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Helping Homeschool Parents and Students Remember Facts

Is memorization a key to success, or is there something more?

If you're a homeschool parent with one child (or more) to teach, you know first-hand the amount of material that they need to absorb and remember. When you teach them Math they'll need to remember tables and formulas; when you teach them English they'll need to remember vocabulary and grammar rules; when you teach them Geography they'll need to remember oceans, rivers, countries and mountain ranges; when you're teaching Science they'll need to remember classifications, causes and effects; and so on.

Every subject in a homeschool curriculum has concepts, facts and terminology that your child has to remember (and apply to problem sets) in order to be best prepared for higher education. When you give quizzes and tests, aren't you assessing how well your child was able to memorize the concepts, facts and terminology, while measuring their ability to recall those facts at test time?

A Debate: Memorizing Versus Remembering

Browse the internet and you'll encounter a spirited debate among academics over the concepts of memorizing and remembering. The debate separates those who think they are essentially the same thing from those who treat them as completely different actions. The latter will argue will argue if your child sits for just a few, long study sessions, memorizing facts and terminology just prior to your tests, the information is only retained in short-term memory - they won't necessarily remember it. In other words, the information is never transferred to their long-term memory, meaning they'll have difficulty retrieving it months or years into the future.

The reason a few long study sessions just prior to a test seems to be effective is because a student can rely on their short-term memory if the test is taken within a few days of studying. Obviously, for your child's long-term benefit, it would be better to know that the information they take away from your instruction is remembered, and not just simply memorized for the purposes of a test. For the most part, that is what you'll take away from any debate about memorizing versus remembering - it's better to learn with the goal of remembering, instead of just memorizing for the short-term.

You may have heard of, or used, mental exercises and other techniques that claim to help children remember. This includes techniques such as: dual n-back tasks; building connections; interconnecting facts with events, pictures or sound; sing-song repetition; cementing linkages; mnemonics ("A Rat In The House May Eat The Ice Cream" is a common one for remembering how to spell the word "arithmetic"); contextual repetition; and identifying relevancy with previously learned material.

Many of the techniques mentioned above result in your child building richer and more detailed memories and images about the subjects you are teaching them. The techniques will all work - for some children, most of the time. As a homeschool parent/teacher, you've taken on the responsibility of their learning process - trying different techniques to find the one (or several) that work best in your child's particular situation.

Some of the best homeschool students actually use memory techniques without realizing what they are doing; they might have some difficulty explaining to other students exactly why what they are doing is working out so well for them.

Helping Homeschool Parents and Students Remember Facts, Part 2

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