August 23, 2013

Is This Working?

Memorizing the Catechism, again


Michelle has been working on memorizing the Catechism for a year now.   It’s about a dry as an IRS instruction booklet.

Fifty years or so ago, when education was predicated on the number of dates you could regurgitate back on a test, a church member left thousands of dollars in an endowment with the idea that every 4th grader who memorized the answers to the sixty catechism questions would receive $50.  It’s rote memorization.  And, it’s like pulling teeth.

DJ attacked it aggressively, motivated to be the best and motivated by the cash.  Stephanie screamed, yelled, cried and through a pencil in my direction one day to express her lack of enthusiasm for memorizing her lessons.

“Don’t you want to be recognized at church with your friends?  Don’t you want the $50?”


My most compliant child had become my arch-Catechism nemesis.

“You will learn about God!” I demanded.  “You will love Jeeesus!   Don’t let Beelzebub steal your soul!  Memorize child.  Mem-or-ize!”

Now it’s Michelle’s turn.  She’s a mix between her sisters.  I don’t get an enthusiastic embrace for this project, but her head isn’t spinning in an exorcistic sort of way.

I pondered not making her complete the task.  When DJ heard me say that to another 4th grade parent at church, she freaked out.

“Mom made me learn it!  You’re no fair.”

"Yeah, yeah, yeah - and your Uncle Dash got the biggest piece of cake at Christmas in 1972.  Your granddad still hasn't made it up to me.  Life is just not fair."

I’m just not sure that this well-intended process still works.  Is my kid really growing in her faith by memorizing this 37 page document?  Is my screaming and yelling and punishing my kids encouraging a love of God or driving them away from organized religion.

I guess no one thing is going to make or break them; but dag gone it, this is a painful process for the Ham family.

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