Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Homeschool~ Poetry Study

Does it make you feel a bit apprehensive?
Are you convinced it is all full of thees and thous and incomprehensible language?
Does the idea of reading poetry bring you to a place of eye rolling and high school style anguish?

It doesn't have to be like that!

Hear me out on this. (Well, read me out on this. :)) Poetry is a valid and wonderful addition to your homeschool. Poetry can build listening skills, reading comprehension, and can be used to explain certain grammar techniques and phonics skills. The trick is to find valid age appropriate poetry that will keep the attention of your student and teach some beautiful literary appreciation as well.

To be fair, I am biased. I love words. I love reading words. I love placing words together. I love word games. You get the idea. When I was sixteen I got my first thesaurus. I think it was for English class. We may have used it only once but I loved it. I found words to look up just to make my diary look more linguistic. I wrote all of my reports using that handy thesaurus. I sent notes to my grandma saying the same thing three different ways using creative wording. Words with hidden meanings and beautiful lettering can make a simple sentence become, well.... poetry.

Here's the thing about Poems.
They come in more forms than:
Little boy blue, 
Come blow your horn,
The sheep are in the meadow,
The cows are in the corn.
~Mother Goose

Or the standard:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
~Elizabeth Barrett Browning 

Poetry can tell a story. 
The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is a beautiful poem broken into twenty-two chapters. It is a story written in poetic form. It is beautiful and also informative. There is much to be learned about this culture and the territory. You can find it free online here.
By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Dark behind it rose the forest,
Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,
Rose the firs with cones upon them;
Bright before it beat the water,
Beat the clear and sunny water,
Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.
 Can you see it? I can almost smell the lake water and the pine sap. Gitche Gumee is the great Lake Superior. The gloomy pine trees are most likely the beautiful tall logging pines found in Northern Minnesota. Lovely descriptions. Here are the next lines:
There the wrinkled old Nokomis
Nursed the little Hiawatha,
Rocked him in his linden cradle,
Bedded soft in moss and rushes,
Safely bound with reindeer sinews;
Stilled his fretful wail by saying,
"Hush! the Naked Bear will hear thee!"
Lulled him into slumber, singing,
"Ewa-yea! my little owlet!
Who is this, that lights the wigwam?
With his great eyes lights the wigwam?
Ewa-yea! my little owlet!"
~Song of Hiawatha, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It tells us a story. 

Poetry can be moving
It can set your heart to feel and your mind to think. It does not need to be picked and pulled apart, but instead appreciated as a whole. It can be a catalyst for great conversation and debate. It can be motivating on  a personal level. 

If  ~ Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my so
There is some good discussion in there, I think.

Poetry was created by our LORD. 
The Psalms are the original organized poetry. All topics are covered. Lessons of morality are showcased. Commands and love notes are sung to us so sweetly. The Psalms are a favorite for many people for their fluid and graceful quality. The lines roll off the tongue fairly easily and pull on our heart strings.
May God be gracious to us and bless us
    and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
that your way may be known upon earth,
    your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
    let all the peoples praise you.
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
    for you judge the peoples with equity
    and guide the nations upon earth. Selah
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
    let all the peoples praise you.
The earth has yielded its increase;
    God, our God, has blessed us.
May God continue to bless us;
    let all the ends of the earth revere him.
~Psalm 67

Poetry can be a teaching tool. 
My children have thoroughly enjoyed reading Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses and A.A. Milne's Now We Are Six. These are timeless poems written for children. The poems are fanciful and full of childhood dreams and thoughts. The picture above is Sir Bean reading his favorite poem, Forgiven by A.A. Milne. 
Forgiven by A.A. Milne
I found a little beetle; so that Beetle was his name,
And I called him Alexander and he answered just the same.
I put him in a match-box, and I kept him all the day ...
And Nanny let my beetle out -
Yes, Nanny let my beetle out -
She went and let my beetle out -
And Beetle ran away.

She said she didn't mean it, and I never said she did,
She said she wanted matches and she just took off the lid,
She said that she was sorry, but it's difficult to catch
An excited sort of beetle you've mistaken for a match.

She said that she was sorry, and I really mustn't mind,
As there's lots and lots of beetles which she's certain we could find,
If we looked about the garden for the holes where beetles hid -
And we'd get another match-box and write BEETLE on the lid.

We went to all the places which a beetle might be near,
And we made the sort of noises which a beetle likes to hear,
And I saw a kind of something, and I gave a sort of shout:
"A beetle-house and Alexander Beetle coming out!"

It was Alexander Beetle I'm as certain as can be,
And he had a sort of look as if he thought it must be Me,
And he had a sort of look as if he thought he ought to say:
"I'm very very sorry that I tried to run away."

And Nanny's very sorry too for you-know-what-she-did,
And she's writing ALEXANDER very blackly on the lid,
So Nan and Me are friends, because it's difficult to catch
An excited Alexander you've mistaken for a match. 
There is rhyming, punctuation, phonics practice and comprehension that can take this poem to a whole lesson if you wanted. Or you could just enjoy the wonder of children and read Forgiven for sheer love of the realness of it. 

This is just the tip of the proverbial ice berg. There are numerous types, styles, and kinds of poetry. The idea is to just get reading it. Once there is an appreciation for poetry, a child can be led to write his own. When they are older, the works of Shakespeare or Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales will still be challenging but at least familiarly written. Wonderful works like Beowulf will be more easily read and enjoyed if the groundwork is done now. 

We don't do much other than read and enjoy the poems. There are grand discussions sometimes. Mostly though we sip tea and giggle or shed a tear. We compare to our own lives or compare against what The LORD says in His Word. We appreciate the beauty of the words.

Happy Reading!


  1. This was great! We read poetry every day during our school time, and though I don't consider myself well-versed in it, I do enjoy it. Our children love it, too! We've gone through RL Stevenson's Garden of Verses, a children's poetry anthology, and are going back to Mother Goose right now. After that, I think we'll read Milne's two books of poetry for children.

    1. We have found a nice selection in The Oxford Book of Children's Verse in America as well. I love Milne. They are so sweet you can't help but smile. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Oh I know what you mean about loving words. Aren't they wonderful! And, your post is a wonderful grouping of words - yours and those of others. When I read poetry, it catches - easily, simply, rhythm and rhyme. When I read God's Word, away go my bothers and reading certainly passes the time! I hadn't read, didn't know some of the poems you have displayed, but I go away richer and blessed, and n'er dismayed. For I have thought, thunk, and theoried as I went. Oh, this blog stop was a good time spent!

    ;) Jenn

    1. :) I am pleased you have found your time well spent! :) I LOVE Poetry. :)

  3. Love this! Thanks for the inspiration. We have been reading a poem each day during our school time. I look forward to this each day. My children haven't quite caught my anticipation but your article encourages me to stick with it! :)

    1. It takes some getting used to but it is so very worth it!

  4. Grr...ok, FINE! You have convinced me. I have always been totally literature-obsessed as well, but there are two things I'd never touch: poetry and Shakespeare. Neither has ever held any interest for me. However, this wonderful post of yours is churning around in that cold, dark, hungry spot in my heart that only poetry can fill. Ha! We've got all those Ambleside poetry books just waiting to be opened.... Guess I better get on that! :)

    Featuring you today when I get the Homemaking linkup ready. Thanks for sharing your heart!


    1. Oh my goodness! Thank you! Ambleside has lovely selections for poetry, all age appropriate!

  5. Homemaking Linkup is live and I'm featuring you ;) Feel free to take a "featured" button from my sidebar, if you'd like. Thanks for your good heart of encouragement...really appreciate you!

    Mrs. Sarah Coller

    1. Thank you so very much! I am honored! I just learned how to do the buttons! I am grabbing one!

  6. Thanks so much for sharing your pictures with the homeschooling link-up! I love poetry and are just now starting a real poetry story. I feel we've missed out on years of enjoyment.

    Have a blessed week ahead and I look forward to seeing your next week-in-pictures. :)

    1. I am so glad you have decided to try it out. With practice and age able poetry it can be such a great learning experience. :)

  7. This blog was a great stop :) I love poetry. Thanks for sharing the pictures.

    Darya @ Forhead Wrinkle Support

  8. Poetry is indeed a beautiful form of art and can be used to express intricate thoughts in a gracious way. I’ve always loved both reading and composing poems since a small age and it’s one of my favorite hobbies. That’s why I’ve arranged a short and sweet poetry recitation event for my wedding ceremony next week at one of my favorite wedding venues Los Angeles.


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