View Full Version : Rote Memorization

01-16-2012, 02:36 PM
The hs'ers in our area are HUGE into bees - spelling bees, geography bees, bible bees... Even if dd were especially interested in any of those things she wouldn't be the bee type. She doesn't do well with coming up with answers under pressure or with being on stage. So, we've been hounded lately to participate, and folks are just not taking "no" for an answer. I had a frank talk with one of the moms this a.m. and told her flat out that we do not want to be involved. Her argument is that "well, it's stuff she has to learn anyway", and I said that no, I don't have dd memorize state capitals or lists of spelling words, so it would be extra work for something she didn't want to do anyway. She was flabbergasted. I was informed that I'm doing a great disservice to my kiddo by not forcing her to memorize. Basically, I'm a slacker mom rearing a slacker kid. Pfft.

I've been thinking about it ever since. She (dd) has memorized her times tables, not through any whip cracking, but because she uses them, daily, with her math lessons. It would be a huge PIA to not know them, which she has realized. As far as the other stuff goes? Not so much. We have internet access and good reference books on the shelves. Am I missing something? Is there some developmental reason that rote memorization is a good idea?

01-16-2012, 03:27 PM
Not that I know of. I think I take the same attitude. I would want them to memorize math facts, because it's so useful, but the rest? Nah. That's what Google and Wikipedia are for and those great Usborne encyclopedias.

(Maybe the state postal codes? I memorized those once and it comes in handy sometimes, particularly for all those M states.

01-16-2012, 03:32 PM
It's just a philosophy. IIR, the Well Trained Mind says that young kids aren't ready for abstract thought, so you should make them memorize facts which they can make better use of later when they ae in their later stages of learning. Some people like to mimic old fashioned educatin with hours of reciting fact together Ina one room school house

IMO, in the age of the Internet and iPhones, rote memorization is a waste of time, unless it's something your kid is really good at or enjoys. A few things are more important, like the times tables, maybe the states, IDK, but no, overall, I couldn't care less.

01-16-2012, 03:44 PM
I don't see the point in pounding tons of facts into their heads just for the sake of memorization. I'm eclectically classical in my style, but I don't do the whole memorization thing like many do. Math facts, like I said, yes, and I want them to be familiar with famous authors and poems, names and locations of states and their capitals, grammar rules, and whatever else, but I don't push beyond that (yet). If they can rattle off list off a list of kings and queens, mountains and oceans, artists and musicians, etc., but have no context for their information, then what's the point? If it's important to them, they will eventually absorb it and absorb it correctly. My goal is to introduce as much information as possible while they soak it up like sponges and then allow them to follow their hearts when it comes to really learning/memorizing it later.

(Of course this is just my two cents'. I know there are plenty of other parents whose children enjoy memorization or who use it as a tool to help with various subjects. My kids just don't enjoy it, and neither do I.)

01-16-2012, 03:55 PM
I actually like memorization. It's not something we push a ton of, but we do poetry sometimes and we did lots of Shakespeare last year for our performance. And I think there really are good reasons to have knowledge at hand in your mind. Writing is arduous if you can't spell. I've seen that in middle schoolers I've taught - spell check is not enough because if you can't spell the majority of words you're writing, then the process is too slow to allow for any flow. And geography is the same. I think you should be able to recognize places and be able to say what continent a country is on, for example.

But that said, I think you don't need to memorize as much as you did before the era of instant information. And I think state capitals is stupid. I always have. That's useless right there. I guess I just think there's some middle of the road - memorize some things, don't worry about cramming everything in though.

What Cara says about the WTM method is right though. Part of the concept of classical education is that in the "grammar" stage, kids should be memorizing information, soaking it up like sponges. Then, in the logic stage (middle school, basically) they begin to learn how to analyze and question by using that information as a reference point. I think there's something to that, but I think it's dismissive of the abilities of younger kids to begin to learn logic and critical thinking skills, as well as to ask their own questions. And I don't think it's worth pushing kids to memorize and memorize. I think of these early years as more exposure time than memorization time. People who think their 1st grader is going to remember every name and date from ancient history five years later are really fooling themselves, IMHO.

ETA: I just want to add that there's something magic to me about having a poem by heart. The poems I know by heart all still swim in my head and come out in the right moments. Whenever I go to the ocean, I like to recite Maggie and Milly and Molly and May by ee cummings.

01-16-2012, 03:58 PM
I did a ton of it in school, but most of that "knowledge" is gone, gone, gone. It always seemed like busy work and time better spent on other activities. Dd remembers so many facts without trying when she's into something so I know she *can* do it. Although maybe it's not the act itself but the discipline it takes that matters to folks?

01-16-2012, 04:03 PM
I can't speak for development, but we are huge into rote memorization. I'm not sure if it's ds's age or personality yet, but he only retains if it's drilled into his head. He also likes seeing the progression of how much his brain is holding. The subject blurbs he memorizes every week jumps us off into our lessons, and I'm realizing he's capable of understanding things I never thought a kid his age would get.

That being said, I know it's not for everybody. And I would never dream of forcing what works for us onto another family. One of the biggest advantages of homeschooling is being to teach your child the way the child learns.

As perspective, I think most math is useless for most. Of course I'll teach it, but I used math in school and never again. I was had a skilled trade... blue collar. My husband, as an electrician, doesn't even use his math. He memorized the conversions he needs, and moves on. My main focus is history- IMO, you can't understand where you are until you understand how you got there.

But that busy bee's mom was still wrong to jump on you like that...

01-16-2012, 04:06 PM
I love ee cummings. Haven't memorized any of his poems, but I do know quite a bit of Emily Dickinson. Learned it for fun on my own, btw. :) That said, I cannot imagine trying to get dd to memorize poetry. She doesn't enjoy reading it AT ALL. She is her dad's child, through and through, and he is the definition of "engineer".

01-16-2012, 04:30 PM
My kids attended a Classical school and memorization was a big part of it. It was impressive what they could recite (usually in a chant-like or song fashion). Since we started homeschooling I have not had them do a lot of memorization, except for math. I do know they are good at it - I think it is a skill that needs to be practiced.

As for spelling bees, etc. I think a lot of homeschool parents just want there kids to be big show-offs. This lady makes a big assumption that by not having your kids memorize they are not learning anything....yikes! I know a few hs moms that are so type-A and militant about thier kids schooling that there is no way the kids are enjoying it.

01-16-2012, 04:54 PM
I would say that this is very much subject to debate.

I do think memorizing is good for training the memory- I used to memorize poems because I liked them and I still remember them now. I think it was good for me- made memorizing lines for plays easier then, and memorizing crap for tests in college now ;).

But except, as others stated, Math facts, mostly the info seems useless. So I guess I feel the skill of memorizing is important, the facts not so much.

I never learned the state capitals, and I can't remember a single time I have cared (unless it was while watching Jeopardy LOL). My kids won't be memorizing those. And as for spelling bees... ugh. Memorizing a bunch of words seems like a waste of time to me, too. I want my kids to know their phonics rules very thoroughly so they can spell strange words by sound, but I wouldn't have them memorize words just for some silly competition. But, of course and always, that's just me and my opinion.

01-16-2012, 06:03 PM
Spelling and geography bees aren't about memorizing "things they have to learn anyway." They're contests to see whose brain can hold vast quantities of obscure and arcane information and then recall it under enormous amounts of pressure in front of many people. Not exactly a useful life skill IMHO.

I'm all for learning math facts, grammar rules, and correct spelling. Those are things that you don't want to have to stop and look up constantly. I don't expect my kids to memorize information for other subjects. I guess I'm the opposite of WTM in that I'm hoping that my kids remember the broader concepts now and we'll worry about the "nitty gritty" stuff later.

I think the ability to memorize varies as well. My son has an excellent memory, especially for things he's heard. He would be capable of doing a memorization program like Classical Conversations (though I doubt he'd enjoy it). My daughter is like me, not one to file away facts and figures. I rocked on term papers in college, but I could easily flunk a test in the same course because my ability to recall information on the spot is simply awful.

01-16-2012, 09:11 PM
Math facts is all I would require, unless you consider learning a foreign language "memorization." I would suggest, however, like Farrar, that it might be worth memorizing a poem, quote, or passage that has particular significance to the child. But specific dates, state capitals, all that? Not so much. If it happens, great. If not, I won't sweat it.

Don't let them pressure you. Hurricane is one of those kids who knows his stuff but is quite reluctant to stand in front of a group and say it. The only thing that's different is when he has to memorize terms for his tae kwon do class. The sad thing is, he's actually great at memorizing, but most people would never know it. :)

01-16-2012, 10:26 PM
I think memorization is an important mental exercise. However, I wouldn't force memorizing things that are unnecessary or that the child was uninterested in, just purely for the sake of memorizing something.

If a kid has a real passion for geography, memorizing capitols might be great fun. Other kids might find poetry, book passages, etc. more to their taste.

My son knew all the dinosaurs by the age of six. Now, he can probably list (or at least identify) all of the Pokemon, and knows the types of most of them. He knows the quadratic formula, Pythagorean Theorem, and other common math formulas, because we use them a lot. I think it's all about what is interesting and relevant to the child.

01-17-2012, 12:10 AM
Spelling and geography bees aren't about memorizing "things they have to learn anyway." They're contests to see whose brain can hold vast quantities of obscure and arcane information and then recall it under enormous amounts of pressure in front of many people. Not exactly a useful life skill IMHO.

But what if your dream is to be a Jeopardy! champion? ^^

Personally, that's the only reason I can think of to memorize lists of anything. In our day-to-day lives we memorize phone numbers, addresses, bus schedules--things with practical applications. I might be downtrodden if I ever get into the CashCab and am asked who the 22nd President of the United States was (Google tells me it was Grover Cleaveland) but is that something I need in order to function? Not really. As others have mentioned, I use multiplication tables practically every day and state abbreviations can be handy, but that's probably all I'd emphasize to my child unless ze tells me they are interested in memorizing something specific. I think we will passively learn and memorize a lot of the things we are interested in simply because we subject ourselves to those same things over and over again.

I still remember the Preamble to the Constitution. And now it's stuck in my head. :/

01-17-2012, 07:40 PM
I think you are faced with 2 issues. To have your child do memorization or not is one question but the other pertains to these pesky people claiming that if you memorize anything, you have to participate in a bee. If your child likes to memorize things and would like to participate in a bee, great. If your child doesn't want to do the bee, I wouldn't make them.

I agree that memorization is a good thing. Math facts being the highest priority. We do poetry memorization. We got on the Well-Trained Mind track this year so we are memorizing parts of speech lists. So far, so good. It seems to come easily to my children. History facts for my oldest is of interest but my youngest doesn't care so I would never make her to do it.

I don't think either of my children would want to do a bee of any sort.

I think you did the right thing in telling her that you aren't interested.