I love poetry. I want my children to love poetry, but when I get too enthusiastic about it, I end up making them hate it. So I have to creep up on them from the side, sort of like offering new vegetables.
I read a lot of poetry to them– everything from Shel Silverstein to Langston Hughes to Jack Prelutsky to Emily Dickinson. I have some beautiful anthologies of poetry, and if I leave them out, I find the children thumbing through them looking for their favorites. Once a month, I ask them to memorize a poem. Sometimes it’s a Bible verse, or a haiku. The boys have both memorized “classics” from Calvin and Hobbes. Our home school group gets together on a regular basis and offers time for the kids to do a formal recitation, and this has been a great nudge to my kids to memorize.
My dad loves to write little verses to them, and I cherish this tradition. The kids have memorized his verses and written him back. Last week I wrote six words on the white board and asked everyone to write a poem using those words. They loved it. Here are our words: waffle, blue, yes, dive, slumber, wonder. I try to choose very specific words, and they love to use them in different ways.
We watched one of my favorite movies on my birthday– Roman Holiday. In it, the runaway princess quotes a poem, and she and the undercover journalist argue over who wrote it. The children were thrilled so see adults– FAMOUS ONES– quoting poetry. Then we read in The Long Winter how Mary, Laura, Carrie and Ma pass the frozen days by reciting. This was just like telling them that Babe Ruth ate brussels sprouts.
Charlotte Mason says, “It is good to store a lot of poetry in a child’s memory, and it doesn’t have to take any work to learn it. A few years ago I visited a lady who was raising her niece using her own educational approach… Here’s what she would do. She would read a poem all the way through to the girl. The next day, while the girl was sewing a doll’s dress or something, she would read it again. She might read it the next day while brushing the girl’s hair. She would get in maybe six days of this, depending on the length of the poem, reading the poem at various times, once during each day. And after a few days, the girl could say the poem that she had not learned.'” Home Education, volume 1, Part V
Here are a few of my favorite anthologies. What are yours?