Kids are really good at memorizing things, aren't they?
And that’s one reason why memory work has become a highly popular way to teach kids (homeschooling or not).
Memorizing Bible verses is also a great way to get God's word in your child's heart.
But here’s the real question: How can we ensure that a child understands those memorized facts within their greater context? In other words, how can we make sure that a child's memory work sticks?
Why Context Is King in Memory Work
Do you want to make sure your child not only understands what he’s memorizing, but that the memorized information becomes part of his long-term learning?
I’ve experimented with making memory work stick over the years, and found that, yes, memory work can be a powerful long-term method for learning any subject (especially history).
However, I’ve seen that my kids best remember their history memory work when I can teach them the information in context.
Makes sense, right? In math, we teach kids what numbers mean before we teach them times tables. Kids need context for the numbers themselves before they can fully comprehend something as complex as times table facts.
The same is true for history. Sure, we can teach a child to recite “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” but that fact alone doesn’t allow a child to understand the bigger picture of how Columbus’ voyage forever changed history.
Therefore, in order for a child to receive the most comprehensive learning experience, history memory work must be taught in context.
So then the question becomes: What are some powerful ways that we can best teach history memory work in context?
I want to share six key teaching principles that I’ve discovered in teaching my own kids.
These are simple (and fun!) learning strategies that help kids recall and reference memory facts in the long term. I’ve seen firsthand (and heard from other families) how these principles transform rote facts into vibrant, relevant learning!
I’ve also recently discovered that Tapestry of Grace’s Primer, a new history curriculum designed for parents of kids preschool to about third grade, is a wonderful accompaniment for teaching history memory work in this style! I’ll be sharing some of Primer’s highlights as I explain six ways to teach memory in context.
I know these ideas can help your child better enjoy his memory work and can bring learning to life like never before!
NOTE: Although we're going to discuss these within the context of history memory work, these principles can be applied to all memory work learning.
6 Easy Ways to Add Context to a Child’s Memory Work
1) Expand the memory work’s context with related information from other subjects.
One of the best ways to teach history memory work is to teach the entire picture of history happening at that time. Therefore, as my kids and I memorize history facts during a given week, we also learn about other historical events from that time period, read stories from the era (literature), examine other cultural happenings from the era (art), and study the places where history happened (geography).
Like the regular Tapestry of Grace curriculum, Tapestry’s Primer makes this easy by including related topics and information for these other subjects in each week’s teaching outline.
Not only does this interdisciplinary approach make the memory work more likely to “stick” in a child’s brain, kids really enjoy learning history this way! They learn that history isn’t an isolated set of facts, but really, a snapshot of all aspects of life from a given era.
2) Include various learning methods for your child's memory work.
Every child is different, and as such, every child learns differently. Plus, I’ve seen that my kids tend to remember information best when we learn about it using different teaching methods.
Tapestry Primer is one of the best curriculums I’ve found that helps parents teach young children the key stories of history using various learning approaches (visual, auditory, kinetic).
Primer’s suggested weekly activities, such as read aloud times and hands-on activities, give a beautiful context for history memory work and really help kids connect the dots, which leads to long-term learning.
As a parent, I appreciate how Primer’s suggested “read, think, do” approach to learning offers tangible methods for teaching all aspects of history (including how to best structure reading, memory work, geography and art/activity time in a given week).
3) Bring the memory work to life through stories of real people from that era.
Everyone loves good stories. And thankfully, history is filled with lots of them.
When we discover the great stories behind weekly memory work, history instantly becomes about so much more than memorized facts. History becomes about real people: their struggles, their victories and their accomplishments.
As we better understand the stories (and people) of a given historical era, we gain great insight as to why history happened the way it did.
Speaking of story (and providing historical context to facts), one thing that I really like about Tapestry’s Primer is that the curriculum includes a separate guidebook for parents to read on their own that explains the material in depth. I’ve found this to be a much-needed element missing in a lot of history programs. It’s much easier to provide my kids additional context to the memory work in easy, conversational ways when I’ve been able to quickly prepare myself on the topic!
4) Connect the memory work to the student’s life.
I loved how Primer’s suggested activities each week (such as creating a journal and writing entries in it) allowed my kids to put themselves in the shoes of historical characters.
For example, when we studied the pioneers earlier this year, my daughter pretended to be a pioneer girl traveling across the prairie. She wrote about it in her pioneer journal and was able to apply her own feelings as an eight-year-old girl to the situation.
I saw how she related the material to her own life because she wrote about how hard it would have been to walk a dozen or so miles a day (we did a 12-mile hike earlier this year), and the joy of experiencing the changing scenery (she got to see the Rocky Mountains for the first time last year and was in awe at their grandeur).
The Primer lessons give kids the opportunity to interact with the historical material so that kids can relate the historical context to their own perspectives. This is such a great way for memory work to come to life for kids!
5) Teach memory work as part of God’s big story.
As Christian parents, we want to find ways to relate the Bible to everything we teach our kids. And by sharing biblical aspects of history (or God’s view on historical events), we can further cement memory work in our children’s hearts.
I appreciate how Primer presents the history information from a rich Christian perspective, truly as “His” story. Several of the activities in Primer (such as re-creating Noah’s Ark and building a ziggarat) help students not only interact with their memory work but also visualize and better understand biblical history.
In addition, Primer helps students recognize biblical character traits (or lack thereof) of key historical figures. Again, this makes history (and the memory work) relatable to everyday life and thus more memorable.
6) Make the history memory work fun and interactive.
Incorporate fun into anything we teach and our kids will remember it!
There are so many fun ways to learn memory work, such as through songs, games, and physical activities (here’s a list of some of our favorite ways to memorize Bible verses).
Make the supplemental history learning enjoyable too (Primer includes a fun activity book with coloring pages, maps and other activities) and it’s a win-win for everyone!
I hope these tips were helpful! Enjoy your history memory work this year, and if you’re looking for a great supplemental history curriculum, I’d highly recommend Tapestry’s Primer (available in print and digital formats here).
You can also download a free sample of the curriculum to try it out for yourself.
FTC Disclosure: I received products from Tapestry of Grace and was compensated for my time. However, all opinions stated here are 100 percent mine, and I was not required to post a positive review.
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