Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Poetry in Motion

"How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!"

1st verse of "The Swing" by Robert Louis Stevenson

Memorizing poetry has been part of our homeschooling life from the very beginning. We don't always proceed with vigor, but we've never quit, either.

Poetry adds richness to our days--the cadence of language, beautiful images, history, hidden meanings, and more. And the shared experience of reciter and listeners is valuable in itself. We've heard and learned favorite works over and over again through the years. Anyone in our house can recite the six succinct lines of RLS's "At the Seaside", for example.

We begin memorization even before officially starting kindergarten. Almost all our early poems are from a beautifully illustrated copy of A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. The older children move on to selections from The Harp and Laurel Wreath and Favorite Poems Old and New.

Rebecca just finished learning one of my favorites by RLS, "Foreign Lands."
"Up into the cherry tree
Who should climb but little me?
I held the trunk with both my hands
And looked abroad on foreign lands."

(1st of five verses)

BTW, that's her in our own cherry tree a few days ago. Can you see how high Becca climbed? Probably not--she is a full story up, level with me on the deck! (Can you see the yellow-green fruit?)

This year the 4th and 6th graders have memorized several classic ("The Village Blacksmith") and historical ("Pocahontas", "The Gettysburg Address") works. Right now Joseph is enchanted by the whimsy of Lewis Carroll.

Explaining the context of historic poems can bring those older times to life, as well as making the facts memorable. When we toured the National Portrait Gallery, our guide was impressed that Marianna already knew so much about Pocahontas (her Christian name, her husband, her son, where she died, etc.). Here's a windy video of Marianna reciting "Pocahontas" at Jamestown last fall.

A final note: Last year Lauren made elaborate jewelry from paper for one of her art classes. Her teacher wanted the project to be personally meaningful, and that happened in an unexpected way. Lauren found an old book in the park, liked the paper, and proceeded to use it. As she looked more closely, it turned out to be the works of Robert Louis Stevenson. Leafing through, Lauren discovered words and cadences remembered from her childhood poetry sessions. She still knew the work. How cool is that?


Sprittibee said...

Love it. I'm a poetry fanatic, too.

Anne said...

I loved our joint family trip to Jamestown! Now I have 4 more children that need to see it sometime in their is sooooo far away 16 hours by car......