When I first saw the booklist for Trinity Classical School in Houston, I had to look twice - $65 for the poetry curriculum? Are you kidding me? Do we really need poetry that badly?
To me, poetry was at best boring and at worst a bad memory. I always tried to find poetry interesting, since that was the “educated” view to have, but I could never get into it. Though I loved Anne of Green Gables, I always thought she was a little silly to love poetry so much. I remember trying to craft a few soulful poems in middle and high school, only to come face to face with my pathetic lack of creative writing skills. Poetry was also at the root of possibly the worst homework assignment I ever had - an analysis of “The Destruction of Sennacherib” by Lord Byron in 9th grade. It was pure torture. Just say what you mean and who cares if it is in whatever meter.
So, to have to spend $65 on a curriculum for a subject that I saw little to value in...that was hard.
When the school year started and our son’s Kindergarten class started with:
Ooey Gooey - Author Unknown
Ooey Gooey was a worm,
A mighty worm was he.
He stepped upon the railroad tracks,
The train he did not see!
Our family thought that was pretty clever, and it was fun to say! Who could draw out “Ooooooeeeeyyyy Gooooooeeeeyyyy!” in the most dramatic tone? Who could master the surprised tone the best? And really, is there anything cuter than a 5 year old reciting poetry?!
All of a sudden, poetry became a fun family activity. We all learned our son’s Kindergarten poems, and we all learned our daughter’s second grade poems as a family. We’d laugh about them together. We’d say them in funny voices. We did have to enact a rule that whichever child was learning said poem, could veto their siblings saying that poem...it’s amazing what kids can argue about.
And now, over two and a half years into this curriculum, I can see the full value of it, and it is probably our collective favorite 5-10 minutes of our school day. Our children have learned words that they likely wouldn’t have been exposed to at this age, like “crag” and “lyric” and “penance”, and they enjoyed learning those words in the context of a fun, intriguing, or beautiful poem. They have learned how to appreciate a joke more fully through all of the goofy poems we’ve learned. They have learned to be conscious of how different words and word patterns mimic sounds in nature, and they have learned to be more fully aware of the beauty and majesty in God’s creation through the creative descriptions in the poems they are learning.
They have also learned to be brave in approaching a new poem, work through its difficulties, and then taste the joy of mastering something well. In 2nd grade, they learn Lewis Carroll’s ‘Jabberwocky’, which has crazy words in it like “frumious” and “whiffling” and “vorpal”. It’s intimidating as a parent to teach it, but oh so fun to be able to say in the end, and to be able to say that you know it! In 3rd grade, there is a poem that is 44 lines long. And, each of those 44 lines are extra long lines! There is some serious sense of accomplishment at mastering that poem!
It’s also interesting to watch our daughter, who is now in 4th grade, start to analyze the poems with a mind that is entering the logic stage of learning. She is no longer simply memorizing and enjoying the poems, she is starting to interact with them. She’s starting to ask “Why does it say ‘Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die.’?” when learning “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, which then prompts a spontaneous history lesson. Or, she’s starting to notice similarities in meter between poems. And, she isn’t scared of them simply because they are poems.
There is also a fun family tradition element to this “expensive” poetry curriculum, since it is a comprehensive K-12th program. Now that our son is in 2nd grade, there is a common bond between him and his older sister as they share memories of memorizing the same poems as they come along. When our twins enter Kindergarten next year, we’ll get to add yet another layer to that sibling bond of shared knowledge and vocabulary.