Memorization: Shaping Hearts and Minds

As I prepare for another school year, books and paper strewn across my table, I often listen to podcasts absorbing words of wisdom from homeschool veterans and moms still deep in the trenches.  I try to listen to a broad base of subjects and methods soaking in ideas and encouragement.

I want to share an insightful 3 part series of podcasts by Andrew Pudewa from IEW’s The Art of Language podcast.  There are many opinions to the value of memorization in a modern education.  I will not pretend to be an expert of the subject; I am very much a leaner.

Mr. Pudewa argues for the memorization of good literature (scripture, poetry, famous speeches) for linguistic development.  He also reasons that to abandon memorization (including drills) limits a student curiosities because a student who does not have knowledge, does not know what questions to ask.

He explains that there are two ways that memories are formed: with an intense emotional connection or repetitious exposure.  Various educational philosophies  place differing emphasis on either methods-relationship and repetition.  There are ample examples of students benefiting from an exciting experience with nature or a riveting biography, forever implanting that knowledge into memory.  There is an equally firm belief based on academic history that recitation and drills greatly benefits a student in his or her education.

A student who does not have knowledge, does not know what questions to ask.

Wisdom keeps the pendulum from swinging too far in either direction.  An education long on memorization and drilling facts can quickly become uninspiring and lacking.  On the other hand there is some knowledge that is not naturally emotion all and lacks the intensity needed to plant it into the memory.

Let’s look at the concept of pi as a mathematical constant.  I can present it to my children with enthusiasm.  (“Isn’t if fascinating that God crested this seemingly magical number that is used in all equations involving circles?  What would it have been like to discover pi?  Do you think that there are other mathematical constants yet to be discovered?) But an “exciting” encounter with pi and a few equations were not enough to permanently etch “3.1415” and how to use it into their brains.  It is one of the things we drill.

This is a great listen if you are considering adding memorization to your home, or  if you are tempted to forego recitation all together.  If you listen please be sure to let me know what you think! Continue reading “Memorization: Shaping Hearts and Minds”


Flexible Planning

I was so excited about some of the new planning methods that I have put into practice over the past couple of months that I decided to talk about it on YouTube instead of typing my thoughts all out. (Please be patient with me as I explore this new-to-me media!!).  After the link to the video I included a few of the blog posts that I read that got me out of my slump of not knowing what to do next.  These ideas have helped me have a plan even for the days and weeks in this season that are busy and seem full of interruptions.

Image result for image planner

Click Here to watch Flexible Planning


Simplified Organization: Brain Dump

Simplified Organization: Know your Vocations

Simplified Organization: 3 x 5 Card (Mine are not quite this fancy!)





Morning Time Plans

When I wrote Relational Recitation I purposefully did not prescribe a schedule to go with the material. I wanted to create something that was open ended so families could shape it to meet their unique needs and goals. However, I’ve been asked several times how we use recitation in our home so I decided it might be time to give examples.

Our memorization and recitation is woven in with our morning time.  I will attempt to give a simple sketch of what that has looked like the past two years.

Two years ago we began our morning time with prayer and a bible lesson. Then the children got out their memory binders.(Memory Sheet Yr 1) Our memory work was organized by weeks.  We would sing a hymn, recite the scripture passage for that term, then read or recite the work for that week.  We followed our memory work by reading a corresponding living book or doing map work.  We school in 6 week terms so our binders were organized with 5 weeks of memory work and a week of review.  Our poetry lessons consisted of sporadic poem reading.

Last year I decided to take a different approach, and I organized our recitation by days instead of weeks.  Only spending a week with the memory work as we had previous year felt rushed so I put together academic memory work, religious recitation, and a hymn for each day of the week and used that daily rotation for several terms. (Memory Sheet Yr 2)

I knew that morning time was taking up a more significant portion of our day so I moved it away from the table and into the family room where the little ones could wiggle. I made one memory binder with large print and pictures that I used like a flip chart instead of each child having an individual binder.  We added more reading each day and sprinkled in more singing to keep the little ones engaged.  We spent one term specifically studying poetry, and each of the kids worked on memorizing their individual poem.IMG_4711

Last week I began preparing to restart morning time after our summer break.  I looked at what we will be studying in science and geography and lining it up with our memory work.  Now that we have a few years under our belt I’d liked to work in time to regularly review some of what we have learned in the past couple of years.  I plan to go back to individual morning time binders, but we will use the index cards from Relational Recitation for our review.  We will add new hymns and scripture passages, and I am still figuring out how to weave in more poetry memorization without overwhelming or schedule.

I hope that these examples are helpful to anyone looking for more information on morning time.  If you need help getting started adding memorization to the school day be sure to check our my book Relational Recitation or my blog pages with memorization aids and scripture memory printables.

Here’s to another year of recitation, morning time and learning together!


Eating the Elephant

Last week I began walking around the house gathering our books from various shelves and piles for the upcoming school year.  (Yes, I am admitting there are still piles of books around my house.  The grandiose organization overhaul didn’t happen, and yet we are all still alive!)  Academic Year ’16-’17- here we come!

Something about sorting the books into piles for each of my learners gets me excited and gives me the little push I need to keep prepping and planning. Quite honestly, this whole homeschooling thing can overwhelm me. I struggle with stress paralysis when there is too much to do. I can get lost in my own to-do list if it remains random thoughts swimming in my head.

Sometimes I play a little game and ask myself “What would Miss Beadle do?” and I parallel our school to the one room school house on  Little House on the Prairie. But this is definitely not Walnut Grove.   Miss Beadle didn’t also live with her students.  Miss Beadle definitely didn’t feel the intensity that comes with my God-given role as their mom.  Miss Beadle didn’t have a two year old.  Miss Beadle didn’t have to feed them and do all their laundry.

Time for a new game, a new question. This one is called “How do you eat an elephant?”  The answer: One bite at a time.  As the kids get older and we are adding both more subjects and students to our school day, the time that it takes me to prepare for a new school year seems to increase as well.  I realized I was naturally dividing my school planning “elephant” up into 5 sections.  Labeling these steps, then organizing my thoughts and sorting my tasks has helped me see my progress and kept me from getting overwhelmed.

  1. Curriculum Choices.
  2. School Calendar
  3. School Day
  4. Curriculum Prep
  5. Home Prep

Curriculum Choices: I always do this first and begin as the previous school year finishing as I assess how things worked at the end of the year.  Getting new books in the mail is the fun part, spending money isn’t.  There are some books that we will be recycling from years I have used them with my older kids.  I have really rocked the used curriculum sales this year which makes my Dutch heart happy.  (I already listed out my curriculum audit from last year here and how I choose curriculum on Raising Arrows.)

School Calendar:  This is pretty easy for me, because we have a pretty good rhythm going from years past.  We school 6 weeks on, 1 week off beginning in August.  It it lovely.  It prevents burnout and keeps the house from falling apart.  (A lot of projects like seasonal cleaning and clothes swapping get pushed to our week off. )  We have 6 terms to our school year.  There are some subjects like science, geography and composer study that we will rotate through the terms rather than rotate through the days of the week.

School Day:  Piecing together our schedule for the school day takes me forever.  I see myself as a potter and my “clay” is the schedule.  I start shaping it, and then notice one side is too thin so I rework it.  Then I notice that it is starting to lean to the side and have to correct and straighten it.  I literally have been molding our schedule for months.  I have last year’s schedule in mind when I begin. I try to pay attention to our natural tendencies.  I read Managers of their Home three years ago and found the concepts beneficial.  I do not hold to the rigidness that is suggested in the book, but it showed me how to better budget my time.

I have spent a lot of time on the Simply Convivial blog.  (Mystie also has 5 children and is a couple of years ahead of me so I find her recommendations helpful.) I also read The Unhurried Homeschooler.  At the brink of new year it is easy for me to have unrealistic expectations or feel like I have to find a way to do it all. The Unhurried Homeschooler was gut check reminding me to keep my priorities in line. Don’t sacrifice the eternal for the temporal.

Curriculum Prep: Do we need any extra supplies?  All About Reading needs a white board.  I need to print off our copy worksheets for language.  Does everyone have a 3-ring binder?  I need to set up passwords for Veritas history.  I need to install Teaching Textbooks onto the computer.  Should I make a playlist of songs for memory time? Do we have enough pencils?  These are not big decisions, just the details.  It is good for me to keep a running list and see how many I can knock off in an afternoon.

Home Prep:  This is last on the list because if the things I have planned here don’t get done it’s not the end of the world, but they are good ideas nonetheless.  These are the little things that just might make our days a bit easier…freezer meals, home organization, chore charts and routines, decluttering and trips to Goodwill.


I know that “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”  There will inevitably be things that I forget or just won’t get done, but keeping my thoughts organized helps me keep my joy along the journey.  This school year is another gift from God.  I am priveldged to be able to plan prepare for it.

Exciting things to come!

Good-bye June, Hello Grace

He leadeth me, O blessed thought!
O words with heav’nly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be
Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.

He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful foll’wer I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.

Today is the last week of June.  Tomorrow we flip the calendar to July, our family’s last month of summer.  We are having a wonderful summer of freedom and friends, trips and treats, camps and critter catching.

It has been a summer of learning but not as much academia for the kids as life lessons for me.  This was not the kind of learning that I had planned.  I am learning (once again-I have had this lesson before) to trust in God’s plan and not my own.  I am learning to trust in His sufficiency and not my abilities.  I am learning to accept His will and His grace when I fail.

What if the greatest preparation that goes into next school year isn’t in ordering lessons and our home, but in ordering my heart?

A few weeks back I ended up visiting the doctor.  This was my third visit this year.  Why am I so tired?  Why can’t I think straight?  Why do I constantly fighting off feelings of anger and apathy? 

This trip finally produced some answers. My body has been working hard fighting off a few viruses.  It was a relief to know I am not loosing my mind, but my body cannot keep up with my demands.  Answers have allowed me to I release myself from my own expectations.  It is ridiculous I know, but now I feel like I have permission not to get everything I intended to do this summer crossed off my list.

I have been using a lot of the resources over at Simplified Organization to help me think through my priorities.  Practices like naming my “vocations”  and “brain dumping” all my frettings onto paper have been helpful.

I am still learning. I am asking God “Why?” not because I do not trust in His sovereignty, but because I seek to understand His will and redirection of my plans.  Why didn’t He want me to do all these good things?  I am also asking, “What if?”  What if the greatest preparation that goes into next school year isn’t in ordering lessons and our home, but in ordering my heart?  This seems to be where God is leading me this summer.

Lord, I would place my hand in Thine,
Nor ever murmur nor repine;
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since ’tis my God that leadeth me.

Isaiah 26: 3 & 4

You will keep him in perfect peace

whose mind is stayed on you,

because he trusts in you.

 Trust in the Lord forever,

for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

Isaiah 26: 3-4

These verses have been on my heart this week. “…perfect peace… stayed on you… trusts in you…everlasting rock.”

Where has my mind been stayed?  Where have my eyes been focused?  Is it on my problem, my feelings, my plan?  Am I looking to others for answers, reasons or hope? If I am not living in peace is it because I am trusting in someone or something other than the Everlasting Rock?

These words come as both a conviction and a comfort.

Lord, keep my mind stayed on you.


“Fear arises when we imagine that everything depends on us.”

~Elizabeth Elliot



Failing Summer

“I am failing at summer.” I whined dramatically.

My husband rolled his eyes.  “It’s the first week of June.  Summer just started.”

“Summer just started for the rest of the world, but the kids and I have been summering for over a month.  I am not doing very well.  There are children everywhere.  Nothing is getting done. I think I am failing summer.” (Insert Scarlet O’Hara-type sigh here.)

*   *   *   *

Our school year begins in August; we summer May, June and July.  We have had a ton of fun the last month seeing the ocean and the Smokey Mountains.  We did art lessons and have spent time with friends and cousins.  But we are a third of the way into summer, and I can see that school will be here again with just a couple flips of the calendar. The problem is not that I am not yet ready for the next school year, but that I don’t know when I am going to get ready.  Summer is going quickly and the stacks are the same size-if not bigger than they were a month ago.

Normally I have a plan going into summer, but I was just too tired this year.  It was a good year, but I felt like I had run a marathon and just couldn’t take another step.  I thought I’d go with the flow this summer, ignore all the Facebook shares with suggestions of what I should be doing and take the more relaxed approach.  It’s not working.  I am naturally a list person so not having a plan is leaving me stress paralyzed.

My house is a mess.  With the opportunity to travel in the month of May came all the suitcases and other trip paraphernalia which still litter my entire second floor. I have curriculum in 3 different places.  (Scratch that.  There are some books that are MIA so there must be a mystery 4th place that I cannot seem to remember.)  The doors are thoroughly smudged by the fingers of 5 children going in and out 50 catrillion times a day (followed by a lovely trail of flip flops and grass clippings from the front door to the back.)

I have million goals swimming around in my head, but swimming is not getting them done.  Watch the IEW curriculum DVDs.  Organize my closet.  Organize the basement storage.  Paint the mirror.  Paint the hall.  Sort the toys.  Organize the homeschool room.  Pick out memory work for next year.  Plan morning time.  Everywhere I turn there is something else not getting done, and I feel so distractible.

All through the year I had it in my mind we were going to use summer to do all those things that we didn’t have time for.  Nature walks and journaling.  Nailing down loose math facts.  Music theory, art and extra reading-lots of extra reading.  None of this is happening.  The neighbor kids are out of school now and knocking has begun.  Somehow doing music note flashcards with sister doesn’t sound as appealing as playing tag with the neighbor boys. Shocking! 🙂

As I sit here processing I see two options A) Come up with a written schedule and plan for the summer-execute and accomplish!  B) Change my attitude and expectations.  I like option A the best.  I know in my heart option B is best. Accept the day that God has given me with thankfulness.  Trust He will provide for what truly needs to be done.  Choose to see joy in the midst of the choas. Recuperate and reevaluate before next year.  It’s time to redefine success.

I am not sure what this looks like, to be honest.  I am a work in progress. God is working to change me this summer as I learn to commit my time and energy to Him.

“So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

Psalm 90:12