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Podcast | 23 Minutes

What is Memory Period?

Laurie Detweiler Written by Laurie Detweiler
What is Memory Period?

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What in the world happens during a class called “Memory Period”? Is simply memorizing facts enough education for young students?

Today, we chat with Yolanda Statema about the value of this class for grammar students and how its influence can benefit your entire family! We also talk about what methods of memorization ‘stick’ the best and what to do if your child happens to not be into singing memory songs.

Want to explore Memory Period for yourself? Check out the available class times at https://vpsa.veritaspress.com/catalog


Episode Transcription

Note: This transcription may vary from the words used in the original episode for better readability.



Laurie Detweiler:

Welcome to Veritas Vox, the voice of classical Christian Education. Today we have a really fun episode for you, I think. I have my daughter-in-law, Lexi Detweiler, and one of my favorite teachers at Veritas, Yolanda Strada, here with us and we're going to be talking about something that I get asked about a lot. And I know people on our phones get asked, and that is “what is memory period and why is that important?”

So, Lexi, do you have anything that you wanted to start off by talking a little bit about? You know, getting to know Yolanda and that kind of thing?

Lexi Detweiler:

Sure, yeah. And actually, this year is my daughter's first year in online classes and it has been quite a whirlwind the first few weeks just getting used to everything.

Yeah, I can see how a memory period class would definitely benefit her. And my first grade son, who's not in online classes but still having to learn the chants and the songs and everything. So yeah, and I learned that Yolanda teaches the class, and welcome to the show.

Yolanda Statema:

Thank you for having me on.

Laurie Detweiler:

Yolanda, I know people will be interested to hear a little bit about your background and what led you into classical education. So if you want to tell us a little bit about yourself and about your teaching background.

Yolanda Statema:

Yeah, sure. I think my first introduction to classical education was through my parents. They had heard about classical when I was living overseas in England and when I came home they had told me about classical education. So I looked into it and then I started teaching kindergarten in a classical Christian school, and I absolutely fell in love with it.

I fell in love with the purposefulness of the curriculum, just the way it was planned out. I could see already we were just a K-8 school, but I could see already the steps, the progressive steps of what we did in kindergarten and first grade mattered for the rest. And the more I got into classical and then went and taught at a much larger, well-established classical Christian school, I just felt like I'd found my niche, you know?

It was just it was wonderful just to have that plan and that purpose behind the curriculum. Everything was done thoughtfully, and that made a big impact on me. I absolutely loved it and haven't turned back since.

Laurie Detweiler:

Yolanda, I know one thing that everybody always wants to know is how did you become familiar with Veritas? So you can tell us a little bit about that.

Sure. Yes. Very close to me was a gift from God. My parents were getting to the point where they needed a little bit more help at home. And so I was really happy where I was. But it was time to make a move and I wanted to be closer to them. And I knew I wanted to stay, if possible at all, in classical Christian education.

So someone told me that Veritas had started an online school. And so I contacted, I think, just the office and, and, and that was it. And I haven't turned back since. So I love it. I mean, my parents aren't with me anymore, but I just, you know, love being online, love having my students all over the world.

And so I just keep going. The commute is great, too, you know? So there are lots of benefits to the online world. Yeah. So I love it. Absolutely love it.

Laurie Detweiler:

It's great. Well, I said we were going to talk about memory period. Lexi, when you first heard about memory period, what did you as a homeschooling mom think like did you have any idea what it was?

Lexi Detweiler:

No, I didn't have any idea. And I also noticed it was not required. So as a first-time homeschool mom, I always think, okay, I'm just going to do what I have to do. And since it wasn't required, I didn't even look into it. And so I didn't know what the benefits were. So can you explain?

I still kind of know, but I also would love a really good explanation of what memory period is and how you fill up the time in class.

Yolanda Statema:

Okay, so classes fly by because we cover eight different subjects in every class. So every week there's a certain amount of material that is learned for eight different subjects. So it's designed to be a support for, let's say, the kids taking grammar. We learn all the grammar, jingles, we learn all five history songs. So the thing is that it's not every you're not taking five history courses in that year, but let's say we're doing the Middle Ages song.

You know, for some kids that's going to be review. For some they'll have it in the next year or two. So it is designed to support, but also to increase their overall knowledge, their basic grammatical knowledge, you know, so every subject has its grammar stage, right? So we are laying the foundation. We're helping them learn the math facts.

We do all five history songs for each of the levels. We do lyrical life science. So we're learning the vocabulary of science. We're learning all the classifications and oh, did I mention math facts? We do all the math facts. We do a little bit with metrics, you know, just to throw some extra things in there that they're going to come across. The grammar jingles, Surely English jingles.

We do them all, both years we do Westminster catechism. You know, some families are doing that. Others are not. The kids really enjoy you know, we study it a little bit, too, because that's that's new for a lot of them. Plus, we learn the original language, so they need to understand it. And we put everything that we can to music.

Not everything is music, but you know that when you put something to music, it really sticks in your head. So that's our idea. This memorization is so important. So classical education, you know, so is memorizing so much material. I mean, these younger children are able to absorb an incredible amount of material. You know, it took me several years before I learned all five history songs.

They do it in a matter of weeks for each song, you know, it's just amazing how much they can take in. They're like little sponges. And so why not give it to them when they're able to do that? They don't understand it all right away. But that's okay. We've given them those foundational facts. And, you know, we learn all the countries in the world and things like that.

So we give that to them now and they'll build upon it in the next couple of years.

Laurie Detweiler:

One of the things that I've found with children is it's a lot more fun when they do it together.

Yolanda Statema:

Absolutely.

Laurie Detweiler:

You know, will try to have everybody do their grammar chants together or everybody sing their history song. But when they come together like that, it just kind of. Have you found that it builds momentum for them?

Yolanda Statema:

It's just a lot of fun. And studying and drilling like that is not so much fun on your own. But when we do it together and we do it with the music and we do it with games and I quiz them and they can draw on the board and they can scribble out words and try to fill in the blanks.

So there's a lot of different ways to help them memorize. And then I asked them to spend about 15 or 20 minutes a day just drilling the things they have in their list for the week. And that's a great thing too, because they're learning that consistently just a little bit every day and it's amazing how much they can take in.

Lexi Detweiler:

And is it just like a normal class? Are there assessments and things?

Yolanda Statema:

Yeah, there are about every four weeks we have what we call a recitation, which is their test, and they do it at home with their parents because there's no way that I can physically listen to all of them in a classroom. So they do it at home, which is great. You know, some parents just do like a show out of it and say, okay, you know, let's go through and you recite everything you've memorized.

So yeah, there there are those accountabilities you know, every four weeks and then we start the next four weeks fresh. And so, yeah, there is definite accountability to it, which is a good thing as well. And especially at the beginning of their schooling to have those set points.

Lexi Detweiler:

That reminds me what you were saying about having a show, the parents having a show. My grandmother was so impressed with my daughter when she was probably I think she was six years old when she started the Bible course… oh no, when she was in kindergarten and she was singing the books of the Old Testament song.

And my grandmother, every time somebody would come over to you and say, okay, guys, we're going to sing the books of the Bible song.They all did it. Even my son, who was probably four, they all did it there and they did a little show and everybody loved it. Yeah, the greatest thing.

Yolanda Statema:

Yeah. So I always tell the parents this, it's a family class. We only allow the children who are registered for the class to sit in front of the computer. But when they're practicing, everybody in the family hears those songs, you know? So I have had parents send me videos of, you know, their little, little toddlers singing grammar jingles as they were making lunch, you know, and the children in the background too - last year we had a young boy he was reciting.

He didn't know it, but his siblings were behind him, just dancing up a storm because the music was so fun! So I always say it's a whole family class, really. You can't help but learn these things.

Laurie Detweiler:

And I just see what a difference that makes for children long term. I mean, if you talk to any Omnibus teacher, they will tell you the kids that have this stuff memorized and know it. It makes such a difference just and their ability to contextualize and put things in order and know what happened when, you know, I can remember with our my sons who are now in their thirties going to the Smithsonian, and it was the Air and Space Museum, and there was a plane from World War II.

And one of them just happened to see the date. And they screamed out their chant from that part of the song to win the date. And we had a docent with us and they looked at me like, what in the world? Like, who knows this? And so then they all start singing the history song.

And then the docent really looks at me, because this was back before classical was a little bit more well-known. But back then, learning that kind of chronological history, you know, we were forging new paths by doing that.

They were just shocked. But I've just seen what that does for students long term. When they get that, they have it for life.

Yolanda Statema:

Yes, I use it all the time myself. I tell the kids that I'll be out for a walk and all of a sudden one of the songs pop in my head or I'll wake up and something's been in my brain. And I wake up singing a song of maybe geography or one of the catechism songs.

It does. It definitely sticks with you. It does. I think parents all enjoy it as much as the kids.

Laurie Detweiler:

Absolutely. Well I’m going to have Lexi - I'm going to prod her with this question, but she happens to have a little boy who...

Lexi Detweiler:

My son hates songs. He doesn't hate music. He loves music. He loves dancing. But when I turned on the phonics song, or the geography songs in the car, we will scream and tell me to turn it off.

And I don't know even what type of learning style that is. Maybe, you know, like why it's really bothering him, but he's not really into it. So how can I get him excited about it? Yeah, because I know the benefits of it and I know that he would really do well if he could memorize it.

Yolanda Statema:

But yeah, so always have kids that are like that in class, you know, where they say, I just don't like to sing. And you know what? It's okay. They're hearing the music anyway. Lexi So they're getting it anyway. But if they're not comfortable singing on the mic, I'll just have them chant it. I say, You know, it works as well to put something to a rhythm, you know.

So I'll encourage them, like for math or anything. I was just doing it in geography the other day. We were trying to memorize latitude and longitude and the prime meridian and the equator. And so I just put it to row, row, row your boat. And I did the longitude to London Bridge is Falling Down because longitude is in London.

So and I just said do it like this, make up your own tune then or make up your own rhythm or go and jump rope or something to do your math facts or skip counting it just be as creative as you want. I said, even it when you're doing a motion, it's helping you memorize. If they're not comfortable with singing, I can't make them sing.

Everybody has their different thing that they enjoy. And so just get creative. Yeah.

Laurie Detweiler:

As a special education teacher, I always get this question, “My child just can't memorize. What do you do? How do you handle students like that in the class?” What do you do when parents come to you and say that?

Yolanda Statema:

Do you know, to be honest, it doesn't happen often. And sometimes it's the special education students that thrive on the memorization. So we use a lot of multisensory things. It's seeing it, it is hearing it. It's saying if you put motions to it, you're moving to it.

That kind of reaches out to a whole lot of different learning styles. Right. So yeah, I have not had that question come up very often.

Laurie Detweiler:

Over the years and I always tell parents I look at special education a little bit differently and that I'm not just looking at it for today. So my thing, my question that I always ask is, “What do they need when they're 30 years old?” You know, I just one day picked 30 because that's when everybody's on their own, right?

So what did they need? And I've just seen the importance of even a child that does have a diagnosis that I know memorization is hard for. You know, sometimes even I'll just have cue cards that I give them to help trigger things so they might not be able to give me, let's say, the entire sentence jingle right away as quickly as everybody else.

But if I give them cue cards that help them remember, then they will. And so I don't see that as a crutch in the sense of eventually we're getting rid of those cue cards. It might take them a little bit longer. But what I always tell parents is it may be hard and we may have to find some tools to help make it work, but in the long run, it is so worth it because this is a skill they need when they're older.

And so doing it now when they're young, learning how to use what God has given them in a way that they can and learn how to work with that is so important. And it also those children that it is extra hard when they get it their way. It makes them feel about it.

Yolanda Statema:

And the reward is even greater. Yeah.

Laurie Detweiler:

Yes. It's just so incredible and it lets them know, hey, I can do this. The world may be telling me I can't do this, but I can. And so I always tell everybody, teachers, parents, whatever may be twice as hard, but it is so worth the effort. It really is.

Yolanda Statema:

And that's the beauty of homeschooling as well, Laurie, because we can cater to whatever that child needs. So we work with mom and say, okay, well, this is going to help, so let's just change that a little bit for them so that they can have that success, you know? So that's the wonderful thing of homeschooling. It's like that's part of the education and the way it's done.

And I think VSA is fantastic at working with families, you know,, to accommodate and to make sure that that child gets the best thing for them.

Lexi Detweiler:

So can you, speaking of homeschooling and fitting everything in, first of all, what grade level is this recommended for? Like, is it too late if I just started school with like a sixth grader, is it too late for them to do this class?

Yolanda Statema:

It's not. But my hesitation with, say, a sixth grader, is that they're going to have a lot of adjustments anyway coming into classical Christian education unless they're coming from a classical background. So there's going to be a lot of new material for them. The rigors of it, I mean, you know, we're not ashamed to say we are rigorous and it is work.

Memory Period is work. You know, there's quite a lot to do if you stick with it. And I encourage the kids all the time, stay with it day by day so that at the end of the week, you can check all the boxes on the course assignment sheet, you know, because if you do get behind, then it can be overwhelming, so I think the younger they are, the better.

So like memory period one, I think our recommendation is like 8 to 10 years old. So I would say if you could do memory period one like second in third grade and memory period to third and fourth, then you've got a really strong foundation to build upon and you've got those core things. And then when work starts to get a little bit more in fifth and sixth grade, then you've got that foundation already.

We don't do a memory grade three, so it's just the two cycles that we go through. I think that that's really beneficial.

Lexi Detweiler:

Okay.

Yolanda Statema:

And I've had sixth graders for sure. I've had even some students that were older than that where English wasn't their first language. And so they were learning, you know, a lot of the basic things for the first time. So it was very beneficial for them. I would say the younger, the better.

Laurie Detweiler:

I would say for the parent who hasn't done it and they come in from the side. You know, I always say taking memory period class might not be the wrong thing, but that doesn't mean you can't slowly memorize these things and add them to, you know, when a child is taking, let's say, grammar and writing and they're starting off in sixth grade, it's a lot to memorize.

You know, you look at the difference between a child who's taken memory period for a couple of years and knows all their chants and knows all of that. They're really learning how to work with that material whereas the 6th grader not only do they have to learn how to work with it, but now they've got to memorize all these chants.



Yolanda Statema:

Yes.

Laurie Detweiler:

What I tell people is, if that's where you're at, go ahead and start working on memorizing these things. But you might not get in. But some is better than none is the way I look at it.

So and sometimes you can take I have had students where they had a lot of other things, but their moms wanted them to do the memory period. And then they just did what they could of it, you know, to get themselves going. And that works as well, you know, whatever is best for that child in that family.

So one of the last things I wanted to talk about and it wasn't, you know, on an outline that we had, but I know that I get this question, so that's why I'm going to ask it. There are some curriculum out there in grammar school that have such a heavy emphasis on memory that everything else gets excluded almost.

And so one of the things that I've found is this is foundational, but it's not the end of everything, right? So like you were talking about the Westminster catechism, just memorizing those is not enough, right? The purpose of memorizing them is so that you have them to draw upon. And so.

If all I do is have a child memorize a sentence, sentence sentences, complete, complete, complete with five simple rules anyway, but they can't write a sentence, so it doesn’t really matter. And so we see children all the time that we test coming in, that they can do all their chants because they've been doing that for years, but they can't write a paragraph. So talk a little bit about how this is foundational, but it's not the end goal, even in grammar school.

Yolanda Statema:

Right, right. So I'll start that off with a little story. When I was teaching first grade it was my first year teaching the grammar jingles. And so I taught the kids the noun jingle. And one day I just said, okay, so what's a noun? And they looked at me like I had two heads, right? But they could sing the jingle inside and out.

Correct. But we hadn’t stepped back and said, okay, now we need to use that jingle to figure out this sentence. And then we were just getting into the diagramming sentences, you know, and the question-answer flow and this, that, and the other. But it was such an eye opener to me and I said, Yeah, we can, we can learn all these songs and they can memorize them.

But this is the beginning point. You know, I'm helping them learn the jingles, but when they're in grammar class and writing class, they're using that knowledge. They're putting it into practice, so to speak, you know. So in that way, I kind of see where we’re the support we're just kind of giving them that foundation, but they have to know how to use it then. That's what develops over time as well within the classical system, they don't understand a lot of the things that they're memorizing yet, but they have them in the memory bank, you know, so that as they grow and they go through that through their classes

and their grade levels, and then as they get into the dialectic stage to where the understanding and the reasoning starts to come more and the logic fits, and then they have those bits of knowledge to draw on, right? Because if they don't have those things, you know, they're really starting from scratch. So we're giving them the basic knowledge, but they have to figure out they have to, you know, they have to learn how to put it into practice.

Laurie Detweiler:

I came in the other day and my grandson slapped a purple sticky note on me and I'm like, What? But what is this? And you know, I looked around my house and there were sticky notes everywhere. Well, you've been doing this now jingle and.

Had him using his noun jingle. A noun is a person, place or thing. So, yeah, we're putting, you know, purple sticky notes on people, yellow sticky notes on things.

It was so great because I just run into so many people that their emphasis and grammar stage is just on memorization without realizing that that isn’t just enough. And if that's really what you do most of your time and yeah, well you're not going to be able to go into the dialectic stage.

Yolanda Statema:

No.

Laurie Detweiler:

You’re not going to go into secondary school and do well. There's just more that's out there.

Yolanda Statema:

Yeah. I mean it's why I take the time to explain the catechism class. Right. You know, the questions with them, especially for the ones who aren't doing that at home or in church, you know, what good is it if they're memorizing words? Nothing. They might remember it when they're older and say, oh, that's what that means, but I need to explain that to them now.

At their grade level where they understand it and then they memorize it and hopefully that will stay with them and they will draw on it again in the future. And I think, you know, that goes with all the subjects we do.

Laurie Detweiler:

Lexi do you have anything else that you want to add to this today?

Lexi Detweiler:

The only other thing, it's just a practical question that I had, was how would I fit this class into my already full load of classes?

I feel like I'm struggling to get everything done. It maybe it helps. Maybe helps with all the other classes to go a little bit faster. But would you recommend that somebody fit this class into their schedules?

Yolanda Statema:

So this class, I think one of the benefits is the daily routine of it, and that's establishing good work habits, just a regular every day five, you know. Well, I would say like 15, 15 to 20 minutes a day would be fantastic, you know, and it's amazing how much you get done in 15 to 20 minutes. So some families I know do it first thing in the morning before they get started.

They just go through and they recite and they sing and then they go off on the rest of their day. So, you know, the kids are fresh then as well. So I think the morning is a great time. Families are incredibly creative. You know, I once had a family where they had special markers that they could put the catechism question up on the mirror in the morning and then they would erase words every day.

We call that the scribble game, till they had that question memorized for the week. And at that time we were doing two a week. Now we just do the one. So creativity does help. But I think just setting aside that, let's say 20 minutes, you know, a day, you'll be amazed.

Laurie Detweiler:

I used to do it in the car. They knew that the minute we hit the car that was the first thing we were going to do was just go to our catechism. And they were normally they weren't allowed to be loud in the car, but during that time they were allowed to be as loud as they wanted. Therefore they thought that was a good thing. I always said they were always loud and getting scolded to please not be loud. So I let them scream and shout those jingles as loud as they wanted, and that's what I would do.

Yolanda Statema:

We put everything in a binder. So the beginning of the year, they have the words for everything that we memorize for the year. So they put it in a really thin binder and I said, That's always great to take with you wherever you are. So if you have a sibling at the dentist appointment, take it with you while you're waiting.

Sing a few songs, do it in the car, going to, you know. So it's just really making the most of those extra times.

Lexi Detweiler:

Yeah, that's great.

Laurie Detweiler:

Right? Well, Yolanda, I want to thank you so much for joining us today. I know that this is a question that I get asked a lot and I hope that this is helpful. I think it helped Lexi to hear as a homeschooling mom.

Lexi Detweiler:

Yeah, thank you. And if you like what you hear, just leave us a comment. Or if you have a suggestion for a topic you'd like to have covered you can leave us a comment on www.veritaspress.com/vox

Laurie Detweiler:

Thank you. Bye bye.