Sunday, September 5, 2010

Memorization- A Learned Skill

One of my clearest memories from childhood is the time my father had us memorize Romans 5 as a family. It took us months! We would work on it after supper. We only learned the first 12 verses. I am afraid that we fought him tooth and nail. It is the only time we ever tried to memorize a passage as a family. He gave up. I am really sad about that. We did do BMA (Bible Memory Association) which had us learning verses a couple a week for 12 weeks. We learned verses for Sunday school and for Vacation Bible School. I never really learned passages. I lost out. We didn't do much memorization of poetry or other things in school. It was a lost opportunity.

As I started learning about Charlotte Mason's approach to education, I was impressed by the amount of memorization that she expected her students to accomplish. I wondered how she did that. I read some of the blogs of moms who were using her approach and their children were doing a LOT of memorization too. I had started with Joan as a 2 or 3 year old, doing an old BMA book for preschoolers that taught a verse for every letter of the alphabet. She did very well. We fizzled after that, and I let Sunday school and AWANA determine what if anything the children would memorize.

I decided that memorization would be a foundational part of our schooling. I chose to start in easy. We learned 1 Corinthians 13 (I figured that this would be pretty easy as the children were familiar with it already). I followed the Ambleside schedule of 3 - 12 week semesters. We would then learn a chapter of scripture a semester. In the beginning I kept the chapters to about 12-14 verses. I also had them memorize a long poem ( Casey at the Bat, Jabberwocky, passages from Shakespeare) and some shorter ones from a Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson ( I have a little Shadow, The Swing, The Friendly Cow). It was quite a bit! Once they realized that it wasn't going away, the children have buckled down and done well. It has gotten easier for them to memorize. We now will do chapters of 20-30 verses and they too are accomplished well in a 12 week semester.
This is what I have learned about memorization - The more you do the easier it gets. You do need to review the passages and poems, and this needs to be built into your schedule.
We do our memorization together. We read through the passage and then start learning the verses by repetition. We talk about unfamiliar words and what the passage is telling us, then we review what we have learned so far and tack on the new part. As they get farther, we will go around the group and have everyone say the next phrase or verse and this encourages them not to get behind. The thing that has amazed me, is how well the little ones, who are 'too young' to have to learn the chapter, learn the chapter. If an older one hesitates, the little one, very often, will prompt them, even as they sit in the middle playing with their toys.
We do the poetry in the same way.
Anyone can do this. It just takes some diligence and commitment.
There are many benefits:
I find the children are always more attentive when the preacher covers a passage or uses a verse they have learned. It helps them to learn as they are already familiar with it. They feel like they know it.
They have an easier time learning and memorizing other material.
It builds family culture and relationships as they can share, challenge, encourage each other in their memorization.
(Sometimes, I will give a reward when everyone can recite the passage)
They hide God's Word in their heart and that is reward enough (Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee Ps. 119).
They understand and recognize cultural and literary references to scripture and common cultural poetry. (Have you ever noticed how often The Jabberwock is quoted in literature or even in public speaking? I never did until we memorized it. Shakespeare is even frequently quoted in children's books and sermons.)
I am blessed to see some of the children go on and memorize, not just chapters, but books of scripture.
It is something you will never regret doing, but may regret not having done with your children.
Start when they are young! It will be easier for them as they get older, and it will just be a part of their life. Something that they do, like brushing their teeth or making their bed.
What have you enjoyed memorizing as a family? What scripture passage(s) are you working on? What has been your children's favorite poem to learn?
Thanks to Jessica for motivating me to share this post.

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