We’ve decided not to send Little Monster to VPK next year, but keep her (and Little Miss) at their little preschool two days a week and homeschool on the side. One of my goals is to incorporate Christian education into my ‘curriculum.’ Children should learn the foundations of our faith first at home, and then build on it through the knowledge and wisdom of others and personal study.
I did a search on Pinterest for Christian education, character development, and finally scripture memorization. This post from Wild Flower Ramblings inspired me and gave me the tools to effectively do scripture memorization with our family. Some of the verses she listed were still too long for my girls to start with though. At 4 ½, Little Monster has several (eight?) fun phonological processes she’s working on in speech therapy, and Little Miss is just 2 1/2, although a wiz with memorization for her age. I wanted my girls to be encouraged by their ability with simple verses, so that they would want to learn more, and to understand what they’re saying, not just do rote memorization.
I am choosing verses that can be broken down into three or four repeat-able phrases and that convey just one theological idea – an attribute of God, our relationship to God, or how we should conduct ourselves as Christians. I choose whatever Bible translation is most easily understood by my girls (biblehub.com is good for looking at all the versions at once), or my own paraphrase (like Phil 4:13). I write the verse of the week (although my weeks are very flexible!) on index cards and put them on the bulletin board in the kitchen so I’m often reminded of them. The practice is usually spontaneous, not a sit-down event, and takes less than five minutes a day. They like to review all the ones they’ve done each time.
It’s important that they memorize the ‘address’ (ex. Psalm 37:3) along with the verse, so they will forever be able to look up those verses as they learn their way around the Bible and into adulthood. A good way to reinforce the address is to say it both before and after the verse: Joshua 24:15 As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15. When they’ve both memorized the verse they each choose a sticker to put on that card. I eventually want to put them on a ring like Wild Flower Ramblings does, but I haven’t gotten that far – I don’t run a Pinterest-worthy house!
Following are the first ten verses on our list:
Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31
I can do all things through Christ who makes me strong. Philippians 4:13 (don’t forget to flex your muscles!)
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
And surely I am with you always, to the end of time. Matthew 28:20(b)
Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Psalm 37:3
Then you will know the truth. And the truth will set you free. John 8:32
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations. Matthew 28:19(a)
I have stored up your Word in my heart, so that I don’t sin against you. Psalm 119:11
I mentioned I really want them to understand what they’re saying, so we talk about new vocabulary when I introduce a new verse. Whenever possible, I relate the new verse to ones we’ve already learned. Like when I introduced Philippians 4:13, our second memory verse, I prefaced by telling them that the Bible gives us directions on how to treat other people, like we learned from Luke 6:31, and it also tells us how God helps us. I’ll never forget that conversation as Little Monster then asked me how I know so much and who taught me. After answering with my parents taught me, I learn at church, I learn at Bible study, I read the Bible on my own, but I’m still learning, she then asked me to take her everywhere with me, like big church and Bible study, instead of going to the nursery. (She still goes to the nursery. Her time will come.) Such hunger for God!
Of course, scripture memorization doesn’t mean anything if they don’t see it in action. We refer to these verses often in our every day life. For example, Little: “Mommy, why we have lots of friends?” Me: “Because when we are nice to people they are nice to us and want to be friends. ‘Do to others…” Little: “‘…as you would have them do to you.’ Luke 6:31” Or, Little: “I just can’t do it!” Me: “Of course you can! ‘I can do…’” Little: “…all things through Christ who makes me strong.’ Philippians 4:13” And, Little: “Who makes the sun go to bed?” Me: “God does, because He made the sun. ‘In the beginning…’” Little: “’God created the heavens and the earth.’ Genesis 1:1”
As we began this practice of scripture memorization I realized so many benefits. For Little Monster, it is proving a help with her pronunciation as she practices the same words over and over. Speech therapy! They both get so excited when they move from repeating after me to reciting the whole thing on their own. Confidence-booster! Even before they can read they are putting God’s Word in their hearts. Faith-building!
And let me tell you, there is nothing sweeter than hearing your toddler and preschooler saying Scripture to one another in the back of the car.
Special thanks to my mom for being excited about this aspect of Christian education alongside me, and helping me put to words some of the methods we are using.
Note: Why did I not start with John 3:16? The verse that most people who have had any kind of Christian education can recite? Because it’s just too much for a preschooler/toddler – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” This is a great verse to sum up the Gospel, but if you look closely, you quickly realize that it is not a good first memory verse for little ones. Now that just happens to be the translation I learned as a child, but even in a more modern translation, it’s a mouthful. I would probably have to break that into six or more parts. The sentence structure has a lot of clauses that depend on the previous phrase. And there are so many deep theological messages in this one verse. So it’s a great verse to sum up Christianity, but that’s not what I’m trying to do with my kids. I want them to understand our faith, bit by bit, as they are ready for it, as they grow.