“In terms of education, this means that the best way to communicate morality is not thorough endless dry lists of what should and should not be done, but once again through the imagination — through stories , drama, and living examples capable of engaging the will and the emotions and thus inspiring us to be better people” (Caldecott, Beauty in the Word 87).
These “living examples” are found in scripture, hymns, poetry, and folk songs, written by men and reflecting on their experiences. We learn to be better humans by meditating on the words of those who have gone before us. The captured emotion and carefully chosen words convey ideas in such a way that they are easily brought to mind later.
Poetry: A storehouse of beautiful words beautifully said makes a better reader and a better writer. This storehouse challenges what words sound good and challenges the owner to choose his words carefully when speaking or writing.
Folk Songs: Folk songs connect us to the past through music. These songs typically tell stories that are timeless and not to be forgotten, fleshing out entries on a timeline or stories in a history book into a retelling of real life.
Other things to consider memorizing:
One afternoon, I rode behind my husband on an ATV up a mountain path. We wove through shadows, around trees, and past wildflowers until we burst into sunshine and this vista spread out before us. A song memorized long ago sprang from my lips, “To God be the glory, great things He has done!” In my childhood, this was our music minister’s favorite hymn. He’s roll the R on the “great” as if he were singing in his native Spanish. That is still how I hear it in my head.
On another afternoon, a few years before, I sat next to Isaac’s bed in the PICU with no words of my own. In my desperation to cling to hope in spite of the prognosis we’d just received, I clung to other long-ago memorized words, “Even as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me. Your Rod and your Staff, they comfort me.”
Repeatedly, when I have no words of my own, it is phrases written by others, but stored in my mind, that come forth to express hope or faith or even desperation. These experiences are what convince me that it is necessary to hide words of Truth and Beauty in the hearts of my children as well as in my own heart. These words provide a link to the past, a reminder that we aren’t alone in our experiences… that others before us have felt like we do, have had similar thoughts, and written similar stories. These words remembered, whether light verse or heavy hymn, remind us that God is. That He, mighty and sovereign, lovingly holds His creations in His hands, while His Word moves mountains for our good and His glory.
We each have a memory work notebook, and we just work through the day’s stuff together. Each day we will visit the daily tab, even or odd according to the date, the day of the week, and the date. This isn’t my original idea, but I morphed Sonya Shafer’s plan for a memory work box into this notebook.
It takes about twenty-five minutes if we all keep our happy hearts and just do the job. If I take a phone call or answer a text, the routine is broken and everyone is cranky. If we follow the rails of habit we have created, all is well, and we move on to the Loop of Beautiful Things and then our individual studies.
Even though each boy has a notebook and turns pages to keep on track with where we are, only one of the three strictly follows each line and reads every word aloud until he doesn’t need to anymore. That’s the one who remembers what he SEES (like I do). Another remembers what he HEARS, and he mostly listens and recites along, looking down at his page as he stumbles. The third is constantly moving as we work through the material… tapping or bouncing as he recites. He isn’t distracting, but he isn’t still. It is the movement that helps him remember.
Keep in mind that my youngest is ten years old. I’ve been using the same methods for morning time for the last four years, and for most of that time all of my boys have been readers. If I were going to memorize as a group with children who could not yet read fluently, I’d have to change my methods. There was a time when I was the only one with a notebook. Then, I would read a line or sentence, and they would recite it back to me. Or we would sing together, and the songs would quickly become familiar. We accomplished less material in a year, only switching up poems, hymns, scripture and songs every twelve weeks or so.
But there is a lot of progress that is made in those little bits. Every line learned makes the next easier and adds to the storehouse of language in the mind – new images, vocabulary, phrases.
Here are the Must Haves that I see:
1. The Belief that parents are the best teachers for their children: You have to believe that the fact that your child is yours makes you the best teacher for him or her. This is the force that will keep you going.
2. Time: You have to be willing to make teaching your children a priority in your day, laying aside your own desires for a time in order to invest in your children.
3. Determination: You have to consistently determine that the best thing for your family is for you to pass on knowledge that you have to your children. And once you need to pass on knowledge that you don’t have, you have to be willing to learn that information yourself or connect your child with someone who already knows it.
Whether you homeschool with hundreds of dollars worth of curricula and co-ops or the 1970s Saxon texts ($2 used), a library card, and paper and pencil, these are the three things that you Must Have.
Everything else is ice cream.
I am sure you have noticed that my family’s school day is heavily dependent on our morning meeting time, now dubbed “Council of Oaks,” and on memory work. We add to our family culture and furnish the rooms of our minds with beautiful words beautifully said from scripture, poetry, hymns, and folk songs.
I am building a series of printable packs for the memory work we will do this year. If you want to join us, you can download a pack for a couple of dollars and print it off for your Memory Work Binder. All of this year’s memory work will be part of the American Feast I will spread for my children to go along with the Cycle 3 Memory Work from Classical Conversations Foundations Guide. (No information from the guide will be in the download. These pieces are related, but separate.) I have a solid plan for each four to six week section of the year, and each pack will have a resource page available. (The page for August is here.)
If I accomplish all that I have in my head, you also may get cursive copywork for these poems and American history related book lists. It all is dependent on how fast I can get ideas on paper the screen.