Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Recitation (some thoughts)

As Harmonia and I finish up our first semester of homeschooling together (... well, first semester in 7 years), I am looking at a few areas of study that I want to make sure to include as we move forward. Old-fashioned recitation is one of those areas.

Reciting lines of verse used to be a standard part of the curriculum, but it has fallen pretty far out of fashion. About the only folks I see using recitation as an educational tool are the decidedly Christian homeschoolers who use it as a tool for Scripture study. However, I really think that memorizing passages by rote and quoting them back again has a place within contemporary education.

My parents (Grammie and Pa) have largely been handling Harmonia's math instruction. They've been using lessons from the Khan Academy, and Harmonia is working through the Algebra lessons. She understands the concepts just fine, but we are discovering that her basic memorization of the multiplication tables  is patchy. Given how foundational multiplication tables are to all sorts of higher math (and basic math, for that matter), I know I need to incorporate some memorization activities into her schooling.

When I was in elementary school, I memorized a Bible verse each week as part of my Baptist education. Yes, this was clearly a ploy at indoctrination, but it was also a good stretch of muscles that we all need to be able to use. Some information in our daily lives jut needs to be committed to memory.

My high school English classes also used memorization and recitation as a standard part of the curriculum. This was the early 1990s in a small Oklahoma public school, and nobody else I knew in other states was memorizing lines of poetry. Typically, we had to say 100 lines of poetry (all chosen from that grade's literature anthology) per semester. Honors students said more -- usually 200. My best friend and I challenged ourselves to memorize 100+ lines at once. She did Poe's "The Raven" and I did "The Bells." More than 20 years later, and I still know huge chunks of both classics verbatim. (I also memorized Luke 2:1-20 in the 2nd grade -- and again in the 9th -- and recited this Christmas passage at church for my grandparents.)

Has all that memorization paid off? Heck yes. I have a great memory for quotes, facts, stories, etc. Maybe I came by that naturally, but I've seen the same sort of retention of information from folks who have trained in theatre (lots of lines to memorize for plays) and certain segments of the magical community that use standard, memorized liturgies as part of their rites (Ordo Templi Orientis Gardenerian Wicca, for example).

What to include as memorization material?

Well, Harmonia identifies as a Witch, so I might include some pieces of liturgical pieces. Maybe I'll break down "The Charge of the Goddess" or have her memorize our Housle. We're studying Romeo and Juliet right now, so I think I can reasonably include the famous sonnet that comprises the Prologue to Act 1 ("Two houses, both alike in dignity ...") and possibly a few choice rhyming couplets from within the text. There are several important pieces by Aleister Crowley that I would like her to practice with and be thinking about (some key lines from the Gnostic Creed, the Book of the Law, and Liber Resh vel Helios). Beyond those pieces, I'm thinking I'll just pick some good classics of poetry, and I'll encourage her to do her own explorations and selections of poetry for this purpose.

Friday, I think, will be our day for recitation. Yeah, I like that. I'll let you know how it goes.

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