Repetitio Mater Memoriae: Repetition Is the Mother of Memory

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Repetitio Mater Memoriae

All right repetitio mater memoriae sounds wonderful, but what exactly does it mean and what does it have to do with classical education? It means repetition is the mother of memory. Or that you should use repetition for memory work.

I’m working my way through Dr. Christopher Perrin’s Eight Essential Principles of Classical Education. Previously, I’ve discussed Festina Lente and Multum non Multa. And now it’s time to chat about Repetitio Mater Memoriae.

Repetition is the mother of memory. Let’s think about that for a moment.

If we want our children to memorize information and retain it forever, we need to repeat the information a lot. We can’t toss a fact at our children and expect them to know it at dinner time, much less a year down the road.

Memory Work and Repetition Go Hand-in-Hand

Kids, and adults, need to drill information before it moves from short-term to long-term storage. You must recite, write down, and work until the information becomes second nature.

It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to absorb math facts, science facts, memorize poetry, or learn Latin verb conjugations. You simply must repeat the information many, many, many times.

Especially if you want your children to memorize it!

The same principle, repetitio mater memoriae, also comes into play with behavior.

Have you needed to remind your children to wash their hands or to remember to say please once or twice? If your kids are anything like mine, you’ve needed to remind them many times a day for years before the children automatically do the behavior.

Memory Work Is Necessary

Much as we’d like to avoid the work of endlessly repeating information to our children, memory work is necessary.

Kids need to learn their math facts. They need to learn how to spell and how to read. It simply takes time and repetition for reading to become second nature so kids don’t have to struggle to sound out every word as they read.

It’s the same with Latin or any other foreign language.

You need to memorize vocabulary, conjugations, and declensions before you can become fluent enough in a language to read, write, speak, and understand it.

Drilling is the only way to get there.

Poetry provides beauty to life even if it isn’t utilitarian.

There’s a beauty to being able to quote a beautiful poem as you’re watching a sunset or pushing your children on the swings.

And classical education isn’t just about giving our kids a list of skills. It’s also about introducing our children to the beauty and wonder of the world.

repetition is the mother of memoryApplying Repetitio Mater Memoriae

There are several ways to memorize material.

The simplest is to repeat the material three times every day. Once the children know it, begin to repeat it every other day.

Over the weeks and months, you slowly work down from every other day to once a week, to every other week, to once a month.

So how do you keep track of everything you have, want, and need to memorize?

There are almost as many ways of organizing your memory work as there are homeschools. Here are a few of my favorite ways to add memory work to your homeschool.

But no matter how you chose to complete memory work, it still comes down to repetition.

Because repetition is the mother of memory work!

Further reading:

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  1. Memory work plays a big part in our homeschool day – we use the CM Scripture system (of course, tweaked to fit what we want!).

    1. I’m thinking about adapting the CM Scripture system for my own family. We’ve always done some memory work but not as much as I’d like. 🙂

  2. Memory work has always been a big part of our homeschool days as well. I heard Andrew Pudewa talk recently about how when something is memorized, it is ingrained in your soul. I thought that was really interesting, and sort of works against the idea of memorizing a billion facts, like some classical programs do. Good food for thought! Thanks for sharing about this topic!

    1. I love the image of ingraining things in your soul. It does imply that what we do memorize should be worth memorizing, such as beautiful poetry and speeches. 🙂

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