Memory work is exceptionally important, especially in the younger years. Memorizing information earlier assists the children’s brains to think. Why Should Children Memorize?
My children have been trained to memorize large chunks of information; some of these taking ten minutes or longer to recite. They learn and commit to memory historical timelines, poetry, Bible verses, scientific facts and more.
I frequently hear from other parents about the difficulty their children have with memory work. Usually, this indicates the problem of inconsistency or unrealistic expectations. There is a way to change all that.
After studying the classical model of education, as well as reading the works of Charlotte Mason, I came up with the following six ways to help children memorize. These ways have worked wonders at my house, with four very different children.
Ways to Help Children Memorize
1. Realistic expectations and patience.
Through memory work, children learn. When they memorize a new poem, they usually learn a few new words. When they memorize historical events, they learn about such events. If you are just teaching them to blindly recite, you are teaching them to be parrots. Explanations take time, so prepare to invest this time.
2. Whatever they memorize, has to become “their own.”
Children easily learn inappropriate words and memorize adult conversations they weren’t supposed to listen to, because these are “fun.” “Boring” poetry can become fun, too, if it’s a part of a child’s life. And if you want your child’s memory to be trained to retain, you do have to make them memorize on a regular basis. If you want your child to memorize a poem, first read it to them at least ten times, preferably over the course of a few days and ideally at the same time every day. This way, it will become a part of their life; they will expect it and look forward to it being read.
3. Make it fun.
After you have read a piece which they need to memorize over and over, the fun can begin. Read it again, this time omitting the last words of each line, or one historical event, or certain scientific facts. The child has to “fill in” from memory whatever you left out. Once again, do this over and over, omitting different words each time.
4. Make it not scary.
If you want your child to memorize the whole book of the Bible, or a super-long poem, or an entire historical timeline, this is doable! You have to do this slowly and you have to separate the large text into many smaller chunks of text. You know your child, so the chunks have to be the right size for them. These chunks of text have to be just slightly hard. They can’t be too easy, as the child won’t concentrate, and they can’t be really hard, as they might decide to give up. For someone with a trained memory, this could mean three stanzas of a hard poem. For my three year old, it’s four lines of an easier poem. Think of memory work like regular exercise: your muscles have to hurt slightly after the workout, but not ache greatly, thus limiting tomorrow’s workout potential.
Repeat everything all the time. Once your child has memorized something, weekly repetition is usually necessary, fro them not to forget it again. At my house, we repeat the list of states and capitals every Tuesday and the list of Bible verses every Thursday. This way, we have more productive time in the car.
6. If you are just starting out, choose something with rhythm to it.
You want to introduce your child to memory work in an engaging way, so ideally, choose a poem. It can be a classic, but it has to have a sense of rhythm to its flow. This way, the child will have easier time memorizing and therefore, won’t hate the process from the beginning.