Memorizing Scripture With Kids

One of our family’s biggest goals is having our children memorize lots and lots of scripture. We used to do single verses (and start with the excellent ABC Bible verses when our kids are preschoolers), but Anna told me several years ago that her family was having success learning bigger chunks together. Since Anna and I actually memorized some pretty great chunks together in college—Proverbs 31, Ephesians 1, Romans 8, a few Psalms—I figured we’d try it with T, too. After working through some Psalms, my husband decided we should tackle a Gospel. We memorize in the ESV, as we find it to be readable and accurate, and most of the churches we’ve been a part of have made the move to the ESV. Currently, my son and I are memorizing the gospel of Mark, just finishing up chapter 6. Since my oldest daughter joined us for formal school this year, she jumped in with us on the story of the healing of Jairus’ daughter in 5.

What we do is simply take a new verse every school day and repeat it until it is memorized. On Fridays, we cycle through and review the previous chapters we’ve learned. It’s simple, but a few of you have asked for more details. Here’s what we do.

I have written out each verse in our school planner, so after we’ve started our day with prayer, I read it out loud to the kids several times. If there are any new words they don’t understand (last week, it was “overhearing”), I stop and explain the meaning to them. Once they feel comfortable, they start saying pieces of it along with me. Then we break it up and say phrases back and forth to each other, taking turns. Then we do one word at a time, with me pointing to each of us when it’s our turn to say the next word. Once we feel pretty confident, we lock it in by saying it in different silly voices: cowboy, princess, pirate, lego micromanager, robot, British accent, lion, mouse, Valley girl, opera singer. On days when they have the sillies, I have them clap each syllable as we say it. Or we sing and dance each word. Or hop or skip or march each word. Often, if it’s a bit convoluted (“to Caperneum, and Idumea, and beyond the Jordan, and around Tyre and Sidon”), we’ll use hand or finger motions to help keep the phrases straight.

Finally, we put it in context, backing up a couple verses in the chapter and adding our new verse to the end. If the verse breaks off mid-sentence (or if it’s so long that we needed to divide it up between two days), I’ll finish by reading what’s coming next.

All in all, it usually takes less than 10 minutes. Throughout the rest of the day, we’ll often to ESV verses set to music (Seeds Family Worship or Fighter Verse songs) or just to You’ve Got the Time (an audio version of the NT, read aloud with some sound effects in 30 minute podcast segments). We don’t formally work to memorize those verses, but it’s amazing how well they get hidden in our hearts, too.

Posted in Family Traditions, Home Life, Homeschooling | Leave a comment

On Jonah Days, I Bake Cookies

It had been one of those days. The kids were screaming and crying, I found myself yelling as I tried to prep dinner, it was raining too hard to send the kids outside, no one could agree on what to watch or listen to, the house was a mess, and I was counting down the minutes until my husband came home. As I pulled dinner out of the oven at his normal arrival time, the phone rang. I said out loud, “If this is him telling me he hasn’t left the office, I’m going to cry.” Sure enough, a stressed voice on the other line told me that he didn’t know when he’d be home—tons of students had stopped by to talk, the faculty meeting had gone long, and he had a lot left to do. He was having a rough day, too.

Has this happened to anyone else?  So I had two choices at this point. I could get mad because I’d exerted myself on a bad day to make a special meal for him, and if I’d known at 3pm that it was just the kids and me for dinner, I would have made boxed mac and cheese. Instead, I chose plan B. I fed the kids their gourmet meal, set them loose in the trashed family room, and called my mom for an attitude adjustment. I described the situation, she empathized and encouraged, then I told the kids we were making chocolate chip cookies for Daddy. They had fun (and a great incentive to clean up the house and get into jammies in time to sample one before bed), I was able to channel my energy into something positive, and the atmosphere in the house cleared.

I don’t make cookies every time my husband is late from work!  And I’m not saying that homemade cookies are essential to a good marriage.  But we are a chocolate-loving family, baking from scratch is my love language, and the kids never turn down a chance to help me bake.  I’m blessed in that random late nights are the exception for my husband these days, not the rule (as with a previous job). It probably wouldn’t be healthy if we were baking cookies every other night!  But I’ve found that on Jonah Days (as Anne of Green Gables would say), cookies always go over better than complaints.

What do you do on days so bad that your usual witching hour tricks aren’t working and your husband is working late?

Posted in Home Life, Marriage | 2 Comments

Hidden Art Friday

cornmeal waffles

Happy weekend!  Today’s HAF is a day late because yesterday was my baby’s birthday, and I was otherwise occupied.

I’ve shared in the past that my family loves waffles.  On Saturdays when my husband is not traveling for work, we all enjoy a fancier breakfast, and Martha Stewart’s cornmeal waffles recipe is one of our favorites (we don’t fuss with the fancy topping–just fresh fruit for us!)

In other reading, I loved this blog post on the cost of motherhood. (HT: Like Mother, Like Daughter)

And this one at The Federalist is from a few months back, but is a very honest take: I Didn’t Want Kids, But I’m Glad I Got Them.

Nancy Wilson has an oldie-but-goodie about why quantity time matters with young children: “Kids need quality time all right, but they need tons and tons and tons of it. They are actually little bottomless pits, hungry for time with Mom all day long. And if they don’t have access to their parents, they will look for attention elsewhere, of course. They’re not dumb.”

And I talked about the sometimes-rough adjustment to staying home with your kids last year.

Hope you (and your kids!) have a wonderful weekend!

Posted in Hidden Art Fridays | Leave a comment

Book Review: The Mommy Brain

mommy brainWhen I asked you all for book suggestions at the beginning of the year, Catherine requested that we read/review The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter by Katherine Ellison.  It’s a fascinating read.  The author, a highly successful professional woman, bristled at the implication that becoming a mother had dumbed her down.  As she delved into the research on motherhood and intelligence, Ellison found that science tells a very different story than the stereotypical “my kids have drained all my brain cells” mentality expressed by so many mothers.

Ellison gathers an impressive array of studies to support her thesis that motherhood improves our perception, efficiency, resilience, motivation, and “emotional intelligence.”  It’s the last phrase that I find especially interesting, especially since she had claims early in the book that “more mothers of young children than ever before [are] involved in mentally demanding work…” (ch 2).  (As you can imagine, my hackles always rise whenever a working mom brushes off the “simple” act of raising a child as mentally undemanding.)  Too often, women (and for that matter, men) are deemed successful only if they rise to prominence in an “intellectually demanding” field.  So I appreciate Ellison’s endeavors to point out that motherhood trains us to have strong empathy, nonverbal communication (her fancy way of explaining a mother’s intuition), and optimism (the “spin control” she says we need to cope with all the little frustrations of parenting young children, reminding us that it will all be worth it someday).  These are life skills, she argues, which make us happier and more successful in every endeavor (and better employees in the workforce, of which she assumes we all want to be a part).  Those of us who have learned to discern the baby’s cry or who have a pretty good idea of what that look in the preschooler’s eye means are flexing the emotional IQ muscles we honed in the all-day-every-day business of childraising.  I appreciate this defense of the precious expertise of motherhood, and it’s supported by a good chunk of research to send to a frustrated first-time sahm who is worrying that her brain is turning to mush just because she’s not earning any money.

Unfortunately for the cause of full-time motherhood, Ellison is more cagey on the question of why, if all this time with little ones is so great for our brains, we should chuck them in daycare and head back out to the workplace.  She’s very concerned about our earning potential (in later chapters, she bemoans the mommy track and pushes for universal preschool to free us up to work), but comes short of really examining what lifestyle can give us the most emotional potential.  She praises women who are juggling work and home life, mentions bored sahms who have thrown themselves into charitable volunteer work, and cheerfully concludes that multitasking forces us to be more efficient, which must be a good thing, right?  Efficiency has its place, but where is there room in efficiency for taking your moody kindergartner out for a walk so that you can get at the heart of what’s been making her so crabby all weekend?  Where is there room for listening to your grade schooler ramble on in excruciating detail about a cool technological innovation he read about that morning?  Where is the time to sit and read the same three board books over and over and over to the toddler who is in the midst of a language explosion and is actively incorporating every word of Gossie and Gertie into her rapidly-increasing vocabulary?  Where is the time to sit the preschooler down on the potty chair and sing her song after song until she finally has success?  Even Ellison admits in her final pages that multitasking needs to be done in moderation, and she wouldn’t advocate spending every waking minute on your smartphone.

The latter chapters earned a few more eye rolls from me.  There’s a one-sided chapter on moms in politics, in which every liberal woman politician in the past 150 years seems to get a mention, and there’s the obligatory dig at President George W. Bush.  Motherhood needn’t be a politically divisive issue, but Ellison has to grind her ax, despite the topic being disjointed from the rest of the book.  There’s a section on how we need to ask for help, because motherhood doesn’t have to be as draining as it’s portrayed (this help, in the author’s mind, comes in the form of paid childcare, or the affable coworkers who agree to shoulder some of your responsibilities while you work from home because obviously single people don’t have as much of a life as a mother who is Having It All!).  Ellison doesn’t mention a lot of ideas for help for stay-at-home moms because we’re not her target audience; she doesn’t seem to remember consistently that we exist, except when we’re bored, financially crippled, or depressed.  Kudos to her for caring that working moms can be run ragged, but her proposed solutions fall short.

I don’t want to be unfair to Ellison; her book is not meant to be a philosophy of family culture or full-time motherhood.  She does touch on many of the questions I raise here, she just doesn’t find a satisfactory answer.  It’s as if she accumulated all of the research and statistics she could find on working moms and just got lost in the details by the end.  While I take issue with her assumption that “physical work” like cooking dinner and washing clothes isn’t as challenging as “cerebral work” like second-guessing our doctor’s advice with the help of google (yes, really), Ellison does a good job of pointing out that intelligence has many facets, and motherhood enhances and utilizes many of them differently than the workforce.  She has certainly done her homework when it comes to the scientifically measurable effects of motherhood on a woman’s brain and psyche.  The Mommy Brain is worth the read for those who enjoy behavioral studies and for those who are asking what motherhood has done to our brains.  But I’d point you in other directions if you’re seeking more of a philosophy of motherhood.


Has anyone else read The Mommy Brain?  I’d love to have further discussion in the comments!  And are there any other books on motherhood any of you want us to review?  It might take me another two or three months, but I’m up for the challenge!


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Posted in Book Reviews, Having It All, Importance of Mothers, Reading, Using Our Minds | 1 Comment
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