The title of Leigh Bortins’s book, Echo in Celebration, is taken from the English meaning of catechesis, the word from which we get “catechism.” A catechism is a body of knowledge memorized and recited – most often a set of questions and answers about theological beliefs, but also referring to any set of information you memorize and repeat often.
Many people have a negative view of catechism – they see it as meaningless rote memorization and think of kids reciting endless reams of uninspired facts in monotone voices, with all light of joy in learning stripped from their sad, meager little lives. I think that sort of thing only happens when the parents or teachers aren’t excited about what they are teaching. If you’re deeply grateful for God’s sovereignty and love for you, if you’re amazed by how logical and cool math is, if you’re fascinated by the twists and turns of history, your kids will pick up on that and their lives will be broader and deeper, not restricted.
When we teach our children the catechism, we are teaching them wonderful truths about God and we are showing them how all of life hangs together in God’s plan. When we help them memorize history or math facts or foreign languages, we are giving them the tools to build connections and have their own great ideas. If the parents are excited about what they are helping children memorize, the kids get excited too, and then it really is an echo in celebration!
Like any habit, memorizing gets easier the more you do it. Our kids have been memorizing since they learned to talk so it goes pretty smoothly. We’ve learned the first 80 questions and answers of the Children’s Catechism, we’ve memorized lots of poems (right now we’re learning “Rebecca Who Slammed Doors For Fun And Perished Miserably” which has the added advantage of being a great incentive to gentle door handling!), we’ve learned long Bible passages, and we memorize other stuff as it comes up. Next year we’re planning to join a co-op that includes learning a history timeline and memorizing helpful information about science, math, and grammar.
As with most things in life and parenting, catechism is not a hard and fast rule. It fits with some families and not with others. But in general I think catechizing, done with joy and excitement, can be a great tool for “echoing in celebration” together.