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How to Memorize Long Passages: The 50 Times Method

9 May

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.

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:

  1. 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.
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  2. 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.
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  3. It takes about three months to get to 50 times.  We work on it 3 times a week on average.
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  4. The first 8-10 recitations feel cumbersome, but don’t lose heart.  The subsequent iterations flow smoothly.
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  5. 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.
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  6. 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.
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  7. 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!
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  8. Most of the kids have it down by the 30th time…I definitely need all 50.
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  9. After we have it memorized, it goes into our recall rotation…we review previously memorized passages on a consistent basis.
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  10. 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.
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  11. Whether age 4 or 38, we are all working toward mastery of the same exact thing!
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  12. 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!)
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  13. 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”.  

 

–HS, age 22

–TB age 18

–JC, mom of 5

Have fun with this, please share your results!
Leigh G

 



Post Script:

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.

 

Leading a Child’s Heart Away From Porn: A 10-point Discussion Guide

25 Mar

I am utterly gutted over the pandemic of pornography in our society.  It can’t be overstated.  Porn is on Instagram. Porn is on Pinterest.  It’s also on Facebook (via shared “gifts” in the messenger app.) On WhatsApp, kids are texting each other gifs and links.  Web browsers are attached to most apps and video gaming equipment.

They have access to it everywhere, and it is coming to them whether they seek it or not.  We are at a point in time where we must deliberately avoid it rather than deliberately seek it out.

As a parent you cannot be too vigilant in protecting your kids.  We are mental about their sleeping on their backs, and wearing seatbelts and helmets.  We ensure they avoid stranger danger, processed food and soda, even sunburns.  Maybe we oughtta tack porn onto that list.

But that one’s hard.  To fully protect them, we’d have to micromanage every click and image that passes their eyes.  Not possible.  Screens are going nowhere. They will see porn, it is here to stay.  It’s our responsibility to eliminate every possible source of it.  And that’s not enough.  We have to talk to the kids about what they are going to see without shaming them.  What do we say besides, “Hey guys, don’t look at porn, it’s bad for you?”

After doing a ton of research, it’s clear that victory comes down to a common denominator:  It’s a heart issue. They’ll exchange their healthy hearts for fleshly, lurid temptations, or they will rightly turn away from worthless things.

Recently, it dawned on me that we might actually have to teach them the qualities of a healthy heart.  My middle-schoolers, bobbing around in their deep blue sea of emotions, probably have no idea what their heart **should** be feeling.  We can lead children to recognize exactly what they should be feeling when they come across it.

Here are 10 points, or “heart ambitions” we explained to our middle-schoolers, both of whom have already been in contact with pornography.  My heart hurts just typing that.


 

1.  The cornerstone of protection is prayer.

God will strengthen those who seek rightly-ordered hearts.

I pray for my children’s heart purity as often as I think of it, and I have taught them they must pray it for themselves.  Nothing long–just a one-sentence aspiration as often as they brush their teeth: “Lord, please strengthen me to stand up to the temptation of pornography.”

It doesn’t have to be a lengthy epistle for God to hear.  It’s a penny in the jar—and over time, this adds up to a substantial volume of prayer equity.

Prayer is the bedrock.  Along with that, there are ambitions that their hearts will (hopefully) internalize.  

 

 


2.  Heart Ambition: Sympathy

With every click, you are virtually voting “yes” to victimizing the individuals in these images/videos.  The people shown in these media are victims, *even if they seemingly chose to participate.*

If you had a conversation with a performer, you would find that they abhor their role, that they feel trapped there.  Viewing these images/gifs/videos is parallel to giving a standing ovation to their victimization.

Don’t vote yes to victimizing.  Your heart should feel tremendous sympathy for their situation as victims.

 


 

3.  Heart Ambition: Righteous Indignation

When you click that link, you contribute to the human-trafficking industry as a whole.  Generally, porn use is a risk to yourself; however, in this respect you are effectively putting others at risk. 

The more clicks a site receives, the more money they make.  What do they do with that money?  Get rich on exploiting and selling women and girls.  (side note–How can this be happening in a feminist culture?)  

Porn is kerosene on society’s forest fire of sexual assault, abuse and slavery.  Human trafficking is tremendously lucrative because its clientele have no brakes on their disoriented urges.  Lust-fuelled porn users compulsively click to engage and ultimately act on human prey.

Porn is a propellant for modern slave trade.  Your heart should feel outraged that this is the fuel that enslaves thousands.

 


4. Heart Ambition: Tenderheartedness

After continual use of explicit material, you will see the actors as nothing more than a collection of body parts.  If they are just a collection of body parts, they are not human to you. 

Think about the qualities that make someone human.  These are people with hopes and dreams.  They have souls.  They crave love. 

History has shown that the worst human atrocities happen when one party sees the other party as not human.  Taking it a step further, over time, your own compassion for humanity in general will deplete. I want your heart to remain soft toward them.

Porn desensitizes the user and dehumanizes the actors.  Your heart should feel tender compassion toward all human kind.

 


 

5.  Heart Ambition: Grateful Appreciation

It feels awful now.  But, actually it is a grace to get caught.  We care very much about defending you from harmful, addictive behaviors.  There really is no such thing as getting away with anything, anyway.  God sees it all.  Getting caught means we can lovingly show you how to get back on the right track before anything gets out of hand. 

Our home is a soft place to practice walking among the hazards of the world.  We create boundaries for you now, but in few short years, our boundaries will be removed.  At that point, you’re expected uphold your own boundaries.  Our margins are for your good, the joy of others, and God’s glory.

You should feel thankful to be cushioned with loving boundaries meant to protect you from addiction.  These margins also pad your world with truth, beauty and goodness.

 


6.  Heart Ambition: Self-assurance

When looking at sexual material, the feelings of curiosity and pleasure mean that you are wired properly!  Don’t be overwhelmed or overthink your sexual desires.  They are normal.  Those feelings are meant to be freely expressed with your future spouse. 

Even though they are quite strong, don’t be afraid of them, they are healthy and have a purpose.  The strength of all those sexual feelings enable you to form the strongest possible bonds.

You should feel assured in your feelings of sexual desire.  This means you are perfectly equipped to be bonded in marriage for life!

 


 

7.  Heart Ambition: Noble Excellence

Excellence in your sexuality is central to your enjoyment of adulthood. So many people experience unrelenting torment and agony when it’s been misused, or worse…used as a weapon. 

Sex is supremely beautiful and sacred. 

The only safe way to handle its sanctity is within the promises of marriage.  Only after making those covenant promises should you share the most holy portion of yourself.  It displays nobility to revere sexuality as consecrated and sacred.

You get to feel valorous and heroic by defending the holiness of your (and your future spouse’s) sexuality.

 


 

8.  Heart Ambition: Empowerment

The more you stand against the temptation of pornography, the stronger you will stand in the face of all the other temptations of life.  Childhood is the ideal arena to perfect the life-skill of denying your wayward temptations.  We need to be good at it before beginning adulthood, where all the temptations will burgeon exponentially. 

Saying no is spiritual bodybuilding, it cultivates spiritual muscle memory.   This is another proverbial penny jar…bit by bit you build proficiency.  It gets easier to see the lure coming, and you’ll be sturdy enough to avoid it without a lot of fuss.

You should feel empowered: your cumulative “no’s” will breed a stronger mind and heart.

 


9.  Heart Ambition: Personal Triumph

Be willing to gouge out an eye if it causes you to fail.  This means cut off any source of addiction.  This metaphor implies pain, and truthfully, it will be an uncomfortable reality at first.  An unpleasant part of parenting is that we have to do the gouging and the cutting off…out of love and concern for your well-being!

Think through what might need to be gouged out.  This might mean cutting out the smart phone and using a dumb phone…definitely an ouch.  Or cutting off the “right hand” of Instagram/Pinterest/Social Media.  Whatever the source, discard it.  Take action, now. 

Don’t just cross your fingers hoping not to do it again!  Eliminate or make it VERY DIFFICULT for yourself to get access to that thing. There is no hope for long-term victory without eliminating the source.

Look to feel a sense of personal accomplishment in crafting a strategy for long-term success.

 


 

10.  Heart Ambition: Freedom

I know the real you.  The real you loves to laugh, be outside, enjoy friendship, conversations, games and sports.  You love drawing and animals, the Rat Pack, and football.  That is the real you. 

When you are engaging in porn, it is like pouring vinegar on soda—the images, feelings, urges, the guilt…it just sizzles away at the real you.  The addictive nature of porn will change your affections. 

Rather than having increasingly corrupted interests overtake what you really love, focus on your first loves.  The real you wants to be fully known, and find pure joy in life’s truest pleasures.

Enjoy feeling absolute freedom in having nothing to hide from anyone.  Experience true liberty in pursuing what makes you authentically happy.

 


There is never an auto-pilot.

None of us will ever get away from the assault of pornography.  It is not a once-and-done issue.  The resolve to turn away must be deliberate and continual.  But, be encouraged!  We don’t wake up having to face an entire lifetime of temptation every morning.  You only need to be ready for today’s temptation.  Some days there will be more, other days, less.

As I have said before, the power of prayer can NOT be underestimated in this area of your life.  It is a spiritual battle that must be fought with spiritual weapons.  While 2 one-sentence aspirations a day may seem flippant or ritual, they matter.  That prayer is said from a place of strength and clear-mindedness.  It confirms a heart of surrender to God.

He will take that small mustard seed and it will uproot the mulberry bush.

Be encouraged, my friends.  Sleep well knowing you’re doing everything in your power to set the conditions for your children’s mental, physical and spiritual health.

Talk about a prime pursuit!
Leigh

 

 


Resources:

Good Pictures Bad Pictures
The Story of Me Series

Don’t Mom Alone Podcast: Parenting in the Digital Age with Ashley Januszewski (Ep 207).

Heidi St. John’s The Busy Mom Podcast #728, interview with Jasmine Grace: Tracked. Recovered. Redeemed.  #728

Heidi St. John’s The Busy Mom Podcast #689 interview with Kirk Cameron: Parenting in the Internet Age.

Psalm 101: 1-7—meditation passage


Post Script.  

If you are using pornography, you can’t scoff at the audacity of the former African slave trade in America.  The parallels are too numerous to count.  If sex trafficking is modern slavery, then pornography is sugarcane*.  You’re using it even though its production costs people their humanity.  Producers lust for more money, users thirst for another hit, and those portrayed are for sale.

You are buying. The currency: clicks.

*In the plantation economy, sugarcane was a primary cash crop.  Plantation owners used forced slave labor to get rich off of peoples’ addiction to its byproducts: refined sugar and rum.

Should my 13 Year Old have Instagram?

19 Jan

Each time I asked my 13-year-old daughter what she wanted for Christmas, her answer was always the same: Instagram.  Every time she said it, my heart sank.  I told her it was just about the one thing I could not in good conscience “give” to her.  Instagram doesn’t feel like a good gift.  It’s the complete opposite–it feels like much would be taken away from her.

Her time.  Her attention. Her contentment.  Her presence of mind.  Her self-confidence.  Her brain-development.  Her relationships with her siblings.  Her sense of wonder in 3D world.  Her innocence.

With all that, you would think this decision is a total no-brainer:
not no, but HELL no.

Yet was so hard for me to say no for one big reason: kids these days are using Instagram for their primary source of messaging.  I do NOT want to cut my children off from their friends.  But—am I in a quandary?  Is this truly a difficult dilemma? 

When I stare at the laundry list of cons, why does that one solitary “pro” even appeal?


Giving our young kiddos full access to smartphones and social media goes against so much common sense.  We know it’s true.  Yet as parents, we are all tempted to just roll over.  Why?  It seems like the old “if everyone else jumps off the bridge, are you gonna jump too?” …on a societal scale.

The temptation to just go ahead and jump off this bridge feels so strong…it feels like we are being pushed and overrun in a stampede toward…toward what?  Why is everyone else jumping?  Why are so many of the other 13-year-olds on Instagram?  Honestly, I want to know.  If I need to be softened in this area, I am asking for counsel.

My children’s mental, emotional and spiritual well-being is the principal concern of my adulthood.  If Instagram threatens that, why is this decision so difficult?  My husband and I have put loads of energy into maintaining our kids-on-media game plan.  It’s a team effort…and it’s been a painfully unpleasant parenting challenge to draw a line in this sand.


Why is it hard?  For one thing, it feels like a deprivation.  And, perhaps I am projecting my own subconscious/latent fear of missing out.  Also, these devices buy us so much quiet, imminent peace and space–but at what cost to their growth?  Giving in, and giving them over to their juvenile longings is easier than listening the begging.  It’s also easier than feeling bad for them. 

Since I have said no to Instagram, I am digging for as many yeses as I can.  I gotta get creative!


My generation of parents have an infamous reputation for helicopter parenting.  But it’s crickets in this area.  It’s bananas.  Are we so busy looking at our own screens that we can’t be bothered to take measures to protect our babies from device and social media addiction?  Are we ignoring common sense because it’s inconvenient?

I have asked my friends about their standards for their kiddos’ smartphone/social media use, and I’ve gotten such a mixed response.  Generally, other parents’ main point is that their kids need to be able to call/message them.  Really?  That’s kind of a weak argument.  They need a smartphone for that?  There is a phone in every human hand: my kids can get a hold of me instantly, anytime.

And the fear that kids need to be up-to-date on technology?  Um, iPhones don’t take very long  to master.  I’m pretty sure they’re intentionally devised to ensure we all stay sheep…the whole scheme is set up so that we won’t have to apply a spark of brain energy to operate them.

It does, however, take years of deliberate coaching for a child to reach social and emotional maturityUnless…I find something on the app store that can advance a child’s self-control, identity and character. 

Man, when that exists, then I guess we will all be home free.
Until then, it’s still on me.


But this is good work.  It’s a long game, but not that long.  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Hear my heart: If you don’t feel convicted against your children using Instagram, I understand.  These things are personal and I don’t believe one size fits all.  BUT, if you are like me and you do feel a personal conviction about this…I had to let you know–you’re not alone in holding the line.

 

Leigh

 

P.S.  We’ve not completely cut the kids off–they do have access to devices, but we have substantial boundaries in place.  I can let you in on the strategies we have chosen in a post to follow, if anyone is interested.

 

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