I posted this photo on facebook a few days ago as I was gearing up for and getting excited about our simplified summer morning routine (as opposed to a full homeschool morning).
I mentioned that our summer Morning Time (see Cindy Rollins on Morning Time) includes mostly reading aloud, listening to music and stories on CD/mp3, and memory work (usually inside a fort or some cozy place like the porch swing). What’s not pictured here, obviously, is our memory work. But I get a lot of questions about how we do memory work–and what we do.
We do memory work year-round, not just in the summers, but I don’t want to forego it in the summers (even if it seems less “fun” than the other things) because I know for a fact that we would lose momentum. Everyone just forgets if we don’t continually review.
I’ll be completely honest. Though I’ve always been convinced of the vital importance of memory work in our homeschool, it was one of the hardest things for me to be consistent about for a long time. When we got behind, it was the first thing to go. Or I would forget to do it. And then I’d be kicking myself for that lost opportunity for my kids to hide Beauty and Truth in their hearts. So I searched for a solution–and I found one!
I first stumbled upon the Charlotte Mason Scripture Memory System. I watched the video, and it looked like a winner, so I printed off the free verse cards (available in ESV or KJV) and spent hours cutting…and cutting. I’m mostly a paper person, especially when it comes to academics, so this seemed logical for me. I don’t really download apps to my phone, especially when I have to pay for them. We used the cute little box with all the cut-out verses for awhile, and we did learn the verses. However, I really wanted to be consistent about memorizing not only Bible verses but also poetry and a catechism. When I didn’t feel like creating a template for cards to fit into the box or handwriting the entire catechism, I turned to the Scripture Box app, which is also web based. So. Much. Easier. (I didn’t get anything for saying this, by the way. I just love it.) It’s the Charlotte Mason Scripture Memory System–only automatic and sent to my email every morning. I don’t have to take the time to shift the cards into different slots all the time or write out new cards and add them, etc.
Scott and I teamed up and copied/pasted the verses, catechism, and poetry into Scripture Box. I add new poetry and verses from time to time as needed. There’s a free trial, but the $4.99/year is totally worth it. We have been so consistent with all our memory work since I switched to this automated system! I check my email every morning before we start school, and there is our memory work, just waiting for me.
I created a Bible verse box, a Catechism box, and a separate Poetry box for each of my kids. When they have memorized what we’ve been working on, I activate a new verse/catechism question/poem, and everything automatically shifts to the next slot. (You need to watch the video in the link above to the Charlotte Mason Scripture Memory System for this to make sense, but we’re reviewing everything we’ve learned at least once a month by reciting a Daily verse (or poem or whatever), an Even or Odd verse, a Day of the Week verse, and a Day of the Month verse. I promise this will make sense if you watch the video.) Here’s what my email looks like–click the photos to zoom (we haven’t done enough poems or catechism questions yet to fill all 31 days of the month, so you won’t see those):
We just go through these every morning, pretty much first thing, and I’ve been amazed at how much my kids have retained (and I have retained)! They each do different poems, which is why they have separate boxes, but they’ve memorized each other’s poems just by hearing them so many times. Sometimes they like to say the review poems together. This app has been so great for us!
That’s how we do memory work. How do I choose what we do? Well, first, Scott and I chose the New City Catechism for several reasons. The reasons are on their website, so I’ll just copy straight from there.
New City Catechism is comprised of only 52 questions and answers (as opposed to Heidelberg’s 129 or Westminster Shorter’s 107). There is therefore only one question and answer for each week of the year, making it simple to fit into church calendars and achievable even for people with demanding schedules.
It is a joint adult and children’s catechism. In other words, the same questions are asked of both children and adults, and the children’s answer is always part of the adult answer. This means that as parents are teaching it to their children they are learning their answer to the question at the same time, albeit an abridged version. The adult answer is always an expanded version of the children’s answer. In the adult version the children’s answer appears in color to differentiate it from the longer adult answer.
New City Catechism is based on and adapted from Calvin’s Geneva Catechism, the Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms, and especially the Heidelberg Catechism, giving good exposure to some of the riches and insights across the spectrum of the great Reformation-era catechisms.
Second, the verses I chose are usually either 1) some of the verses I had originally printed from the free printable verse cards on the Simply Charlotte Mason website, 2) verses about character qualities that my kids (and all of us) need to be working on, 3) verses specifically about the gospel, or 4) verses that the kids have been assigned in Sunday School (for Palm Sunday or Advent, for instance, when the children help lead in worship).
Finally, I choose poems at random. Sorry. I know that’s not helpful. We read a lot of poetry out loud [see the two poetry books pictured above–my two favorites (1, 2), along with Divine and Moral Songs for Children by Isaac Watts (free online), which we read during Family Worship in the evening], so when I come across something that I think would make a good memory poem for one of my kids, I note it. There’s also a very helpful selection of poems for children on Ambleside Online. If you’re looking for poems, I’d suggest starting with the list on Ambleside Online and then getting one of those poem books and picking out of there. There’s a treasure trove of great works for children to learn.
We also memorize a history timeline song and math skip counting songs, but I keep that separate. You could add any kind of “boxes” that you want in the Scripture Box app, though, if it helps you be consistent. But I’ve found these three categories to be manageable for us to do every morning.