23 Sept 2008

Memorising Scripture

I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Psalm 119:18

The ability of young children to memorise and remember even long passages is just amazing, and it is only natural that we should want to take advantage of this skill to help them memorise and remember those things that we consider important for their spiritual well being throughout their lives.

Charlotte Mason also felt that the learning of Bible passages was important. She says this:

The learning by heart of Bible passages should begin while the children are quite young, six or seven. It is a delightful thing to have the memory stored with beautiful, comforting, and inspiring passages, and we cannot tell when and how this manner of seed may spring up, grow, and bear fruit; but the learning of the parable of the Prodigal son, for example, should not be laid on the children as a burden. The whole parable should be read to them in a way to bring out its beauty and tenderness; and then, day by day, the teacher should recite a short passage, perhaps two or three verses, saying it over some three or four times until the children think they know it. Then, but not before, let them recite the passage. Next day the children will recite what they have already learned, and so on, until they are able to say the whole parable.
Home Education page 253

Miss Mason believes that children should learn whole passages of Scripture rather than individual verses. I am inclined to agree that children find it easier to remember even quite long sections of Scripture if the verses are in context, and we regularly memorise long passages. We also learn isolated verses - especially those that 'one should know'! We also learn questions and answers from The Shorter Westminster Catechism, learning one by heart and then commencing another. We learn catechism questions in English only, but learn Scripture in French and English.

Our system of learning the verse is not difficult - I simply read the verse or passage through two or three times for a day or two and then when Jemimah feels that she knows a section, she repeats it back to me. It generally only takes a day or two to learn a verse - a week or two for a passage of six or more verses.

It is important that we regularly review learned passages so that they pass in to long-term memory. We are all guilty of learning verses so that we could recite them at Sunday School only to forget them the very next week when we begin learning the new one.

In order to prevent this occuring, we use an adaptation of the Scripture Memory System described at Simply Charlotte Mason.com.

We adapted the system in these ways: The system recommends dividers as follows:

1 divider — Daily
1 divider — Odd
1 divider — Even
7 dividers — Days of the Week (Sunday, Monday, etc.)
31 dividers — Numbered 1-31

In our home we divide our verses up as follows:

1 divider — Daily
1 divider — Odd
1 divider — Even
5 dividers — Days of the Week (Monday-Friday)
1 divider — Monthly

We do not practice our verses on the weekends. Our Scripture memory is counted as past of personal devotions - not school, and is carried on year round - even during holidays, but we find it helpful to take a break each week.

We also found that for young children it takes a very long time before a verse is known so well that it can be placed in the weekly section - let alone the monthly section. To divide this latter group into days seemed unnecessary - we simply do two or three of the monthly verses daily.

After a three years using this system our six year old knows many verses and much of the catechism. She knows - and remembers several whole psalms, and a number of long passages of Scripture, many of them in two languages.

I cannot recommend this system enough for hiding God's word in the heart of your child.

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