Learning how to learn is one of the greatest gifts that home-educating has given our entire family.
I’m an army brat, so my academics skipped and jumped around. I was thoroughly peer-oriented, and the minimum standard of effort was good enough for me. Basically translated: I moved constantly, which made me focus on my friend situation relentlessly. I banged out assignments as fast as I could in order to get back to life’s central focus: the crush of the week.
Sadly, this action plan lasted all the way through college, where my academic motto was “no one will ever care what grades you got in college!” It did work. But, other than a diploma, my peer-orientation/crush mongering habits left me with little else.
My mantra SHOULD have been: “Grades up or guns up, sister.” Because that’s what happened. I joined the Army. It was post-9/11 and they were hiring. Anyone.
A salary, a housing allowance, dental, and a chance to impress my friends and a lot of jocks? Full circle, baby! I guess it’s true, everything really does work out.
The purpose of that story is to share that even though I scored a “good job” out of college, I was still missing a solid piece of educational development that I am now pursuing in my adulthood: the ability to learn things permanently. I’ve hated feeling like an empty vessel, and as an adult I have struggled to memorize even one sentence perfectly. I would start with good intentions only to give up very easily.
When life gets hard, it feels urgent to place our thoughts elsewhere. On the advice of Beth Moore I attempted Psalm 25, because I wanted to be able to pray it. It took months. I wrote it out 8 or 10 times. Read it over and over. Said three verses, the next day saying those three and adding one more. Using symbols in place of the words, etc.
I finally got it down, but the process was ridiculously long and convoluted.
Then I came across a blog post that changed everything. The post stated that long passages–even up to 15 minutes long–could be memorized if they were read aloud 50 times. That’s it. No pony tricks. No hieroglyphs. No music or hand motions.
Step one: Get the passage.
Step two: Read the words aloud 50 times. (Not all in one sitting. See below.)
I decided to try it with my kids. The results were astounding. All I can say is, THIS works! By saying the passages 50 times, we’ve memorized Psalms 25, 51 & 139, Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 13, Matthew 5:1-16, Ephesians 5:1-21, Galatians 5:13-26, James 1, and we are currently learning Ecclesiastes 12 (NLT).
It’s been exhilarating for me to collaborate on these with them. It’s risen above any of our other family rituals, and without question the most rewarding element of our homeschool.
Some administrative details:
- Everyone has their own copy. We all say it in unison, in its entirety. Then I make a tally at the bottom of the page.
- I usually go over the passage 2-3 times per sitting. Each of the passages take between 90-120 seconds to read, and so our memory work sessions are about 5-10 minutes total. This can be done anytime, but mealtimes seem easiest because we are naturally together.
- It takes about three months to get to 50 times. We work on it 3 times a week on average.
- The first 8-10 recitations feel cumbersome, but don’t lose heart. The subsequent iterations flow smoothly.
- This method hits upon multiple modalities of learning: visual, aural, and oral. In a way, also tactile because you feel the words forming a pattern as they come out of the mouth. It almost feels like muscle memory.
- The New Living Translation communicates beautifully, it’s especially good for being read/recited aloud. I prefer to use the Bible Gateway website to print off my selected passage.
- For my youngers who cannot yet read, I have them hold their paper and “follow along” by listening. After 5-10 times of hearing it, I’ve asked them to say as much of it as they can with me. Not surprisingly, they catch on very quickly…even the two year old picks up clusters of phrases!
- Most of the kids have it down by the 30th time…I definitely need all 50.
- After we have it memorized, it goes into our recall rotation…we review previously memorized passages on a consistent basis.
- I don’t assign passages and send the children off to go memorize alone. I don’t want this kind of thing to feel like a chore for them.
- Whether age 4 or 38, we are all working toward mastery of the same exact thing!
- This is a practical, everyday way to set your mind on things above and think right thoughts. This will re-center your mind! (Even if it is only re-centered while you are saying the passage!)
- This doesn’t work if you default back into silently reading over the passage. The words must be audibly spoken…I don’t know why, but that seems to be the hack. My hubby said the fifty times doesn’t work for him. When I hazed him about that, he finally admitted he tended to default into just reading it silently over and over.
What words are worth having on the tip of your tongue for the rest of your life? I do scripture because it is the Word of the Living God. But there are countless other passages worthy of committing to permanent memory. MLK’s I Have a Dream…the preamble of the Constitution…the Gettysburg Address…Shakespeare…Ozymandias… I would love to hear your suggestions.
Memory work is not dead, it is a fantastic way to put creativity back into your life.
Don’t take my word for it! Here are three of my friends’ reviews of this “50 times method”.
Have fun with this, please share your results!
I have wanted to write about this for years. But I feared that it would come off as a huge public momblog brag: “My kiddos and I can recite multiple chapters of the Bible from memory!!” I finally found the courage to hit “publish.” It is my desire that you would not consider it to be boasting…but rather see the 50-times method as a life-hack.
Secondly, the kids’ memorized scriptures do not make them Christians. (It simply means their parents did everything in their power to instill in them our worldview.) Head knowledge does not equal heart knowledge.
Finally, I have been consistently convicted that it is more important to demonstrate to them the love of God, than to simply tell them about God. For me that means lots of mercy, listening, cuddling, and making my disciplinary decisions from a place of peace. Parenting with a soft heart confirms God’s character to them in a tangible way. Frequently that means I must close the book, and just demonstrate.