Hate poetry? You’re not alone. But trust me – you need to teach it in your homeschool. Here’s why you should teach poetry even if you hate it, and how to do it in spite of yourself.
Poetry isn’t easy to love. Wading through its abstractions and complexities can drive even the most dedicated bibliophile to distraction. And as if reading poetry weren’t challenging enough, the composition of the art form sends many a homeschool parent into panic mode.
But instruction in poetic composition matters, no matter how tempting the call to ignore it. Learning to write poetic verse enhances the whole child: physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Six ways poetry instruction benefits the whole child
Poetry encourages movement
Even in free verse, poetry is rhythm. Educational expert Elena Aguilar calls it “the most kinesthetic form of literature.” When a child reads and writes poetry, the rhythmic ebb and flow of language appeals to the senses. It spurs a desire to march, jump, or spin in concert with the motion of the words.
Poetry encourages creative, critical thinking
A poet brings language to life when she puts pen to paper. She must give the concrete a rebirth in the abstract, questioning traditional perceptions to turn the ordinary on its head. While it may be far easier to write that “the sun is rising,” it is far more meaningful to describe the moment’s impact: “The colors bleed through the skies/and into my skin.” In this instance, the poet has not only captured a fleeting natural event. She has also considered the matter – the why – and communicated it effectively.
Poetry broadens language skills
Vocabulary, sentence structure, rhythm, and rhyme are just the beginning. What about diction? Tone? Mood? Through their sound, structure, and implication, a poet’s words work in concert to create one total effect. Children who write poetry begin to recognize the power of their words and the impact of their language in everyday life.
Poetry breeds empathy
Empathy is the ability to understand and identify with someone else’s feelings. When children read poetry, they gain a window into the feelings and experiences of the poem’s speaker. The benefit grows when children write poetry. Writing from different perspectives encourages the identification, interpretation, and synthesis of another point of view.
Poetry fosters perseverance
Writing poetry is hard. It takes deliberate thought, multiple drafts, and a willingness to stretch beyond one’s comfort zone. Composing a poem is an invitation to explore and conquer something formidable – something that challenges a child in positive, rewarding ways.
Poetry illuminates “the significance of everything”
In poetic composition, a spade isn’t just a spade. It is a sign of something deeper: of the love a gardener feels for his plot; of the thrill an archaeologist feels for her discovery. Writing poetry encourages children to view the world through a new and different lens, one in which the deeper meaning of life, relationships, and the material world come into focus.
Benefits aside, knowing the reason why something should be done doesn’t make the how-to any easier. How does one approach poetic instruction when she’s not a fan of the genre herself?
Take note of your surroundings. What do you feel? Hear? Taste? See? Pay attention to the small things, from the glint of frost on a pine branch to the glimmer of sunlight on a golden pond. Learn to immerse yourself in the moment and absorb it from all sides.
Ask questions and challenge the conventions of language. List five ways to say “I love you.” Write six words that feel like a hug. What phrases make you feel sleepy? What sounds scare you? Inspire you? Thrill you? Sadden you?
Words are the building blocks of language: use them to build the concrete. Doodle buildings out of words about cities. Fill an ocean with aquatic vocabulary. Let the letters form shapes and fill colors; watch the abstract become the concrete.
No, poetry isn’t easy to love. But once you appreciate its complexity, its depth, and its delicious mystery, it is difficult to leave behind.
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