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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Classical Homeschooling - The Benefits of Rote Memorization

When I first heard about classical homeschooling and it's emphasis on rote memorization, I assumed it wouldn't be for us. I've made it through life just fine not having memorized the names of the U.S. Presidents, so why should I force my children to memorize them. After all, rote memorization is boring and learning should be fun.

Last year, a friend introduced me to a program called Classical Conversations. I took my oldest to an open house, and I was really impressed with the public speaking portion of the program. My son said he wanted to learn the information that the children in the class were learning, and I thought the public speaking practice would help him build confidence, so we decided to give it a try.

Far from being boring, practicing memory work is my children's favorite part of the day. Here's some of what they're learning.

Based on our experiences, here are some of the benefits of rote memorization:

  1. My kids are learning how to memorize large volumes of information, and it gets easier for them as the weeks go by. Classical Conversations uses songs, hand movements and games to make memorization fun. My son is a visual learner, and has found that it is helpful to write out some of the information he is trying to memorize. He's learning techniques he can use when he's older.

  2. Memorization is much easier for my kids than it is for me and my husband. From birth to age 10 or 12, children are in what's known as the grammar stage of the trivium. This phase of classical homeschooling takes advantage of a child's natural ability to memorize.

  3. My children are storing factual information they can use in the future. They do not fully understand everything they are learning, but the facts will be available for recall when they need them. We sing the alphabet song to our babies years before they understand what the letters mean. As my kids sing about the parts of the cell, they are tucking the information away for the days when they'll study biology.

  4. As we memorize information together, we grow stronger as a family. If you watch the video closely, you'll notice that my 2-year-old often sings along with his older siblings. He is usually with us when we practice, soaking up information like a sponge. This is one of the benefits of learning in a multi-age environment.

  5. Learning is fun, and the ability to recall information on demand is a huge confidence builder. I am learning facts that I didn't learn as a child. And my husband, who was a bit skeptical about the need for an extensive memorization program, has asked me to get him a copy of our memory work audio CD.

We are mostly relaxed homeschoolers, so we don't strictly adhere to the classical model of education, but I can definitely see it's benefits. Follow this link to learn more about classical homeschooling and the 3 stages of the trivium.

Enjoy the journey,

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Sarah said...

Wow, Carletta! Just in time! I have been wondering for awhile now and especially this last week what exactly a "classical" approach to education means.

See, I am terribly confused about which direction to go, and being a perfectionist, I could see myself refusing to start homeschooling until we have decided upon the "perfect" curriculum!

Anyway, I've heard people tout the greatness of the classical approach, but never have really understood what that means. You've given me a taste, and pointed me in the right direction--thank you!

By way of encouragement on one of your points, I was homeschooled all my life and I STILL use many of the songs/memorization things I learned back then. I imagine it is only a matter of time before I teach them to my own children.

Now, I'm off to learn more about the classical approach! (Also very excited that even relaxed homeschoolers can use this approach! I'd love to see a post on what makes you "relaxed." That's what I want to be, or I'll drive us all nuts!)

Carletta said...

Sarah, I'm glad some of your questions were answered. I am planning to post about different homeschool methods in coming weeks, and I'm also working on a free e-book about different ways to homeschool.

Don't feel like you have to wait until you have it figured out in order to get started, though. I am really comfortable with everything we're doing right now, and we mostly arrived things through trial and error. It's okay to experiment and then change things up here and there.

Renee said...

So cool! Your children are beautiful!

Carol said...

We've been doing a lot more memorization this year and I was quite surprised that it is also my kids' favorite part of the school day! Those songs and dittys really help!
(Your kids are sweet!)

SarahKate said...

Our girls love to memorize poems. Whenever I read poems they jump up and tell me what they want to add to their repitore, it's so cute. Elementary age kids just seem to love to memorize.

Lisa said...

As an aside, I could just hug the stuffing out of that cute baby boy.

Homeschool Mother said...

Thanks for the great suggestion. I'd like to give this a whirl. Great blog.

Spring said...

Ahh, so cool. You're kids are adorable. The part where you wrote, "I don't know what they're saying" made me laugh out loud. :)