Monday, April 4, 2011

How Memory Time Works For Us

First, what is memory work?   Memory work, in our school, is a specific time set aside to work on memorizing facts.   By memorizing, I mean being able to recite back exact word for word a fact, poem, quote, or scripture.  

Okay, you might think,  But Why?   "Houses rest on foundations."   This simple sentence written by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer in The Well-Trained Mind has struck with me for the last ten years.   With a foundation of knowledge (those memorized facts), a student will find it much easier to move on to higher learning, to think critically, and then to be able express  themselves in an ordered logical manner.  Have you experienced a student having a hard time with long division or algebraic equations because they don't have their multiplication facts memorized?   Have you engaged in a conversation with someone who has vague ideas about how things work, but can't quite put into words the why or how?    Memorization provides the foundation.  

I consider memory time a subject unto its self, but in reality memory time brings together all the subjects we study.    We use memory time to cement facts from math, science,, grammar, literature, geography, history, religion, language, and common knowledge.

Each week, my kids and I pick memory work. We try to balance what we are working on across our whole curriculum. I posted a few resources we are using, but in reality for the most part what we memorize comes from our other curriculum. Last week we memorized what an appositive adjective is and how it is used. This rule came directly from our English curriculum. It was a new concept that needed to be memorized, so instead of slowing down in English to learn it I added it to memory time. I do the same with memorizing dates in history.  My kids take turns picking the poetry we work on memorizing. I use to type up what we were memorizing for the kids to have in their binders, but I've recently decided that it helps with the memory process for the kids to write out the work themselves. Also when copying poetry, I have them work on their penmanship.

The tools for memory time are pretty simple.   Everyone has a binder. 

And we used simple file folders to make 31 dividers for each binder.   So each binder has 31 dividers marked with a 1 through 31.   In addition, each divider is also marked with a day of the week.   So the first divider is marked with a 1 and a M (for Monday),  the second is marked with a 2 and a T (for Tuesday) all the way through the 5th divider being marked with a 5 and F (for Friday).

Then we start over with labeling the days of the weeks.   The number six divider gets labeled with a M (for Monday),

 the number seven divider is labeled with a T (for Tuesday),

 and so forth through all thirty-one dividers.  I decide on the things to memorize for the week and type them up so I have a copy of things to look at throughout the week.    Then on Monday the kids copy them.  Of course, we don't memorize things on a perfectly weekly basis, so in reality things get copied throughout the week as other things are memorized. The things that are currently being memorized are filed at the very beginning of the binder.  

Here are some history dates and two science facts.   The envelope has a copy of the history dates cut up into a puzzle.   My daughter was having a hard time with the dates, so we did this to give her a little bit more practice working with them.   After fully memorizing the facts, we file them behind the divider of the day they were memorized on.  

Glancing at this fact sheet I can see it was fully memorized on the 6th of some month.    The month doesn't really matter.    The dates and days of the week on the dividers are used for reviewing.   Every day we look at what is behind the date divider of that day and review it.   We also look at what is behind today's days.  So every Monday we review what is behind all the Mondays;  every Tuesday we review what is behind all the Tuesday tabs, and so forth and so on.  

Over the years I've found memory time has to happen first or it doesn't happen at all.    We start out copying any thing that needs copying.   Then we move onto reading it through three times.   Often times that is all we do for the first few days of memorizing a piece.   After that we quiz each other on the piece. For some things I try to have resources that set facts to music, or we use games to make the memorization a bit more fun.   In order to file the piece away in their binder, the kids have to be able to say it three times without a mistake.  In my mind, memory time takes a nice short 20-30 minutes, but in reality it really takes a good 45-60 minutes depending on what the kids need to copy and how long the pieces are they are working on.

I hope this answered any questions about the why and how of memory time.   Can't wait to read how and what memory time is in your school this week.      


  1. I really need to convert to a folder and file system instead of index cards. Great post!

  2. I am here from the #ubp11. I have added your blog to my RSS reader so that I can come back and read leisurely. Fellow homeschooler.

  3. Great post! I need to add memory work to our day, and this has inspired me. Thanks!

  4. Wow at first glance that was kinda complicated but I love the concept! I'm a new follower by the way, from the birthday bash blog hop.

    I'm seriously considering homeschooling my little ones but we'll see. I'll definitely be back to read more after bed time ;D

  5. I have a binder system that's very similar to yours but we haven't kept up with it lately. Thanks for the reminder. I like how you add in science and history facts. We mostly do poetry and grammar.

  6. Found you on the Tail Spin hop!

    You can find me here~


  7. Thanks for your kind comment on the WTM boards! I know people read my blog, but I always wonder who so it's nice to know someone enjoys it. I don't know that I'm that amazing. This week in particular is not going well and I'm ready to call it quits in several areas. We'll see how I'm feeling by Friday.

    I really love this post about your memory work. I think it's brilliant to label a day of the week along with each number. We have a similar system, but sometimes I feel like the things behind the number tabs NEVER get reviewed, especially if I miss that date in a month or it falls on a weekend. So I'm off to relabel my tabs. :)

    I also like your method of saying it 3x without a mistake to truly pass it off. I always wonder if we really have things down. I think I may have to adopt that benchmark as well.

    I love reading homeschool blogs of more experienced moms. Sometimes it seems like the only blogs out there are of people homeschooling 5 and 6 yos, so it's nice to read someone who's further down the road than I am. So I guess I'm saying I really enjoy reading your blog as well and just wanted to let you know. :)


  8. We've been memorizing for years, but the last few years we've focussed almost exclusively on Bible texts, Psalms, and hymns. It's time to start working on other things again.

    We use index card boxes and a very simple review system, but we used to use one like yours. It's much better your way.

    Thank you so much for the reminder!

    Annie Kate

  9. Excellent, excellent idea! I love the way you have it organized so the material is always being reviewed! :)

  10. Thanks for linking up with me. You are so right about the "if it doesn't happen first, it doesn't happen at all." I've posted the new HS writing prompts. Here is a direct link -

  11. What age did you start memory work with your kids? Did you follow the suggestions in WTM?

  12. teachingstars, I kinda follow the suggestions in TWTM. I started there--about 10 years ago--and have tweaked it into a system that works for my family. I started memory work around 1st grade, but wasn't as organized as I am now. Mostly back then we worked on parts of speech and poetry.


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