Some of you know my nine-year-old daughter, Andrea. (Here she is with her good buddy, Chino & Pía’s son Malaquías.) I thought about having Andrea memorize the easiest verse or two of each section of Ps. 119 from the Knox version, which keeps the original acrostic pattern of the psalm. That way she could remember the verses in order by going right through the alphabet. (Knox skips q and stops before x, y, and z, since there are only 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Too bad; I’d like to have seen him start each verse of a section with the word xylophone and keep it somewhat faithful to the original meaning.) When she got through the psalm, we could go back to the beginning and add more verses from each section, maybe eventually getting her to learn them all.
After about a week, I decided that wasn’t a good plan after all. While Knox does a great job of keeping the acrostic, in order to do so he has to use some very complicated sentence structures and vocabulary. Andrea could memorize those verses, but she would have a very hard time understanding what they mean. So I decided to have her memorize from the NKJV, like the rest of her family. And I thought four verses per month would be a good goal to shoot for. That would give her plenty of time to review the verses, and plenty of time for us to talk to her about what they mean.
Well, Andrea has left me almost as astonished as Malaquías looks. Though we haven’t done an exaggerated amount of reviewing this month, she has memorized nine verses–the four of Aleph, four from Beth, and one from Gimel. She’s into November already. So, I’m adjusting our plan of action: this month, we’ll try to have her learn the remaining verses of Aleph and Beth, so she’ll be on track with everyone else. Then we’ll keep encouraging her to memorize eight verses per month as long as she can keep it up.
Here’s how we do it. I found a picture to go with each verse, and we made flash cards. We learn the verse, accompanying the words by gestures as much as possible. We’ve got the flash cards laminated and attached to a metal ring, and we review them in order every day at least once or twice (at mealtimes). Already she seems to be able to do them pretty much in order even without the flash cards.
I had thought that Andrea’s Down syndrome would create limitations on her ability to memorize. And of course it does, to some extent. But what I’ve seen so far is that her biggest limitation is her dad! As long as I’m finding pictures for new verses and finding a little time to review, she keeps memorizing quite quickly. (Her Mom makes the actual flash cards and she and Nick help with the review, so I have no excuses.)
How long will she keep up with everyone? I have a good idea that that will depend a lot on me. What I plan to do–soon!–is to make some kind of board game with one of her pictures on each place on the board. Something like Monopoly, perhaps, but a little more visually attractive–and, of course, we’ll need 176 places on the board instead of 40. Maybe the first eight sections of the Psalm could be the eight legs of an octopus, each leg containing 8 verses, laid out in a way that she could follow them easily from verse 1 to verse 64. Then she could move from the octopus to. . .well, we’ll see. If you have any ideas, let me know. I have almost two years to finish the game, of course, but I’d like to have the general layout planned right before I start.
Yes, it will take some effort. But I’m sick of holding her back!