I will admit to occasionally being one of those homeschool moms who feels like I’m not doing enough, and who sometimes worries about learning gaps.
On the whole, I know my children are getting an excellent education, driven by their interests, that we’re covering all the bases, and we are learning and enjoying it–not a small feat.
But there can be that nagging feeling that as a one-woman-show, our homeschool act is missing something. So why would I be the one to suggest that you add something you might not be teaching yet?
Because I really do think it’s important.
Why Teaching Poetry is Important
While memorization has all but fallen by the wayside in educational circles today, there is a reason it formed the basis of education in years past: it worked. It worked and it developed children’s brains in a positive way. I won’t reinvent the wheel here. Andrew Padewa has an excellent audio presentation about the value of learning poetry and how to do it right that I highly recommend. It’s only $3.00, so it’s not going to break your budget. If you’ve never heard Andrew Padewa speak, you owe it to yourself to listen.
But here are a few great reasons I believe it’s important to learn poetry:
- It neurologically grows the brain – The act of memorizing–anything–creates a neurological framework that helps a student learn. This is the reason that music and drama students perform higher on tests like the SAT.
- Poetry is easy to memorize – If you’re going to memorize something, poetry makes a good candidate because it’s easier to internalize. The rhythms and rhyme make them easier to remember. This is one of the reasons we teach our children nursery rhymes.
- It’s engaging for children – Children respond naturally to poetry. Like songs, poetry appeals to their sense of fun.
- Learning poetry stores a sense of the beauty of language – One thing I’ve been consistently told about my writing is that I write “poetically.” While this comment at first baffled me, I now credit that propensity to the large amounts of poetry I learned as a child, and the love I acquired for it. Most people will recommend that in order to develop an appreciation of literature and an ability to produce it you should read, read, read. I don’t argue with this assertion, but I would add to it the recommendation that you read poetry. Its rhythms and cadence stay with you.
- Learning poetry internalizes the structures of the language – Let’s face it: there are few ways to learn grammar that aren’t boring. However, learning grammar by seeing it in action is much more interesting than most traditional ways of learning the language. There are a number of homeschool curricula that employ this method of learning grammar. One that immediately comes to mind is Brave Writer.
- It expands vocabulary – Because poets have to stretch the language in order to accommodate the constricts of rhythm and rhyme, they employ a high proportion of higher-level vocabulary. In a short poem, you are likely to encounter several words your children have never heard before.
- Poetry affects the brain like music – This is actually a somewhat common-sense finding, but scientists nevertheless did a study about it. They employed brain scans to observe people’s brains as they read poetry. What they noticed was that the poetry accessed areas of the brain related to numerous different areas: the reading part of the brain was activated, of course, but so were emotional centers, centers for introspection, memory (if the poem had previously been memorized) as well as centers normally responsible for our response to music. In short, poetry is some powerful stuff!
In short, poetry is some powerful stuff!
“But I don’t ‘get’ poetry!” What now?
So how can we harness this power? Again, Andrew Padewa’s audio has some helpful tips on how to memorize, but so does another resource I recently stumbled on. The good news is, all the teaching elements are laid out for you, so even if you’re one of those people who doesn’t “get” poetry (I know you’re out there), you don’t have to be. All the work is done for you.
At Mensa Kids’ “A Year of Living Poetically,” you’ll find 12 powerful poems with all the resources you need to teach and memorize them. Learn one per month, and you’ll have a year of poems–and you’ll have trained your kids (and maybe even yourself) in a love and appreciation of beautiful language, an internalization of the structures of the language, and you’ll have smarter kids! Everything is printable, and you’ll find a valuable introduction on how to enjoy and learn a poem.
How about you? Do you make poetry a part of your learning? If not, have I convinced you? Don’t be shy. Leave a comment.