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Add Poetry in Your Homeschool Day

If you missed the LIVE chat this weekend about how to add poetry into your homeschool, then you’re in luck, because I’m posting the replay here! My friend Tracey and I had a sweet and simple conversation about why it’s hard to add poetry into homeschool life. Plus we talked about some easy ways to bring it back in without any pressure. 

Watch the video or scroll and read the full conversation!

Coming up in April, it's National Poetry Month! It's a great month to read and explore poetry. But you don't have to limit poetry to a single month of the year. Let's talk about ways to include poetry in your family life consistently and organically!

ARE YOU AVOIDING POETRY? 

A lot of parents I talk to are very nervous about poetry.  My question is, are you avoiding poetry?

Maybe because it seems intimidating? Maybe because you feel you don't have time? Maybe because you just don't have ideas.

Since April is National Poetry Month, I want to get you started with a lot of ideas for sharing poetry with your kids.  

Today I am chatting with a friend, Tracy Oliver, about sharing poetry with our kids. I have a few ideas.

Tell me about how poetry has worked for you in your homeschool, or not worked for you.

Tracey: My exposure to poetry is very similar to my exposure to the visual arts in that I personally didn't have a whole lot of mentoring growing up. I really didn't dig into it at all as a kid or I wasn't paying attention in those classes.

So I feel inadequate as a mom in leading my children in the visual arts and seeing beautiful things like poetry and visual arts. But. Gosh, if you would've told me five years ago that I would be at an art museum with my kids,  almost in tears, and my kids would be engaged: I would have not believed you.

So I would love to approach poetry in the same way and not be intimidated. Because I, myself don't know what I'm doing or what to be looking for specifically. We've had some curriculum  where it kind of incorporated poetry, so that helped to have that kind of woven into a language arts curriculum where they're like, Hey, memorize this poem, or, Hey, read this poem and talk about it.

Sometimes I would just get poetry books in the children's section at the library and just throw them on the coffee table and see what happens. And a lot of times, if a book is on the coffee table, someone will pick it up. So just that exposure to putting it out there and every now and again, one of them will say, Oh my gosh, look it, listen to this.

So allowing it to organically happen and not necessarily trying to structure it, but just letting them see it at first, that's kind of the extent of our poetry study. 

Julie: I think you're right on the right track already. You were saying you don't have a lot of experience or expertise because maybe weren't given a lot as a child in your own education.

Does poetry seem unapproachable?

I don't think most of us had a lot of exposure to poetry. So it becomes mysterious or unapproachable sometimes, but you're doing exactly the thing I would have said: The very first step is exposure to poetry and just putting it out there and having it around. 

I love the connection you made between visual arts and poetry, because I think we experience a similar thing there: most of us aren't exposed to great artists or art study at a young age.

However, the difference is that pretty much every parent feels  comfortable giving their kid a box of crayons and some paper and saying, Make art. Right. We don't  feel intimidated to play with art and be messy and just create things that eventually end up in the garbage and or on the fridge for a couple of months and then gone.

We don't feel intimidated by art the same way we might with poetry. And so we could take that concept and transfer it. 

The first thing I would say to any parent is: just the same way you throw crayons out for your kids, put a basket of poetry out where it's visible and public and accessible. And not just kids poetry books. A vast majority of picture books for preschoolers are poetic.

Find some quality poetry books and picture books in verse form. That's a great start. Introduce poetry in very gentle ways. The first step is just have it around. 

What would be your ideal situation? How would you imagine poetry being part of your homeschool?

Tracey: I would like to see it more consistently. So it's one thing to have it on the coffee table. It's another thing to talk about it with one another. I would like to try that more. Like you said, throwing crayons out to draw - we haven't really done a lot of writing poetry, so there's the reading of poetry, but then there's also allowing kids space to create their own poetry.

It would be fun to not feel intimidated by the writing of poetry. 

Teaching Poetry is Progressive

Julie: Right. And so that would be a next step. Very similarly to how we read to our kids first. And then we teach them the alphabet, and then they start writing. There is a little bit of a progression to teaching poetry, but you can still do a lot with kids having them verbally play with words.

So a next step before writing might just be some wordplay, like playing with onomatopoeia sounds, which is the big, fancy word for words that sound like what they mean.

So doing some  rhythm and rhyme play with  kids is helpful. Trying to rhyme with each other when you're talking.  I think when people play verbally with words, it's not as intimidating because you're not writing it down and saying it's permanent.  

What's something that you tried that didn't work out well for you with poetry?

Tracey: I think there have been times where I've introduced a higher level poem. And tried to say, what is he trying to say here? And my kids are like, I have no clue. So I think asking them questions can be difficult. So I think I've tried some poems that we just couldn't really get at what the person was saying. It just left my kids really confused. So that's hard. 

Julie: Yeah. I think that is a step after. 1) Exposure to poetry, 2) playing with words, 3) trying to write your own. 4) And then analyzing what an author means. It is definitely a higher level of skill. And I would say not to worry about that at the younger ages 

"Think Aloud" your Reaction to a Poem

One thing you could  try is you sharing what you thought an author meant and not really  expecting them to share what they think an author means. If the kids see you trying to understand what's being said, they start to feel like it's a natural thing to interact with a poem.

If you're like, Oh wow. This poet talks about the rain. And that kind of makes me think how I feel when it's raining and just kind of leaving it out there for kids to say, Oh, when mom reads a poem, she has a reaction to it.

We call it Thinking Aloud. It's a kind of modeling: what should be going on in your mind when you are reading. And it is an interaction with the author.

So it sounds like you're doing a lot of good things. You're bringing poetry in. You're doing a little bit of discussing of poetry. Just keep it really simple and make it like you saying what you have to say about poetry. And if your kids start hearing that, they will probably start having their own thoughts as well, because you're saying , it's okay to have a thought about this poem.

Tracey: There's no right or wrong sometimes, 

Julie: Yes, and also just giving them permission to have a thought about the poem, and that's all it has to be . It doesn't have to be incredibly deep at the beginning, just to say that when we read poetry, we have thoughts about it and we have reactions to it. That's the beginning of analysis really. Which they won't get to until down the road.

The thing I would say to parents about poetry is to keep it easy and simple and fun. Just bring in one more thing as you go, as kids get comfortable seeing poetry books out and picking up poetry and reading poetry, bring in one more thing.

You sharing your thoughts about a poem: That's that one more thing you could try for this week or this month, or even this school year.

Many opportunities to teach poetry!

You have many years of school to weave poetry in and out. Going back to our art conversation: We know kids are going to scribble at first. But we also know they have many years to practice and play around with art, with different techniques, with different mediums. And that's the same with poetry. You're going to have a lot of time to play with silly rhyme and move on to more serious  rhyme and verse and explore different genres, haiku and form poems.

So we have lots of time to play with it, but like you said, the consistency. 

Do you have a time in your week  when you have time for poetry?

Tracey: Sadly, I think poetry has been one of those aspects  of our homeschooling that is, Oh, when we have time or when we get to it. And, you know, a lot of times those things don't happen because by the time you get finished with the foundational things, the kids are ready to go play outside.

I think that's what's hard too-- seeing it as something that we can do once a week or once every couple of weeks. We don't have to do it every day. So I think it's me committing to doing it more consistently.

I feel like we should [read poetry], because I'm homeschooler. I put this dutiful pressure on myself. Instead of getting excited about it and thinking this will be so good. 

Poetry IS good for kids! Pressure is not!

Julie: Right. I'm hearing you say, I feel like I should. That's a really interesting comment because I think parents have a sense of obligation about poetry.

There are a lot of benefits to poetry with pattern recognition and listening skills, and also it can help you make logical conclusions. There's a lot of  embedded learning opportunities in poetry.  Somehow we know poetry will help our kids, but how to get there regularly is so intimidating.

And that's why I think a lot of parents just avoid it. What we do in our home is I use morning menus in our morning time where I have a selection of materials, scripture and a poem, a hymn and a piece of artwork.

I have it in our basket and we don't read the poem every day. But over the course of the month, we probably read that same poem, six, seven or eight times. I might read the poem to the kids once or twice a week. And in that way they get during the school year 10 poems that we have read many, many times over.

No pressure, just consistency! 

Julie: And for me, that takes a lot of the pressure off because I can say, Hey, let's read our poem of the month! And some mornings we just read it and we stick it back in the basket and there's no comments. It's just like: check! done. But other mornings I'll read it and say, Hey, did you notice there's  some rhyme in this poem? Let's point to all the words that rhyme or what's the simile in this poem?

And some days, I'm able to introduce a deeper concept, but a lot of mornings, we just read it and that's it. So that's regular exposure without any pressure. We just read poetry in our home.

Shift your mindset about poetry

Tracey: I love how you said exposure without pressure. I love that. It's like eating. I know myself sometimes can see poetry as like the vegetable that you have to eat, but you might not enjoy it. But again, same thing with the visual arts  I've been a little more consistent with that than with poetry. I have grown to really enjoy it and to really look forward to finding new pieces.

So I think I need to shift my own mindset about what poetry is and what it can be. Share that with my kids and learn alongside them and explore it together and not feel like I have to know exactly what to say. 

Julie: Right. No pressure because you have many opportunities. So if you didn't read a poem today, it's fine. The way I view it as this, I could try to make a big themed thing of it. (And sometimes I do that because I personally enjoy it so much). But then we never revisit it. OR! I could keep it super simple, and over the year, my kids really get to know 10 poems. So which one's better? Doing this big, huge pressurized dump of poetry for three weeks? or consistent poetry through the year?

It's like you said, it doesn't have to be the vegetable. Just put it out there on the plate and it will eventually get consumed little by little over time.

Tracey: I did try the unit study thing, but that created more work for me because I had to  go and look at, what are the different types of poems? Which one are we going to do this week? And which one are we going to try to write? So  it gave me more work to do.

But also it felt like: Okay. We're doing a poetry unit study. It felt more sterile that way then instead of just enjoying it a little at a time.

[Edited to add: Unit studies are NOT a bad idea! I love unit studies. I teach Poetry Unit Studies. But parents, please consider your overall homeschool goals and purposes. If your goal is a lifelong appreciation of poetry, a unit study is unlikely to achieve that goal. If your goal is highly-targeted literature analysis, study, or writing skills, this is where a unit study is more effective!). 

Start small. Add one more thing.

Julie: Begin with something really small. Just having poetry around. It could be a basket of books. It could be downloading one of my morning menus. At some point you, you might want to dive deeper into poetry and do a unit study at some point. I offer poetry classes

But the more important thing is making poetry a regular part of the day. So kids aren't seeing poetry as some weird thing that gets superimposed over their life.

And make it fun! I have a free download to a little printable poetry booklet that you can cut and fold.

In April, National Poetry Month, there is a day at the end of the month, April 29th, that is Poem in your Pocket Day. So it could just be a fun thing to make this little book with the kids and be like, Hey, everyone's going to keep a poem in their pocket today! Maybe have  a signal, like read a poem whenever you hear the bell!  So it's doing something fun like this with kids!

But the more important thing is the consistency over time.

poem in your pocket day printable booklet

Be as consistent as possible - and be kind to yourself!

So Tracy, Have I covered some ideas and solutions that you could try? 

Tracey: I just want to say thank you. I feel you've encouraged me and you've eased my mind. You've just affirmed that, okay, you're on the right track. So I appreciate that confirmation. And I have used a couple of your morning menus and those were the times where we were a little more consistent. So thank you for those resources. It's really helpful to have someone pointing me in the right direction. So thank you. 

Julie: You were saying you're concerned that you're not getting your kids enough poetry, or you want to be more consistent, but you are doing things. We can't achieve 100% consistency all the time. When we skip a couple of weeks of poetry, we become aware that we kind of dropped that ball. We'll just pick it up again.

If you haven't been including poetry in your homeschool, just pick it up again this week. We're all juggling a lot of things and we can't do it perfect every time, but just to kind of return to: we wanted this in our homeschool, let's add it back in. Let's find baby steps to make this a part of our homeschool again.

Don't forget that you can go tohappystronghome.co/ask and ask me your questions. We could talk about poetry or another topic in your homeschool that you might be wondering about or struggling with. 

Follow me at Facebook and Twitter or on Instagram and YouTube.

Thank you so much for watching  another episode of the Homeschool Neighborhood!

Have a question or want to be ON the Live Chat this Saturday?!? Submit it here!

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[…] we get started discussing ways to incorporate poetry into your homeschool, let’s discuss why we should read it. Even as an adult, my skin crawled at the idea. I […]

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