Memorization’s Role in Our Home

*The audio version of this post was featured on the Homeschool Solutions Show with Pam Barnhill.  Homeschool-solutions-imageYou can listen here!


The role of recitation and memorization has taken on a deeply personal role for me as a homeschool mom over the last several years. I first began to consider recitation while studying various homeschool methods as a new homeschool mom. I could see the value of memorization in education, but it didn’t feel like a good fit for my son. His memory was terrible. My daughter on the other hand remembered everything she heard or saw.  I figured that memory was something you were either good at or you were not. I decided not to waste my son’s time with recitation since he wasn’t good at it.

Fast forward a few years down the road, and it wasn’t just memorization that seemed to trip up my son.  When he couldn’t quite get a handle on reading we gave him time as many suggested.  As time went on reading still wasn’t happening. We discovered that he is dyslexic.

The more we learned about dyslexia the clearer it became that he was the fourth generation in a row that had struggled, myself included.  The pieces finally fit for me.  My spelling is very poor. I often have to reword my thoughts in order to get them on paper in a manner I can spell them.  I am a painfully slow typist and type words backwards.    My reading comprehension was always very good as long as I don’t have to read aloud. The words get mixed up in my head somewhere between the pages and my mouth; plus, I cannot sound out words I do not know.  I believe that I am one of the many, many kids out there who could always read at grade level, masking my dyslexic tendencies.

We decided to tutor my son ourselves at home.  All of my energies were going into math and phonics.  There was literally an entire world to discover, but we were missing out because we had to cover the basics again.  I knew I had to keep him home in order to teach him to read, but I also felt like I was failing him because with four other siblings vying for my attention I didn’t have the time to teach them anything other than phonics and math.

In the introduction to Relational Recitation I tell the story of how I poured my fears and frustrations out to my friend who suggested adding a simply morning time with memorization to our daily routine.  In desperation I gave it a whirl.  That first year we learned Philippians 2, a handful of hymns, some geography, and a little grammar.  I made it as fun as I could with songs, maps, and living books.  We had not covered a huge amount of information, but I could tell that I had stumbled upon an enjoyable way to teach everyone.

My small victory with recitation in morning time made me very curious about memorization and the dyslexic. I began researching. The huge “Ah-ha” moment came when I discovered that poetry and scripture memorization can be a form of recitation that significantly aids a struggling learner language development. In that moment my heart literally skipped a beat as I realized for years I had participated in a scripture memory program through church which unbeknownst to me was providing the exact learning technique I needed.  I had memorized entire chapters of the Bible in the very poetic King James Version.  What a blessing to look back and see how God had provided the exact educational experience I needed to add knowledge, wisdom, and skill to my life.

The memorization immediately took on a greater importance and I knew had to be a staple in our morning time routine.  It has added a richness to our learning. I have pondered why I feared the kids would hate it when in reality there has been no fight back.  Memory work is as normal and practical to them as brushing their teeth.

Memorization works for us not because I just have exceptional kids who wake up wanting to skip count and recite lists.  It isn’t because memorization is easy for all of us.  Still, our memory work isn’t the dreaded memorization that is often portrayed in a classroom.  Our memory work has the advantage of time and relationship.

We take our time with recitation.  There is no rush to get the information in. There is no looming test that determines when we should know the information. Slowly and repetitively we can allow to the information to sink in. As the teacher I am not frustrated by struggling learners because we aren’t trying to keep a deadline.  There is no anxiety attached to it. (It is so much easier to learn when you are not anxious!)

The relationship component to recitation is multifaceted.  The relationship I have with my kids is the foundation.  I know and happily exploit their learning styles!  If my visual learner needs to see it then she will see it big, bold and often.  The kinesthetic learners will not just have hand motions but will be off their seats.  We will whisper it, shout it and sing it for the audio learners.

The second important relationship is the relationship I have with the information.  When I’m passionate about what we are learning and see its usefulness, it is reflected in the attitude I bring to the table.  Only then can I guide my kids in making relationships with what we have taken time to commit to memory.

This is the best part: making connections between what we have memorized and the world around us.  In a book or movie, on a nature walk or in the kitchen, my antennae are up looking for ways to bring it home for them.  I don’t have to be the mom at the table drilling facts off a study sheet the night before a test.  I get to be the mom that shows them how to use our math recitation to double a recipe or how dad is constantly using the formula for area on house projects.  When kids naturally notice the science just outside our door we recall what we have learned to connect all the “why”s and “how”s.

I look back and remember that I almost skipped recitation because it seemed too boring or because someone might not be good at it.  What a shame that would have been.  Slow, simmering, relational memorization is an opportunity for growth and learning that I am privileged to give all my children.

*The audio version of this post was featured on the Homeschool Solutions Show with Pam Barnhill.  You can listen here!


2 thoughts on “Memorization’s Role in Our Home

  1. What a great post about memory work. I especially love the point that there is no pressure as to when our kids “need to know” a poem or verse. We may enjoy it together and take as long as we need.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s