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    A Catechism to Hang Things On

    July 24, 2007 by Brandy Vencel

    We’ve been working through the catechism for about fifteen weeks now. I feel ready for a bit of reflection on the process. I think the biggest challenge is what I anticipated in the beginning: making sure that this is truly a hiding in the heart process, as opposed to rote learning. The key is to keep explaining the words until the lightbulb turns on.

    Well, for the five-year-old. The two-year-old has memorized some of it, and I guarantee this is rote learning for her.

    I often think of early learning as a form of putting up hooks. I don’t remember where I got this imagery; it was in something I read somewhere once. The basic concept was that ideas need a place to hang in the brain. This doesn’t just go for kids, but for adults as well. {This is why the Trivium method of learning works so well, I think, because it begins by giving later ideas a place to hang.}

    This catechism is like a big hook festival for us. Kids will ask questions about God that often stump parents, not because the parents don’t know the answer, but because the parents do not have an appropriate vocabulary in common with the kids to employ for the discussion. And so parents find themselves confused about how to answer a child’s questions.

    I used to feel this way, but it has lessened since we began catechism.

    Now, we have defined some important terms. We have learned the answer to the basic question of life: Who am I and why am I here? This alone is foundational, a place to begin when answering a child’s solemn spiritual questions.

    A Few Hints When Using the Catechism
    I do want to caution my readers. Do not assume that buying a book based on the Westminster catechism, or any other catechism, will exactly represent your family’s beliefs. The book I am using, for instance, defined a covenant as a contract, when the two are quite distinct. I had my son call Dad at his office for clarification.

    This is just one example. The catechim is a tool for passing on the family’s legacy as faith, not something that must be clung to legalistically.

    We are also thinking of skipping a couple questions {dealing with adultery} until our kids are older.

    And, finally, don’t be afraid to spend more than one week on a question. If it is difficult to learn the newest question and answer, repeat it two weeks in a row. You can even cover the exact same verses again. Repetition is the way of it for memory work. It is more important to know the material than to stick to the schedule.

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