Originally written and posted in August 2011

So I redid our memory work routine at the end of the 2010-2011 school year, for several reasons:

  1. It came to my attention that simply listening to the memory work, as we had been doing, was not sinking it in. They recognized familiar passages, and could fill in a blank here or there, but they were nowhere near having it memorized.

  2. Hans’ poetry memory by simply reading aloud the same poem daily, had him memorizing a poem in about 2 weeks, and it was simple and painless.

  3. I listened to a talk by Sonya Schafer (I got it on special; it was good, but I’m not sure it was $6 good), where she explained not only her memory system, which I had seen before, and used with modifications before, but where she also reminded mothers that Bible memory is a lifelong habit we are trying to instill — in ourselves as well as our children — not a “trick kids do for a treat” and that it is so much more than a good thing to do for school. She emphasized, in showing her system, that review is key, and having just read Seven Laws of Teaching, I knew she was right.

So, I took her system, but, of course, I modified it.

  1. I wanted each reading child to have their own binder and follow along. The reason I switched to listening to our memory work is because for some reason repeating after me or just saying it as they knew it seemed to be too much pressure or they just didn’t do it. Now I’m wondering if it was just age. When they were younger, they absorbed everything they listened to, now they’re older and they have their own thoughts going on too much for listening to sink in that deeply. Knowing that reading aloud daily has worked, though, I want to give them something to do along with me, because just sitting there listening until they know it is painful. Plus, rather than make them follow along with their ears and mouth only, they will now follow along with their ears and mouth and eyes, too.
  2. I knew it would have to be a binder, because there is no way I’m handwriting (or reading) entire Psalms or chunks of 10 or more verses on index cards. And even if we memorize fewer passages or take longer to memorize, I think memorizing an entire thought rather than an out-of-context nugget is a better practice. I can’t believe how many times even recently I’ve read a chapter in the epistles and thought, “What? I know both those verses. They go together? Huh.” So we memorize longer sections. And, if it means it’s not memorized as thoroughly as a shorter passage would be, I’m ok with that, because 1) it’s somewhere in their head for the Holy Spirit to use as He pleases, even if they can’t muster it up to perform it; 2) they will encounter it hundreds of times in their life and build on the familiarity; 3) large chunks and whole thoughts also build language patterns in their minds, which they will be able to draw on when they start writing.

  3. Her system seemed like it would be too clunky in one binder with so many tabs. Plus, I know myself and that we will go through phases of Circle Time being hit-or-miss, and then it’s not really review, is it? I wanted fewer tabs to deal with myself, I wanted more frequent review (especially since we have fewer passages since they are longer), and I wanted it to not be too cumbersome for my 6-year-old.

So, here’s my binder layout:

1) Tabs: hymns, catechism, daily, Psalms, passages

Memory Work Organization Binder

A) Hymns: The first hymn when you turn the tab is the hymn we’re learning. After that, all the hymns we’ve learned are alphabetical. A yellow flag is stuck on the second hymn we’ll sing. So we sing the hymn we’re learning, then turn to the yellow tab, sing that hymn, then move the flag to the next page. We just cycle through the hymns we know regularly, but without some hymns getting skipped because a a particular day of the week tends to get skipped.

Memory Work Organization Binder

B) Catechism: I have 5 Catechism for Young Children questions per sheet (give or take; I tried to keep related questions together), and then 1 or 2 of the 12 Heidelberg we know on a sheet. A yellow flag is on one sheet (it started out on the first sheet, and we all move it together), and we read the catechism on that sheet — I read the question and they read the answer. When we’re done, we move our flags to the next sheet for the next day.

Memory Work Organization Binder/p>

C) Daily: In this tab is the Psalm and the passage we’re working to learn this term. We read all sheets (2) behind this tab every day.

D) Psalms: These are Psalms we’ve already memorized (I’m using that word loosely; I already admitted that retention has not been good). Again, there is a flag on one, we read that one all together, then move the flag.

Memory Work Organization Binder

E) Passages: These are the non-Psalm Scriptures we’ve memorized. We turn to the flag, read that one, then move the flag.

Memory Work Organization Binder

I was a little cautious in my hopes about how the whole moving-the-flag procedure would work in practice, but it worked like a charm. We used this binder for about the last month of our last school year and it went like a breeze. No balking, no excuse for remaining silent, and a feeling of ownership with their own binder. We have 8 Psalms behind the Psalms tab, so we should be reviewing each one at least every other week. There are 10 passages in the review passages section, so they too should get hit every other week. This will be good, because really we will be memorizing them in earnest all over again. There are 35 pages of catechism, so we will only go through them all roughly once per term. Eventually I might break some out so we have less frequent and more frequent passages (like Sonya’s 31-days-tabs), but for now I think this will work best for our situation.

I also still have all our memory work on a playlist, and we sometimes listen to it in the car, or the boys listen to it on an old iPod shuffle during quiet time.

2012 Update:

The binders helped Circle Time flow as smoothly as it ever has at our house. I only had to replace the moving tabs once, but now near the end of the year the binders are cracking and pages are torn or missing, so they will have to be redone. Next week I’ll show up my new versions, made more durable for daily boy use.

Related Homeschool Memory Work Posts:


  1. This is such a good way to organize it all! We’ve been using recipe sized sheets printed from the computer and kept in a file box. Hmmm, maybe I’ll upgrade to binders.

    I have one suggestion from my book design years. Seeing such a long column width of text raising a fatigue flag in my mind. I know it helps me to have passages visually broken up into phrases. Maybe I’m more visual than most, but, even having items in a list on separate lines helps me memorize and doesn’t fatigue my eyes/mind as much.

    Just an idea . . . :-)

    1. Thanks, Andrea! These pictures are from last year, and I’m going to be redoing them for next year, so I’ll definitely make those adjustments. Turns out printer paper and normal binders don’t hold up an entire year in boys’ hands. :) Everything is going in page protectors for next year. :)

      I knew a file box at our house would land on the floor or in a toddler’s hands and had no chance of staying in order. At least undoing a binder takes a little more intention — and time. :)

  2. I’ve been using a similar system ever since you posted it last year, and its been great! Instead of a binder I printed all our verses in booklet form (an option on our printer) and we have a published booklet of the catechism. Since we review Bible verses at breakfast and catechism at lunch, we only use one booklet per meal and read 1 current and 1 review page each time.

  3. Great system, Mystie. We have been mostly miss with Circle Time since I was pregnant last year, which is a shame since I had just started everyone with a CT binder (display book – do you have those? They’re a book full of page protectors that are sort of bound like comb binding).

    I’ve been drowning lately with regard to school, so I decided to drop things back to basics for a term (10 weeks). Now is a good time to add CT back in properly. You have suitably inspired me. Thanks.

    In Him


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