The Power of Memorization

Occasionally I hear from a parent who homeschools but objects to the Calvert practice of  memorization.  Looking back 16 years, the one thing I wish I had embraced more with my kids is the act of learning to memorize.

Memory is a funny thing – the younger you are, the more capacity you seem have to memorize material.  This is not to say that adults cannot memorize, but Lord knows I cannot remember what I ate for breakfast – but I can remember many of the things I memorized at the ages 6-10 – why is that? brain

In my own very nonscientific observations, memorization increases the capacity for focus.  The “memorizers” -not all of them were- now seem as high school and college students to have more capacity to stay focused on tasks related to their education.  It seems easier for them to “own”.

I can still recall the tenets of the Gettysburg address I was “forced” to memorize in 4th grade – back in the dark ages when we still celebrated Lincoln’s birthday (instead of President’s Day).  My high school age daughter is now working on memorizing Lincoln’s words and having a tough time of it.  Needless to say, SHE Is the one who always gave me push back when it was time to memorize something.  Is there a correlation?  I think so.

Practically, how you do you take something like the Gettysburg Address and memorize it?  I have five practical suggestions for you:

  1. Print it out and read it out loud at least three times a day.  Reading out load is very different from reading, and somehow makes the process smoother.
  2. Record yourself reading it out loud, and then listen to the playback.
  3. Write it out by hand.  This engages both the visual and the kinesthetic learning parts of the brain – and if you listen to it while you’re writing, the auditory parts too.
  4. Take the sentences and cut them apart.  Learn them separately, sentence by sentence,  so that you can put them together again.  Work to cobble the paragraphs back together by memory.
  5. Then, lastly, take your written selection and begin blacking out the words you know.  Start with the connecting words like “and” “the” and work towards a document that has only the blacked out spaces where the words should be.

Once you have it, have a family member quiz you.  Have them stop you and interrupt you.  If you can go back and continue the recitation, then you really do have it.  I believe that as you help your child memorize, it will be easier for you both.  Remember, the funny thing about memory is the more you memorize, the more you can memorize.

What memorized pieces can you still recall from your childhood?