Training Mental Ninja Warriors? Several discussions in the last week have brought me to the conclusion that our curriculum design, especially our Latin classes, do just this. I was talking to one student who seemed totally unmotivated to apply himself to his Latin class and struggling for an illustration to explain its benefits. 
 
American Ninja Warriors popped into my head. I asked the young boy, “Have you ever seen American Ninja Warriors?” “Yes!” he said enthusiastically. Those people are amazing.” So we discussed all that goes into preparing and training to be ready for all the weird tests of strength, balance, agility and endurance. I referred to the clips they show featuring different athletes and their elaborate ninja courses and gyms. We realized that they have to practice over and over the activities that challenge almost every muscle. They have to put themselves through intense, repetitive exercises and push themselves to the limit to provide themselves with any chance of success. 
 
As he got into visualizing what we were discussing, I pointed out that this is what Latin is like. He snapped back to our current discussion and looked at me puzzled. You could almost see him thinking, “What do these athletes have to do with sitting in a room learning Latin and conjugating verbs, etc.?”
 
“Latin forces your brain to go through intense exercises, your mind learns to jump through numerous hoops and navigate through logic puzzle after logic puzzle to come up with the right declensions,” I explained. Latin does for the mind what a Ninja Warrior gym does for a person’s body. 
 
Just days later a Mom shared with me her daughter’s “aha moment” after painfully persevering through many difficult weeks of Latin study: During those first few weeks, it was like I was having to dig new tunnels in my brain. Now, those tunnels are done, and I can go through easily. “
 
This was the discovery of literary great Dorothy Sayers:  I will say at once, quite firmly, that the best grounding for education is the Latin grammar. I say this not because Latin is traditional and medieval, but simply because even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin cuts down the labor and pains of learning almost any other subject by at least 50 percent.’  
 
Brain science has taught us that the brain is the only organ that is plastic; that is to say, it changes and improves with use. We have seen that the brain can find new pathways for old skills following head traumas and strokes. We have also found out that when we apply ourselves to learning something complex, new folds are created within the brain. So the “tunnel” observation of our fourth grader cited above may be more than just feelings.
 
When our children are asked to do things that are arduous and require self denial. We often feel guilty and apologetic. However, we fail to see the blessing that we are giving them. My response to my children was, “I am very sorry for these other children in other families. They are being deprived of great strengths by the lack of training and discipline from their parents. Thankfully, your Mom and Dad are committed to to neglect you. You are so blessed.”
 
Pressing on toward the goal of the upward calling in Christ Jesus,
Christopher
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