Homeschooling

Memory Work

Most of you know that we’re a homeschooling family, and from time to time I like to review what we’re doing for memory work, which consists mostly of poetry. As some of you may be new to this, I’ll answer a few questions first.

Question #1:  How do you choose your memory work?

We memorize those poems, public addresses, Bible verses, or other literary works that we like. It’s as simple as that, but I think it’s an important point.  Your children will sniff it out immediately if they think you think a poem is dull or lame.  And you’ll hate teaching it. So don’t choose memory work that you don’t like.

For example, if all your friends’ kids are memorizing Shakespeare, but you don’t understand Shakespeare, and it makes you break out in hives just thinking about reading all that “foreign” language, then don’t do Shakespeare!  Quit stressing yourself out and pick something you do enjoy and understand.

Furthermore, If you’ve never memorized anything with your family at all, ever, don’t panic, but do begin somewhere. It’s worth it. We cannot truly own something until we’ve interiorized it, or memorized it. If you really don’t know where to begin, crack open your Bible to the book of Psalms and pick one. Go for Psalm 23 if you’re completely lost. There are obvious reasons why everyone used to have that thing memorized.

Or, if you want a book of poetry for your small children, but don’t know where to start, buy Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses.  He’s just plain fun, and we love reciting Where Go the Boats and Foreign Lands this time of year. Or belting out The Swing while pushing those little sweeties back and forth on swings.

Question #2:  How do you teach a poem?

For a number of years, we always did our reciting at the breakfast table.  Usually I’d begin by reading the poem first and then let everyone else have a shot at it.  If you have five children memorizing the same poem, it really doesn’t take that long before everyone has it memorized.  Think about it.  That’s six times of hearing the same thing every morning.

A few years ago, however, we began reading the Bible at breakfast, so now our poetry has become a part of “Morning Time.” This is a half hour slot in the mid-morning when everyone comes together to review Latin vocabulary, pray, and recite.

Question #3:  Are you always memorizing new poetry?

Yes and no.  There are certain poems that we always return to because they’re family favorites.  For example, every Fall the little ones recite Autumn Fires because it’s what we’re living.  We’re really raking leaves and burning them.  And every winter we revisit Stevenson’s Wintertime and Robert Frost’s Stopping by the Woods on Snowy Evening.  In the spring, we return to the great Catholic priest, Gerard Manley Hopkins, which I mentioned in a previous post.  The summer always brings us around to a more patriotic theme with Paul Revere’s Ride and the Declaration of Independence.

But again, throughout the year, we do whatever strikes me or the children.

I also keep a running list of the poems that we’ve memorized over the years.  It’s fun to see what the children have done, and it’s good to review our favorite ones from time to time. I don’t have a problem with repeating again and again our favorites.

Question #4: What are you memorizing now?

Three Must Haves: Gerard Manley Hopkins, Shakespeare, and Stevenson

At this very moment, the boys are memorizing and loving Shakespeare’s St. Crispin’s Day Speech. It’s from his play, Henry V. In this selection, King Henry V is encouraging his English soldiers to fight valiantly against the French, on the feast day of St. Crispin. In spite of terrible odds, they do win.

One of my little girls is reciting Hopkins’ Pied Beauty, and the other little girls are enjoying Stevenson’s Foreign Lands.

The Eldest is required to recite at her school, but she isn’t home at the moment, so I don’t know what she’s working on. (Although I think it might be some Edgar Allan Poe.)

I hope that clears a few things up.  Just ask, if you have any more questions.

Lastly…The Well Read Poem

For those of you who might want more, I came across a lovely podcast that features one poem a week, read and explained by Mr. Thomas Banks. I’m greatly enjoying it.

Book Review, Homeschooling

Poetry & Books

Poetry

Some of you may be wondering what the children have been memorizing as of late?

Every winter there are a few poems that I like to go back to, for I think it is better to repeat poems and truly have them interiorized, rather than to continually introduce new material.

So recently my little children ages 5 and 7 just finished up Robert Louis Stevenson’s Wintertime, which can be found in his A Child’s Garden of Verses.  (This is a book that you must own, by the way, for all the poems in it are gems.)  Now the little children are memorizing Robert Frost’s Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.  I can’t help liking this poem too because it’s one of the few poems I remember memorizing as a child.

The twins, age 10, have recently revisited the The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Lord Tennyson because my husband wanted to learn it.  It also happens to be one of their all-time favorites anyway, so they were more than happy to, “Forward, the Light Brigade!  Charge for the guns!”  Now, however, they’ve moved onto the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, which is Psalm 43 [42].

My Eldest has been working on the Prologue to St. John’s Gospel for her homeschool coop.  She also has another poem for her online Writing and Rhetoric class, but I haven’t seen it, so I can’t tell you what it is at the moment.

Books: Read Alouds and Lunchtime with Audible

Our last two read alouds were excellent.  In fact, you should own them too.  The first was Mary Fabyan Windeatt’s The Children of Fatima.

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This true story blows me away every time I read it.  I mean, 70,000 people witnessed the Miracle of the Sun.  70,000!  And there are real newspaper photos from it.  Just google it.

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Like this one.

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Or this one.

This book is just inspiring too.  If those little children can sacrifice the way they did, then I need to step it up.

The second book we just read was also very good, but too short!  I didn’t want it to end.  It was Elizabeth Coatsworth’s Jock’s Island.  And if you can get the version illustrated by Lilian Obligado, you’ll love it even more.  The pictures are lovely.

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Check out these lovely illustrations.

On Audible we just finished listening to Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes.  This book was entertaining, but a little sad because someone steals the children’s puppy and mistreats him.  However, it ends well.

Currently we’re listening to The Moffats, also by Eleanor Estes because the children can’t get enough of her right now.

And what about me?

I recently read Suzanne Wolfe’s The Confessions of X, which is a historical fiction account of St. Augustine’s concubine.  I was a little worried going in that it would be full of immorality, but that wasn’t the case.  I found the book entertaining, but lacking in something.  Depth, maybe?  I can’t analyze it at the moment because I have three children begging for breakfast, so maybe I’ll come back to it later.

Now I’m reading Robert Hugh Benson’s By What Authority?  It is gripping.  I love it.

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These are the other books on my list.