As a result, John Quincy Adams begins to become a person with a story, and not just a name. As your students learn more about John Quincy Adams, their nets get stronger and it gets easier and easier to catch more information: that John Quincy Adams was the son of President John Adams, that he was James Monroe’s Secretary of State, and that he actually lost the popular vote to Andrew Jackson. 

Did you notice that all three examples of what your students might associate involve other Presidents? This is actually the case. Why? Because if they have been building a knowledge net on U.S. Presidents, they already know about Presidents John Adams and James Monroe, and they will soon learn about President Andrew Jackson. Therefore, your students are predisposed to rapidly recall new associations between John Quincy Adams and other presidents they already know about.

Making associations is where long-term memory is leveraged into advanced cognitive reasoning skills, where students move beyond memory and onto creative and original thinking. Teach your children to make associations, and they will be truly brilliant.

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at or read it on the go and download the free apps at to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

Thomas Meloche and his wife Renee homeschooled their daughter Bethany in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Thomas is a computer engineer, entrepreneur, and student of cognitive research. He created the website to conveniently provide spaced repetition, active recall, and knowledge nets. A 30-day free trial allows you to experiment with and test these concepts yourself.

Publication date: November 7, 2012