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Homeschooling and Rote Learning

Aug 17, 2007
Today academicians look down on rote learning or learning by repetition, for they believe that this type of learning prevents understanding the subject. However, they forget that rote learning is required to memorize the alphabets and numbers. If you go by the definition of rote learning that appeared in the 1850 edition of Noah Websters dictionary, To fix in memory by means of frequent repetition, you will discover that rote learning is in fact a very vital element of education, including homeschooling.

Rote learning, these days, is often disparaged, terming it as blind learning, or learning like a parrot. However, most complex subjects can only be mastered by first memorizing the basics. For example, if a child is not made to memorize the alphabets, how in the world will he/she read a verse from Shakespeare? Rote learning helps in creating an automaticity that helps children to solve advanced problems on the basis of the basic learning that is etched in their mind.

Memorizing something by repetition is one of the easiest ways of learning. Math, as a subject, is especially done best by rote learning. Everyone knows that there is no substitute for the four basic functions of math: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Some people can argue that a calculator can aid the students to perform these functions, but can a calculator help the students to verify the answers? Knowledge of numbers and the principles by which any function is done is very important to decide whether the math answer calculated by the calculator is correct or not. Rote learning gives the student the power to perform all these mathematical functions in his/her head, and even verify the answers on the calculators.

Rote learning is especially useful for learning to read, because along with memorizing the alphabets and mastering the method of writing, it is important to develop a phonetic reflex as well. Phonetics is the sound that an alphabet or a word makes when it is pronounced. These phonetic sounds, which a young child learns by memorizing with frequent repetition, remain a part of his/her memory for life. And when the same child reaches the high school level of curriculum, and starts reading prose and passages from textbooks, the same memorization helps him to read and understand with ease.

Many people will even maintain that while they accept rote learning on an elementary level, it is irrelevant at higher schooling levels because the topics get complex and have to be understood thoroughly to be mastered. However, rote learning is still the only way in which a student can perform advanced mathematical calculations. A student wont be able to solve an algebraic problem with confidence, if he/she does not remember the formulas. The same applies to other subjects as well. For example, to be able to perform experiments in chemistry, a student has to memorize the periodic table to learn about the properties of chemical elements along with their scientific names and other related matter.

It is imperative for a child who is going to give an exam that he/she retains what has been taught to be able to transfer it on the answer sheet. To be able to pass in any examination a child will have to repetitively learn all the topics in most subjects. A student may have understood all the complexities of the topic, but if he/she cannot write them to the examiners satisfaction, the understanding will be fruitless, as far as passing an exam is concerned. Rote learning is, therefore, very much a part of homeschooling, and if done properly, i.e. first understanding the topic thoroughly and then memorizing it by frequent repetition, will make the topic stay permanently in an individuals knowledge bank. This permanent memory can be of great use in future, and a person can always rely on it, to draw upon it whenever required.
About the Author
Homeschool Curriculum and other useful information can be found at http://www.citizenschool.com. The best site for all of your Homeschoolingneeds.
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