As the days of summer are flitting away, our family is enjoying a little Shakespeare. In fact, we’ve taken Fr. Z’s Sonnet A Day Challenge and are simply doing that–reading a sonnet a day.
As you may know, Shakespeare’s first twenty or so of the 154 sonnets feature the same theme: they’re all an attempt to convince a selfish, vain young man to get married and have children. O, what perfect poetry for our culture!
Favorite Collection of Poems: Shakespeare’s Sonnets
Favorite Audible Purchase: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Farmer Giles of Ham. We do also have this short story in book-form featuring other Tolkien gems, but I wanted an audio version for our trip last week. We were not disappointed in this version read by Derek Jacobi. It was so entertaining, our children were laughing out loud. In fact, we all were.
Best Option For Running Gear? You know, I like to jog a mile or two every day, and I refuse to wear just leggings. Or shorts for that matter. I like Capri Skirts. I recently purchased these for running. I love them.
Best Newspaper: The Remnant. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. This newspaper is a must. It’s so important to have sane news coming into your home that is not necessarily shouting out of a screen. If you don’t have a subscription, you’re missing out. It’s worth it, if only for Michael Matt’s column. (This week’s edition featured an article outlining the dangers of mask-wearing. Oooo, so controversial. Love it.)
It’s the start of another school year for us, and I apologize for not getting this out sooner.
This year, however, we have a more complicated schedule as three of our children are being homeschooled (The Eldest, Child #4, and Child #5), two of our children are attending a Catholic Montessori grade school (The Twins), and the other two (Child #6 and the Baby) are just. plain. busy.
So, how do I manage it all?
With a good schedule and a lot of grace. (And coffee, of course.)
Our New Schedule
Some of you may be curious as to how my day now looks, so I’ll break it down.* Maybe you’ll glean an idea or two that might work for you. Maybe not. All families are different and have different needs, after all.
Wake-up! My husband and I still pray the Morning Office and end with about twenty or so minutes of silent prayer. The three oldest children set their watch alarms and join us at 6:30 for a few minutes of their own silent prayer. This time ends at 6:40 when the coffee maker beeps to signal that it’s ready for us, at which point I run for the kitchen and thankfully pour myself a big mug full.
The older children commence Early Morning School, which consists of math facts, Latin, or handwriting. The Eldest, however, does Saxon Math with my husband.
The only thing different about this time is that the two children attending the Montessori school must practice their piano in the morning, after their school work. They only put in fifteen minutes each, but this is important because after being confined in school all day, who would want to sit down at a piano when getting home later on? Not these boys.
While the older children are working on things that do not require my help, I sneak in a few minutes of computer time and then get ready for the day.
My husband and The Twins leave. The rest of us eat breakfast and commence Morning Time. This looks pretty much the same as it did last winter. While the children eat breakfast, I read the Mass readings and then we recite our poetry.
Right now The Eldest is back to working on a Shakespearian soliloquy, Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be.” We had started this one earlier in the year, but had to take a break to memorize The Destruction of Sennacherib by Lord Byron for a program she’s involved with called. Catholic Schoolhouse.
Catholic Schoolhouse is a group of students who meet once a week and do some really awesome stuff. (How’s that for an explanation?)
The little children are working on the Ten Commandments and the 46 books of the Old Testament. A few years ago I came up with a jingle for it, to the tune of Jingle Bells. It’s linked it below. (It’s certainly not professional, as I simply sat down one day and recorded with talking babies and banging toddlers in the background.) Feel free to use it, if it’s helpful.
You’ll notice that the first five books – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – are missing. That’s because the children already know them in order, as the law books. You might also notice that I moved 1 & 2 Maccabees to follow the history books. I wanted to impress upon the children the 4 kinds of books in the Old Testament: Law, History, Wisdom, and Prophetic. As a former teacher of the Old Testament, I found it helpful to be able to distinguish between the different kinds of writing. All the other books are in order, however.
After breakfast clean-up and piano, it’s time for Mid-Morning Prayer. I moved this time up a bit, because it seemed to flow a little better with the baby’s schedule. Remember, during all this busyness, I’m somehow nursing and caring for a baby and a 2-year-old.
During this time, we’re singing two hymns and learning a new prayer penned by St. Therese. We finish this time together with a review of all our Latin vocabulary.
Lunch time! This year I have to have a longer stretch of time here because The Eldest participates in an online class on writing through Schole Academy twice a week, which happens to be during lunch. But this class has been wonderful for two reasons: 1. She loves it, and 2. I don’t have to do a single thing for writing and rhetoric anymore.
During lunch we still listen to audio books from Audible. Currently we’re enjoying Tan’s The Story of Civilization Volume 1, as we’re studying the Ancient World in history.
And that’s enough for today!
*Care to see how my day looked last winter? Click on “A Day in the Life Series” in my tag cloud on the right.
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 ToBe 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.
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!
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.