Why Poetry Matters and How to Make it Work in Your HomeschoolThere are lots of words to describe poetry, and you’ve probably heard a few:

  • boring  
  • scary
  • hard  
  • confusing

But poetry is also exciting.  

  • inviting
  • enchanting
  • enlightening

What makes one person adore the art form while another views it with distaste? In most cases, a disdain for poetry stems from frustration and fear. The abstract nature and inherent complexity of poetry make it difficult to approach.

But poetry instruction in your homeschool matters, precisely because of the division between enthusiasts and detractors. To spread a wider appreciation for poetry, make poetry instruction a vibrant and welcome part of your homeschool language arts program.  

Poetry is Living Language

To a poet, words are more than just words. They are elements that construct a message far beyond a word’s singular meaning. Reading and listening to poetry builds appreciation of this multi-faceted layering of meaning: children absorb the cadence as the rhythm of the words rise and fall. They construct imaginary castles as they hear the words wax and wane. Children who experience poetry encounter language in its purest form — a tool for connection and creation.

To build an appreciation of poetry as living language, make a list of beautiful, musical words (the more descriptive the better). Use those words to build verses or sentences, even if the results are unexpected.  

Poetry is Purpose

Poetry doesn’t just bring language to life. It breathes life into objects and ideas, too. In poetry, seldom is a spade a spade. It is a sign of something far more significant and meaningful. Experimenting with poetry encourages children to consider the deeper meaning of a subject, strengthening their creativity and critical thinking skills.

To see poetry as purpose, delve more deeply into the nature of everyday objects. For example, a tree is certainly a tree. It has a trunk, branches, and leaves that change color with the seasons. But a tree also grows up and out toward the sky, its height directly proportional to the strength of its roots underground. What connection can be made to your personal life? In what way are you that tree?

Poetry is Movement

Words have a pulse — a beat that propels them forward in speech. That beat is perfect for kinesthetic learners, who can let the rhythm take them where it will, marching, spinning, jumping, and hopping with the words.  

To experience poetry as movement, plan a poetic scavenger hunt. Choose random points within walking distance on a local map and travel to those locations. Observe your surroundings and interact with them. Record your thoughts, feelings and observations while you are there, focusing on the motion of the world around you:

  • What is in motion here?  

  • How do they move?  

  • Where are they going? Why?  

  • How am I in motion?  

Use these ideas as a springboard for poetic verse.

Poetry is Understanding

Why Poetry Matters and How to Make it Work in Your HomeschoolEmpathy is a learned skill.  A poet’s words provide insight into another person’s feelings and experiences, providing an excellent opportunity to understand and identify with people outside your immediate circle.  Poetry opens a window of insight, encouraging us to make connections across dividing lines.

To build understanding with poetry, play with point of view. Take a poem from your language arts curriculum (like this one by William Carlos Williams) and consider whose voice you hear in the speaker. What makes up his personality?  His motivations? Once you’ve established those answers, substitute a different set of emotions and reactions. What if this were the voice of a four year old who dropped her ice cream into an ant pile? What if it were the family cat whose favorite napping spot has been snatched by the family dog? Rewrite the poem from that perspective and consider how similar and different the voices could be.

Poetry is Effort

Reading poetry is difficult. The layers of meaning require multiple readings to completely unwrap. But the act of reading poetry is an invitation to work through and triumph over something challenging in a positive, meaningful way.

To do hard things with poetry, try borrowing a line from the masters. Select a verse from a favorite poem. Write the line at the top of your paper, then write down any impressions or images the line may spur. Use those jottings in your own poem, beginning the piece with the borrowed line.  

Poetry may be intimidating at first, but it’s an art form worthy of exploration by virtue of the benefits it holds. Engaging learning activities and thoughtful discussion can make poetry a an exciting, inviting, and valuable part of your homeschool experience.

Ginny Kochis

About the Author

Ginny Kochis is a former high school English teacher and adjunct professor of English turned homeschooling mom and business owner. She writes about faith, motherhood, homeschooling and family literacy at Not So Formulaic.

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