For Justice’s sake, Fern saves a pig. And Fern is no modern protestor; she is an old-time poet. She acts in the living present. Fern is a realist reforming nominalists.

After holding him, feeding him, gazing upon him, and day-dreaming about him, “by the time the bus reached the school, Fern had named her pet, selecting the most beautiful name she could think of. ‘Its name is Wilbur,’ she whispered to herself.” Fern is not a postmodern child, “buffered” in a “disenchanted world.” Fern is enchanted.

And because I'm thinking of Charlotte's Web, I remember Vigen Guroian's "Mentor" talk (http://circeinstitute.org/2011/06/audio-weekly-mentor-by-vigen-guroian/). Thanks for freely offering it.

What follows might be my favorite mentorship moment in Charlotte's Web, I call it "Interesting Action":

“There!” he said, triumphantly. “How’s that?”

Charlotte read the words: “With New Radiant Action.”

“What does it mean?” asked Charlotte, who had never used soap flakes in her life.

“How should I know?” said Templeton. “You asked for words and I brought them. I suppose the next thing you’ll want me to fetch is a dictionary.”

Together they studied the soap ad. “’With new radiant action,’” repeated Charlotte, slowly. “Wilbur!” she called.

Wilbur, who was asleep in the straw, jumped up.

“Run around!” commanded Charlotte. “I want to see you in action, to see if you are radiant.”

Wilbur raced to the end of his yard.

“Now back again, faster!” said Charlotte.

Wilbur galloped back. His skin shone. His tail had a fine, tight curl in it.

“Jump into the air!” cried Charlotte.

Wilbur jumped as high as he could.

“Keep your knees straight and touch the ground with your ears!” cried Charlotte.

Wilber obeyed.

“Do a back flip with a half twist in it!” cried Charlotte.

Wilbur went over backwards, writhing and twisting as he went.

“O.K., Wilbur, “ said Charlotte. “You can go back to sleep. O.K., Templeton, the soap ad will do, I guess. I’m not sure Wilbur’s action is exactly radiant, but it’s interesting.”

“Actually,” said Wilbur, “I feel radiant.”

“Do you?” said Charlotte, looking at him with affection. “Well, you’re a good little pig, and radiant you shall be. I’m in this thing pretty deep now—I might as well go the limit.”

—E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web, “Good Progress”

Thanks for that, Kimberly -- I'd forgotten how much I love Charlotte's Web!

"Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

Sorry I've been posting so many comments on CiRCE lately... but obviously not sorry enough. It will slow soon. But for now, one more:

Yesterday I discovered at great quotation in A Writer's Guide to Perfect Punctuation:

"Bert received three A's even though he never mastered his three Rs."

I'm trying to master my three Rs; that's why I'm reading A Writer's Guide to Perfect Punctuation.

The quotation made me think about something. I wonder if most of the "classical" education programs out there are not really classical, but instead they are traditional or progressive.

As I'm understanding it (from Andrew’s talk “Implementing the Liberal Arts”) true Classical Education is ordered not to content or skills, but to Ideas, toward the development of Wisdom and Virtue. Traditional education is ordered to content and civic duties, toward the development of producing a good citizen. And Progressive Education is ordered to adaptation to the environment, toward the development of skills.

So, I'm thinking that maybe I've been fooled into thinking that I’m classically educating my children when I’m not. I think I'm "classically educating" when what I'm really doing is only trying to master the three R's and memorize a bunch of facts. My homeschool schedule and system is not ordered towards Ideas, it's ordered towards mastering skills (and content). And, actually, most of the "classical homeschooling" programs I see and have experienced are ordered towards memorizing content and skill-building, but not towards contemplating ideas. Ideas take time, and most programs, “classical” or not, do not budget for Ideas.

I’m not saying this is all bad. Memorizing content and building skills is good! I mean, as a product of the public school system, I still need to master my three Rs before I can actually teach the three Rs to my children. And goodness knows— that's hard enough! Most of the homeschooling moms I know (and professionals I know) don’t know how to read (they can decode, but they don’t really read) or write (they can scribble, but they can’t compose) or calculate (they might know how to add). But, honestly, most of us moms still need to learn our three Rs. And when we learn our three R’s, we get excited and think we are finally becoming “classically educated.” But we aren’t, are we? We are really only excited that we are finally receiving a very basic education of content and skills.

I’m thrilled to be learning new facts! It's good to master the three Rs! It’s great to finally understand some history and geography, and finally to learn to read and write… but contemplating Ideas is different. Isn’t it?
Maybe classical education is not what I’m after. I might be satisfied if my children can truly read and write and calculate when they leave my home; that’s more than I received from seventeen years in the public school system.

Teaching ideas and budgeting time for contemplating is something different, and I don't know how to do this. Teaching myself and my children the three R’s is almost all I have time for.

I’m still trying to figure it out; I keep re-doing my schole schedule.

Andrew did say that Classical Education is the only truly human education…

So I guess I need to make more time for Ideas, but it's hard when we are still learning the three R's. I'm amazed that, like Bert, I received A's when I still don't know the three R's.

Thoughts? Help?

Thank you, Andrew, for your wisdom and ability to articulate your thoughts. Each week I look forward to reading your posts, and always benefit from them. As I grow in knowledge of Classical education I am at once humbled and inspired.

Mystie,

Thanks for sharing that thought. For me the priority is the nourishing of the child's soul. Anybody who wants to do that and is willing to do it according to the nature of the child is an ally!

So you are right: different puppies, same mommy.

Lora

I'm going to think about your questions and try to post a developed answer sometime over the next couple weeks, but let me give you a couple thoughts off the top of my hat.

First, I have to tell you that there is no easy answer. We've been thrown into a difficult situation, so I think it is important that you set aside the question of blame and see it as a practical question. I mean especially in regard to yourself: don't blame yourself. We all fall short in a million ways and the only thing that matters is that when we realize it we have to get up and go on. That doesn't mean it will be easy; it just means we have to do it.

Second, let me identify what I think is likely to be your biggest challenge right up front: depending on your education, you might not have a great interaction with the "puppies" of grammar yourself. I know I got little of it directly in school. The problem is that, in order to play with grammar with your children (or math), you have to be able to see the nature of the thing yourself.

For these reasons, and others, an indirect approach is probably best for a 13 year old. I would not say, "Look, you are way behind on grammar, so we have to work on this especially hard for the next six years." That would be both discouraging and frustrating (thus anger inducing) for most 13 year olds.

Besides, what does it mean to be behind? Who is he behind (and I commend you for not using that language)? Is he deficient? Only if he needs to know it. So then teach him what he needs to know.

And there's the rub...

You have two options that I think might be best, but neither is easy. The first is to teach a foreign language, but not with a conventional program like Rosetta Stone; rather, with a program that emphasizes the grammar of that language. To this end, I highly recommend Memoria Press Latin materials. I might also recommend Classical Academic Press, but have not had a chance to look closely at them.

By learning Latin, he will learn grammatical concepts and that will demand of him that he learn English grammar. He will, however, need a good teacher who is patient and developmental in teaching the grammar. I've been exploring a free Youtube video series called Latinum Latin, which is a Latin immersion program that teaches the Latin grammar using Latin only. I don't know if it would work for him or not, but if you use something else, I'd consider running it in parallel.

The second thing to use to teach him grammar indirectly is a good writing program that uses grammar as a guide to sound writing. LTW is one, but there are, I'm sure, others. Any writing program will have to be supplemented, but the good news is that they'll create reasons for using grammar rather than just teach them in the abstract.

My favorite grammar program is probably the old Harvey's Grammar, but Warriner's is also excellent. If you begin to teach sound grammar now, you can make up for all the lost time and your son will be fine.

Grammar is all built on a concept so simple it is elegant and it's a good starting point. That's what I might develop a post of its own on, but it's rooted in the idea that every thought you think consists of two parts:

the thing you are thinking about, which we call the subject.
What you are thinking about the thing you are thinking about, which we call the predicate (Latin: pre=about, dicat: he says).

All you can do when you develop a thought is add to, develop, or somehow alter the subject (modify it) or add to, develop, or somehow alter the predicate (modify it).

If you can secure that foundation in your mind and your child's, grammar will become much simpler and thus easier. However,

"Grammar ain't easy."

And there ain't nuthin you can due to make it eesy.

I do hope this helps or at least gives you hope. Please don't feel any guilt about it. It's just a practical matter.

A couple questions...You said "readiness is all". How do you know when a child is ready? I am trying to get over the terrible lie that it should all be fun, and consequently, my oldest child (13) has had relatively no grammer, how do I go about regaining the loss for him? Where do I start now, with out making him feel deficient, where it is really me that was foolish? How do you "play with" grammer or math?

Actually, now that I think about it, I think the above quotation belongs in the "Assessment Matters" post rather than this one. (http://circeinstitute.org/2012/02/assessment-matters/). Clearly, Charlotte knows that assessment matters.

This was a very interesting article. I read recently about a mother who has her kids make their own history memory cards only after they've studied the person or event--then they memorize it with the other events they've already studied. Would that be an appropriate application of what you're talking about?

I also remember Romalda Spalding say that before the teacher even uses the word "conjunction" that she spend time describing what a conjunction is and saying things like "do you see how and/but 'conjoin' two sentences together." Would that be another example?

I'm just trying to make sure I understand the concept. Thanks.

I don't think I'll remember the name, "Inspiring Children," but I think I will forever remember, "Names Without Puppies," and "Playing with Puppies," and the necessity of knowing the truth in order to remember a name. Perhaps this is the key to my remembering people's names when I first meet them. I need to take a moment to know the truth of them, or know their true nature! :-)

Its not really impossible is it?

Something occurred to me today. I used to get frustrated when I would hear others refer to “teachers” and “homeschool moms” as two separate groups. I wanted to argue, “Hey! We homeschool moms are teachers too!” But now I see that that isn’t necessarily true. What I mean is, homeschool moms all teach, but they only teach what they know. You can only teach something you know and you can’t teach something you don’t know.

If I don’t know grammar, I can’t teach grammar. If I don’t know math, I can’t teach math. If I don’t know how to write, I can’t teach writing. And that’s the dilemma with homeschooling. We have to learn everything before we teach it. And when, when in the world do we find time to do all that learning? That’s why, so many times, the homeschool mom lets (demands) that the curriculum teach her student, because she doesn’t know what the curriculum incarnates. But the thing is, at least it seems to me, that the curriculum cannot really incarnate and that the curriculum cannot really teach. Workbooks don’t teach. Pre-formulated systems don’t really teach. Only teachers teach.

So, if the homeschool mom cannot teach because she doesn’t know what she is “teaching,” it seems like the student, the child, becomes a teacher to himself, and it is hard to teach and assess oneself. And that is exactly what the homeschool mom is forced to do, teach herself and assess herself. Can one teach oneself classically? Or does classical education demand a teacher? It’s laughable to think that I am classically educating my children when I am not classically educated myself. This seems impossible.

But I believe in miracles. I hope my children will become some.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. That is exactly what we have been doing, which really pointed out the need, and gave a tangible reason for making up for lost ground. We have recently started learning Latin (memoria press) and using LTOW. I am learning right along with him, as nearly all of it is new ground for me too. It is very encouraging to know that we are doing something right. You can't imagine the pleasure this answer gives me.

I appreciate so much, Mr. Kern, that you and CiRCE reach out both to classical schools as well as homeschool moms. They are each their own different puppy, but hopefully ones playing toward the same ends.

Two possibly silly questions occur to me while thinking about this (amazing) article. Is it safe to say that in teaching we are working with Stories, Analogies, and Names? And is it also safe to say that playing with puppies and getting to know puppies takes a good amount of time - therefore, we should be thinking about quality over quantity of knowledge?

Axon,

Yes, absolutely; and by adding questions you have identified the four super power tools of the teacher.

And on puppies, Yes! Ja! Oui! Ita! It takes time - at first. But when they become accustomed to playing with and naming puppies, they get good at it, and they become skilled at it. Then the higher quality beginning leads to the efficiency our experts keep dreaming about.

Good questions!

ajk

Aaaha! When you said a fact is in the past, you meant past aspect, as in perfect aspect as in completed (not complete) action. Past here isn't about past time; it's about completed aspect, which can be either in past or present time. So a Fact is a completed embodiment of Truth in the past or present time. A fact is perfective. Awesome.

I know I am a little late to the conversation, but I wanted to say how thankful I am for the content. I actually used some of it in one of our recent teacher trainings on inspiring children.

I also wanted to share two thoughts that were helpful to me in thinking through how to inspire children.
First, seeing that God has made his divine imprint upon every aspect of creation, a child's sense of wonder can be nurtured to the extent that these reflections are highlighted. For example, the consistency in math is a reflection of God's faithfulness and immutability. Mathematical formulas cease to be dry when they are seen as a reflection of God's faithfulness. Here is an article I wrote on the subject: http://www.oakcityacademy.org/2012/12/inspring-children-through-education/

Second, my staff was encouraged when I prompted them to start with the problem rather than simply stating the solution. I believe starting with the problem is a great way to help children get up close and personal with the puppies they are seeking to learn about. It is particularly easy to do this when studying historical figures. King David is a good example. King David's problem is that there was an enemy nation who was belittling God and his own nation was too afraid to do anything. At this point, we can engage the students on what they would do. As they start thinking through the problem, they get nearer to the experience and are even more interested in hearing what King David did. Thus after some healthy discussion, then they hear the solution and can compare it to their own thoughts.

Thanks again for writing this post and for cultivating this online learning environment.

I don't know if you want to restrict a fact to past events, unless "event" is all-inclusive for everything now completed (thoughts, feelings, actions, etc.).

A fact is completed; that seems to be the essence of "factness" to me. Fact comes from factus, which, if I understand it rightly, is in the perfect tense. Perfect means complete.

Grammar includes remembering artifacts. But it also includes forms and relations. Yes, i agree that it is absolutely appropriate to put poetry into fact recall.

I see today where I went wrong yesterday.

Yesterday I thought a FACT = a past event. And by event I meant a past moment that embodied action in history. Like the Civil War. That war was a past moment that embodied action.

NO!

Today I see that a FACT= a past event, but a very specific one: A past embodiment of an eternal Truth.

A FACT= AN ARTIFACT
Any thing created in the past that embodied and continues to embody an eternal truth is a FACT, an ARTIFACT.

That is why Grammar is the study of remembering Artifacts. And why it is absolutely appropriate to put poetry into Fact Recall.

Andrew,

I keep rereading this post because it is so important, and I think I missed much when I read it the first, second, and third times. Please forgive the length of this “comment,” but I do not have the rare ability to precisely articulate abstract ideas into short statements. However, I have tried to do my best at doing just that.

At the end of this very long comment, I have asked you to assess my conclusions, which I will add here now (I realize that this is a big favor, because of the length, but... please? Will you please help me see where my reasoning might have gone wrong?):

-----

Therefore, here is my simple conclusion:

It is wrong (against human nature) to make children memorize most NAMED TRUTHS, with the exception of very beautiful and carefully chosen proverbs and poetry and math truths, and grammar forms. [ However, I’m putting Latin and Greek one-word names in here also, but NEVER definitions].

It is right to make children memorize some carefully NAMED FACTS because these named facts serve Eternal Truths. In other words, knowing that Sargon lived in 2334 BC will help them compare and contemplate later.

It is wrong to memorize most Grammar NAMED TRUTHS, instead, we ought to let children come-to-remember grammar truths. If we let children come to remember grammar truths, they will love them.

Andrew, do you agree with this conclusion? Will you please show me where I have gone wrong? Am I thinking about FACTS and TRUTHS in the right way?

----

Now I need to do some explaining of how I came to this simple conclusion:

In this post, "Inspiring Children," you mention Facts and Truths, but you do not mention Skills. One of my biggest problems with this post is the way you move from Facts to Truths, and it is here, in this shift, that I need help.

So let me begin, by confessing that I am trying to reconcile the three things taught (Facts, Skills and Truths) with Naming those Facts, Skills, and Truths. [You have mentioned in other posts and lectures that these are the three categories of all things taught= Facts, Skills, Truths]

This is what I believe to be true about Facts, Skills, and Truths:

Facts are things of the past.
Skills are Virtues, that is, perfected faculties or faculties that are being perfected.
Truths are eternal ideas.

Time of Facts= past
Time of Skills= present
Time of Truths= timeless or “living present” or eternal

Facts were
Skills are (they are the abilities/power that we use in the present)
Truths are and will forever be

[ I’m having problems thinking about Facts being only past because I wonder if they have eternal aspects, but this seems to be a deeply philosophical issue that I am unable to reconcile in my mind at the moment]

Example of a Fact= the war that occurred from 1861-1865
Example of a Skill= the act that is and has been named “writing”
Example of a Truth= the idea that has been named “adjective”

Now let me make the link to naming. At this point I need to bring in another thing, which isn’t really a thing that is taught. I bring this in because you have this thing in your post, and that is, a living being.

So we have four things:

Facts
Skills
Truths
Living Beings

These four things can be and are named.

Here are some examples:

Example of a Fact= the war that occurred from 1861-1865
Example of a Skill= the act that is and has been named “writing”
Example of a Truth= the idea that has been named “adjective”
Example of a Living Being= the living pig that has been named “Wilbur”

Now let’s look at the names:

Fact= the war that occurred from 1861-1865
Name= “The Civil War”

Example of a Skill= the act that is and has been named “writing”
Name= “Writing”

Example of a Truth= the idea that has been named “adjective”
Name= “Adjective”

Example of a Living Being= the living pig that has been named “Wilbur”
Name= “Wilbur”

In every one of these examples, a person (or persons) has named the thing. Someone named the war that occurred from 1861-1865, “The Civil War” Someone named the act that is and has been named “writing”, “Writing.” Someone named the idea that has been named “adjective”, “Adjective.” Someone named the living dog that has been named “Wilbur”, “Wilbur.”

As you point out in your post; facts, skills, truths, and living beings can be given different names by different people, but their reality stays the same. This is why some people call the war that occurred from 1861-1865 “The Civil War” and others call it “The War Between the States”. Often we argue about names because we see the essence of the thing’s reality in different ways. In other words, names matter because they point to reality and we feel it and know it.

And it is here that we see how truly important naming is. You have said in your post that it is essentially human. Naming is a big deal. I love how you clarified that naming is more than a one-word deal. Naming happens in different ways.

Here are some of the different ways we can name:

Types of Naming:

One-word Names
Definition Names
Photo Names
Painting Names
Musical Composition Names
Film Names
Poem Names
Novel Names
Etc…

The following is tendious, but, I think, important. Let’s compare the naming of three types of things: FACTS, IDEAS, and LIVING BEINGS:

A NAMED FACT:

Let’s take the fact that was the war that occurred between 1861-1865 as an example:

One-word Name= The name that someone named the war that occurred between 1861-1865: “The Civil War”

Definition Name= The definition that someone made of the war that occurred between 1861-1865: “The Civil War occurred between 1861-1865.”

Photo Names= The photo that Bethany made of the war that occurred between 1861-1865.

Painting Names= The painting that Katerina made of the war that occurred between 1861-1865.

Musical Composition Names= The musical composition that Peter made of the war that occurred between 1861-1865.

Film Names: The film that Tucker made of the war that occurred between 1861-1865.

Poem Names= The poem that Andrew made of the war that occurred between 1861-1865.

Novel Names= The novel that Leah made of the war that occurred between 1861-1865.

A NAMED TRUTH:

Let’s take the truth of the idea of that has been named “adjective” as an example:

One-word Name= The name that someone named the idea of that has been named “adjective”, “Adjective”

Definition Name= The definition that someone made of the idea of that has been named “adjective”: “An adjective modifies a noun or pronoun by describing, qualifying, or limiting.”

Photo Names= The photo that Bethany made of the idea of that has been named “adjective”.

Painting Names= The painting that Katerina made the idea of that has been named “adjective”

Musical Composition Names= The musical composition that Peter made of the idea of that has been named “adjective”

Film Names: The film that Tucker made of the idea of that has been named “adjective”

Poem Names= The poem that Andrew made of the idea of that has been named “adjective”

Novel Names= The novel that Leah made of the idea of that has been named “adjective”

NAMED LIVING BEINGS:

Let’s take the living being that is a pig who has been named Wilbur as an example.

One-word Name= The name that Fern named her pig: “Wilbur”

Definition Name= The definition that Fern made of Wilbur: “Wilber is a pig who loves Charlotte.”

Photo Names= The photo that Bethany made of Wilbur

Painting Names= The painting that Katerina made of Wilbur

Musical Composition Names= The musical composition that Peter made of Wilbur

Film Names= The film that Tucker made of Wilbur

Poem Names= The poem that Andrew made of Wilbur

Novel Names= The novel that Leah made of Wilbur

Now I’m about to come to my question that is a very important live issue with me because it touches down into my daily “Christian Classical” homeschooling life, and it pertains to “memory work”, and this has everything to do with what you are talking about in this post.

My question is about “Conventional Knowledge” and “Memory Work”.

At the beginning of your post you made the distinction between “Conventional Knowledge” and “Natural Knowledge”

You wrote:

“It might help you plan your teaching and frame your own thinking to distinguish between two kinds of knowledge:

Conventional

Natural

Natural knowledge is knowledge of things as they are. It’s what we get first, but it’s pre-verbal, so it’s hard to measure and identify. But it’s what humans love because it is personal and direct.

Conventional knowledge is knowledge of what humans have come up with to record the knowledge of things as they are, or often to dissemble. In other words, names. People don’t mind having this knowledge, but they don’t value names for animals they don’t play with.”

When I say “memory work” I mean the work of rote memorization. My kids have always disliked rote memorization, but I have made them do it, and now I regret some of the memorization work that we have done because I think I have forced things into the rote memorization category that do not belong there. And the things that seem to not belong there are NAMED TRUTHS.

But this is very difficult to talk about because NAMED TRUTHS can also be subdivided.

Some of the NAMED TRUTHS I see are: poems, scriptures, grammar definitions, and math truths. Some of the NAMED TRUTHS I have asked my children to memorize are: “The Road Not Taken”, “John 6:20”, “An Adjective modifies a noun or pronoun by describing, qualifying, or limiting”, and 2x2=4.

I have also made my children memorize NAMED FACTS. One of the NAMED FACTS that I have made them memorize is the sentence, “Sargon lived in the year 2334.”

I have also made my children memorize NAMED FACTS in pre-composed sentence songs, which now worries me. I realize now that when I have made them memorize the NAMED FACT, I also made them memorize the musical composition and the sentence grammar. Therefore, in some cases, I made them memorize rap tunes and non-sentences. And now I’m not so sure I like them having rap tunes and non-sentences dwelling in their souls.

Andrew, at long last, I'm getting to my question, with a long preface:

Preface:

When we assign memory work, we are asking our children to memorize conventional knowledge (names), which is knowledge of what humans have come up with to record knowledge of things as they are. But as you have pointed out, humans don’t like memorizing conventional knowledge, what they love is knowing eternal ideas (and past facts that represent eternal ideas; Facts are God’s types, his artifacts).

Children will naturally dislike memorizing conventional knowledge, but they will naturally like coming-to-remember real knowledge.

Coming-to-remember and memorizing are different things. Memorizing is one type of virtue, but coming-to-remember is another type of virtue? Or maybe coming-to-remember is the very essence of learning, something much more deeply human.

In my home, as of today, I have decided to place only a very few things into “Memory Work”

NAMED FACTS:

Historical Timeline Events

Example:

“The Civil War happened between 1861 and 1865.”

and a few NAMED TRUTHS:
Greek words
Greek Grammar forms

Latin words
Latin Grammar forms

English Grammar forms

Carefully chosen Scripture in Greek
Carefully chosen Scripture in Latin
Carefully chosen Scripture in English

Carefully chosen Adages in Greek
Carefully chosen Adages in Latin
Carefully chosen Adages in English

Carefully chosen Poetry

The Multiplication Tables

All other eternal truths I shall try to let my children discover and play with so that they will “come-to-remember” and be able to “recall”.

The act of coming-to-remember is what happens when we teach in the mimetic sequence. Children discover truths which form in their souls, so they remember.

Therefore, here is my simple conclusion:

It is wrong (against human nature) to make children memorize most NAMED TRUTHS, with the exception of very beautiful and carefully chosen proverbs and poetry and math truths, grammar forms. [ however, I’m putting Latin and Greek one-word names in here also, but NEVER definitions].

It is right to make children memorize some carefully NAMED FACTS because these named facts serve Eternal Truths. In other words, knowing that Sargon lived in 2334 BC will help them compare and contemplate later.

It is wrong to memorize most Grammar NAMED TRUTHS, instead, we ought to let children come-to-remember grammar truths. If we let children come to remember grammar truths, they will love them.

Andrew, do you agree with this conclusion? Will you please show me where I have gone wrong? Am I thinking about FACTS and TRUTHS in the right way?