Memorization: Strengthening the Heart and Spirit of the Child

Aug 30, 2018 | Posted by Jennifer


Recently, I was trying to enroll my daughter in an online history class when the dreaded “time to change your password” warning popped up. This particular institution requires me to change my password every six months, and I can never repeat one. I have so many passwords to keep track of and I need to change them so frequently that I have long since given up the idea that I can memorize them. It’s part of the postmodern realities of life, I’m afraid. But does that mean I should forgo memorization entirely? Or should my children? It’s true that today’s educational climate has pushed more for critical thinking and research skills over rote memorization. After all, some educators reason, information is now at our fingertips and only a few seconds away. Want to read the Gettysburg Address? It’s literally available to read with only a few taps on your phone. So should we as educators even teach memorization skills? And if we should, why and how?

The short answer is this: The skill of memorization is extremely valuable and worth instilling in your students. Andrew Pudewa has said, “I cannot possibly overstate the value of memorizing good language as being fundamental to building excellent communication skills.” In the act of memorizing something, whether it be a new vocabulary word, a famous quote, a piece of scripture, or a snippet of poetry, a person engages in an event the ancients described as “furnishing the mind.”

All of us engage in memorization to some extent. In fact, advertisers rely on that fact. I can’t number the times where a particular advertising jingle suddenly popped into my brain, and I couldn’t resist replaying it over and over in my mind. While that’s one of the less-appealing bits of material I have picked up, the soliloquy that I memorized in tenth grade from Julius Caesar is also residing in my noggin. It is always a joy and a delight to recall the words uttered by Julius Caesar, “I could be well moved if I were as you…” I recall spending hours practicing my delivery of this short piece, preparing for when I would present it in front of my fellow students. Little did I realize at that time that it would remain a part of me and would become such a pleasure to recite even today, more than thirty years later! If all else were stripped away from me—my books, notes, and electronic devices—I would still have a bit of Shakespeare tucked up inside my brain, ready to entertain and delight me. It feeds my soul.

Hopefully I have convinced you that memorizing pieces of beautiful literature, poetry, or scripture is beneficial, but how should we think of the dreaded “drill work” that so many are eschewing today in favor of Siri, Alexa, or Cortana? Perhaps an analogy might be helpful. Around the United States, schools, colleges, and professionals are gearing up for another football season. Over the summer, all of the athletes have been working in intensive boot camps, spending much of their time on repetitive conditioning drills. Now picture how the season would go for a team if it elected to forgo all of those “boring” drills. Would it win its games? Likely not, for in ignoring the basic drills, the team would be weaker than its opponents who had rigorously trained. In a similar manner, our brains are strengthened when we exercise them by memorizing rote facts. Knowing that “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” or that “6 X 8 = 48” builds brain muscle for other brain endeavors. It strengthens connections between the cells in the brain.

Are you interested in building more focused time working on memorization with your students? I would encourage you to check out two wonderful programs that will help you in that endeavor. The first program, Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization, will help you tuck beautiful and classic poems and speeches into your students’ long-term memories. Utilizing a Suzuki approach to poetry memorization, this engaging course advances students to memorizing poems by having them practice reciting them repetitively and regularly. It is a program that can be done in a busy classroom environment or across a dining room table. It’s a course packed full of beautiful poetry and speeches, including even the famous soliloquy from Julius Caesar, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen…”

As you work with your students to furnish their minds with beautiful poetry, you can also exercise those brain connections by teaching spelling with The Phonetic Zoo. This program helps students remember their spelling words through a multi-sensory learning experience that teaches spelling through auditory, visual, and kinesthetic approaches. Students practice on their lists until they achieve mastery and then move on to the next list. This approach harkens back to the days where spelling was taught through recitation and helps a student learn how to properly organize and sequence the letters to obtain spelling mastery.

While I may not be able to stay on top of memorizing all the various passwords I need to keep changing throughout the year, I am thankful to still be able to build upon my brain database with other bits of useful information and art. The things I have stored in my brain are part of what makes me uniquely “me.” I hope that you will also embrace memorization for yourself and your students, for as Andrew Pudewa puts it, “‘By heart’ learning not only strengthens the mind, it also strengthens the heart and spirit of the child.” And that is a beautiful thing.


Jennifer Mauser has always loved reading and writing and received a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 1991. Once she and her husband had children, they decided to homeschool, and she put all her training to use in the home. In addition to homeschooling her children, Jennifer teaches IEW classes out of her home, coaches budding writers via email, and tutors students who struggle with dyslexia.

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