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Why Do We Need Memorization for Grammar Kids?


Guest bookwormmama

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Guest bookwormmama

Ok, because I don't understand... what is the big deal about grammar kids learning to memorize so many things? I mean... what is the purpose? I KNOW that kids love to memorize things.. poems, scriptures, nursery rhymes, etc... but even if they like to do it, what is the reason for making sure that they do?

This subject has come up often with other homeschoolers {especially more relaxed or unschoolers} who think it's silly of me to require memorization for young children. I see the benefits of memory work that i have done as a kid but I was wondering if there was some long term educational benefit from it that I am unaware. And what if a child does not memorize anything? What then? Will it hamper their education in some way and if so, how? I am not being flippant, I really am just curious... :)

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From what I understand, memorization helps build neural pathways in the brain, allowing it to be easier for the child to both memorize and to understand more. I'm all for that!

 

From my own experience, I know that EVERY single song and poem I have taught my children I have found that my dad already knew! I think this amazing knowledge base of my dads has helped him in life in that he can talk to almost anyone about almost anything. When we began nature study, if we told him about a new bird we'd seen, he'd tell us all about the bird. It is as if he is a walking encyclopedia. he know really neat stuff about just about everything! Lately we've begun studying art and classical music. Every song we play, he knows! I really just realized this about him in the last 3 years. I wish I'd gleaned more from him before that. But I think it helped him in life to make him one who really could talk comfortably with others from every facet of life. Now in his 80's, my dad memorizes the readings for church and is a lectern. He stands before the congregation and says his readings by heart, believing that this allows him to say them with great meaning and elocution. He is an incredible speaker!

hth!

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There are so many things I memorized as a kid that I remember today and find useful. The poem about the months of the year from FLL I had to change and teach my kids the slightly different version I learned as a kid, because that's what's in my head. It always helped me to remember how many days a particular month had.

 

My son memorized the order of the presidents just because the presidents are a topic he finds fascinating, but I've seen this help him put historical events in context. Any event that comes up in conversation, he wants to know who was president so he can put it on his mental timeline and better understand what else was happening. It's what he files everything by.

 

It's like mental exercise too, it helps create connections in the brain and helps keep your memory sharp as you age.

 

And memorizing poetry helps fill the mind with complex and beautiful language.

 

Those are just some of the reasons why memory work is important.

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Here are three of my favorite essays on why memorization is important. Basically, memorization exercises the brain. Memorizing poetry and prose passages gives a person a set complex language patterns that can be used later. It also significantly increases vocabulary. And the more you memorize, the easier it becomes.

 

http://www.welltrainedmind.com/poetry.php

 

http://www.city-journal.org/html/14_3_defense_memorization.html

 

http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/why_memorize.htm

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We like best what we know.

 

We know best what we learn first.

 

ALL kids are memorizing machines. Some kids memorize TV shows, baseball facts, dinosaur names, favorite books, the order of the houses on their block, ..and on....and on....

 

*I think* a good parent looks at their child and what the future might hold and makes an effort to input things that will be of use.

 

Also, the act of memorizing purposefully (even something the child doesn't want to do at the time) is a part of training the brain, disciplining their thought patterns.

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I really needed this thread right now. I'm in the middle of a "crisis of belief" :D about the whole memorization thing. We haven't even done nearly as much memorization as WTM recommends (no poetry, for example). And I often use songs to make it fun, but I've still been wondering lately why I'm doing this and whether I want to continue with memorization. Is there any point to a first-grader knowing all the bones in the body, other than to be very impressive and make his Mommy happy? I'm going to read the links posted for some reassurance.

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Is there any point to a first-grader knowing all the bones in the body, other than to be very impressive and make his Mommy happy? I'm going to read the links posted for some reassurance.

 

Yes. It's one of those things you feel dumb for not knowing when you get to be "Mommy's" age. At least, this happens to me a lot...

 

:glare:

Rosie

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Well, I think there are several good reasons. The first is that it's easy to do. Fill them up with facts that while they might not need as a first grader, could come in handy if they decide to go to med school. And would not come as easily then. It also provides pegs to hang their hat on with future knowledge. They are familiar with names/ dates/ countries/ etc.

 

The second reason is because with poetry and speeches, it forms their inner sense of words and language. It provides the foundation for later quality writing.

 

The third reason, and the one I always told my third graders when I was teaching, is that when they are old and blind and senile, I want them to have something more than tv jingles to think about then. You go to a nursing home and you see people who cannot remember the names of their children, but they can recite the 23rd Psalm. That is a gift I want them to have.

 

A fourth reason is that memorizing and repeatedly rereading poems/ speeches/ even names, builds reading fluency.

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We didn't do a lot of memorising in the grammar stage, partly because we started homeschooling halfway through it and I was finding my feet. But just the other day I pulled out TWTM and wrote down all the memorisation SWB recommends for the Medieval Logic Stage and we are doing it. This is a first here, although we have always memorised poetry- but never dates of people and events.

I just feel that having those certain pegs embedded in the memory- the date of Chalemagnes rule, The kings of England, The Hundred Years War, the various Crusades...provides a whole context for all medieval history to fall into place. If they are all just vague pieces of information, as they tend to be for us, one topic on top of the next, it's hard to have a clear picture in our mind of the story of history and how it all fits together. I just saw the benefit of the memorsation. And if we had done some previously in the grammar stage, well, it would be all the more easy now!

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Is there any point to a first-grader knowing all the bones in the body, other than to be very impressive and make his Mommy happy?

 

I agree with the others about memorization in general, but in answer to this question, is anyone really doing this in first grade?

 

You don't mean all 200+ bones, right? I can see it is good to know the names of the long bones and major bones of the axis, but are people really teaching every bone of the wrist, foot, skull, etc. to 6 year olds? I really don't think TWTM says to do that. The major bones, on an elementary school type chart, are a matter of general common knowledge, though, and should be learned.

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I agree with the others about memorization in general, but in answer to this question, is anyone really doing this in first grade?

 

You don't mean all 200+ bones, right? I can see it is good to know the names of the long bones and major bones of the axis, but are people really teaching every bone of the wrist, foot, skull, etc. to 6 year olds? I really don't think TWTM says to do that. The major bones, on an elementary school type chart, are a matter of general common knowledge, though, and should be learned.

 

I guess not all the bones, maybe 20 or so? I made up a song, before my "crisis." :)

 

http://www.welltrainedmind.com/forums/showthread.php?p=903392&highlight=%22vertebrae+stack%22#post903392

Edited by nova mama
crazy perfectionist
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I didn't read the links but I am finding more and more that memorization helps down the road when the students start thinking and processing the information into opinions and looking at things with a critical eye. I'm talking about memory work along the lines of facts, dates, history songs (like in Classical conversations) etc. Poetry is important too but for different reasons.

 

All these things they memorize now will be available to them later as a resource for making connections. Its kind of the foundation of the whole Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric stages.

 

Heather

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It trains the brain to retain. You KNOW what you have memorized. You are familiar with what you've overviewed- there is a BIG difference.

It's very similar to working out. If you walk regularly it's easy to begin jogging. If you jog regularly it's easier to think about training for a marathon. If you are physical inactive, overweight and out of shape you wouldn't (probably) wouldn't consider a marathon in the near future. Kids who can memorize easily and well have greater confidence (from what I've seen) in their ability to learn.

Also, kids are neurologically hardwired to memorize at the grammar stage. You are utilizing and capitalizing on their developmental stage.

What Karen in CO said (I always love to agree with her!:001_smile:)

WalkerMomma- your dad sounds so wonderful. What a blessing!

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  • 1 month later...
We like best what we know.

 

We know best what we learn first.

 

 

:iagree:

 

 

 

Kids are going to memorize. There is nothing you can do to stop it. The point is either you are going to fill up their heads or the mass media and pop culture will. (Commercial jingles anyone? What about pop music lyrics?)

 

 

I also like:

Omnia mea mecum porto

Everything I have, I carry with me.

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I really needed this thread right now. I'm in the middle of a "crisis of belief" :D about the whole memorization thing. We haven't even done nearly as much memorization as WTM recommends (no poetry, for example). And I often use songs to make it fun, but I've still been wondering lately why I'm doing this and whether I want to continue with memorization. Is there any point to a first-grader knowing all the bones in the body, other than to be very impressive and make his Mommy happy? I'm going to read the links posted for some reassurance.

 

Well, IMO, NO, there's no point to a first-grader memorizing the bones in the body. It's developmentally inappropriate because in most cases, 1) that first-grader hasn't even had an overview of all the body systems before zeroing in to focus on the names of the bones, therefore the knowledge is learned out of context and doesn't have a lot of meaning for him as it would if the proper foundation had been laid, 2) most first-graders need to begin by learning the more tangible science topics first--plants, animal kingdom, magnets--because it's more difficult for them to visualize scientific concepts that they can't see when they're barely six.

 

Now having said that, I'll say that I'm NOT saying that memorization is unimportant; on the contrary! For all the reasons listed in the excellent articles that a previous poster posted the links to, memorization is extremely important. But unlike one prevailing view of memorization, I think that what is memorized and when is very important.

 

Here's my belief on it:

 

 

To stuff kids full of facts
in random order and outside of any meaningful context for them
is to deny their "personhood" and treat them as mere containers to be filled with "stuff" to store away later for the day when they finally hit the Logic stage, become "whole" persons capable of understanding what they've memorized, and then can use it.

 

 

This belief is in opposition to the often-quoted explanation, "They don't need to understand it right now. They'll just learn it and put it into context later."

 

?!?

 

As Charlotte Mason rightly pointed out, this philosophy underlying this explanation views children as though they weren't fully-developed people, made in the image of God and able to think, reason, and YES, engage in abstract thinking even at very young ages! Many of us are so inconsistent when we insist during the school week that young children can only think concretely, but on Sunday teach them their catechisms, fully expect them to understand the concepts of grace and repentance that we're teaching them, and eagerly watch for signs of inner understanding of ideas like sin, compassion, mercy, etc.

 

I don't believe Dorothy Sayers ever meant for her relation of the parts of the Trivium to developmental stages of a child's life to ever be taken to the extreme that some American classical schools and home schools have. She merely pointed out that grammar-stage students are particularly suited to memorizing facts--not that they are incapable of so-called Logic or Rhetoric skills such as comparison, evaluation, etc.

 

How we teach children during this stage reflects what we believe about them. Are they fully-formed human beings, capable of profound understanding and of acquiring and "digesting" great ideas themselves? Or are they "empty vessels" to be filled--for us to "input" information and them to merely "spit it back"? (And frankly, I can see the temptation to stand a small child in front of the grandparents and let them spout Latin conjugations, kings and queens, etc. at age 7 to be impressive and make Mommy proud, especially as we homeschoolers often feel the need to "prove" ourselves to others. At least, I struggle with that! :001_huh:)

 

Sorry for such a long post, but this is a "crisis" I've recently gone through myself, and I wanted to share my two cents' worth, if it helps!

Edited by MamaBlessedThrice
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Is there any point to a first-grader knowing all the bones in the body, other than to be very impressive and make his Mommy happy?

 

WOW. We're getting ready to do 1st grade. I don't remember THAT being a part of any curriculum I looked into for Science, and I don't remember this being mentioned in the WTM chapters. PLEASE do tell me what I'm missing here. What else is on the memorization list for first graders besides a list for the ancients and poetry? Oh dear!

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I don't make my kids remember anything they aren't familiar with. In other words, it has to make sense to them for the memorizing to make a connection to knowledge, IMHO. I would prefer to give them an overview, some discussion, and chance to connect with the topic then let's work on memorizing the important parts.

 

My main memory work right now is scripture, b/c I want them to KNOW it, so that they don't have to think about it when a tough choice comes up. It's automatic. There are few things in my mind more important than that. Next we'll work on poetry for fluency and rhythm in reading and a flow to their speech (as well as using tone correctly). Math facts come next, and then from there we'll see. All else is secondary...but that's not to say I won't come up with silly jingles for names and dates and play VP memory cd's and such...I think as long as they are using their brain for some sort of memory work, then those connections are being made in their brains. It's up to you what you put in it. As important as history is, I don't find knowing exact dates to be as important as knowing the order of events, their relationship to one another, and how that effects the world and the rest of history (and himself!). And none of that is as important as internalizing scripture.

 

IMHO anyway.....But, that's just my CM side showing...I'm still 100% for teaching chronologically :D

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I don't make my kids remember anything they aren't familiar with. In other words, it has to make sense to them for the memorizing to make a connection to knowledge, IMHO. I would prefer to give them an overview, some discussion, and chance to connect with the topic then let's work on memorizing the important parts.

 

My main memory work right now is scripture, b/c I want them to KNOW it, so that they don't have to think about it when a tough choice comes up. It's automatic. There are few things in my mind more important than that. Next we'll work on poetry for fluency and rhythm in reading and a flow to their speech (as well as using tone correctly). Math facts come next, and then from there we'll see. All else is secondary...but that's not to say I won't come up with silly jingles for names and dates and play VP memory cd's and such...I think as long as they are using their brain for some sort of memory work, then those connections are being made in their brains. It's up to you what you put in it. As important as history is, I don't find knowing exact dates to be as important as knowing the order of events, their relationship to one another, and how that effects the world and the rest of history (and himself!). And none of that is as important as internalizing scripture.

 

IMHO anyway.....But, that's just my CM side showing...I'm still 100% for teaching chronologically :D

 

Wow, this is a great perspective. Especially the emphasis on Scripture memorization! Thanks for the reminder. :)

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I haven't read all of the responses and I have to get dinner going but I wanted to put this out there:

 

MamaBlessedThrice posted:

 

Here's my belief on it:To stuff kids full of facts in random order and outside of any meaningful context for them is to deny their "personhood" and treat them as mere containers to be filled with "stuff" to store away later for the day when they finally hit the Logic stage, become "whole" persons capable of understanding what they've memorized, and then can use it.

 

Memorizing is just fun for the younger children. They're running around the playground singing "Ring Around the Rosey" and they surely don't know the origin or meaning behind it. Little girls holding hands and joyfully dancing in a circle is completely out of context when one considers the meaning of the song. It's just fun to sing! What's so bad about giving them little tunes with information in them that may be of use to them later (along with all the funny non-sense tunes, of course:)).

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What's so bad about giving them little tunes with information in them that may be of use to them later (along with all the funny non-sense tunes, of course:)).

 

Well, I'd say nothing:tongue_smilie: . . . unless that's the core of their curriculum, KWIM? There's that whole school of thought out there that says that memorizing little tunes and jingles of unrelated stuff is actually what should characterize the whole of the grammar stage education, for heaven's sake. It's that idea that I was trying to address.

 

I kind of see of it as a matter of emphasis. IMO, that's fine for an add-on--why not sing it instead of that annoying Disney tune they heard somewhere!--but the bulk of the "school time" should, I think, be spent in meaningful learning.

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I agree with you about meaningful memorization. Yes, it's easy to memorize when young, but actually, it's just as easy later. I could memorize more French words in one night at thirteen than I ever could have at six. And younger children can definitely start thinking, reasoning, integrating, applying. I don't see the three stages as absolute at all. I think it's more true to human nature to say that reasoning and articulation skills will increase over time and occupy a greater portion of schoolwork as children grow older, but that reasoning and expression can and should be present in younger children too, in age-appropriate ways.

 

They don't have to just be containers for information when they are young . . . material can be memorized that they are actually going to use in short order. The application and implementation are just as important as the memorization, and there's no need for application and implementation to wait until children are a certain age.

 

Well, with two sprained fingers, I am very grateful for Dragon so that I can write this post!

 

Anyway, MamaBlessedThrice, I know you are not anti-memorization. I just agree with your perspectives on the priority and purposes of memorization.

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To stuff kids full of facts
in random order and outside of any meaningful context for them
is to deny their "personhood" and treat them as mere containers to be filled with "stuff" to store away later for the day when they finally hit the Logic stage, become "whole" persons capable of understanding what they've memorized, and then can use it.

 

 

 

 

I don't believe that's even remotely what SWB has in mind when she talks about memorization in TWTM. In my understanding, when you study insects, the child memorizes their body parts. When you study the solar system, the child memorizes the planets. When you study helping verbs, the child memorizes them. This is not at all "random order" or "outside of any meaningful context."

 

 

 

To the OP, SWB explains exactly her reasons for memorization in the grammar stage in TWTM, any edition. :)

 

 

 

Tara
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WOW. We're getting ready to do 1st grade. I don't remember THAT being a part of any curriculum I looked into for Science, and I don't remember this being mentioned in the WTM chapters. PLEASE do tell me what I'm missing here. What else is on the memorization list for first graders besides a list for the ancients and poetry? Oh dear!

 

I don't know what edition I'm looking at, but p. 166 talks about studying the human body in the first grade (after animals and before plants). SWB writes, "You're not trying to cover all body systems, just those that interest the child." She doesn't say that memorization is required. But for the skeletal and digestive systems, I made up songs to help the kids (and myself) remember the major points. As others have pointed out, music is so easy to remember, so why not have the children humming tunes with some useful information? We also use music for Bible memory. I hope I didn't make memorizing bones sound scarier than it really is!

 

FWIW, we're not memorizing poetry.

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  • 1 year later...
Guest julesclon

I am just joining in to this forum. I have been specifically looking for science facts written in the format of a catachism. I was in the bookstore looking through a book on classical education. The author (whom I can't remember and book title I can't remember) talked about adding to the reading/narrating/exploring/discovering by doing science facts five minutes a day. She mentioned that their family learned around 73 for the first 6 years of school. Does anyone know what I'm talking about and know if there are questions/answers already written. I'm just trying to save time by not reinventing. Thank you.

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Because memorization at that age is what they are going to retain. Really. The older you get the harder it is to memorize and retain. And things that are remembered with songs... even better retention.

 

For example:

"I'm just a Bill, yes I'm only a bill and I'm sittin' here on Capitol Hill" - "Conjunction junction what's your function? Hookin' up words and phrases and clauses..." School House Rock, Saturday mornings, 35 years ago, I still remember it.

 

I remember the Scripture verses I learned as a child much more readily than when I was even a teen-ager.

 

I couldn't care less at this age whether my children "understand" what they are memorizing. I just want them to get that information in their brains because I know that this is the age to do it. Understanding will come later.

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We spend a lot of time on Memory Work: Bible, nursery rhymes & poetry, creeds & catechism, hymns, counting/skip counting, other work I come up with (seasonal songs, etc). All 3 of mine are 5 and under. Martin Cothran (from Memoria Press) said something at a lecture that the memory is a muscle and the more you memorize, the better you get at it.

 

I've been reading The Core (I think this is the book one of the above posters was asking about) and I like parts of it. I, like others, eschew the non-connectedness of CC memorization. I like what Tara said about memorizing related to what the student is studying. One of the thoughts I've been thinking about The Core is the focus of having content in the brain. So many people say, why bother to memorize what you can look up? I've even made that argument, but I've come around and here's my answer: we memorize to have content on which to base opinions, analysis, and to relate ideas to one another. Where there's no content, thought cannot happen. As we're going through the stages of Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric, one must have a basic amount of content (Grammar) to analyze (Logic) and then express (Rhetoric). So in Grammar stage, we give the children content. If we teach them to find the content to learn, so much the better.

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Here's my belief on it:

 

 

To stuff kids full of facts
in random order and outside of any meaningful context for them
is to deny their "personhood" and treat them as mere containers to be filled with "stuff" to store away later for the day when they finally hit the Logic stage, become "whole" persons capable of understanding what they've memorized, and then can use it.

 

Well, no and yes. I certainly wouldn't sit my children down and in the same breath have the memorize the presidents of the US, the Periodic Table and "The Raven", but to say that having children commit to memory things that they are incapable of understanding at that age is "denying them personhood".... oh please! And what's wrong with "treating them as containers"? Really? Especially if the information they are learning will be useful to them as they continue on in their education. It's not like they're learning the genus and species of all the animals indigenous to Ghana or something. I wish I had been treated more as a "container" when I was younger because I'm 42 years old and find memorization more and more difficult. As I homeschool I see the huge gaps in my "typical public school education" and wished I had been taught more developmentally.

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My dh and I just had a conversation about this. He is a public school teacher in a school with a low graduation rate. The students come to high school with poor vocabularies and little prior knowledge to help them dig in and learn more.

 

He is in the social studies department. Last year he taught World Geography for the first time. Most of his students (9th graders) didn't know the continents and oceans, or even how to find our state on a map. He and another teacher, who has a wife that teaches elementary school, said that kids don't have to memorize anymore. They just do little group projects (as in with the continents) but do not really learn the information.

 

What they are seeing is that these students come to high school knowing nothing. How are they supposed to do high school level thinking when they don't know anything to think about? Do I believe it is this way with all students in public education? No, but it seems that if you are teaching kids in a situation that you know puts them in a disadvantage, you should really do what is going to make a difference, not entertain them.

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[/indent]Well, no and yes. I certainly wouldn't sit my children down and in the same breath have the memorize the presidents of the US, the Periodic Table and "The Raven", but to say that having children commit to memory things that they are incapable of understanding at that age is "denying them personhood".... oh please! And what's wrong with "treating them as containers"? Really? Especially if the information they are learning will be useful to them as they continue on in their education. It's not like they're learning the genus and species of all the animals indigenous to Ghana or something. I wish I had been treated more as a "container" when I was younger because I'm 42 years old and find memorization more and more difficult. As I homeschool I see the huge gaps in my "typical public school education" and wished I had been taught more developmentally.

 

:iagree:

 

My kids enjoy memory work, I don't believe I'm denying them anything, when I see the satisfaction they gain from memorizing; they really feel a sense of accomplishment.

 

Things like the order of the U.S. presidents, my child memorized on his own, because he wanted to! I agree with Classical Ed that young children enjoy this and it's their natural inclination anyway. Our memory work does occur in context of what we're learning.

 

I have also seen my eldest struggle with remembering anything, and it bothers him. He went to public school until 4th grade and then I never stressed memory work when I started homeschooling him.

Edited by Annie Laurie
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Has anyone read any cognitive research supporting the idea that memorization work really does "exercise the brain" or create neural pathways? The only things I've read in support of memorization were opinion pieces (like the ones linked earlier in the thread), where the authors seem to take these things as a given, but don't provide any references. I'm not disputing the possibility that memorization exercises may in fact create "new neural pathways," and I would love to see research in support of this, if anyone can link it.

 

I know with my DS, no amount of memorization drill or flashcard practice would ever make him retain lists of names or dates or facts. He was never able to learn math facts that way, and has only started to really retain them by just using them over and over, day after day. On the other hand, let him watch a documentary, and years later he can tell you the species names of every animal in the documentary, all about their habits and habitat, etc. He can tell you all kinds of crazy facts about Hannibal — because he watched 2 documentaries, which spurred him to do further research online and in books. For him, the key to "memorization" (by which I mean the ability to remember something over a long period of time without further reinforcement) is that he has to (1) see the information (2) in context and in a way that is (3) meaningful and engaging to him. Otherwise, it just goes in one side of his brain and out the other.

 

DD7, on the other hand, is a very verbal, sequential learner, and I'm sure she could easily memorize long lists of all kinds of things. If there are actual research studies out there indicating that this really will expand her brain, I'll happily start making flashcards, but otherwise I'll just let her learn those things as we study them. (And there are some things I truly don't care if my kids ever memorize, like state capitals and all the kings of England.)

 

FWIW, I had to do a ton of memory work when I was a kid, from state capitals to counties to presidents to poems, etc., yet the only thing I remember is the first couple of lines of the Gettysburg Address. OTOH, the things I do remember are books I read and loved, and reports I did on topics that really interested me. Which is probably a good thing, because when I'm old and senile the last thing I would want rattling around in my brain would be a list of state capitals and the 21 counties of New Jersey, LOL.

 

Jackie

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FWIW, I had to do a ton of memory work when I was a kid, from state capitals to counties to presidents to poems, etc., yet the only thing I remember is the first couple of lines of the Gettysburg Address. OTOH, the things I do remember are books I read and loved, and reports I did on topics that really interested me. Which is probably a good thing, because when I'm old and senile the last thing I would want rattling around in my brain would be a list of state capitals and the 21 counties of New Jersey, LOL.

 

Jackie

 

:iagree:

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And what if a child does not memorize anything? What then? Will it hamper their education in some way and if so, how?

 

I haven't had my kids memorize much (other than Latin vocabulary).

 

They seem ok to me.

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