There are SO many things I want my children to KNOW before they leave our home. Life skills like cooking and cleaning. How to change a flat tire. How to get a stain out of a shirt or chop a pepper without losing a finger!
Most importantly I want them to know God personally, and be prepared to make Him known to the people they are surrounded by. I want their hearts to have HIS words hidden in them, so that it can be a light unto their path and a lamp unto their feet as they traverse through the treacheries of this life.
Some of these things will have to be learned and practiced over and over before it sticks forever, but God’s word and the basic facts from their school work can be memorized easily, at a young age – for recall when they need it as they get older.
So how do you do that as a parent? How do you train them so that what you are teaching is “sticking” or committed to memory long term?
Here are 10 ideas that I have used to help us master ALL of the memory work I have set before my children.
1. Make memory work into a fun family party!
We try to make memory work as fun as possible, so it is something that the kids will look forward to instead of dreading. Sometimes this is easier said than done, but with a little thinking ahead – it can be accomplished!
We like to do our memory work all together. Sometimes we sing our bible verse or character quality songs at the table. (I know, how rude we are! 😉 ) Even the toddler participates as he claps along in his high chair!
Sometimes we do our memory work while we all dance together. My children especially like to do the Classical Conversations timeline song this way. We all hold hands and dance and sing together. Even little ones enjoy this, and it is AMAZING what they can remember when they are having fun (possibly because they want to hear it over and over so we can dance!).
You can even throw an actual memory work party. Do something as elaborate as inviting some friends or family over, or something as simple as having a pizza eating – memory work reciting – celebration! I have found if you call it a party, and toss some yummy food into the mix, the kids always think it is big time fun!
2. Reward, reward, reward! Then think about praising and rewarding some more!
I cannot state this one enough! Children need your encouragement and your praise. Saying, “Great job!” or “Good work!” or “I am so very proud of you!” goes a long way. Even if it is not a perfect reciting attempt, you can still say, “Whoo hoo! That was an awesome try!”
Children are also usually highly motivated by rewards. If you set up a reward system up front, they will be able to visualize the things they are working for and are more likely to put all their effort into obtaining it.
For our reward system, we use small rewards every time they remember something and can recite it. For example: for every Bible verse that is memorized or every piece of Classical Conversations memory work that is recited, we put bean into a large mason jar. When the jar is filled up, we will trade them every bean for 10 cents. (I adapted this idea from this WONDERFUL book!)
Then we will take the money they have earned and will do something for someone in need. The fun part is, they get to choose what we use it for! This past year our kids chose to use their memory work money to buy toys and items of their choosing for our Operation Christmas Child boxes. We had an amazing time shopping for these precious children, and learning about the countries where our boxes went.
3. Present memory work in (at least) 3 different ways.
This has been one of the hugely successful ways we have all been able to commit even long sentences to memory. The three most successful methods of learning and reviewing memory work will be different for each child and every family; however, it is important to try a lot of ideas, so you can figure out which ones are best for you and your kids.
In our family, saying something repeatedly with hand motions is usually the best way to start learning. The hand motions activate a different part of the brain than just saying something alone does, so it helps the mind retain more. My kids help me make up a lot of our hand motions, which invests the interest in memorizing.
The next thing we do is sing it! Most memory work can be found in an already made up song.
WE LOVE THIS CD series for learning our bible verses! The songs get stuck in your heard and your heart. My children have even used the scripture in these songs to apply to their daily situations. There is nothing more gratifying as a parent than to hear your child quote scripture appropriately (even if it is to remind YOU to be slow to anger 😉 ).
We also get on youtube or CC connected for song ideas for our memory work. It saves a lot of time to use a song that is either familiar or catchy, and already made up for you! If you cannot find a song, make one up! Or you can put the words to a tune everyone always knows (like, If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!)
The third way we review it always differs. Sometimes we recite it in a funny voice or doing funny motions. I usually let the kids choose, or you can get printable action/voice cards by subscribing here. Saying something like a big giant, or while pretending to be your favorite zoo animal always makes reciting very exciting!
4. Make it a part of your daily activities.
Making memory work a part of the activities you are already doing ensures that memory work practice actually occurs. One of my favorite ways to incorporate this is by playing a CD with songs or memory work being recited. We play our memory work during our family home blessing/chore time, and literally “whistle” while we work!
We also play our memory work CDs as we are driving in the car. This is effective whether we are going on a short drive to the grocery store and back, or are going on a long drive out of town. Sometimes we just pick a memory work song to sing together a cappella. It is also fun to quiz each other as we are driving in the car. I let the kids quiz me too, and sometimes say it flamboyantly wrong on purpose so they will correct me! So fun! 🙂
5. If things get icky, TAKE A BREAK.
I have a difficult time quitting something that is on my list to do. I love checking things off, and do not want to leave things uncompleted even if things are crashing and burning quickly. BUT it is so important to STOP if things are melting down. If no one is having fun, and everyone is frustrated – it is probably best to leave it and come back to it later. (Totally preaching to myself here 😉 )
We want our memory work time to be full of happy memories and not drudgery. I want my children to look forward to our memory work, not continually beg me to stop! So if you or your kids are getting frustrated, pull an Elsa and “Let it go!” You could always put on a memory work song and dance, instead of reciting. Or just drop it for the day, and start again tomorrow when everyone is fresh.
6. Chart your progress.
I have had so much success motivating my children with reward charts (like these or these). Simple reward charts can be found online and printed, picked up from the Dollar Tree, or even just written on a scrap sheet of paper. Something visual that the kids can see regularly really helps fight discouragement. You can add stickers or check marks, or whatever your child finds the most special.
When they get to a certain point, reward them! For example, for every 5 stickers a child gets (meaning every 5 sentences they have committed to memory) have a popsicle eating party to celebrate! You can also let them have a treat out of a reward bin you have created and filled with small toys or candy. (My son would love these and my daughter would love these as a reward!)
7. Work towards a big specified goal.
In addition to the small rewards we give for daily and weekly memory work, we also work towards a big goal together. Figure out something your children really like to do, that you do not allow very often. This will be different for every child.
Some activities we have used as a reward in the past include: a field trip to a fun place of their choice, a day of swimming at the pool, going out for ice cream, dinner at a restaurant of their choosing, having a family movie night, or letting them have some time to play their favorite board game or video game.
Once you have chosen a reward, decide what you want your children to accomplish to receive the reward. If you are new to memory work, start small. You want to build your child’s memory work “muscle” for stamina. To avoid burn out, set the big goal small at first. Make it easy to accomplish. For example, three bible verses committed to memory for the first big reward! Then for the next reward, make it five, and so on.
Present the idea of memory work to your children, and then let them decide what reward they will get once they accomplish what you have set out for them to learn.
8. Review memory work daily.
If you are going to truly master and retain your memory work, it needs to be recited almost every day. Try to set a time when reviewing would be easy for your family. Maybe it is at the breakfast table, where you have a captive audience. You could do it first thing in the morning when everyone has a sharp mind, before you start your other school work. Or you could do it in the evening, when daddy gets home to help. A fun daddy-comes-home activity!
Work it in whenever will be best for you and your family, making going over your memory work an easy task. Once you start making it a part of your daily routine, going over memory work becomes a cinch.
My kids would much rather go over their memory work than do their math. I never forget to practice, because my children beg to do it before they start their school work. (Singing and dancing is much more fun than math and phonics apparently 🙂 )
9. Use dad (or grandma) for a weekly testing session.
Holding a weekly testing session gives you an opportunity to see how much progress has been made toward your big reward goals. It also gives the children an opportunity to perform, and get praise from your family members who are not always around to see their progress.
Get out the reward chart and talk about how much they have learned and how great they are doing! Then give someone else an opportunity to test them on their knowledge. This can be as simple as having your husband test them, or as elaborate as inviting the grandparents over for a performance. If grandparents live far away or daddy is out of town, allow the children to facetime or skype for their weekly test.
If our children were able to recite their memory work to dad from the current week AND the past week, we rewarded them with 15 minutes of Mine-craft or Mario each week. This started our family tradition of: Memory Master Mario Monday. (Something our children ask for regularly!)
Remember to reward progress and not just perfection. Make this time something your children look forward to every week!
10. Make sure YOUR attitude about memory work is POSITIVE!
I can’t overstate this one enough either! Your kids will see right through you if you are not having any fun while rehearsing and teaching anything you want them to memorize. If you are stressed out, or worrying about other things, you can’t be successful with anything you are trying to memorize, and your children won’t either. Start by putting everything else aside (including your phone!) and give your children your undivided attention, just like you want them to give their memory work all of their attention. I want my children to have positive memories about our school days and times together when they grow up. Give them all of your attention and have a TON of fun together!
I hope you have found some ideas here to make memory work more successful with your kiddoes!
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