I have encountered other homeschoolers who have a ritual of enjoying afternoon tea and reading poetry aloud for their children. We prefer to read novels and nonfiction books as a family in the evenings (when we aren’t playing board games or Dungeons and Dragons). It has evolved into a sort of family literary society, where we take turns reading and discussing what we’ve covered. It’s amazing how quickly this builds both literacy and critical thinking skills in children.
This afternoon we decided to give tea and poetry a chance. We went all out, however. We set the table with E’s great-grandmother’s bone china and silver. We made parfaits in her great-great-grandmother’s crystal. It was an opportunity to explain to her how to arrange a formal table setting and to talk about traditions. The first rule of pulling out the fine china and crystal: Be gentle and respectful, because it ultimately belongs to future generations.
And we put a bow tie on our rough coat Jack Russell terrier, Sherlock.
I think reading poetry is a fantastic way to help young children build an aesthetic sense. E is very similar to me in her reading habits – she loves nonfiction, and particularly books about nature, science, and history. But there’s something about poetry that just works for our personalities. The poet loves detail as much as the scientist.
Excellent collections of poems for young children include: The Random House Book of Poetry for Children, Eloise Wilkin’s Poems to Read to the Very Young, Gyo Fujikawa’s A Child’s Book of Poems, Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses (with gorgeous illustrations by Tasha Tudor), Eric Carle’s Animals Animals, Margaret Wise Brown’s Give Yourself to the Rain, Arnold Lobel’s The Frogs and Toads All Sang, Emily Dickinson’s Poetry for Young People, Mary O’Neill’s Hailstones and Halibut Bones, and of course, everything by Shel Silverstein. Michael Bedard wrote an excellent book, Emily, which covers the life and quirks of Emily Dickinson.