Monday 27 May 2013

Ideas for Poetry with Children

These are ideas I've used to get my children appreciating and writing poetry.
I like getting them used to hearing the rythm of verse when they are really little. Simple books like Ten Apples up on Top, Put me in the Zoo and A Big Ball of String are easy to get through with little ones at one sitting.

I like collecting poetry anthologies and books of verse and I've found many of them for around a dollar at Lifeline sales, Op shops and library sales.
Here are a few of my favourites:

Nursery ryhmes....

I knew Mother Goose by Tasha Tudor inside out after reading it just about every day to my youngest daughter when she was 2 years old. After a little while she could rattle many of them off herself, which was very cute.

The Golden Treausry of Poetry  is a very good collection of poems, well-illustrated with interesting sections on the poets themselves or the background of the poem. I've come across a few books (e.g. Modern British Poetry) where Louis Untermeyer has selected and commented on the poems and I've appreciated his selections and what he has to say about them. He includes a number of ballad poems which I've found the boys tend to prefer over other types of poetry.

A well known anthology and still in print is Favorite Poems Old & New by Helen Ferris. A chunky volume with over seven hundred classic and modern poems.

Call of the Gums is a great little selection of Australian poems which was published in 1962. It includes Bushsongs & ballads, humour, history, and war poetry. Particulary popular with the boys, some of their favourites poems in this book are: Clancy of the Overflow, Andy's Gone With Cattle, and How McDougal Topped the Score.

I wouldn't want to be without any of my poetry books but if I could only have one I'd probably pick The Harp and Laurel Wreath by Laura M. Berquist. What makes this book different to the other anthologies are the helpful study questions, her insightful comments in the introduction about the importance of poetry and her Christian worldview. 

The contents are divided into poems for The Early Years, The Grammatical Stage, The Dialectical Stage and The Rhetorical Stage with suggestions for memorization, dictation, and study questions; 493 pages.
The poems included are selections I've been able to use with my children when they were toddlers e.g.The Little Turtle and all the way through highschool.

A book of poems I've been enjoying alongside my daughter while reading Our Island Story by H.E. Marshall is Kings and Queens by Eleanor and Herbert Farjeon. Starting with William I in 1066 and up until Elizabeth II, the book presents amusing but historically accurate poems about the kings and queens of England. Good fun!

The Grammar of Poetry by Matt Whitling is an Ambleside Online Year 7 suggestion for poetry but it is quite involved and introduces topics such as iambic Tetrameters, tropes, trochaic foot, dactyl and syndedoche and unless you have a child who wants to write poetry or is really interested in the language side of things I'd hold off for a couple of years. I used it with my 17 year old last year and found it quite useful but when I tried using it with his 16 year old brother this year it didn't go down so well so I've put it aside. But this young man is enjoying writing songs and I think the years of listening to and memorising poetry has encouraged this.

Grammar of Poetry also covers themes such as onomatopoeia, simile, metaphor, pun, alliteration, personification and  hyperbole which are easier concepts to understand and I've encouraged him to use some of these devices when he does poetic narrations even though we're not continuing with the book. There is a Student's book and a Teacher's Manual which is a replica of the student's with some examples. I find I need the Teacher's manual and you could possibly use just this if you wanted to save some money.

Student book:                                                        Teacher's Manual:


The above edition is the old one so you'd have to get a secondhand copy. The first poem below was written using alliteration and he followed the meter of a poem he'd been reading.
The second poem was a poetic narration of Plutarch's Dion. I asked him to use some of the vocabulary words in the reading for that week - Plutarch has such great vocabulary!

Other books I found helpful for poetry when I first started homeschooling with my three older children, two girls and a boy, were the Rod and Staff Grammar books. They have poetry sections which have simple exercises on rhythm and rhyme, accented and unaccented syllables etc. I wouldn't suggest buying the books just to use for their poetry sections unless you were using the grammar sections as well or could pick them up second hand. These books were written for the classroom and are overkill for a homeschool situation so can be pared down quite a bit.
A sample can be seen here (go to page 5 of the sample).

The following poems are written narrations my 13 year old son did this year:

These were done when he was 11 and 12 years of age:

He wrote this acrostic poem when he was about 10:

Reading poetry aloud and discussing what the poet was attempting to convey has been a very enriching experience at times for us. At other times my boys would just blurt out how stupid the poem was (the girls never seemed to do this). They did this with Emily Dickinson's poems but ballads or historical poems or poems of heroism and brave deeds were never a problem.

Recently I read aloud The Fool's Prayer and it generated a discussion on the wisdom of well-chosen and well-timed words; another time a poem by the same author gave us an opportunity to talk about using what you have and not using what you have not as an excuse for inaction or cowardice. We've also enjoyed  Australian bushsongs and ballads put to music - it's a great way to learn a poem.

Some other poetry books on our shelves:

A Child's Book of Poems is quite a nice anthology of poems that is suggested for Ambleside Year 1. Gyo Fujikawa's illustrations are appealingly uncluttered & whimsical.

Thursday 23 May 2013

12 Movies for Mothers and Daughters (make that 14)

The first 4 movies are G rated and I considered them to be fine for my girls when they were about 5 or 6 years of age.

Mary Poppins 

 I remembered the songs from this movie from when I was a little girl. Based on the book by P.L.Travers, an Australian author. You can find out about her here.

The Sound of Music 

Another musical I remember from my childhood. A good children's book to tie in with the movie is 'The Trapp Family Book' by Hans Wilhelm.

Little Lord Fauntelroy 

A sweet story based on the book by Francis Hodgson Burnett, this is a very enjoyable movie which was done in 1995.

 Anne of Green Gables 

There are three DVDs in this series but only the first one is rated G so I save the other two which have more adult concepts for later (Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel PG - about age 10 and Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story - about age 12 - 14).

For about age 8 and up:

The Inn of the Sixth Happiness

Based on the true story of Gladys Alward, a missionary to China, who ends up with a hundred homeless children in her care when the Japanese invade China leading them to safety in a gruelling trek through the mountains. 

For about age 10 and up:

Little Women

I forgot about this one until it was mentioned below - thanks Vintage Reader! There is also an old version of Little Women which stars a very young Elizabeth Taylor which I wasn't particularly enamoured with but my good friend Kathy loves it so for her sake I mention it here.

Miss Potter 

The story of Beatrix Potter very beautifully done with little snippets of Peter Rabbit and other characters from her books. The girls and I loved the clothes Beatrix wore in this movie.

Ever After 

A retelling of the fairy tale Cinderella. This movie was a lot of fun. A bit of romance done in an appropriate way and an interesting heroine with plenty of character and the nasty girls get their just desserts at the end.

Pride and Prejudice 

We've probably watched every version and the BBC production definitely wins, maybe because it is satisfyingly long.
A few years ago 6 of our children came down with chicken pox one after the other and I had about 6 weeks where I barely left the house. One of the girls was really sick with it and came into our room late one night crying because she couldn't sleep and was so miserable. My husband suggested I put on P & P and watch it with her. So that's what we did and it helped distract her for 6 hours......I was totally stuffed by the end of it.

Around age 12 and up:


Set in a market town in England in 1842 and adapted from the novels of Elizabeth Gaskell, this movie is all about the idiosyncrasies of its inhabitants and really is charming. There are some medical emergencies in the movie in which might be a bit much for the squeamish and require a preview but overall it is lovely and has some very poignant moments.

Return to Cranford

Follows on from Cranford and includes the arrival of the railroad to the town, some nicely done romance and gentle humour.

About age 14 and up:

North and South

Pride and Prejudice is a great movie but the characters are often restrained and reserved. North and South has a similar theme to P & P in many ways but there is much more feeling and emotion between the characters which enables you to understand and appreciate the struggles and disparity of the two main characters. The musical soundtrack adds a wonderful ethereal quality which enhances the story.

 Jane Eyre

We've watched about 3 versions of Jane Eyre but this one is tops. It is nice and long, stays true to the story and captures the dialogue contained in the book very well. Timothy Dalton portrays an authentic Mr. Rochester and Zelah Clarke was just the right sort of person to play Jane Eyre. 

An Australian Classic - A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute

This is a story I thought I had some familiarity with as I remembered seeing the movie many years ago - man meets woman during WW2, they are separated and years later they meet again - with Alice Springs in Central Australia involved somewhere.
But the book was a surprise to me when I finally got to read it and not quite what I expected.  A tale of an unusual romance, the story is narrated by a Mr. Strachan an elderly solicitor living in post war London in 1948.

When one of his clients dies leaving behind a significant inheritance he conducts a search to trace the whereabouts of the beneficiaries. After some initial difficulty he makes contact with his client's only surviving relative, Jean Paget, his niece, a young woman in her late twenties and he informs her of the inheritance.
A condition of his client's will was that Mr. Strachan was to keep the money in a trust for Jean until she was 35 years old and until then she would only receive any income from the estate and so because of his ongoing involvement with Jean's affairs, a relationship was forged between Jean and the solicitor and he came to hear about her experiences in Malaya during the war years.

Jean had lived in Malaya up until she was 11 years of age, when her family returned to England. Her older brother returned to Malaya in 1937 when Jean was sixteen and Jean followed in 1939 when the phoney war was in progress; the view being that if war broke out Jean was better off in Malaya than in England. Two years later the Japanese were advancing through Malaya and Jean, unable to evacuate, was captured by the Japanese and with a group of about 30 other woman and children was forced to walk for miles through the jungle, many of them dying in the process.

Jean became the leader of this group, caring for the baby of one of the women who had died during the march; translating, bargaining and negotiating with the villagers and Japanese soldiers as they travelled.
One day they came across Joe Harman, an Australian prisoner who helped them steal some food from the Japanese. The theft was discovered and he was punished.

'Darkness was closing down in my London sitting-room, the early darkness of a stormy afternoon. The rain still beat upon the window. The girl sat staring into the fire, immersed in her sad memories. 'They crucified him,' she said quietly. 'They took us all down to Kuantan, and they nailed his hands to a tree, and beat him to death. They kept us there, and made us look on while they did it.'

Jean returned to a quiet and lonely life in England after the war and upon learning of her inheritance she decided she would go back to Malaya to build a well for the women of the village her group lived with towards the end of the Japanese occupation.
It was here that she discovered Joe Harman had unbelievably survived his ordeal but had been hospitalised for a long time and so her quest began to find out what became of him.

In this novel Neville Shute in an Author's Note pays tribute to 'the most gallant lady I have ever met,' and mentions a party of around eighty Dutch women and children who were forced by the Japanese (who were unwilling to assume responsibility for them) to trek for two and a half years around the island of Sumatra, leaving less than thirty of them alive by the end of their journey.

A Town Like Alice was first published in 1950 and reflects the culture of the time so you will encounter uncomplimentary remarks particularly about the Japanese and also Australian Aboriginals.