I made eight Memory Work packets for us for this school year (you’ll find them in the sidebar if you’d like to use them also). I’m planned that we will do one set of Memory Work a month for four months, and then we’ll take a month off for Christmas before we do four more.
But here is the part that may surprise you: I don’t care if we finish it all.
You see, I decided how much I think we can do, but I might be wrong. I can’t foresee illness, emergency, or things just taking longer than I expect. But if we accomplished only one packet all the way, we will have learned a new poem, a new folk song, a new hymn, and a new section of the Book of Philippians. Those little bits are worth the work even if we don’t accomplish more than that.
You see, if you learn one hymn a term (whether you have two or three or four terms), you’ll know more hymns at the end of the year than you do now. If you learn one poem a year, you’ll graduate with more poetry furnishing your mind than most of the population. If I look at one painting a week for thirty weeks, that is thirty paintings. But if I look at one painting every week for thirty weeks every year for 12 years, that is 360 paintings stored in my memory for later.
We aren’t called at all to do everything perfectly. We simply expected to work faithfully. If we want to learn these things with our sons and daughters so that their minds and ours are well-furnished, we just need to try. Perfection isn’t required or even expected. We just have to do the next right thing.
“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.
Scripture: Hiding God’s word in your heart (and in your kids’ hearts) is a way to always have it with you
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.
Hymns: Great hymns of the church, whether they are ancient or recent, tend to declare Biblical truths in a memorable and accessible way.
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:
- Classical Conversations Foundations memory work
- Speeches from famous leaders
- Multiplication facts
- Spelling and Punctuation Rules
- Foreign language vocabulary or grammar rules
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.
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.