Memorizing verses

(Christy Hemphill) #1


Almost all the other homeschoolers I know are a good deal more conservative (theologically and socially) than I am, and I am familiar with their thoughts on this topic. But I’m interested in what people here do and their rationales, since I assume many of you have a different approach to the Bible than my idea of the prototypical Christian homeschooler. (Feel free to share your thoughts on any of my burning questions. :relieved:)

Do you have your kids memorize Bible verses as part of school?

If so, do you use a formal program or catechism of some kind,or do you just pick them yourselves? (If you have one you really like, please share.)

What do you see as the main goal or benefit of doing it?

What Scripture version do you use?

Do you find you focus more on theology/doctrine/apologetic type verses, or ethics/Christian behavior type verses, or worship type verses? Or does it depend on the age of the child?

Do you offer some kind of incentive, or is it just an assignment?

If you have more than one student, do you all memorize the same stuff together or does each student do some individually?

Anyone want to argue memorizing Bible verses is a silly fundamentalist exercise that is potentially damaging to their developing worldview? I’d at least hear you out. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


My kids are in middle school now. We didn’t do memory verses when they were younger, though maybe they did for certain vacation bible schools or similar stuff.

When I was in middle and high school, I participated in bible quizzing. We memorized various books, and competed in a three state area once a month through the year and then at a nationals competition to close each year, held at Universities in various parts of the US. Quizzing drastically improved my school performance, helped me make friends, and is how I actually became a Christian (memorizing Romans chapters 7 and 8 in high school). Anyway, when we moved the church we are attending has a quiz program and my kids have participated last year (Seattle was nationals that year) and again this year. I now know why my grades improved when I was quizzing–it improves executive skills! I see increased executive skills in my kids. It’s been good for them socially. Both kids love it.

They memorized the book of Acts last year. This year they are memorizing the epistles Galations, Ephesians (so rich, but convoluted sentences that are tougher than most scriptures to memorize it turns out!), Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. My kids are motivated to memorize by the competition, teammates, and the trips themselves I’m sure. The program uses NIV 2011.

I’ve found it’s been natural and enjoyable to discuss the scripture as they ask questions. I loved talking to them about some of the really beautiful things I forgot about in Acts. Galations and Ephesians (that’s as far as they are this year) have birthed some really great discussions. I see scripture differently than I used to. I am, as maturity/appropriateness allows, sharing my views with my kids. I hope they leave my home with a healthier, more whole view of scripture than I entered my adulthood with. Studying it has opened doors for some good talks. (I’ll give an example that my kids aren’t really ready for yet–it was striking to me, given where I am spiritually now, to see the evolution of understanding of God’s purposes and early church doctrine throughout the book Acts and then into Paul’s writings as well; how did the current church get the idea that we weren’t allowed to, even supposed to, continue to evolve in our understanding and doctrine??)

I think memorizing scripture as a family could be neat. I guess I feel that way because it was so meaningful to me growing up. If my kids weren’t doing quizzing I think I might pick the really great verses or passages and memorize as a family. If my kids were old enough, I might dig into a passage together say once a week, then memorize a verse or chunk from that section through the week. To keep things in memory, you have to review frequently. It wasn’t easy at first here anyway, but gets easier with practice. We found a neat memory technique when one of mine found it really hard when we first started. Both kids are using this technique for the epistles, though they write the first letters on a white board or scrap paper–they don’t put it into a program. One kiddo used it for Acts as well, his brother found Acts easier to memorize.


Hi Christy, Those are great questions, and I’m interested to see other people’s responses. I’ve struggled with Bible as a subject, too. On the one hand, I would love to piggy-back off of what the kids are learning at church, so their spiritual education isn’t so discombobulated. But the kids aren’t all learning the same thing every week, and trying to cover lots of topics for each kid seems overwhelming. They seem to do different Bible stories on Sunday morning, and then Wednesday night is Kids4Truth, which is more systematic-theology based and is more conservative. My kids are in church 4-6 hours each week, and we weave our beliefs into our day anyway, so I’m not convinced that we need to spend a lot of time each day doing Bible on top of our academic subjects. On the other hand, I would like for us to be learning and growing together spiritually, and Bible seems like a good springboard for that. My ambivalent feelings mean that we’re less consistent on Bible than I’d like to be, but I have a goal of integrating it into our school day more consistently.
As for goals, I would like for my kids to be Biblically literate- to be familiar with the texts, the authors, the audiences, the books. If they have that under their belts, they will likely have a better appreciation for the complexity, mystery, and comfort that I find in Scripture. I see memorization as being part of that. I’m a memorizer and find that having Scripture tucked away in my head helps me stay focused, avoiding angst-producing daydreams. I also find those passages coming to mind when I need them. I would like my kids to have Scripture tucked away, too, but I’m again not as consistent on working with them as I could be. We typically use the ESV- I find it readable but like that it’s more of a word-by-word version. My kids are asked to memorize for their Wed PM church program, and Bible Roap Trip selects verses from the passages being studied that week. Music helps my kids the most, though. My kids love the Seeds CDs (they are kid-friendly but not kiddy-drive-mom-and-dad-crazy) and I’ve found that they memorize more naturally when verses are set to music. (There are free printables at that go with the Seeds CDs if you decide to integrate them into your homeschool).
When it comes to homeschooling, I have curricula I’ve picked for each subject, but I plan week-by-week to give us as much flexibility as possible. I’ve used that same approach on Bible. We try to learn a hymn each month during our calendar time- I try to pick one that’s seasonably appropriate and that has rich doctrinal themes. Bible Road Trip is our basic Bible curriculum. If we have had a lot of character issues, we’ll take a week off to work on those things using Doorposts’ For Instruction in Righteousness or the Confessions of a Homeschooler’s character training plans.
Bible Road Trip is basically a Bible survey covering three years (one year of OT law and history, one year of OT wisdom and prophesy, and one year of NT). Lesson plans are written so that all of your kids study the same thing, but at different depths. There are memory verses for each week and every day you read a passage together and then talk about it with questions from the teacher’s guide. (I like that the verses are selected from the passages being studied- makes you put the verse in context and helps avoid cherry-picking). You use a Bible handbook and atlas and then the author has notebooking pages to help students record definitions, identify themes, and record their thoughts. And then for each week there’s a section on praying for different countries or people groups around the world. We usually take two weeks to do what the author has assigned for one week; there’s plenty to cover. And we pick and choose- if we have verses to memorize for church that week, we usually don’t do memory work for school, too.
I appreciate that the course is basically a Bible survey. Although the author is theologically conservative, I haven’t had many instances where her systematic theology overwhelms the student’s study of the text at hand. The curriculum approaches each section of scripture on its own terms. The notebooking pages are beautiful, and I find them helpful for my own study. A digital copy of the curriculum can be purchased from the author’s website Thinking Kids, or you can download each week for free.
Anyway, I know that’s a rambling answer, but my thoughts on Bible as a homeschool subject are less defined than other subjects. I’ll be interested to hear other perspectives!

(Christy Hemphill) #4

I did AWANA through 8th grade. Then our church got kicked out of AWANA by corporate because my AWANA director mom, crazy renegade that she was, had typed out all the verses in NIV and copied them to address labels and stuck them over the KJV in the official books for everyone. And she thought the uniforms were ugly and outdated so she just had t-shirts made. She was a woman ahead of her time.

In high school I did some Navigators program with a bunch of little cards with verses on different topics. I have memorized passages as an adult, but none of them have stuck like the ones I memorized as a kid. So, I am with you @mmytoboys in feeling like all that memorization I did as a child/teen served me well now that I am an adult,even though I don’t necessarily use memorized verses the way I was taught to use them, in a very “defend your faith” kind of way.

We were in the States for a year last school year and my oldest daughter did AWANA and Bible Quizzing at a church one of her friends attended. She loved it. I was annoyed they had to memorize in KJV and she did not understand half the verses. (My favorite was 1 John 1:1 in isolation: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life” She was like, “Mom that’s not even a sentence.” True. Greek is friendlier to run-ons than English.) She is super quick at memorizing and I would love to continue encouraging that, but it is hard without the competition and peer group aspect.

We have done different things as part of school. One year we did the memory work assigned by the curriculum I bought. One year we memorized passages. We did a few of the most well-known Psalms, a good chunk of 2 Corinthians 15, 1 Corinthians 13, Some good chunks of the Sermon on the Mount, Colossians 1:15-23, the Lord’s Prayer, the fruit of the Spirit, the Nicene Creed.

This year I sat down and tried to come up with what I thought were core values of Christianity and we are memorizing verses that go along with them. So “Christians don’t take revenge, they pray for people who treat them badly” 1 Peter 3:9…“Christians show hospitality” Romans 12:13, “Christians generously share with those who are in need” 2 Corinthians 9:7, etc.

I had them memorize the qualifications for churchleadership in 1 Timothy 3:1-13. (Not the whole passage, just a summary of the qualifications.) We were working on it in the height of the election season. The two oldest astutely noticed that most politicians don’t qualify to be leaders in church.

I guess the one thing that makes me feel a little icky when it comes to memorizing is how often it is used for silly prooftexting games in Ev. circles. I don’t want my kids to catch on to the attitude that you can just whip out a context-free verse to win an argument or to prop up a theological assertion. (Even though, hypocritically, I sometimes enjoy playing this game on more conservative Patheos blog comment boards. Thank you AWANA. I am pretty dang good at it, too.) I am trying to emphasize that theology is something that is done in light of the whole of Scripture and with the Holy Spirit’s guidance throughout history, not something you pull together piecemeal from a smattering of verses. We are reading this series History Lives: Chronicles of the Church this year with my oldest. It has been great for showing how doctrines have developed and been challenged over time.

(Christy Hemphill) #5

This. I have these two books that I am going to work in around 8th-9th grade. They are classics by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth
How to Read the Bible Book By Book

We learned a hymn a week last year. It turned out way better than I expected and the kids really seemed to like it. Talk about some chances for vocabulary enrichment. :smirk:

(Ashley Lande) #6

Hmmm… reading all of this is further emphasizing to me how disorganized I have been this year! I suppose I should take it as encouragement, though! We moved this summer and are renovating the house we bought so I’m going to blame it on that :slight_smile:

We do memorize scripture, though have not had an organized program as such, yet anyway. We just have two kids and my oldest just turned 7. He uses “A Reason for Handwriting” for his handwriting practice (though I don’t care for how those verses seem to be paraphrased) and we have periodically memorized verses of my choosing, just ones that I like. I grew up nominally Methodist. We didn’t study the Bible at home, so whatever I learned of Scripture I learned through sporadic Sunday school and hearing sermons twice a month or so at church. I was seriously ignorant of what was in the Bible when we became Christians about three and a half years ago (I had declared myself an atheist at 15 and when my husband and I got married eight and a half years ago, our beliefs were kind of a new-age pastiche). If you had asked me who Paul was, I would’ve answered “ummm… I’ve heard the name!”

I read a Dallas Willard book a few years ago wherein he said he believed Scripture memorization was the most important spiritual exercise for growth and maturation, which kind of blew my mind. Since then, I have really strived to make time for my own personal Bible study, and we have made a practice of reading it outloud to our children. I do find it extremely useful to have verses stored up in my heart, and also find that they come to mind just when I need them. Reading Lesslie Newbigin’s “Proper Confidence” was extremely formational for me in my thinking about the Bible and its “infallibility”; namely, that I didn’t need to worry about that so much, but just read it, digest it, love it, and trust the Holy Spirit to do his work in me. That’s not to say I don’t wrestle with some of it - I certainly do - but I do believe that scripture memorization is important, and I really wish I had been taught the Bible as a child and youth. Like you say, Christy, I so readily remember things I memorized in my youth, either purposefully (not much) or inadvertently (TV jingles, anyone?!). Less so things I’ve strived to memorize in my adulthood - but I do feel the Holy Spirit has enhanced my memory of scripture far beyond what I’d be able to do with my own power.

We use the NIV. A few of my favorites that I’ve had them memorize so far are Psalm 30: 11, Jeremiah 29:11, Isaiah 49:16, and Hebrews 2:11.

(Albert Leo) #7

Christy, I just had to let you know how much I am enjoying your posts with the other homeschoolers. At least in urban areas, homeschooling was unheard of in Catholic families in the 1930’s. Now I can appreciate that parents (usually mothers) who make this effort reap as much rewards as their kids do–like the lyric in “Anna & the King of Siam”: “by my pupils I am taught”. All the more joyful when the pupils are your own kids.
"[quote=“Christy, post:4, topic:11408”]
memorized passages as an adult, but none of them have stuck like the ones I memorized as a kid.
Someday scientists who study the mind and ‘brain mapping’ may elaborate the mechanisms that make memorizing and learning languages easier at certain early stages of life rather than later. And setting the phrases to music definitely does makes it even easier. I have lost much of what I learned of my high school German, but I still recall: "Ich weiss nicht vas soll es bedeuten, dass Ich so traurig bin from the song, Die Lorelei. Dawkins compared any memorized Scriptural passages as a “meme” acting as mental viruses that cause defective mental states, relying on the current concept that virus = bad. Science is now, belatedly, finding out there are some viruses that are essential to our well being.[quote=“Christy, post:4, topic:11408”]
The two oldest (children) astutely noticed that most politicians don’t qualify to be leaders in church.
Past elections have also shown that the qualifications to be an effective politician and leader of the country are not the same as to be an effective church leader. LBJ comes to my mind as the former, and Jimmy Carter as (potentially) the latter. How our current president elect will turn out in this regard, God only knows–and I mean that literally.
Al Leo

(Jen Rutkowski) #8

I really dislike memorizing one-off or prooftext Bible verses. It took me a very long time to realize that some verses that I memorized as a child did not necessarily say what I was told they said, in light of the surrounding Scripture.

We also memorize chunks of Scripture here. This time of year, I read Luke 2: 1-20 and we (ages 4, 6, 8) have it memorized, and I just think that is a lovely Advent tradition.

We have also memorized the Apostle’s Creed, Psalm 1, Beatitudes, Psalm 23, etc. Verses with great meaning and history.

(Bruce Holt) #9

Ah, yes! The Topical Memory System—a staple in the spiritual diet of nascent Navigators everywhere. I was actually given my TMS set by my Young Life leader when I was in high school, but I believe I impressed the Navs at Clemson when I showed up on campus already well through the system.

I think it’s a great program overall, and it helped me develop scripture memorization as a spiritual discipline in my formative years as a disciple. I recall that after I finished the set I would choose other passages I wanted to memorize, hand-write them on little cards, and memorize them while I did my laundry. I moved on to memorizing much longer passages of scripture, which my son has also been doing for several years.

I’ll try to respond more to your excellent questions (I’m obviously not very prompt with this), but I wanted to take the few minutes I have now to relate my trip along Memory Lane (pseudo-pun intended).