Tuesday, September 29, 2009


One of the books we're enjoying particularly this year is All the Small Poems by Valerie Worth. It's part of the Sonlight Core 5 package, a book I had never heard before. It's a compilation of four books previously printed separately. Each poem is short, descriptive and straightforward in style, mostly about nature.

The Sonlight approach to poetry is simple, just reading each poem, talking a bit about the imagery or the thought expressed and then re-reading it. It's a lovely way to approach a poem as a reader rather than the typical pick it to bits method many of us were subjected to. I have done the same ort of thing before with other poetry, and enjoyed studying poems with all of our children.

Some people ask why we should bother to read poetry. Poetry and good literature of other types is the expression of deep human emotion, the response of the soul to beauty, to love, to pain, to all manner of human experience. It's important that our children ponder these things, that they know that they too will experience times when feelings are too much for them to put into words, and that others have had the same thoughts and feelings, and struggled to express them, and moved on stronger because they could express them.

There are lines of poems that lurk in my mind, ready to pop out when I need them. "Glory be to God for dappled things" is there when I see a scene of beauty (Gerard Manley Hopkins; Pied Beauty). I remember "I have promises to keep/ And miles to go before I sleep" when I see winter trees (Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening). Spring makes me remember "Loveliest of trees, the cherry now/ is hung with bloom along the bough" (A. E. Housman). Memories of my mom are tied to the poetry she read me, especially childhood favorites like Wynken, Blynken and Nod.

I encourage parents to include poetry in their routines of home education. It can be simple, and it will be memorable.

(A great book for older children and teens is the Dover Press book 100 Best-Loved Poems, edited by Philip Smith. It sells for about $2.50 so you can easily buy a coopy for each child, and there are enough great poems for a couple of years of occasional reading.)

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