When I first began to homeschool, I read all about a classical and Charlotte Mason education. Soaking up every bit of teaching available, I became increasingly convinced of the merits of memory work. We launched into memory work full speed ahead, memorizing a variety of lists, from poetry to ancient Egyptian kings. My five year old performed the amazing feat of reciting all 43 presidents of the United States of America in order for our homeschool groups annual presentations. I was so proud of her and anxiously began searching for the next miracle memory task.
Providentially, a few years into this process, I read an article by a woman that was having her children memorize long passages of scripture. That was a huge turning point. I simply could not believe we had spent so much time memorizing things that would perish with this world. For what has the power to shape my children? The Word of God. What has the power to transform their lives? God's Word. What gives instruction for living? What gives direction? Hope? Life? Scripture, Scripture, Scripture. Why would I spend such precious time focusing on things that do not have the power to nourish my child the way God's Word does? The purpose of memory work is not the item memorized, it's the act of memorization. The list means nothing, but the engaging of the mind in memory work is what builds the child's intellect. However, with the time we spend on memory work we could not only build his intellect, but fill his mind with life giving manna from heaven.
When a child memorizes lists of ancient kings or modern presidents, the information may very well be valuable, it may very well be helpful in future studies. But it isn't life transforming. It doesn't have the power to give your child peace in this life, joy in this life, purpose in this life and conviction to lead them on the paths of righteousness. Kings will be forgotten, presidents will be studied later, and lists will lose their importance. But when our child hides the Living Word of God in their hearts, it will never fail them. The Holy Spirit will be able to use those very Scriptures to give them direction, understanding or conviction throughout the rest of their lives. Remember that one of the Holy Spirit's jobs is to remind us of everything Jesus has taught us, as Jesus told His disciples on the night of His crucifixion.
Memorizing Scripture will arm our children for battle, providing a light unto their path and a lamp unto their feet. Is there anything more important than that? If our children grow up to become professors of ancient history, will we be thrilled if they care not for their God? However, if our children are passionatly in love with Jesus, easily moved by the Holy Spirit and overflowing with the wisdom that can only come from God, pouring forth rivers of Living Water that well up from within, it matters not what career path they choose, for we will be delighted with the person they have become.