Putting in the Time

Like Harry Potter getting his friend Ron to think that a dram of Felix Felicitas was in his morning pumpkin juice, I knowingly planted a fictitious notion (one loosely based on an unrelated fact) into my son’s head tonight. My oldest has a heck of a time memorizing things: somewhat because of his methods, somewhat because he thinks he should basically have a photographic memory.

This generation of kids — a gross generalization that includes my own — has a crazy notion that they should be experts at any given task on the first try. This must be one of the consequences of the Internet savvy, video-game crazy, look-what-I-can-do-can-I-have-my-trophy-now generation. That tangent is for another post, though.

So, last week, while I guided our son through making his own set of flash cards that we could use together for his benefit – knowing that the process of making the flash cards would help him memorize the facts he needed to know for an upcoming quiz – I said, “you know, the human animal is more likely to remember something after it has seen it seven different times.”

My son’s eyes lit up. I had told him one of life’s secrets! Well, not really. It’s loosely based on the concept (urban myth?) that a person needs to hear something seven times before they will remember it. I told him, however, that simply sitting down and cycling through the flash cards seven times would not suffice, that he would have to cycle through the flash cards, put them down and do something totally unrelated, then come back to them and cycle through the cards again. After the seventh time he’d be golden.

Well I surely hope so. I think he’ll be fine after doing that four or five times, but he seems sold on the concept, which means he’ll be doing what he really needed to do in the first place: dedicate time to the process.