Something magical has happened in our house over the last week. Poetry has crept its way into our everyday lives. We’re reading it, talking about it, writing it and just enjoying it. Let me tell you about how this happened.
Are you part of The Home Education Diaries: Community? Come and join our nurturing and friendly group to chat about all things home education and parenting!
I Don’t Like Poetry!
Personally, I don’t feel like I’ve had a good relationship with poems. Despite always doing well in English at school, poetry was the one facet that I just couldn’t enjoy. I didn’t like dissecting it to find hidden meanings, or writing poems in the style of a particular poet. Most of the time I felt like I didn’t understand it.
Yet poems have had meaning to me. I had a friend at school who was always writing poems; I still have one she emailed me about 20 years ago! I’ve chosen poems to read at my grandparents’ funerals and we spent hours poring over poetry for our wedding. When I think of poetry I forget that song lyrics are a form of poetry too. And who doesn’t have song lyrics that they love?!
Still, my default response has always been “I don’t like poetry”. I realised last week that this dislike of mine has influenced my parenting. We didn’t own a single poetry book. Not one. Sure, I’ve recited nursery rhymes to my daughters, we’ve probably had a board book of them at some point too. But they’re seven and nine years old and we’ve never read poems together.
Poetry Tea Time
I came to this rather embarrassing realisation after reading about Poetry Tea Time in The Brave Learner. Julie Bogart describes these wonderful scenes of sitting with her children, poetry books all over the table, drinking tea, reading aloud and eating scones and other delights. I was immediately enchanted by this idea!
Great care and love has been put into our daughters’ environment. We spend much of our day in our dining room and playroom and I always make sure that the table is set beautifully. We have our beloved Grimm’s celebration ring with seasonal figures, candles lit and a lovely tablecloth. It creates a beautiful and calming atmosphere, far better than the traditional classroom environment. We also have afternoon tea together every day at 3pm, so Poetry Tea Time felt like an extension of that.
Did you see my last blog post all about how we’ve been getting back into our rhythm this September?
What Are We Going To Read?
Of course, this was when I realised that we had no books of poems. Thankfully our library has just awoken from its lockdown slumber, so on our trip last week I gathered up about six different collections of poems for children. I made sure to choose books with beautiful pictures, mostly to entice my seven year old into choosing something to read. I also chose books that featured poems by poets of different races and cultures.
I told the girls about Poetry Tea Time on our walk back from the library. I’ll be honest, the promise of cakes, scones or cookies was the clincher for them!
So we gathered together around the table. Candles lit, poetry books all over the place. Pot of tea ready and waiting, biscuits too. We took our time to look through the books, and I read out a few that caught my eye here and there. The girls chose poems they wanted me to read aloud too. We drank our tea, ate our biscuits and just had a really lovely experience with poetry. There was no talking about rhyming words, or stanzas, or rhythm, or hidden meanings. We agreed to make it a weekly thing, most likely on Thursdays.
The next night the girls had gone upstairs to play before bed and I popped up to see what they were doing. They were sat together writing poetry! I was absolutely amazed; we hadn’t talked about writing poetry at all. In fact, I know if I’d said “Oh this poem is great, shall we write a similar one?” they’d have resisted. But just because they’d enjoyed the silliness of On The Ning Nong Nang, they took it upon themselves to write something similar.
Taking another of Julie’s suggestions from The Brave Learner, over the weekend I started to put together a book of the poetry they were both presenting me with. Even I’ve been having a go, writing a daft limerick about our cat on a post-it note for them to discover. I’m so excited about continuing to add our family poetry to this book, it’s going to have pride of place on the table every Poetry Tea Time!
My nine year old presented me with this beautiful poem this morning. I love not only the poem, but the unique way she’s presented it too. I know that if she’d produced this in a classroom, she’d have had her spellings corrected, told she hadn’t written it out correctly, and so on. Yet I’ve found over the past week I’ve stopped myself from engaging “teacher mode” and I’ve just celebrated both of my daughters words and ideas. It’s been glorious.