Never Underestimate the Memory of a Small Child.

I picked up the sixteen-year-old from Lacrosse conditioning (Yes, it’s *that* time again already! Season begins in March!) this afternoon and he told me how excited he is that he got to turn in his psychology book today; the semester ends next week.

Oh yes, he’s excited about being finished with psychology…he’s taking a semester of U.S. Geography in its place for second semester and is, well, psyched about it.

I said, “You seem pretty excited about geography.”

He replied, “I AM! What could be easier than learning U.S. Geography?”

I smiled as I thought of how he, as a three-year-old, had been given a puzzle that was a map of the United States. We worked with him on that stinkin’ puzzle everyday. It only had the 50 pieces, but we did it over and over…and over…and over. While we did it (and redid it…and redid it), we named the states and taught him to recognize them. He had special factoids attached to some of them (Tennessee is where Grandma and Grandpa live, Florida is where Mickey is, Wisconsin is where cheese comes from*, etc.).

After a while, this little three-year-old could do that puzzle–while naming every single state–in a heartbeat. We even tried to make it harder for him by covering a piece and giving him a hint about which states it belonged next to, and he could name it and then put it where it was supposed to go.

Then the puzzle got old, and he seemed to forget about ever knowing the states.

In the car today, when he declared how easy this class would be for him, I thought that he figured that the puzzle he once mastered would somehow help him out, because we’ve told him how amazing he was at knowing the states. I was only partially right. After making his declaration, he started singing the states. In alphabetical order.

I laughed and said, “Where’s that from?”

“Oh, fifth grade. It’s a song called “Fifty Nifty States”. It helped us learn them.”

Here is the song he was singing; the state part is at about :44.

Amazing. Or was it? When I searched Youtube for that song, I re-discovered this (something way more familiar to me), a lesson on the capitals from the Animaniacs, whose videos (uh-huh, VHS tapes) we *wore out* when the boys were little. It’s catchy. Watch a bit.

The Animaniacs taught about the presidents, too.

Guess what? I just looked in the family room closet and the tapes are still there. I seem to recall trying to get rid of them but was told, “MOM, we may watch those again someday.” (and I believe this conversation happened less than a year ago)

This got me to thinking. My boys and their generational peers aren’t the first to have learned catchy tunes as kids that carried them through later lessons. After all, how many times have you used a crutch like this one during English class?

Or history class?

Don’t tell me I’m the only one who’s ever sung to herself, “Weee the peeee-ople, in order to form a more perrrrrfect union…”

Seems to me that we’re all Little Einsteins, one way or the other.

*I realize that Wisconsin is not the only place that cheese comes from. This particular puzzle had pictures of cows and cheese all over Wisconsin!



  • Melissa

    Are ya kidding? Just lately I learned all about suffrage from School House Rock…it must not have been played on Saturday mornings much because I didn’t remember, it’s one of my favorite SHR songs…and Hope’s, too!

  • Dea

    I was JUST talking about that Animaniacs states song! There’s a countries of the world one too, but Yakko forgot a current (at the time) country from the list – too funny! I love love love the Animaniacs – their songs helped me pass my US History tests! LOL!

    And now….I’m singing, Conjunction Junction, what’s your function? And the weird as heck songs my junior high English teacher taught us for to be verbs and participles….

  • Sue

    There ARE other states in this fine country that make cheese other than Wisconsin? I don’t think any other state has those cute little cheese hats!
    I do love conjunction junction!

  • nonna

    i loved school house rock growing up too, but i don’t remember ANY of those videos. i guess i’m just getting too old…lol

    i DO remember conjunction junction though, so i’m not totally brain dead at least 🙂

  • Kat

    Neat way to learn all 50 states. Of course when I was kid we only had five and later we had 16 so that is not so hard to remember 😉

    Though we did get a good laugh when my sister in law, who is a geopgraphy teacher, brought home work with her on Christmas and one of her students said the captial of Brandenburg was a quiet little town in Poland. WEll may not be funny to you but sure as hell was funny to us 🙂

    Great post.

  • NukeDad

    Conjunction Junction was my favorite. Or how about; “I”m just a bill, just a lonely old bill, and I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill”? Then; “You made it, Bill! You’re a law!” Forgot about “Interjection”, though. Loved that one too. You can get them all on CD now. Presents for the NukeKids? Probably. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Sarah Clapp

    I love School House Rock. How else would I know that “taxation without representation is not fair”?

  • Melisa with one S

    I forgot to add to this post that not only do we have the SHR videotapes too, but we bought a CD that is full of rock band covers! Find it here:

    Sue: I think you’re right about the cheese hats. 🙂

    Kat: Yep, I think you had it *a little* easier than we did. But that’s okay. LOL

    Nukedad: That bill was so awesome. That was one of my faves too. I bet the Nukekids would love to watch them!

    Sarah: I know! The creators of those cartoons were geniuses! I also liked Interplanet Janet…

  • seashore subjects

    LOL! I learned the states from “Nifty Fifty United States” song way back when school house rock was on Saturday mornings and disco was headed out – and I still sing it to myself!

  • Kim M.

    THANK you for sharing that!! As a meteorologist who knows all her states I really appreciate that! How funny, I had never heard of the animaniacs before meeting my fiance Ben. One of the first things he showed me in his collection of their shows on dvd is that song. Now I have seen it twice within 2 years… I am sure he will ace his geography class!

    Weather Kim

  • Dea

    YAY! I found it! He forgets Singapore, of all countries to forget – and if thise one doesn’t make you feel old…oy….so many of those countries? No longer exist….eep…

  • Oh My GOFF!

    DANG! I have no audio on my work computer right now! But I did buy my lil sis a tiara for her bday today and thought of you! xo