Claritas Publishing’s Memory Work Program is the product of a group of homeschooling parents who originally developed material for Claritas Classical Academy, an on-site setting for group classes near Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. That material has now been made available to all homeschoolers. You can use the material on your own or form your own group. Claritas Publishing doesn’t organize groups for you.
While it is similar in some ways to other classical memory work programs, Claritas Publishing Memory Work is limited to grammar stage memory work which is suitable for kindergarten through sixth grade. Key facts in nine different subject areas are summarized into sentences that students will memorize each week.
There is one Memory Work Guide for each of four cycles. There are 28 weeks per cycle, essentially providing material for one school year per cycle. The four cycles will take you through four years, covering the full span of history in chronological order.
Each Guide lays out the week’s memory work on a full-color, two-page spread. At the back of each Guide, all of the memorization work is rearranged under subject areas so you can quickly see the bigger picture of what is being learned in each subject area.
To give you a better idea of what the memory work covers, this is the material for Week 5 of Cycle 1:
- English grammar: definitions of conjunctions and interjections
- Math: skip counting by 10’s and 11’s
- Science: the parts of a plant cell
- Scripture: memorization of Exodus 10:2-17, concentrating on verse 6 this week
- History: “Hammurabi, the sixth ruler of Babylon, desired just laws and wanted to protect the weak, so he established the Code of Hammurabi.”
- Hymn: verse two of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”
- Geography: the Black Sea, the Greek (Balkan) Peninsula, the Italian (Apennine) Peninsula, and the Caucasus Mountains
- Latin: conjugation of esse in the present tense
- Timeline: a timeline across the top of the page shows Davidic Kingdom, Solomon’s Reign, Israel Divides into Two Nations, Homer and Greek Mythology, The Olympics, The Founding of Rome in 753 B.C., Democracy Begins in Greece, and God’s Prophets Warn His People.
All of these facts except the timeline are set to music, creatively presented and professionally sung by Beth Fox. Facts are also printed on business-card size flashcards for practice without music. I’m told that the flashcards are in the process of being reformatted to a larger size, but I personally like this size since they fit easily in children’s hands.
As you can see, this is not a complete curriculum, but it can provide your organizing core for history and science. On the other hand, thorough grammar coverage is possible with the optional Fundamental Grammar Workbook for the Lower Grammar Stage (for grades two and three) and Fundamental Grammar and its companion workbooks for students fourth grade and above.
Claritas Publishing’s Memory Work program is thoroughly Christian. This is most evident in the inclusion of hymns and Scripture, in some of the Latin to be learned, and in the grammar lessons.
Content of the Four Cycles
Cycle 1 teaches ancient history through the fall of Rome. Geography teaches about both the ancient and the modern world. Science concentrates on biology, teaching topics such as taxonomy, plants, protists, vertebrates, invertebrates, mammals, and the human body, while also introducing Galen and Hippocrates.
Cycle 2 picks up from the Pax Romana and continues up through the early explorers. Geography reviews continents, oceans, and seas while also studying India, Asia, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. For science, astronomy and earth science are the focus with topics such as stars, galaxies, the zodiac, the sun, the moon, planets, parts of the earth, natural cycles, biomes, clouds, and tides. Students also learn about Copernicus and Galileo.
Cycle 3 covers the early modern period of world history. Science focuses on chemistry this year, addressing topics such as matter, states of matter, atoms, bonds, element symbols, and acids and bases plus key figures such as Democritus, Dalton, and Mendeleev. Geography is centered primarily in the United States this year.
Cycle 4 brings students up through modern history. Geography ties in with study of modern Europe, the geography of World War Two, South America, and Central America. Science topics are drawn from physics this year. Students learn about Archimedes, Kepler, Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, and Einstein, as well as about forces, work, energy, simple machines, electricity, the Laws of Thermodynamics, heat transfer, the electromagnetic spectrum, light, and sound.
For each cycle there is a Memory Work Guide, memory work set to music (on either a set of CDs or a flash drive), flashcards, Handwriting Sheets, and a Map Booklet.
Memory Work Guides show what is to be learned each week. These are lovely, spiral-bound books with heavyweight, glossy pages, printed in color. The guides were written primarily for use with group classes, and there is minimal direction on how to present the material to students. Still, it shouldn’t be that difficult to figure out what to do.
History is aligned with The Story of the World (Books 1 through 4) by Susan Wise Bauer. Memory Work Guides use very selective tidbits of history pulled from The Story of the World to highlight some key events. It does not try to include every key event.
Math topics are a mixture of simple and more challenging concepts, even in the first cycle. All cycles practice skip counting, but they also introduce concepts such as percents, prime numbers, and the distributive property. Similarly Latin begins with introductory level concepts, gradually introducing more complex concepts within each cycle.
Scripture passages to be learned each year always include one or more that are lengthy. For example, in Cycle 1, students learn the section on the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20: 1-17 over a twelve week period.
A spiral-bound Map Booklet for each cycle contains eight full-color, laminated maps. The maps are printed in pairs, with one map being fully labeled while the other map is left blank for students to label themselves. While the maps are in the back of each Memory Work Guide, students can practice labeling the laminated maps in the Map Booklets over and over again if they use erasable markers. Cycle 3 includes significant coverage of both Canadian and U.S. geography. (The authors of the curriculum seem to be trying to make the program work for students in both countries.)
Separate packets of three-hole-punched Handwriting Sheets for copywork for each cycle cover history, scripture, English grammar, and science for each cycle. Children copy manuscript printed sentences reinforcing both their memory work and printing skills.
While basic memory work includes some grammar such as memorizing a list of linking verbs or memorizing the definition of a subordinate clause, Claritas Publishing offers optional resources for comprehensive coverage of grammar and usage. Children in grades two through four can also use Fundamental Grammar for the Lower Grammar Stage. Older students can be taught from the parent manual, Fundamental Grammar; students complete two grammar workbooks per cycle in conjunction with Fundamental Grammar.
Fundamental Grammar for the Lower Grammar Stage can be used with any cycle, but it really is only a one year program since it has 27 lessons. This is a consumable workbook. Each lesson should take a week to complete. While there are no specific instructions as to how to use the guide, each lesson contains specific instructions. Each week’s lesson begins with oral work as students review definitions taught in the Memory Work Guides. (Basic definitions and concepts are reviewed every year.) A few lessons include a short poem to be memorized. Each week has a spelling list. Even though the spelling list is at the end of the lesson, I would think it helpful to introduce the words early in the week and review them at least a few times. Copywork is included for each week, with passages from scripture, mythology, fairy tales, and history. Following the copywork are a number of grammar exercises. While some of these require simple underlining, circling words, or filling in a blank, others require students to construct complete sentences. Students begin sentence diagramming, first with only subjects and verbs in Lesson 23, but with sentences that include adjectives and prepositional phrases in Lesson 25. The last part of the book is a complete answer key, so parents unfamiliar with sentence diagramming can see the correct way to diagram in the key. The level of work in Fundamental Grammar for the Lower Grammar Stage seems to me more appropriate for third grade than second, and it might still be challenging for some third graders. The goal of Fundamental Grammar for the Lower Grammar Stage is to prepare student for Fundamental Grammar.
Fundamental Grammar can be used over a few years for fourth grade through twelfth grade. Instructional material will repeat from year to year, but it is often broken up into sections for Level 1 and Level 2. More challenging material is taught in Level 2. Each cycle has its own set of two grammar workbooks that correlate both with material in the cycle’s Memory Work Guide (drawn from various subject areas) and with instructional material in the parent’s Fundamental Grammar Guide. Exercises in the workbooks are sometimes differentiated as being for either Level 1 or 2 as well. However, all students will complete many of the exercises in these consumable workbooks, so you cannot reuse the same workbook for students at two different levels. For all four cycles, the first workbook covers lessons 1 through 13. As Fundamental Grammar explains at the beginning of the third unit leading into Lesson 14, “[F]or the past thirteen weeks, the students have been memorizing the ‘grammar’ of English grammar—the different parts of speech, the classification of sentences, syntax, basic composition rules, some basics of diagramming. ….we can build upon that foundation. The grammar…is now integrated and applied as we enter the dialectic phase where we examine sentences in more detail. The students are ready to begin proofing and parsing, which will include analyzing and diagramming each sentence and each word” (p. 96). A six-step method is taught for proofing and parsing. The approach used is quite a bit like that used in Shurley Grammar.
Each sentence analysis begins with the student first writing it down from dictation and checking it. The proofing process is next as students learn particular questions to ask and answer in a specific order as they work through identification of the role of each word. Next, they classify the sentence’s purpose, structure, and pattern. Diagramming follows, then parsing. Parsing is done on charts provided at the back of both student and teacher books. (You’ll need to reproduce plenty of these.) Answer keys for activities taught directly from Fundamental Grammar follow each unit. There's an additional answer key for the first grammar workbook for each cycle; it comes with the workbook as a separate set of pre-punched, looseleaf pages. While the first workbook for each cycle is used like most grammar workbooks, the second workbook is used by the parent to present each sentence and help students work through the proofing and parsing process. The entire process for each sentence is laid out in detail to make it easy for parents. (No other answer key is needed.) By the time they complete a year of Fundamental Grammar, students should be able to proof and parse most basic sentences.
While the grammar curriculum is certainly optional, it dovetails nicely with the Memory Work Guides. Even though the grammar is covered thoroughly using the optional resources, you still need to use other resources for literature, phonics (for students who need it), reading comprehension, vocabulary, and composition.
Fundamental Grammar can also be used apart from Memory Work Guides. Classical educators with older students even up through high school might find it a useful tool for teaching grammar.
Audio for memory work is available from Claritas Publishing only on CDs or flash drives. If you want a more portable digital option, you might want to check out Cross Seven’s versions of the audio files which are approved by Claritas Publishing. These add video and illustrations and can be accessed from most devices connected to the internet.