I didn’t grow up with a love of poetry…and to be perfectly honest I still don’t fully appreciate poetry, mainly because I don’t fully understand it. Nevertheless, I try to foster a love and appreciation of poetry in the hearts of my children as much of the Bible is poetical so I want them to desire to read these areas and not shy away from them.
A few years ago, we started doing poetry appreciation using Charlotte Mason’s methods, which is to study one poet per term. I found that by reading all the poems aloud together over morning tea was enjoyable and enriching but this practice also depended upon me to do the work and as my girls got older I wanted them to be more independent so I started adding the poetry to their schedule but it never seemed to get done. Maybe this is because it is small and bite-sized that they’d leave it till later…but it didn’t get read at a rate that I was happy with. I think that every child should have heard the poetry of R.L. Stevenson and A.A. Milne.
Then, I printed out the *should-read* poetry list from Ambleside Online. The girls were supposed to read a poem a day (or so). I also requested that once a term they completed a Poet Biographical Sketch and one Poem Synopsis. (‘R’ didn’t complete all this yet she still likes and appreciates poetry)
Do you ever get that feeling that you’re running out of time? Well, as silly as it is, I feel that way too at times. I found a good book called the The Walker Book of Classic Poetry and Poets. This book has a short biographical sketch on each poet and has a few notes on each selected poem, which I found very helpful in simply giving it to ‘Miss A’ and telling her to slowly work her way through it.
I also select and read aloud poetry that fits in with our learning whether it be a unit on ‘whales’, ‘Summer’, “Easter’, ‘flowers’, ‘family’, ‘Bilbo’s Song’ or an historical time period. We read Australian poets too- who doesn’t like A.B. Paterson? I have many pages printed and filed in binders and much poetry is included so that the children can freely choose to write for copywork. If I have selected poetry to go along with our theme, they will usually do that for copy work. I also might read these poems aloud a few times before asking the children to have a go and reading it aloud, teaching them to read with character and inflection.
We have also done a unit of work on poetry. Sometimes this has come up in their LLATL books and other times, I’ve devised a mini unit on it. What this means is that we work on a few poems for copy work and dictation, while discussing the structure and language of the poem. I have bought a few books of poetry which I will strew around the home. Occasionally, I will sit in the lounge room and read a few poems myself and if one takes my fancy I will share it with the children. There are some good downloadables from CurrClick
My oldest child is now starting to read Christian poetry and enjoys the Psalms more also. I used to struggle with reading the Psalms and thought they were a bit boring…but in the last 10 years, since I’ve been stimulating my literary appetite with more poetry, I find that I enjoy and relate to the Psalms more.
My goal is not that the children should know every major poet or every classic poem, rather that they have a love for the literary language and appreciate the rich beauty of imagery presented in the poems…that they would become accustomed to reading in this way and that this may lead to a desire and joy in reading the very best forms of literature.
I have tried to accomplish this goal by learning to appreciate poetry for myself…and by not making it a ‘subject’ that needs to be ticked off until the student is older. I don’t think it really matters how you read poetry…just enjoy it!