The Classical Cat Corner

Wear the old coat and buy the new book. --Austin Phelps

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Poetry and memorization.....

and writing and, and, and....

Mungo has me thinking again; he does this quite often. (Thanks, Mungo!) Actually, before I read Mungo's blog today, I had been thinking of adding more poetry reading and more memorization into our lives. I also have a friend who asked me to enlighten her on memorization and its importance. That requires some thought for me. I'm really good with reading and knowing what I want and if it appeals to me and work for our family, but explaining it to someone else....that is another story. (Maybe I need practice with narrations, huh?)

Another reason I'm thinking of memorization again is because a new co-op is starting in our area. It is called Classical Conversations. Most of the emphasis is placed on memorization. We haven't been doing so well this year with memorization...or last year for that matter. I guess I should give myself a little credit; we have been memorizing Latin and Bible verses.

I read in The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer, that "memorization and recitation of poetry is an important part of the reading process; it exercises the child's memory, stores beautiful language in his mind, and gives him practice in speaking aloud (early preparation for the rhetoric stage)." Jessie Wise says that while schooling her children, she did not know she was using the theory of classical education (neo-classical to be exact). She was doing what she had been taught by her aunt and uncle. In the evenings her aunt would have her memorize list after list--multiplication tables, parts of speech, etc. When she began to use her aunt's method to educate her own children, she found that the three part method of memorization, logical organization and clear expression put her children far above their peers.

Neo-classical education is based upon the process of memorization, organization and expression; the three stages of the trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric). There is a very specific three-part pattern to this: the mind must be first supplied with facts and images, then given the logical tools for organization of those facts and images, and finally equipped to express conclusions.

To borrow from Mungo's post, many are challenging the notion that if you have a good reader, you will then have a good writer. Arguments are being made nowadays - as classical educators all the way back to Quintilian have - that two things will stock the student's mind with the needed material to draw on when writing: Listening (being read to out loud) and Memorization. In order for good writing to come, you must fill the student's mind with the material to draw on. Memorization is there to be the "peg" upon which to hang further material. These mental "pegs" will be there to hold information that can be used in writing and that will one day be expound upon. Having this information in a student's brain will help him when he gets into the logic stage and will then want to know the "whys" and "whats" and how it all fits together. I really recommend reading The Well-Trained Mind. Even if you don't want to follow all or ANY of the guidelines that are in this book, it will definitely give you quite a bit to chew on.

So I encourage you to explore various sources of information....poetry, historical information, scientific information, Scripture. Fill their minds with the GREAT stuff. It will reap many rewards in the end.


At 11:10 PM, Anonymous Lisa said...

This was an excellent post!

Thanks for inspiring me always!

Love ya!


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