My little Julianna, at the age of 9, came home from Sunday School excited about the fact that they were going to be expected to memorize lots of Bible verses that year and that the teacher had a reward in store for whoever could do it. She also expressed disbelief that, except for another homeschooled girl in her class, the other children were mortified at the prospect of having to memorize so much. “I guess homeschoolers just like to memorize things,” she surmised.
Many homeschool families make memorization a daily affair and reap great benefits from doing so. I recently met a homeschool mother of 11 outstanding children, and I was amazed at how much memory work her children did. From the time they can sputter out a few words, this incredible mother has them learning and reciting little poems and scriptures.
I was pretty impressed, so I attempted to teach my children to memorize things also. Every week in my homeschool, we work on a memory verse taken from our assigned Bible reading. I search out the best verse, hopefully one that describes an eternal law and its accompanying blessing. I dictate this passage of scripture to them, and they write it and then correct their work as an English lesson. They keep this in a section of their notebooks where they can refer to it for memorization. I also write this verse on an index card and stick it to the bathroom mirror where it is seen often. My children work daily on memorizing it, with the goal of passing off their verse by Friday. As you can imagine, children can accumulate quite a bundle of Bible verses in their memories, which I know will make them better people.
I love to hear children recite excellent poetry. I think it exercises their brains and gives them worthy things to think about. One of my favorite poems is “I Love You, Mother,” and I have only to start the first few lines when we are having a problem getting chores done and everyone knows exactly how I am feeling and can finish the poem themselves. It gives us a common bond of emotion and experience.
I Love You, Mother
“I love you, Mother,” said little John.
Then forgetting his work, his cap went on
And he was off to the garden swing,
Leaving her the water and wood to bring.
“I love you, Mother”, said rosy Nell,
“I love you more than tongue can tell.”
Then she teased and pouted full half the day,
’Til her mother rejoiced when she went to play.
“I love you, Mother”, said little Fan.
“Today I’ll help you all I can.
How glad I am that school doesn’t keep.”
So she rocked the baby ’til it fell asleep.
Then stepping softly, she fetched the broom
And swept the floor and tidied the room.
Busy and happy all day was she,
Helpful and happy as a child could be.
“I love you, Mother,” again they said,
Three little children going to bed.
How do you think that mother guessed
Which of them really loved her best?
An excellent way to get your children to learn a lengthy poem without much effort on your part is to make a recording. You can read the poem into the recorder or you can have a child do this. Then listen while you run an errand, and the children will learn it easily with enough repetition. Some of my favorite poems that would be good for this purpose are:
“The Spider and the Fly” (a great lesson on temptation and vanity!)
“Paul Revere’s Ride”
“Hiawatha” (parts of it)
There are so many others that I love. These are just a few common ones to get you started.
Another good way to get make memorization easy is to use recordings that have educational songs. My children learned their multiplication facts this way, as well as the capitals of the United States. It is tough to forget anything set to song. I still can’t flip through the New Testament, looking for a verse, without singing to myself, “Matthew, Mark, Luke and John . . .” taught to me 30 years ago at church!
Memorizing freedom documents and quotes is a way to understand the Constitution and our country’s principles of liberty. Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” is an inspiring, short work perfect for memorizing. I also have my children memorize the preamble to the Constitution and quotes of the patriots.
A friend of mine hosts a Poetry Festival each year, inviting grandparents, relatives and church teachers to a performance where their children recite poetry from memory. The children dress up to act the part and enjoy a chance to be in the spotlight. This is a great idea and gives the children a good reason to learn something challenging.
One leader recommended the use of hymns to dispel bad thoughts and temptations. He advised people to memorize the words to a hymn so it could be sung when there was a need for help. That is what is so useful about memorization: many a time the words to a song or poem have come into my mind when I needed some wisdom in making a decision or needed an enlightened perspective. Consider the truth so beautifully portrayed in this poem:
Not In Vain
by Emily Dickinson
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain:
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
Try memorization in your home school. It is amazing how capable children are of remembering things with a little practice. It gives them a wonderful feeling of achievement and satisfaction. They are going to memorize things anyway (such as jingles, TV commercials, lyrics to songs, etc.), so take the opportunity to instill your values into their receptive minds through memorization of inspiring Bible verses, poetry, etc. They’ll reap the benefits for years to come!