I wanted to answer the question — How does Scripture memory look in your family? — in a little more detail in the hopes that it will inspire confidence and give you ideas.
We like to start young. Really young. From the time our babies are infants they are listening to the spoken Word or song. One of my favorite research efforts is in discovering new recordings of Scripture memory music. Every child in our home has memorized or will memorize the basic verses included in Hide Em’ In Your Heart Volumes 1 and 2 by Steve Green, and Sing The Word from A to Z by the Harrow family by the time they are three years old, just from hearing these songs played in the car once or twice a month as we drive around to errands. Even if you haven’t started young, you will find the Scripture memory music works! For older children you might want to start with some of the recordings by Good Seeds. I have several other musical recordings which we really enjoy and employ on car rides to make the time speed away. For more details, I have written an entire article about using audio — both sung and spoken — to memorize Scripture and you can find it on the Values Driven Family website once you sign up for their wonderful newsletter along with tons of other free gifts from their partners!
Once a child is three years old, they are old enough to start AWANA cubbies. This means they are old enough to memorize short verses without music; and depending on how well they memorize they might do even more. We also enjoy listening to the AWANA music recordings of verses, but I try to teach the children how to memorize by “rote” so that they are not just using the right side of the brain (music) to memorize. If they never learn spoken memorization they will always have to sing their verses — for the rest of their lives :). Ask me how I know this, and I will sing you the 50 states, the books of the Bible, and a dozen other memory songs I learned and can only access through right brained methods… Learning by “rote” is simply repeating back what you hear in increasingly longer groups of words.
When children are very young, it is important to explore a variety of learning styles to teach the Scripture because a child’s learning style is not easily discernible until around age five. Once your child is a little older, you can focus on their specific learning style as it becomes obvious. The various learning styles include kinesthetic (physical, movement or touch); auditory (spoken and heard), and visual (seen or pictured in the mind).
Kinesthetic Learning Style
For kinesthetic learning, we like to use a large ball with bumps on the surface or and roll it back and forth. At first we say the verse in rote fashion as we roll the ball, so I say the first two words and when Anna catches the ball she repeats those words. Once it is fairly well learned we alternate words between us. For example, I hold the ball and say “The” and roll the ball to Anna who says Father and then I catch the ball and say “has” and so on until we have completed “The Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. 1 John 4:14” I then have her start with the first word to make sure she knows the opposite words. If it is a really long verse, I will have another older child who already knows the verse jump in on our game so that Anna has to figure out every third word. Alternating patterns like this increases the level of concentration requires and seals the verse into memory. Large toy tractors or trucks also work well for this method. Another great kinesthetic method is to jump up and down or do jumping jacks as you say the verse with your child.
Auditory Learning Style
For auditory learners, speaking the verses out loud is usually enough. As they get even older, they will be able to internalize this process but in the elementary ages they will actually be speaking. If your children are learning in the same room it might help to have them whisper or go to a more secluded location to work. One fun way to help cement more difficult verses is to speak them in various rhythmic patterns. I discovered this method after pondering a method of practicing scales on the piano. We were asked to play the scales straight through at a steady pace, and then to play our scales in sets of three notes. For verses this translates to syllables, like this “The Father” pause “has sent his” pause “Son to be” pause “the Savior” pause “of the world.”. Any pattern that changes how long each word lasts or changes how many words you group together will focus the mind. So you might try long (stretching out the word), short (clipping the word), long, short, or long, long short. When we returned to playing the scales properly with a steady rhythm suddenly the errors were fixed. As a music teacher I use this method with both voice and piano students and students are always amazed with how well this works. Something about changing up the rhythm forces your brain to think ahead more quickly to the next word or note. Think poetry!
Visual Learning Style
Younger visual learners may enjoy drawing a picture as you speak the verse together, or drawing a picture of what the verse says — which may be just scribble circles if they are three. Don’t hinder their drawings, because what you see on the paper is not what matters. Older children may find that reading a verse repeatedly is enough. Visual learners usually learn to picture the words in their minds, or picture a scene in their minds as they learn. If a verse is especially difficult or if your visual learner wants to use an easy, fast method try the disappearing word trick. Simply right out the verse on a chalkboard, and say the verse. Now erase a word, and say the verse again. Keep erasing words or sets of words and repeating the verse until all the words are erased. The visual learner will continue to “see” the words in their minds, thus cementing the words in their memory. This works for auditory learners as well, but not because they see the verse on the board and learn to picture in their minds. Instead, it is because they repeat the verse so often with less and less help from the written verse. Flashcard drills also work really well for visual learners.
No matter what style of learning your child employs — and many children employ more then one — you will all surely benefit when more Scripture is stored in your hearts and minds.
“His Word I will hide in my heart, that I might not sin against God.” Psalm 119:11