Poetry: a few thoughts

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?

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When We Were Very Young

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10 thoughts on “Poetry: a few thoughts

  1. We each of us are learning a different poem in our morning memory time, so we’re really learning four different poems all at once. We’re very formal about it–we have a poetry position (a way to stand) and gestures and voice projecting. Its basically how we’re learning to have good presence and eye contact. Its actually our favorite part of the morning (I’ll go ahead and speak for all of us) as some of the poems are beautiful and some are very ridiculous.

  2. I have been absolutely amazed at the my children’s ability to memorize. This is our first year homeschooling and it is such a joy to witness what sponges they are when it comes to this “old fashioned” way of education. It’s also a God-send for my 6yo reluctant writer and reader. What a disservice to the publicly educated students that they don’t have the opportunity to learn this way, or to shine this way. And I have spoken to many adults who were educated themselves using this more classical approach, and it’s remarkable what they retain (and enjoy) into adulthood.

  3. Oh I fall down on both counts; not enough memorising around here (do play lines count?) and poetry only once in a while. But I just put the barefoot book of classic poems on reserve at the library: it had pretty cover art.

  4. We play the “metaphor game” in our house – or in the car. Like I Spy, except we describe something we see as something else – (to make it harder, and more poetic sounding, sometimes I’ll limit the number of words one can use to under 5). My boy thinks its all fun and games – but it’s amazing what he’ll come up with – how creative his language can be when he can’t use the words he regularly might. Then, when I read to them at night and notice a metaphor on the page, I’ll point it out. Pretty soon, they are pointing them out to me. This has give us good language for talking about poetry together. We’ll read a poem about a tiger – for example – and then I’ll ask – do you think its a metaphor for something else? And they can agree or disagree. But it’s neat to have my 7 year old boy able to think in that way.

  5. We do all recitiation while jumping on beds.

    I just bought all 4 of these books. 🙂 I have decided to teach (“teach” used very loosely here… perhaps “present”) poetry, and since I know nothing about it, we shall start the journey with Annie’s recommendations… 🙂

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