I am wondering if you can tell me how your Father “incentivized” you guys to memorize poems, scriptures, and quotes when you were growing up. {I talked all about how my dad had us memorize stuff back in this post.} I have bought a chalkboard and want to have a Family Home Evening to introduce this. I think it was Elder Scott {a leader in our church} who gave a great talk in the last conference on the importance of being able to bring scriptures readily to our mind. I just wondered if you could tell me how your family handled this. I would really like to generate as much excitement as possible because I think it is so important for them to feed their minds with uplifting thoughts. I appreciate any input or ideas you can give me.

I happened to receive this question right as I was reading the very part that explained this in my parent’s book The Entitlement Trap (which, and I know I’m biased, is my favorite book right now). Let me just quote from there how my parents got us to memorize things in their own words:

“Memorizing is not very much in favor among educators today. Rote learning and other repetitions methods are thought to be less creative and stimulating than other forms of instruction.

But oh, how memorizing focuses the mind and trains the concentration! And it can be a form of gaining mental ownership of concepts and values.

Part of our family economy was a provision that if kids got 90 percent of their responsibilities done for the week (eighteen of their twenty possible pegs for the five-day school week), they would get their money doubled. We wanted to reward consistency. The problem came when a conscientious child worked hard but forgot a couple of things and came up just short–earning sixteen or seventeen pegs. We felt like we needed a way for the child to be able to make up the difference and get the bonus of doubled earnings.

So we began giving them a bonus for memorizing particular quotes or scriptures or sayings that we would find that tied in with and taught [values we were striving to teach them]. The idea had two benefits: (1) It allowed a child to exceed his or her goal of eighteen or more pegs, and (2) It implanted values more permanently in their minds.

Boy howdy did those things we memorized ever make a difference to us. I think all nine of us kids could quote most of them pretty close to perfectly all these years later. And I’m so grateful for the things they instilled into my heart at a young age. Some of the quotes we memorized growing up are listed in the book (The Entitlement Trap) and I got a little teary-eyed as I read them on the airplane on a trip a while back:

“See how the masses of men worry themselves into nameless graves, while here and there, a great unselfish soul forgets himself into immortality.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Sweet are the uses of adversity which, like the toad, ugly and venemous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head. And so our lives, free from public haunt, find tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stone, and good in every thing.” — William Shakespeare

“If you don’t like your lot in life, build a service station on it.” — Anonymous

“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by failing to attempt.” — William Shakespeare

“Happiness? It is an illusion to think that more comfort brings more happiness. True happiness comes of the capacity to enjoy simple, to feel deeply, to think freely, to risk life, to be needed.” — Storm Jameson

Do we do the memorization thing in our family, you might ask. And the answer to that is no. But it’s not for lack of wanting. I almost put my children in different school when we moved here just because it required the students to memorize a poem every month and recite it to the class/school…whatever. Oh man I wanted my kids to do that…for memorization AND how great it is to get up and “perform” in front of people like that.

But alas, the rest of the school parts didn’t match up with our needs, so to the local elementary school they went with a vow from their mother that I would still have them memorize.

I envisioned myself lovingly working with them on memorizing things and having them stand in front of the family and recite beautiful poems or quotes or scriptures each month.

That was ten years ago and so far borrowing a folder of great poems to memorize from my friend is as far as I’ve gotten. It’s now gathering dust. But I’m going to get to it if it kills me (and I’ll get you back your folder Karen! :). I’ll report on that when we get a good system going.

We do have our “quote board” at the top of the stairs though, and maybe those quotes sink in more than I give them credit for.
And now, as much as I’d love to answer a dozen more questions, I must go be a responsible mother. I promise I’ll get to more questions at some point…I have such a nice list of really good ones. I just can’t get to them as quickly as I’d like!

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  1. I like the "extra credit" idea from your parents. I think it allows for the focus to be on that child and his/her needs and motivations. It's a great way to personalize their responsiblities.

  2. In my family we choose a scripture and recite it every morning before scripture study. We've learned all the Articles of Faith, Joseph Smith's First Vision, the BOM promise and a variety of scripture verses. To review we've made up a game called "Stump the Kroff" that we'll play while traveling or at FHE where we quiz each other. I got the idea when I realized that the YW recite the YW values once a week and it eventually gets memorized. Doesn't take much time and is very effective. rock on

  3. I have always used the family reading room (aka the bathroom) to post quotes and poems and many of them stick in time. When my girls hear one of them, they say, "That's a bathroom quote and recite it."

    Right now I am competing with my 11 dd to memorize the Gettysburg address for her assignment. I knew she didn't want to do it so I made her a deal. If she learns it first, I take her out to a French bakery (her choice of restaurant). If I beat her, she owes me a hand/foot massage. If she wins, I win, cause then I can stop. It's harder for me with old brain cells. 😉

    When the kids were younger, we would recite poems before scripture study and with just one or two readings a day, they would memorize them over time. Fun times!

    I remember reading that those in concentration camps or POW survived best if they had memorized things in their brains to keep them going. I told my kids that every year.

    Good luck everyone.

  4. I love that your family grew up memorizing quotes. My husband and I decided to have our children memorize the Articles of Faith and also some children's poetry. I think adding excellent quotes in the mix is a terrific idea! 🙂 🙂 There is much to be gained by listening to, reading, and memorizing beautiful language… 🙂

  5. Man I need to get my hands on this book. We have half of our kids raised but I have to think "it is never to late."
    The seminary scripture mastery's are great place to start. We don't lack things to memorize that's for sure. Sometimes I am just lazy.

    Thanks for keeping your blog real. I loved meeting you and your mother in Richmond TOFW. I just wanted to sit and visit. You are both so sincere and gracious.

  6. I just discovered your blog, and I love it! I just wanted to comment about my husband's family. His father is an avid reader and scholar, and to promote a love of literature and memorizing in his kids they would memorize poems on long car rides. My husband still remembers many of them or at least parts. I love that idea, but I'm like you- haven't done it with my kids. But my oldest is only 7, so we've got time. Anyway, thought you'd like that idea. And again, thank for a beautiful blog!

  7. Shawni- It made my day on Friday to see my question as your Friday Q&A – Thank you!! You always inspire me so much and have such wonderful ideas for us all to "piggyback" on. Thanks so much for all you do for all of us out here in the worldwide web! 🙂

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