Keep It and Give It Away: 6 Tools for Self-Education, Part 5

Homeschool Memorization and Recitation

I was talking with a mother recently whose daughter had memorized a poem. The mother shared how some relatives had stopped by, and the mother had taken advantage of their visit to encourage her daughter to recite the poem for them.

At first the girl was hesitant, but she took courage, stood before them, and shared the poem. The relatives were thrilled and the little girl gained confidence. The next time her mother asked her to recite for someone else, she was ready and eager to give her gift of recitation.

For that’s what the poem had become to her: a gift that she could give away and at the same time keep.

Tool #5: Memorize and Recite

Memorizing is a well-known tool for self-education. It’s a great way to cement material in your mind. When you memorize something you take it into yourself and it becomes a part of your thought processes.

That’s why Charlotte Mason reminded us to to make sure what is being memorized is worthwhile. Twaddle and lists of dry facts are inferior to worthy thoughts well put.

“It is a delightful thing to have the memory stored with beautiful, comforting, and inspiring passages” (Vol. 1, p. 253).

Memorization has a place in self-educating, but memorization is just the beginning. There is a related tool that is just as powerful: recitation.

Recitation is not just saying the words aloud; it is seeking to communicate the author’s intention and emotions. (I have changed “child” in the comment below to remind us that the principle applies to all ages.)

“The [one reciting] should speak beautiful thoughts so beautifully, with such delicate rendering of each nuance of meaning, that he becomes to the listener the interpreter of the author’s thought” (Vol. 1, p. 223).

That’s a big responsibility and it takes preparation to do it well. But the interesting thing is that such preparation plays a big part in self-educating. As you grapple with how to present certain phrases, you ponder each one’s different facets and come to a deeper understanding of what it means and what it doesn’t mean.

The material becomes more firmly implanted in your own heart and mind as you work to give it away to others. That’s the beauty of this tool for self-education.


  1. The hole series “tools for self-education” is very very helpful for me. Thanks a lot. It’s a pity it doesn’t continue after 6 posts….

    Wouldn’t there be much more to say about “self-education”? Our oldest child is in 7th grade, and, unfortunately it isn’t so easy for her to “self-educate” like I imagined it would be. And I know many other homeschool families who are struggling at this point.

    However, it’s a key point! If we don’t get it right, we’re lost when the children grow older, especially when we have two, three or even more children following…

    • Happily, there are two more posts coming after this one. I hope the ideas in them will be helpful as we continue the discussion on self-education. You’re right, it is key!

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