Sunday, November 20, 2011

Memory Work

Children can memorize very easily in the elementary years, and it is for this reason that I include memory work in every school day.  I do not limit it to bible verses, rather I include poetry, grammar rules, and lists, too.  We have memorized lists of kings and queens of Great Britain, capitals and states, books of the bibles, prepositions, grammar rules, and many poems.

When I pick new literature to memorize I try to co-ordinate it with what they are learning.  For instance after a recent trip to Washington DC we began reciting "George Washington" by Stephen Vincent Benet.

George Washington
Stephen Vincent Benet

Sing hey! For bold George Washington,
That jolly British tar,
King George’s famous admiral
From Hull to Zanzibar!
No–wait a minute–something’s wrong–
George wished to sail the foam.
But, when his mother thought aghast,
Of Georgie shinning up a mast,
Her tears and protests flowed so fast
That George remained at home.

Sing ho! For grave Washington,
The staid Virginia squire,
Who farms his fields and hunts his hounds
And aims at nothing higher!
Stop, stop it’s going wrong again!
George liked to live on farms,
But when the Colonies agreed
They could and should and would be freed,
They called on George to do the deed
And George cried “Shoulder arms!”

Sing ha! For Emperor Washington,
That hero of renown,
Who freed his land from Britain’s rule
To win a golden crown!
No, no, that’s what George might have won
But didn’t for he said,
“There’s not much point about a king,
They’re pretty but they’re apt to sting
And, as for crowns–the heavy thing
Would only hurt my head.”

Sing ho! For our George Washington!
(At last I’ve got it straight.)
The first in war, the first in peace,
The goodly and the great.
But, when you think about him now,
From here to Valley Forge,
Remember this–he might have been
A highly different specimen,
And, where on earth would we be, then?
I’m glad that George was George.

You can see that there is a lot to learn from this poem, and once my son has it memorized he will forever know that it was because Washington was wise enough to refuse a throne, that our country gained a president and not a king.  We always discuss what a poem means before we start about committing it to memory.  Then we look up the author and try to learn a bit about them.  After that we read the poem together three times, and then my son will find two other people to do the same with.

So, in the first day the poem is reviewed nine times, in total.  After that the poem, which is written on a 3x5 card, is placed behind the daily divider in an index card holder.  This means that this poem is not thoroughly learned and we should repeat it every day.  The box also has dividers for odd and even days of the week, days of the week, and days of the month.  This poem will advance through these dividers over the next few weeks and months.  If today were Monday the fourth we would review the cards behind the daily, even (as 4 is an even number), Monday, and 4th divider.  So some memory work gets read daily, some every other day, others once a week and then some, that are very well known, would only get read monthly.

To see this Charlotte Mason method of organizing memory work click here.

If you are interested in a book of wonderful poetry and famous works, to choose assignments from, check out "The Harp and Laurel Wreath" by Laura M. Berquist.

My children really do enjoy this activity and I am glad that I added it to their daily work.  I cherish well written poetry, and when we seal it in our memories it teaches us to write with the same level of creativity.  Also, couldn't we all benefit from a better knowledge of facts?  Memorizing grammar rules and the U.S. presidents will help our children to be more aware and informed, for a life time.

If you don't already do memory work I encourage you to give it a try.  Please consider leaving your thoughts or questions in the comment section.
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