Why Memorize

I have written before about why we memorize, what we memorize and also that I have thought long and hard about if memorization has any use outside of learning things by rote themselves.

Here’s another quote I found in Mihály Csíkszentmihályis Flow which is a fantastic book to read if you haven’t already done so.

Besides dealing with how to achieve moments and lives in which we are not just dependent on society, but search within ourselves to create meaning and thus live meaningful lives, he has much to say about socialization and memorization as well.

Here’s what he has to say about learning things by rote.

Learning complex patterns of information by heart is by no means a waste of effort. A mind with some stable content to it is much richer than one without. It is a mistake to assume that creativity and rote learning are incompatible. Some of the most original scientists for instance have been known to have memorized music, poetry, or historical information extensively.

And this is perhaps my favorite part and relates directly to homeschooling.

A person who can remember stories, poems, lyric of songs, baseball statistics, chemical formulas, mathematical operations, historical dates, biblical passages, and wise quotations has many advantages over one who has not cultivated such a skill. The consciousness of such a person is independent of the order that may or may not be provided by the environment. She can always amuse herself and find meaning in the contents of her mind. While others need external stimulation to keep their mind from drifting into chaos, the person whose memory is stocked with patterns is autonomous and self contained.

You can buy Flow here.

From “The Lost Tools of Learning” by Dorothy Sayers

If you have read my book The Classical Unschooleryou know that I think The Lost Tools of Learning is arguably the best essay I have read about how learning takes place and so how best to teach (and learn!)

If you haven’t read it yet, make it a point to do so.

Here are some great takeaways from the book to whet your appetite.

Although we often succeed in teaching our pupils “subjects,” we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think? They learn everything, except the art of learning.

For we let our young men and women go out unarmed, in a day when armour was never so necessary. By teaching them all to read, we have left them at the mercy of the printed word. By the invention of the film and the radio, we have made certain that no aversion to reading shall secure them from the incessant battery of words, words, words. They do not know what the words mean; they do not know how to ward them off or blunt their edge or fling them back; they are a prey to words in their emotions instead of being the masters of them in their intellects.

We who were scandalised in 1940 when men were sent to fight armoured tanks with rifles, are not scandalised when young men and women are sent into the world to fight massed propaganda with a smattering of “subjects”; and when whole classes and whole nations become hypnotised by the arts of the spell-binder, we have the impudence to be astonished. We dole out lip-service to the importance of educationlip-service and, just occasionally, a little grant of money; we postpone the school leaving-age, and plan to build bigger and better schools; the teachers slave conscientiously in and out of school-hours, till responsibility becomes a burden and a nightmare; and yet, as I believe, all this devoted effort is largely frustrated, because we have lost the tools of learning, and in their absence can only make a botched and piecemeal job of it.

You can buy The Lost Tools of Learning here

And if you haven’t yet read The Classical Unschooler, pick up a copy here.

If You Can’t Homeschool, What’s The Next Best Alternative?

I was listening to the Isaac Morehouse podcast today – which if you don’t listen to, you really should – and I came across this question about homeschooling which I have heard elsewhere.

“If you cannot homeschool, what’s the next best alternative?”

Listen at 53:42 for the listener question and the answer.