As the name of my blog indicates, I spend a lot of time thinking about home. Of course, my Heavenly Home is the one that is eternal, so that’s where I need to lay up my treasures, and that’s the one I’m striving for. But in the meantime, I have been given this tiny piece of the here-and-now—this home on the edge of town, this family, this neighborhood—in which to serve Him. And, though this is in the earthly realm, I want the things that happen here to be investments in the Heavenly realm.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Potpourri of Poetry Ideas

Teaching poetry to children can begin when they are babies! Learning the joy of words and rhythm and ideas as expressed in poetry can foster a lifelong love.

Our children’s earliest exposure to poetry came through nursery rhymes. It was quite a natural thing for me to teach my children nursery rhymes, as my mother had read them to me, as her grandmother had read them to her. Also in early childhood, we read a wide variety of poetry—from limericks (Edward Lear is a favorite) and nonsense verse (such as poems by Ogden Nash), to the beautiful expressions of childhood by Robert Louis Stevenson found in his A Child’s Garden of Verses. A. A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six are also delightful collections of poems that appeal to young children (and their parents).

When I taught unit studies, I often looked for a great poem to go along with our current unit. We read “Paul Revere’s Ride” when learning about the American Revolution. When we did a study of birds, I had each child choose a poem about a bird to memorize and recite. “In Flanders Field” was posted during our study of World War I. The anthology Favorite Poems Old and New is a great resource for finding poems about different subjects—seasons, holidays, famous people, nature, fantasy, etc.  (You can read about some other resources ~here~.)

From time to time, we have also focused on a particular poet. For example, we once read a delightful children’s biography about Emily Dickinson, The Mouse of Amherst, which was told from the perspective of a mouse who lived in her room. That inspired us to read quite a few of Dickinson’s poems. We have also spent time with Robert Frost, A. A. Milne, Walt Whitman, and Shakespeare.  At other times, we have read a "poem of the week."

There are a few things that I’ve discovered through the years that have aided us in our learning and appreciation of poetry.

~  One (don’t laugh!), I keep a poem posted on an antique wooden washboard that I have hanging in my bathroom. (I said not to laugh—it is a place that people visit every day!) My children have memorized lots of poetry over the years by reading the displayed poem day after day. For these particular poems, memory is not required. I have just chosen a poem that has living ideas with which I want my family to become familiar. But memory sometimes follows as they become enamored with a particular poem. I also include hymns in this display, as they are indeed poems and contain rich expressions of faith and doctrine.

~  Two, I take advantage of opportunities for my children to memorize and recite poems, whether it be a poetry recitation sponsored by our local homeschool organization, a recitation night planned for our co-op, or an impromptu recitation at a family party.  (You could do a similar thing within your own family, reciting for grandparents or other extended family or close friends.)

~  Finally, we include poetry in our Morning Time. Each day, we take turns reciting the poems that we’re working on (for co-op or for our own enrichment). We may recite these same poems for several months...and believe me, if you recite a poem three or four days each week, it becomes a part of you! After all have recited, I read aloud a poem by a particular poet on whom we've chosen to focus for a time.  We usually read the same poem for three consecutive days, and then begin reading another by the same poet.  By reading many works of the same poet, we become familiar with his style, and discover the scope of his writing. 

This may sound as if we spend a great deal of time in our homeschool studying poetry, but that is not the case. One of my basic homeschooling philosophies is “slow and steady over time”...and that certainly is the case with our “study” of poetry. 

A little bit here, and a little bit there, and your students will learn to feel at home in the rich world of poetry!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

April is National Poetry Month. This celebration was first introduced in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets as a way to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States.

1 comment:

  1. The poem on the washboard: I look at it every time. It's funny because it's been there so long that I don't think of it as anything other than normal.


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