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Teaching Poetry: Subject by Subject, Part 11
Most homeschool parents I talk to get a funny look on their faces when I mention poetry. That’s because their own schooling experience with poetry consisted of dissecting a poem to bits at the teacher’s insistence. Such over-analysis and examination steals all the joy from the beautiful words. Charlotte Mason’s approach is vastly different.
Good poetry reaches the heart in a way few other words can. It’s amazing how deeply a well-crafted phrase from a thoughtful poem can shape our lives! As Charlotte said, “Poetry is a criticism of life; so it is, both a criticism and an inspiration; and most of us carry in our minds tags of verse which shape our conduct more than we know” (Vol. 4, Book 2, p. 10).
We are doing our children a great service when we nourish their minds and equip their hearts with good poetry. Here’s how.
Read poetry aloud. Often. Enjoy how the words fit together and create pictures and feelings within you and your children. There. That’s it.
Oh, certainly, you can do other things with poetry, but that’s the foundation. That’s where it starts. Schedule poetry once a week to begin with. Select a poem and read it aloud to share with the others. Be sure to read beautiful words in a beautiful way.
“But how do I select a poem?” Choose one that you like, one that nourishes your mind and heart or just makes you smile. The key is to surround your poetry times with a mind-set of enjoying words well chosen.
Charlotte would often do a poet study by selecting one poet to focus on for the whole year. Read poems by that one poet, illustrate a few, narrate some of them, and soon your children will get a good feel for that poet’s style.
As your children grow comfortable in the world of poetry, have them read the poem aloud sometimes. Help them practice beforehand, if needed, for poetry is one of the hardest genre to read aloud well. You can also assign a favorite poem for the children to memorize and recite. Again, coach them in reciting well.
But above all, read poems often and enjoy them. You can do that! Our Enjoy the Poems series is designed to make it simple. Each book features one poet, a living biography, twenty-six of the poet’s works, and a suggested schedule for enjoying them throughout the year.
Shakespeare in Three Steps
Charlotte’s students also enjoyed the poetry of Shakespeare. In fact, Charlotte didn’t give Shakespeare only one year of study; she incorporated his plays every year.
Shakespeare can also be an enjoyable part of your generous curriculum if you follow these three easy steps:
- Read the play in story form.
- Read the lines from the play in Shakespeare’s words.
- Watch a performance of the play—either live or recorded—that is as close to the original as possible.
Our Shakespeare in Three Steps books and audio recordings walk you through those simple steps and make his plays very accessible.
You will be amazed at the deep thoughts and worthy ideas that can be added to your home school simply by sprinkling in some poetry to enjoy.
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I found a delightful, simple way to add poetry weekly. We had only been sporadically reading poetry, and I always felt that we should do more because it was so enjoyable, but we never seemed to able to get to it as often as I liked.
We have been doing Teas every week for several years, after reading about the idea in Large Family Logistics by Kim Brenneman. It’s so nice to bring out the nice cups, make some scones or cookies, and just sit and talk with my children and drink tea and enjoy a break in the homeschool day.
Then this summer, I read on the Bravewriter blog (she is a CM homeschooler and has a writing curriculum) that she does Tuesday Teas with Poetry. So I gathered up all our poetry books into a basket. Now each week when we do our Tea, we take turns reading a poem from the book basket. Sometimes we talk about the poem, sometimes we just listen and enjoy it. Try it! You’ll be glad you did. 🙂
We read a poem or two each day from Rosen/Howard’s Classic Poetry. I was so glad to see what you wrote here about it being as simple as reading it aloud. I can’t say that we always enjoy the poems, but we frequently do enjoy the way an author uses words and rhythm. I am so glad that we don’t have to pick the poems apart in order to “do it right!” Thank you for the encouragement.
Nanci, I know it’s been over a year since you posted, but I wanted to say thank you for the BraveWriter website. I’d never heard of it before, but immediately went and took a look. It has encouraged me and, if this can even be said about a website, delighted my soul! Thank you!
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