One thing that I wasn’t really sure about when I decided to pursue classical education for our kids was the heavy emphasis on memorization.
Up to this point, my children had really enjoyed the preschool I had implemented with them. They think school is fun! I didn’t want to ruin any good thing by forcing them to memorize a bunch of facts. The words “rote memorization” have a negative connotation in my mind, and I think probably in most people’s minds.
But after visiting an open house last spring for the Classical Conversations group, I saw that the tutors really made memorization fun for the kids. There were either hand motions, or songs, or games for most of the memory work and all the kids seemed to be enjoying it. In fact, after visiting, Meredith was disappointed that we would have to wait until the fall before we could come back.
I have been blown away by how much Meredith (and ALL the kids in her weekly class) have memorized. It’s very true that young children’s minds are able to quickly memorize things and retain them. But I would have never, on my own, had Meredith memorize a fraction of what she is doing through this program.
Kids memorize a lot of dumb things—really hokey songs, advertisement jingles they overhear, dumb jokes, etc. The theory is, why not have them memorize things that really matter and will be useful to them later in life. The things Meredith is memorizing at this point are not things that she fully understands. That’s okay. They are just “pegs” of memory that will be stored in her mind so that she can use them when we study them more in depth later on.
Here is what the kids memorize every week!
1) Eight world history timeline cards (they just memorize the captions, and emphasis is on being able to place them in the correct order). They memorize the entire timeline every year.
2) A history sentence (“In 800 A.D. Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Holy Roman Emperor of Europe”)
3) Latin conjugations
4) Math facts (they are beginning with learning skip counting, through 15)
5) Science facts
6) English grammar facts
7) Geography facts (they also learn to identify and trace things on a map)
8) They are learning a bible verse together each week (this year it is from Ephesians 6)
I’ve found that the day after class, she still remembers about half of this stuff. After reviewing every day (it only takes about 15 minutes a day and we can listen to it in the car!), she has learned all of it for the most part. And what she has not learned perfectly, she will learn in three years when she has it again.
The last thing I will say about classical homeschooling, is that I enjoy teaching it more than I thought I would. I think I would tend to get easily bored teaching traditional kindergarten. With this method, we delve into really interesting things. Last week, for instance, Meredith learned about the Magna Carta and we made a craft where she glued a “law book” above the king’s crown to signify the limiting of the king’s power by the rule of law. She totally got the concept of it. How many kindergartners get to learn cool stuff like this? This style of teaching has kept MY mind fully engaged and helped me to beef up my own knowledge. I am enjoying learning or relearning just as much as Meredith.