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How We Organize Our Memory Binder (An Update)

January 26, 2016

I ‘ve been getting a number of inquiries about our memory binders, so I thought it was time to do a quick update. I’ve changed the organization pretty drastically in the last couple of years, and the questions I’m getting relate directly — they are coming from the same place we were at when I decided I needed to rethink my approach a bit. So I’m going to share what we are doing now.

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: we have to change and grow as our children change and grow. The system that worked great when we were just starting out is something that I’d do all over again, but we reached a point where it wasn’t working. As systems are our hired servants (rather than our slave-masters), it’s certainly okay to fire them and replace them with something that works better. Don’t be afraid to troubleshoot and make changes.

Memory work is a daily affair at our house. Here's how we keep it all organized.

But first: what we were doing before!

Because this worked really well for us up until about a year ago, and because I’d still recommend this system for the earliest years, I thought I’d offer some links for those of you who want to see how we started:

The problem…

As you can see, the original binder had a lot more review going on. In the beginning, when we didn’t have many selections memorized, this didn’t matter so much. But eventually, as the years went by, we ended up with so. many. things. to review. At some point, it was too much. For about a year, I continued to use the binder as it was, but I was skipping things — sometimes we didn’t review from this place or that place. It was completely arbitrary, and as I was relying on my memory (ha!) it didn’t always work out very well in the sense that some things that ought to have been reviewed were missed.

If we did do the binder as it was designed to be used, it took too long. There were multiple selections in every tab! I was tempted to cut other things from the schedule. Or I had to split up our review into two parts because I was losing my students’ attention.

In short, it wasn’t working for us anymore.

The solution…

I had always known that Mystie did her review in categories, but in the beginning, I wanted more review than that. These days, it is plenty of review to stick to categories, and that’s what we’re doing. So whereas before my tabs looked like this:

tabbed dividers

(And this in addition to the 1-31 numbered tabs!)

Now they look like this:

New Dividers

So. much. easier.

In Daily, I have all the new things we’re learning. Anything already memorized is moved to its appropriate review category. Each category has a Post-It Flag (have I mentioned that I love Post-It Flags?) as a marker so that we know where we left off.

Every morning, we run through everything in daily. After that, we do one selection from each of the category tags — well, except for Christmas. Christmas is its own thing. Of course.

And that’s it. It takes the appropriate amount of time in our schedule, and I don’t need to think about it — I just run through the tabs on auto-pilot.

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45 Comments

  • Reply Thoughtworthy (24 Family Ways, New Episode, Haha, and MORE!) | Afterthoughts January 25, 2019 at 9:06 am

    […] This is still how my binder is organized, but we do even less now than we did when this was written. These days we only do two things: one from daily, and one from one other category. I have it figured out where there is always one sung and one spoken. […]

  • Reply Bonnie July 14, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    This is awesome. It’s also funny, because I just read the old post, with daily, even/odd, etc. Is this binder devoted solely to memory work?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 14, 2017 at 2:02 pm

      Yes! Memory work is all I keep in it. 🙂

      • Reply Bonnie July 14, 2017 at 2:23 pm

        Thanks!

  • Reply Jessica February 16, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    Can you please explain how you use the 1-31 numbered tabs, or post the link? I’m interested in the method but overwhelmed at the thought of setting it up! Perhaps it’s easier then I’m thinking it will be.

    Thanks so much!

  • Reply Sarah Shepperd February 11, 2016 at 10:45 am

    Hi Brandy! Thanks for sharing how you’re doing this. I’ve been using a virtual memory work binder in Evernote and looking at it on my phone, but I think I’m ready to set up a physical binder now, and thanks to you, I have a great model to follow! I was wondering if you could share what kind of things you put in your Christmas tab? Is it mostly Christmas carols you’ve learned, or is there more to it than that?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 11, 2016 at 3:26 pm

      It’s three things, really: Christmas songs are the bulk for sure. But we also do a Christmas poem each year, plus we’ve memorized some of the basic Scripture passages for Christmas (Luke 2:1-20 comes to mind). But again: mostly songs. 🙂

      • Reply Sarah Shepperd February 11, 2016 at 3:44 pm

        Cool, thanks!

  • Reply Heather Rivers February 1, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    Brilliant! Just the idea I was looking for since noticing we need a Memory Binder Reorg!!
    Thanks for sharing…

  • Reply Andrea C January 27, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    Cool! I have a question. I use exactly the system you just switched to–I have a lot fewer things in each section though b/c we’ve only been learning things by heart systematically for three years. My kids are almost 8, 6, 4 and 2. Often though, they’ll know something really well and a month later when we come back to it I feel like I’m the only one who still knows it well. They older two are actually better at memorizing things than I am when it comes to learning it initially, but they don’t seem to hold onto it as long. So does this mean I just am not reviewing often enough and I should switch to the system you used to use when your kids were younger? Also, since your kids are older and this is working for you, does that mean that your kids *are* holding onto their memory work well even with reviewing much less often, or have you noticed any change?

    • Reply Angela January 31, 2016 at 11:57 am

      I can’t recall where I’d read it- I thought it was on Charlotte Mason Help’s page but I can’t find the info there now. Anyways- the point was made not to cover a piece every day while learning, perhaps instead just once a week during the whole term. They need the strain of trying to recall it from further back to remember it better. Memorizing it quickly in a week didn’t embed it in the right place in the brain. Highly technical, lol, but that’s what I recall, I’m sure it was stated much better. Wish I remembered the source.

      • Reply Claire February 1, 2016 at 11:57 pm

        Sounds like the ‘spaced repetition’ theory, where they say you put something deeper into longterm memory if you recall it at longer and longer intervals, *just before* you would have forgotten it. But I was under the impression you needed to actually learn it first.
        The Anki app is designed to provide ideal spaced repetition, but I think for smaller chunks of info – definitions, vocabulary – I use it for learning Dutch – Its minimum gap is 2 days, and if you remember after 2 days, it’s upped to 4 and then a week or something, and longer and longer ad infinitum. But I really think you’d need to have memorised something longer like a poem first before you could could start putting into a spaced repetition system (which is what the SCM system is, too, although with shorter intervals). There’s a pdf describing how to set up a physical Anki-like system, called a Leitner box, here: http://www.fluent-forever.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/LeitnerSchedule.pdf (but I’ve never looked at it) – I imagine googling spaced repetition or leitner box would get other options.

        • Reply Amy January 13, 2017 at 2:11 pm

          I second this method’s efficiency! We use it for foreign language but the idea is so simple and clever that I’m trying to figure out how to use it for our longer memory pieces. Like Claire mentions, I wonder if you need to fully memorize it first, then begin to space out review intervals…

          • Brandy Vencel January 14, 2017 at 8:36 am

            Fascinating! I really need to look into this more…

  • Reply Claire January 27, 2016 at 2:48 am

    I have two categories: songs and spoken. In each category, I have four page protectors, which equate, roughly, to “This month”, “last month”, “the previous 3 months”, and “before that”. We aim to learn a new song and spoken thing each week or so, and I print more than one item to a page. I use post-it flags to point to what we did yesterday in each page. Each day, in each category, we do our newest two, two from the previous month (moving the flag on – so alternating), and one from each of the other page protectors (moving a page to the back when it’s finished). So we do six songs and six spoken things per day (not all at once). Actually, we don’t do quite that much spoken, as we don’t have so much in that section yet, but that’s where we’ll end up.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 27, 2016 at 8:28 am

      Songs and spoke — that is brilliant, Claire! So simple! I hadn’t thought of using page protectors, but that would make it easier to move things around…

  • Reply Julie January 26, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    Hi Brandy! I was wondering how much time you spend on memory work per day? ( old and new) Thanks so much, Julie

    • Reply Lisa V in BC February 1, 2016 at 10:46 am

      I’m interested in the answer to this too 🙂

  • Reply Kristyn January 26, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    Thanks for this, Brandy. I had also used the previous system (mainly for Bible verses), and then that got a bit much like you said. I just quit and couldn’t figure out a simpler way because I also mulled over wanting/needing to include other things like poems and songs, etc. Going back to the “old” system was too overwhelming. So I haven’t done anything besides just move on to the next thing.
    I am so thankful for people who can just break it down to something simple … Something so easy. And then I always wonder “now why didn’t I think of that?!?” ?

  • Reply Sarah January 26, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    I like this idea, but how do you fit longer poems and parables on an index card? Isn’t your box bursting? Do you continue to add forever or do you eventually throw some out or rotate? Sorry I am so full of questions…you have obviously sparked my interest!

    • Reply Sarah January 26, 2016 at 6:37 pm

      Wait…are you still using your binder method but with different tabs?? I think I need to get some sleep….

      • Reply Brandy Vencel January 26, 2016 at 7:21 pm

        Ha! Yes! I’m using a binder. At this point, I don’t need to cull because it all still fits — but someday, I might need to! Of course, someday it might be more that I bring out some of the things that only my oldest child *really* knows and do it as “new” again with my youngest. 🙂

  • Reply Mama Rachael January 26, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    This is inspiring! Thank you! My Little Man is 4.5 (with 1 more on the way), and we sorta started some school (reading and math), but its fallen off b/c he lost interest. And I’m not ready to start pushing him, yet.

    when did you start doing memory work with your kids? As in, how old was the oldest when you started? I know this second little one will start when he/she is just ready b/c the older brother will be doing it, but what about Little Man… We have enough battles as it is (hitting, head butting, throwing things… he is a boy-boy-all-the-way), I don’t want to bring another (yet). But maybe this is worth pursuing?

    Would love to hear what you did with yours!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 26, 2016 at 7:20 pm

      I honestly did not do any memory work {other than a handful of Awana verses} until my oldest was in first grade. Anything he memorized before that was more of an accident — it was because he’d heard it so many times that it became stuck in his mind. 🙂 But you’re right — the younger ones start younger because they want to do what the older one’s doing. 🙂

  • Reply Amanda R January 26, 2016 at 10:14 am

    Right now I do Morning Time with my 2.5 y.o. and my just-turned-4 y.o. I plan my days using Mystie Winckler’s interval planning idea (from Work the Plan) and make a revised MT plan each interval. I have some regular categories: hymns, poetry, nursery rhymes, spiritual readings, and fairy tales/read aloud books. We start with our daily work, which is a couple of opening songs, a prayer, and the current catechism question we are working on. I also have an interval-specific section. Christmas songs were the theme last interval; this time around I’m teaching them some of our favorite love songs and poems, since my interval ends right around Valentine’s.

    I think I might change up my notebook itself, because I didn’t think long-term when it comes to printing. Thanks for this post, it made me think a bit about what might not work in the future with mine. It also re-affirmed some of my choices, which are very similar to yours. I’m always thankful for confirmation in my baby-stage homeschool!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 26, 2016 at 1:51 pm

      Ooh! Interval specific sections! That is very interesting to me. I will have to think about that… 🙂

  • Reply Leanne January 26, 2016 at 9:51 am

    Thanks so much. A very timely blog for me as we are about to start our school year next week here in NZ.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 26, 2016 at 1:50 pm

      That’s right! Have a wonderful first day of school next week. 🙂

  • Reply Lisa V in BC January 26, 2016 at 8:34 am

    Love this! Another idea for keeping track of the next thing to review is to just put what you have already reviewed at the back of the category and review whatever is on top. Helps when you’ve got little ones who like stealing the sticky “book”marks!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 26, 2016 at 1:51 pm

      Sounds like somebody has some experience in this area, hm, Lisa?? 😉

      • Reply Lisa V in BC January 26, 2016 at 3:38 pm

        Oh, yeah :). I love those little flags, but it’s only been in the last year that they’ve actually stayed where they were supposed to lol!

        • Reply Brandy Vencel January 26, 2016 at 4:54 pm

          So you’re making progress. 😉

          • Lisa V in BC January 26, 2016 at 6:06 pm

            Absolutely!!

  • Reply Herbwifemama January 26, 2016 at 7:24 am

    How do you decide what to do from each category? Do you just cycle through those? I am currently using your old system, and I’m really enjoying it. We’ve only been using it since September though, so we don’t have each tab filled yet, and I find it’s not overwhelming as it currently is.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 26, 2016 at 8:26 am

      I just do one from each category for review — two on occasion, if we’re really into it, or the selections were super short for some reason. I move the flag bookmark each day to keep track…

      I will tell you that it took me a number of years before I found the old system overwhelming. Before that, it was great. 🙂

  • Reply Kate January 26, 2016 at 7:18 am

    I have slightly different categories (daily, hymns, poetry, and Scripture), but that’s how I do it, too. I love how simple it is and how easy it is to get back into it after a week of vacation or illness.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 26, 2016 at 8:27 am

      So true about being simple to get back to!

  • Reply Catie January 26, 2016 at 5:43 am

    Too funny! I *just* changed our system last week to this exact thing! I realized that our Memory Work time was getting L O N G and I knew it was only gonna get worse! This seemed like the best way for me too. I thought about blogging about it, but it would’ve taken me SOOOOOO many more words to say what you said so well. (I’m kind of chatty..) I’ll just link to this post. 😛

  • Reply Karen @ The Simply Blog January 26, 2016 at 4:27 am

    This is a great idea! I’ve used the system you used previously with daily, odd, even, etc. and I can see how it could really build up after awhile. I’ve been trying to think of how I want to make a memory work system for memory work with my youngest and I think the category idea might work for us. I would do tabs in a 3-ring binder and probably just use post-it note papers to mark our place. Thanks for sharing the idea!

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