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.
Homeschooling

A New Year of Poetry: Bearing My Fardels with a Bodkin

Now that we’re traveling into week 3 of school, I’m just starting to get a rhythm down.  I think in a week or so, I’ll post my new schedule for those of you who are curious.

But onto a specific question, what are we memorizing?

We began the year with Psalm 23, The Good Shepherd.  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”  That should give you a good look into the state of my life right now.  (Oh the agonies of buying and selling a house.  I wish it upon no one.)

I chose this Psalm to begin the year with because a.) the children already know it, b.) the children really like it, and c.) I think it’s important to start the year off with something easy and familiar.

After two weeks of that, we have moved on, however.  My eldest is now memorizing Hamlet’s famous To Be or Not To Be soliloquy.  It’s probably a little morbid for an 11-year-old, but the language is beautiful.  We had to look up a few words like quietus and bodkin and fardels*, but in all, we’ve really been enjoying it, even if we don’t understand everything Shakespeare is trying to say.  That’ll just have to come later.

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Here’s the first part.  On the next page, it goes on for another 29 lines.  I’m glad Hamlet’s conscience wins out in this speech…

The little children have returned to my favorite piece of poetry for the fall: Robert Louis Stevenson’s Autumn Fires.  It is the cutest little poem.  If you have small children, I recommend this one every single fall.  Rake yourself a big pile of leaves, play in it, then have a big bonfire and belt out Stevenson.  Here’s the ending of that little poem:

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!

 

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Here are two books you might consider owning.  A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.
*Quietus, bodkin, fardels – death, dagger, burden
Homeschooling

Poetry Explained

I had a few worthy questions about poetry the other day, so I thought I’d do a little explaining.  But remember, this is just what works for our family.  Your family may look a lot differently than mine and thereby have different needs and desires.

Question #1:  How do you choose your poems?

I choose poems that I like, and you should too.  I think this is really important.  Your children will sniff it out immediately if you think a poem is dull or lame.  And you’ll hate teaching it.

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 like and understand.

If you’ve never done poetry before, I recommend getting a book of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poetry.  He’s just plain fun, and I love reciting Autumn Fires while raking and burning leaves in the fall. And all my children love belting out The Swing while pumping their little legs back and forth on swings.

Question #2:  How do you teach a poem?

We always do our reciting at the breakfast table.  Usually I read the poem first and then let everyone else have a shot at it.  For the first couple of days, though, I have the children repeat after me, but they catch on quickly.  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.

We keep at it until the poem is well memorized or I’m sick of it.  Sometimes we work on a poem for a few weeks, sometimes for two months.

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.  I already mentioned Autumn Fires.  We do this poem every fall 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 always do 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, which of course, is not actually poetry.

But again, throughout the year, we do whatever strikes me.  We also memorize passages of Scripture too.  (Now there’s an endless supply of good stuff!)

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, but then also it’s good to review our favorite ones from time-to-time.

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