Classical education places a lot of importance on memorization in the early years ( kindergarten- 6th grade.) During this time, children are able to successfully memorize large chunks of information. The kids can memorize historical and scientific facts, Bible verses, poems, lists of geographic locations, foreign language passages,etc.
We used to participate in the program, called Classical Conversations, to do our extensive memory work. That program didn’t work for us eventually, due to multiple reasons, but we have continued to memorize information daily. I see how with this type of work, my children’s ability to memorize has increased. They can now easily memorize and use large chunks of text very fast. We love using Living Memory: A Classical Memory Work Companion book for memorizing poetry, Latin passages, history sentences and more.
Why Should Children Memorize? Here’s a list of the top 8 reasons.
1. It improves vocabulary. Memorizing words out of context (think “SAT word lists”) does not make these words part of your active vocabulary. While the child memorizes new “live” information and their parent explains all the words and their usage, these words become part of their vocabulary.
2. It improves English syntax. Susan Wise Bauer, author of The Well-Trained Mind writes that memorization “builds into children’s minds an ability to use complex English syntax.” She compares a child’s language to a store, and says that memorization fills “the language store with a whole new set of patterns.”
3. It trains the brain to retain information. All of the popular “Improving the brain capacity” programs are based on one thing: improving one’s memory. In order for the information to be remembered, this information has to be stored with other, similar information, creating “files” in the brain. This process teaches the child how to organize, classify and retain large chunks of info.
4. Memorizing information gives framework for new information. You learn a poem and then later find a poem by the same author, so you recall the first poem right away. Or you learn a historical fact and later read about the historical figure involved in that fact and connect the two. The child who memorizes has a framework to which he can attach new memories, new knowledge, and new information.
5. Memory is helpful. We all memorize phone numbers, pin number, birth dates, passwords, etc. Training the memory early only helps.
6. Good memory is essential in trying to master the core classical subjects. Formulas and facts are necessary to understand mathematical ideas: it’s good to have these memorized. To read and enjoy a passage in Latin, one has to remember the grammatical facts and the vocabulary.
7. Memory is important to a good writer. To effectively communicate ideas as a writer, one has to remember some clear and sophisticated language patterns. These patterns are learned while poetry and good literature are memorized.
8. To learn a foreign language, good memory is extremely important. As you learn multiple grammatical facts and thousands of new, unfamiliar words, your really need a good memory. Why not give this ability to your kids early?