I have an unpleasant memory from Sunday School many many years ago. I was supposed to memorize the Bible verse of the week, but I hadn’t. My older sister had. Feeling like a failure, I practiced the verse over and over again in the car on the way. When the teacher handed the little stickers and prizes out to the other kids as they recited it, I blanked. I didn’t get a sticker. What strikes me about the story is that I remember the sticker, but not the verse that I was supposed to know.
Maybe this is why I like the Charlotte Mason method so much. External motivations, like stickers, prizes, and even praise, left me feeling inadequate so many times as a child. I want Miss H to remember Bible verses, but I don’t want to present them in a stressful way. She should enjoy the process and the fact that she has these priceless words in her heart.
Charlotte Mason’s Gentle Approach
I recently read what Charlotte Mason had to say about memorizing worthy words in Home Education. She calls it recitation. She said that the words should be read to the child as they play or prepare for the day. Just by gently rereading it a few times a day, the child will soon remember it. No “repeat after me’s” or sticker chart motivators.
Miss H memorized her first Bible verse recently. We started with Psalm 118:24: This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it! When I greeted her at her bed in the morning, I said the verse. When we had a happy moment playing together, I repeated it. Soon she started saying it with me. Then, I got her started with, “This is…” and she completed the verse herself, with a joyful smile on her face.
We moved onto another verse, and she seemed to understand right away that the end-goal was to memorize it, even though I hadn’t stressed that fact. It’s Ephesians 4:32: Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. We discussed the word “compassionate,” and when she heard that same word on the radio station that we listen to, she was so excited!
She tells these verses to everyone she sees. I told her how special it is to put these words in her heart and she told me, “I didn’t put them there. Jesus did.”
Although the purpose of this is to make recitation enjoyable, it’s also important to encourage clear pronunciation and intonation. These things help your child in everyday communications. On the same note, I don’t worry about Miss H memorizing the chapter names and verse numbers in Bible recitations, because she doesn’t count past 20!
Choosing Worthy Words
Bible verses are worthy words to remember, but it’s also helpful for children to memorize short poems, sayings, or nursery rhymes. Doing this helps build vocabulary, communication skills, and, if the right text is chosen, introduces them to inspirational ideas. You don’t have to avoid words that your child doesn’t know. As long as there aren’t more than a few unfamiliar words, it’s a great learning opportunity. You can start with short verses or phrases, but children are capable of pretty long recitations!
Once the verse, poem, or other text has been memorized, reviewing it every once in awhile helps them keep it in their memory. Finding moments where the text is applicable is a great way to incorporate it.
This is not a system. When I was preparing for this post, I saw a Charlotte Mason site that offered a complete system for Scripture memorization. I don’t think this aligns with Charlotte Mason’s vision for education. Recitation should be authentic: when you are observing a bird out of the family room window, that might be a good time to introduce a pretty poem about a bird. When the sun is peeking in through the blinds and you go in to wake up your drowsy child, a Bible verse about rejoicing in the day would be appropriate. Having a long schedule of certain verses on certain days doesn’t seem to fit into an authentic learning atmosphere.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it! Psalm 118:24
A friend loves at all times… Proverbs 17:17 (part a)
Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10
Give thanks to Lord, for he is good. His steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 136:1
‘Tis a lesson you should heed:
Try, try, try again.
If at first you don’t succeed,
Try, try, try again.
Thomas H Palmer
Little Robin Redbreast
Little Robin Redbreast
Sat upon a rail;
Niddle noble went his head,
Widdle waggle went his tail.
The Wind and the Leaves by George Cooper
Have you worked on recitation with your child?