As a young girl I was a devoted fan of Anne of Green Gables. I found Anne’s imagination enchanting, of course, but I also admired how she could recite poetry and quote stories at her whim. It seemed that whatever she played at – fairies in the woods or the Lady of Shallot upon the river – she could recall the perfect, enduring words to make her play all the sweeter.
I wanted to be like Anne – to hold within me delicious, impassioned words.
Unfortunately, by the time I reached school age it had fallen out of fashion to require, or even encourage, children to memorize anything beyond letter sounds, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the multiplication tables.
I think this is a shame really, and a glaring hole in my education. Sure, I could have taken it upon myself to commit great works to memory, but without someone to guide and inspire such a pursuit, memorizing can seem a daunting task to a child.
I hope to be that guide for my boys – that when they step out into the world they will have a host of powerful, meaningful words at their disposal.
If you have not yet made memorization a part of your homeschool experience, here are six good reasons to consider joining us.
1. For the Love of Beauty
The purest reason to memorize great works is just that – they are great.
Imagine taking a walk with your child on a rainy October morning and together recalling the bittersweet words of Robert Frost,
“My sorrow, when she’s here with me, thinks these dark days of autumn rain are beautiful as days can be”
Having lovely language near to him enhances a child’s experience of the world. It connects him, and his feelings, to the whole of humankind.
What’s more, internalizing well-written words inspires a child to observe more closely; to think, speak and write in more eloquent terms.
As Andrew Pudewa says in a related article “there is perhaps no greater tool than memorization to seal language patterns into a human brain.”
2. To Inspire Creativity
To the boy who can recite “Paul Revere’s Ride,” a lowly broomstick is the noble steed that will, at midnight, help him to warn his countrymen of approaching danger.
A girl who has internalized Lewis Carroll’s “Jaberwocky” runs after the family dog with her paper towel tube saber crying, “Beware … my son, the jaws that bite the claws that catch.”
The great speeches of days of gone by, issued from atop the jungle gym, make history ring true to a young heart. When he can speak them, he has, in his own way, lived those pivotal moments in history through his own imagination. They are no longer simply trivia, but wisdom gained through experience.
3. As a Scaffolding for More In Depth Studies
In the same way that a child must recognize letter sounds before he can read words, memorizing the basic “grammar” in any field of study gives a student the tools necessary for deeper discovery.
For music, this means learning to read notes and copying the work of the masters before composing one’s own pieces.
For history, it is memorizing a timeline of major events because, as acclaimed classical educator Leigh Bortins states in her recent book, The Core, “The splendid narratives of history become more meaningful when one can identify both where and when they took place.” Bortins goes on to say that these memorized basic facts become the pegs on which future knowledge and understanding are hung.
I saw a wonderful example of this recently in my own home. After memorizing the basic classification system of life, my son decided to learn the major phyla in the Kingdom Animalia. Afterwards, he memorized the scientific names of all the butterflies that visited his garden. In doing so, he was able to make the connection, on his own, that butterflies that share a common genus name also share common characteristics.
Memorizing a few basic facts gave him the tools he needed to embark on more sophisticated studies.
4. To Enhance Faith and Core Beliefs
Memorization is a wonderful way to reinforce your family’s core beliefs. A child who has memorized scripture takes his foundational compass with him wherever he goes.
You might memorize some of Benjamin Franklin’s proverbs or working definitions of virtuous character traits. Whatever your family’s central beliefs, you can strengthen those ideas through memorization.
5. To Foster Diligence and Achievement
My boys have, through memorization exercises, learned that what may at first seem like a Herculean task is nearly always achievable through steady, persistent effort.
They are proud of themselves when they can call to mind a poem and recite it for a grandparent. They feel learned and accomplished when a former president is mentioned on the news and they know something about when and how he led our nation.
We have learned, in striving to commit knowledge to memory, that we are capable of anything at which we are willing to work–and that is perhaps the most valuable lesson of all.
Do you still remember something that you memorized as a child? Is memory work a part of your home learning environment?