First, this is l-o-n-g. But, It's important, so I allowed myself to talk too much.
Second, I hesitate to even write it.
The reasons I don't want to write it? Because I don't want to come across as the mom with all the answers. Cause I'm so not. I do not have it all together. And I scream at my children sometimes. And there are crumbs and boogers all over my house probably. So don't go feelin' discouraged and feel like you're reading one more blog about one more thing that you don't do. It's just that this is something that worked well for us. And it's important enough that I thought it might work for you! This is my own personal experience and I'm not saying it's how the world should do things.
But the reasons I DO want to write it? Because the Bible is important, and we underestimate the power of kids' brains.
When Miss E was 3 she came to me one day and recited the following: "Superwhy has been brought to you by a cooperative agreement between the US Department of Education's Ready to Learn Grant and PBS viewers like you. Thank you." Young people have minds like steel traps. She demonsrated her mad memorization skillz hundreds of times through the years (as have her brother and sister). That's why they tell us to teach them foreign languages early! How many times have I heard my kids recite movie lines word for word? A zillion.
Also, I recently saw something on pinterest listing Bible Verses for your kids to learn this year. I was very excited. But I clicked, and I noticed something.They were SHORT.
So, I thought...okay. I need to share my experience with the world (or 4 of you), because children are capable of learning huge chunks of words. YES, the idea of the thing on pinterest is awesome. I love it. But, I know how kids are. They are equipped to be sponges! So let's capitalize on that! Let's not underestimate the power of those brains that aren't even near full capacity yet! They don't have a care in the world AND they're made to learn, learn, learn! Let's not give them 3 word bites of scripture when they are capable of learning paragraphs from movies.
So, here's our story. Here's how it worked for us.
One year ago, out of the blue, without a plan; I made the almost-6 year old Miss E say John 3:16 before I kissed her goodnight. I did it again the next night. We were in PA for Christmas, so all 5 of us were snug as some bugs in the rugs sharing a room in Matt's childhood home. So, I went ahead and made the then 3.5 year old Mr. E say John 3:16 as well.
She had already had it memorized from awana. He had never uttered it before. By the end of a couple weeks, he knew it by heart as well.
Hmm. I liked this routine. At time time, they shared a bedroom. So we would sing, pray and say verses each night before bed. I liked them hiding Scripture in their hearts before drifting off to dreamland.
Along with that, I recalled a conversation with my homeschooling pal, Missy, about the classical method of teaching; where kids with their snappy brains memorize facts. They may not even know what they are memorizing, but they'll rememeber. And when they get older and learn more information about those certain things, they'll have those snipets of facts creep back into their brains. And viola....something old to connect the new information to.
Eventually, I started saying John 3:16 to the almost-2-year-old Baby C before her naps and at bedtime. Because, why not? She was in her own room at that point, so she just got two doses of John 3:16 a day for almost a whole year-- no additional verses.
February came, and since the two big kids knew John 3:16 so well, we added, on another whim, Phillippians 4:13. Like I said, I didn't have a concrete plan. I just picked the verses as we went. We had them each say both verses as part of our bedtime routine.
By the end of February, they knew Phillippians 4:13 without even thinking about it. So, on March 1st, it was once again new verse day. The kids began looking forward to the first of the month because they knew there would be something fresh.
We continued with that process, and by the end of 2011, the two oldest kids know these verses and can say them in order or out of order, one at a time or all together:
1. John 3:16
2. Phillippians 4:13
3. II Timothy 2:15
4. Jeremiah 29:13
5. John 13:34
6. Epesians 4:32
7. John 15:5
8. Romans 1:20
9. Psalm 1:1-2
10. Matthew 5:16
11. Exodus something: "Thou shalt not steal." (this is a cheaterpants verse on my part...more on that later)
12. Luke 2:11-12I usually chose the verses. But one of Matt's favorites is Romans 1:20. So he picked it. We never thought in a million years that they could learn it. But, knock our socks off, they DID! So, the next month we went big with TWO verses. Psalm 1:1-2, and it took a tad longer, but they know that one, too!
And now, Matt and I know these verses (some we knew, but some we learned right along with the kids!), and since we switched bedrooms around in August and put the girls into one room, Miss C began to hear Miss E say her verses every night, so Miss C--who just turned 3 yesterday--knows John 3:16, Phil. 4:13, bits of II Tim. 2:15, bits of Eph. 4:32 and Luke 2:11-12.
We started 2012 off with The 23rd Psalm. This month, they're doing verses 1 and 2, and all three kids know them by heart already. We no longer say 2011's verses at night, but it's fun to ask them out of the blue to recite one when we're driving. Sometimes I'll just say, "Miss E! Pick a verse!" and she'll pick one. And then I move one to Mr. E, and he picks a different one. And then I move to Miss C and she picks a different one until all 12 have been said. (The big kids are good about letting Miss C say the ones she knows.)
Now, before you mistake us for perfect..haha!...I have to say there were plenty of times where listening to the kids saying 6 verses in a row EACH at bedtime, when i wanted to getouttatherefast and sit on the couch was a DRAG. There were many nights where I thought, "Why did i start this?!" But, thankfully, Matt was completely on board with this on-a-whim idea from me, and he encouraged me to be consistent with the kids when I did not feel like listening to the same verses night after night after night.
There were even several nights where Matt would asked me if I did verses with the kids I had tucked in that night (we divide and conquer by room) and I flat out refused and probably said something sassy like, "um. no. I'm tired. I don't want to do verses. If you want to do verses with them too, go ahead. But I'm not gonna!" So, having already said verses with the kids in one room, he would go to the other room and pick up my slack. (Praise God that he's the Mr. Steady to my Mrs. Tumultuous)
There were times in July, August and September where Matt was on our hail-damaged roof from the time he got home until 11:30 at night and I didn't FEEL like listening to 9 verses from two kids (that's eighteen, people!) who knew them so well that they tried to say them in foreign accents, or while standing on their head, or in whispers, or in cartoon character voices or as slowly as humanly possible, so I just flat out told them we weren't doing verses that night.
And there was one month, ahem, November (cheaterpants verse) when on the first I heard, "MOMMY! What's our verse for November." and my answer was, "I didn't pick one yet." And on the second it was, "MOMMY! What's our new verse?!" and my answer was, "I didn't pick one yet."
And then I heard it again for the next 14 nights and finally the little man took it upon himself to pick it . So November's verse became, "Thou shalt not steal." because we had been talking about the letter T during preschool time (I use that term loosely because I am lame and intend to do preschool 3 times a week, when really it's more like 3 times a month. SEE? NOT together!) and that was the corresponding verse. (I still can't remember the reference.) and the kids learned it.
There's something incredible about hearing childlike voices reciting Scripture. Every time they say it, I'm amazed. And, even more exciting is the sense of pride and ownership and joy on the face of each kid when they successfully say a new verse and watch their Daddy and me stand there dumbfounded.
And more than once, Mr. E and Miss E (Miss C is in the nursery) have whacked each other on the arm and silently jumped for joy in the middle of a sermon where they have heard Pastor recited one of THEIR verses. That's one of those connections. They know it. And then they hear it coming from somewhere super-duper important like the pulpit. It's very fun to see.
The thing is. I WANT my kids to learn the Bible. But, like everything else...anything good takes effort. This has been a way to help them and guide them to learning Scripture. We can't just sit back and hope they pick up on it someday and learn a verse here or there. We have to facilitate it. This has been a way to do that, and it's been a good, good thing!