Jan 162013


Memorization is a hot topic among educators. Some educational philosophies focus highly on memorization, especially in the younger years. Others see memorization of facts as virtually useless now that we’re in the Information Age. Some promote a system where every child must know certain facts to pass from grade to grade.

These philosophies spill over into our homes and churches. Some church programs rely heavily on memorization while others focus on “big ideas.” One parent proudly shows off his preschooler’s ability to recite poems while another parent is much more concerned that her kiddo got enough time to play outside today.

So what’s a parent to do? While I’m no education expert, here’s what how I handle memorization in our home:

Let memorization come naturally.

I’m not about to start quizzing my kiddo on her states and capitals. We don’t do flashcards. We don’t do anything formal for preschool at all, not to mention formal memorization. Yet there is much she knows; much that she’s memorized. She recognizes letters, sings numerous songs by heart, and recites large chunks of well-read books as we turn the pages.

How? Natural repetition.

We sing lots of songs. We read lots of books.

We don’t sit down and spend focused time with the objective to memorize.

But we do play. And point out letters on signs.

Because memorization that comes naturally lasts. As a kid, I loved music. I listened to it over and over. And to this day, I can still sing almost every song I could sing as a kid. Many of these songs were Bible verses put to music. I can’t tell you how valuable these songs have been to me as I reflect on the truth of God’s Word and pass it on to my daughter.

It’s not that I think certain things aren’t worth memorizing. I do. I tend to agree with the thought that many facts can easily be found in books or the internet so they aren’t necessary to memorize. If something is worth knowing, there’s a reason for it. I know certain math facts and formulas because I got sick of looking them up every time I needed them to do a problem.  A natural need leads to natural remembering.

I know certain Bible verses and poems because they are valuable and inspiring and worth reading over and over. Or putting on my white board to look at several times day. A natural desire leads to natural memorization.

There were other things I memorized as a kid. Hastily. Because I was told to. To get points for clubs at church. And while I do remember some of it, I don’t remember nearly as much as when I memorized without even knowing it.

So while I want my kiddo to memorize Bible verses and songs and eventually classic poems and math facts, I don’t necessarily want her to think she’s memorizing anything. Memorization implies hard work. I’d rather these become such a part of her natural life that one day she realizes she just knows them.

What are your thoughts about memorization?

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 Posted by at 12:01 am

  8 Responses to “Some Thoughts on Memorization”

  1. I agree that memorization needs to be a natural byproduct of daily activities. I think this is especially true with kids as young as ours. I’ve never really felt like mine are missing anything because we don’t do flashcards or drills. Right now, it seems seamless. Memorization just happens. We read a lot, we talk a lot, and we play a lot. Now, I don’t know if it will always be this way, but for now it sure is nice. Thanks for the nice read :)

  2. I think it’s a great skill but not one that I’m actively promoting. Weirdly though, my son has an amazing memory that just blows my mind away, but I don’t bother with having him learn rote memorization. Most of his understanding comes from play and just being the naturally curious child that he is.

  3. It’s interesting because in current education training we are taught that experiential learning is generally more helpful and effective than rote learning/memorization. That being said, I think it’s easy to fall into that rote memorization in crunch time and never get out of it. It might be easier for the teacher and get a kid through a test, but it is not helpful overall for the students’ learning.

    • Yeah, I’m fairly good at memorizing which I used to get through tests. And then I promptly forgot all the material.

  4. My husband and I have been talking about this lots. It has always bugged me that kids are spewed info to just memorize and spit back out, but not really absorb. There are so many creative ways for learning that stick with a person – like you mentioned – that don’t require stress overload. Yes, we can just look everything up online these days, but I also think maintaining mind stretching activities is important. And I know a lot of schools aren’t making kids learn cursive writing at all anymore, which I think is kind of sad. My olders have beautiful handwriting and most kids in our area can’t write cursive, let alone print legibly, let alone spell. My heart breaks for these kids because I see they’re struggling.

  5. Life is both, isn’t it? You memorize how to get to the store, make your child’s favorite slushie, and who the characters are in the book series you are reading.
    I believe there is nothing wrong with memorization. The problem comes when it does not have context. Instead of straight memorization of math facts spend time playing with Cheerios + -* \. Instead of cards memorizing sight words, highlight them in books you read aloud or put them up in different parts of the house. “The” door, “in” the kitchen, “out”side
    Bible parts? Incorporate them into morning prayer or getting into the car.

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