Anne Bradstreet-first American PoetLiterature is hardly a distinct subject, so closely is it associated with history, whether general or English…and it is astonishing how much sound learning children acquire when the thought of an age is made to synchronise with its political and social developments.

 A point which I should like to bring before the reader is the peculiar part which poetry plays in making us aware of this thought of the ages, including our own.                      —Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6

 

Our history and literature study, including poetry, is intertwined. As Charlotte Mason suggests, poetry helps illuminate history for us by letting us peek over the shoulder at the thoughts of those who came before us.

Please take advantage of this rich primary source material by including poetry — the very words of those living in the particular time period you are studying  in history — into your homeschooling.

 Anne Bradstreet, America’s First Poet

The first woman to be published in the U.S. and considered by many to be America’s first poet, Anne Bradstreet was actually born in England. Two years married, Anne braved the Atlantic and moved with her young Puritan family to Massachusetts Bay, where her husband and father were eventually each governors of this new United States colony.

Anne’s vivid, beautiful poetry is a window into the intentional strength and faith of the Puritan soul in response to the hardship of life in Colonial America.

Below is one of Anne’s poignant poems followed by lesson plan ideas to use for your elementary to high school-aged students.

Here followes some verses upon the burning of our house, July 10th, 1666.

by Anne Bradstreet

In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow neer I did not look,
I waken’d was with thundring nois
And Piteous shreiks of dreadfull voice.
That fearfull sound of fire and fire,
Let no man know is my Desire.
I, starting up, the light did spye,
And to my God my heart did cry
To strengthen me in my Distresse
And not to leave me succourlesse.
Then coming out beheld a space,
The flame consume my dwelling place.

And, when I could no longer look,
I blest his Name that gave and took,
That layd my goods now in the dust:
Yea so it was, and so ’twas just.
It was his own: it was not mine;
Far be it that I should repine.

He might of All justly bereft,
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the Ruines oft I past,
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast,
And here and there the places spye
Where oft I sate, and long did lye.

Here stood that Trunk, and there that chest;
There lay that store I counted best:
My pleasant things in ashes lye,
And them behold no more shall I.
Under thy roof no guest shall sitt,
Nor at thy Table eat a bitt.

No pleasant tale shall ‘ere be told,
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle ‘ere shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom’s voice ere heard shall bee.
In silence ever shalt thou lye;
Adieu, Adeiu; All’s vanity.

Then streight I gin my heart to chide,
And didst thy wealth on earth abide?
Didst fix thy hope on mouldring dust,
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the skye
That dunghill mists away may flie.

Thou hast an house on high erect
Fram’d by that mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished,
Stands permanent tho’ this bee fled.
It’s purchased, and paid for too
By him who hath enough to doe.

A Prise so vast as is unknown,
Yet, by his Gift, is made thine own.
Ther’s wealth enough, I need no more;
Farewell my Pelf, farewell my Store.
The world no longer let me Love,
My hope and Treasure lyes Above.

How to Read Poetry

No matter the age of your students, there are basic steps to reading poetry, as presented in How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading. (This is a classic that should be read by all homeschooled high school students, in my opinion!) :-)

First, read the poem through the first time without stopping. Even though there are unfamiliar words and phrases, you will glean much more by first reading the poem through without stopping to figure out  the vocabulary.

Then, read the poem through a second time, but this time read it aloud.

Poetry’s inherent rhythm brings the words and phrases to life.  Now, you may start asking what the poem is saying.

The more you read it, the more the poem can speak to you.

For Younger Students

In true Charlotte Mason fashion, resist the urge to “teach” this poem. Instead, allow the poem to speak directly to your student. And this particular  poem will be more suitable for older elementary children than younger.

For elementary students, just focus on reading the poem. If you anticipate your student becoming frightened about your house burning down, remind him that during colonial times candles were used for light and most household items were of wood, so house fires were much more common than today. (Although we ALWAYS have to be careful of fire, etc…)

For an older elementary or middle school-aged student, read a stanza aloud, one at a time, and have your student narrate (tell back) what s/he has heard.  Record your student’s thoughts for each stanza.

After the narration is complete, you may ask your student to describe how the author feels about what happened, especially if this was not included in the original narration.  Your student  may also ask you questions about the poem, which is fine, but try to be brief in your answers. If your student shows particular interest in any poem, encourage questions, re-reading and further observation.

Of course, younger students will  miss the biblical allusions and will focus on the more ‘concrete’ aspects of this poem, as is normal for their stage of development.

You may choose to read other poems by Anne Bradstreet while studying the American Colonial period, as Charlotte Mason advocated reading one poet at a time, for six weeks or more.  For the younger set, focus mainly on reading and enjoying the poems.

For High School Students

High school students should initially approach the poem in the same way recommended earlier: first by reading the poem  in its entirety, without stopping; then reading the poem a second time, aloud, again without stopping.

Most high school students would benefit by reading this poem through every day for a week or more. As it is rich in biblical allusions and principles and Puritan theology, there is much here to be gleaned by the discerning student.

Assignment Possibilities (High School)

These are written to the student.

  • As you read through the poem, note at least eight examples of the dialect of the time period. Draw a line down the center of a piece of notebook paper and write the phrase or word on the left, as gleaned by your examination of the poem, and the meaning or spelling of the sample on the right, as it might be expressed in today’s language.
  • Read through each stanza of the poem, then write a summary of each in your own words.
  • As you read through each stanza, note any biblical allusions/principles. (There are several.) Make sure to identify and explain the allusion and for extra or Honors credit – add a Scripture reference.

Additional Assignment Ideas from our American Literature course:

  • Read an additional book of poetry by Anne Bradstreet, such as To My Husband and Other Poems.
  • Read at least one poem from each of the sections of the book and be prepared to discuss with your teacher what you learn about Anne from the sample of poems that you read.
  • After reading at least five of her poems, write two to three paragraphs about what you learn about Anne as a person. What is important to her? What did she believe? What did she love? What kind of person do you think she was?
  • Research Anne Bradstreet’s life and compare what you learn to what you discovered from her poetry. Were your observations accurate? How did they differ, if at all, from what you learned through research? Write two to three paragraphs discussing how your research compares to your observations from reading her poetry.
For additional reading on Anne Bradstreet:
For excellent reading concerning the Puritans, consider reading:

 

Is poetry something you enjoy reading at your house, or do you struggle to include it?

Christian literature based homeschool curriclum

 

 

 

 

Teaching Character through Poetry III

 

We are continuing to celebrate National Poetry month at Train up a Child Publishing!  If you missed our first three posts, check them out: Charlotte Mason on Teaching Poetry, Teaching Character Using Poetry (Psalm 1), Teaching Character Using Poetry II (Psalm 8).

The third poem we are using to teach character is the well-known It Couldn’t Be Done, by Edgar Guest.  This simple poem will be appreciated and understood by all but your youngest primary students, and even they can appreciate it with a little discussion!

 It Couldn’t Be Done

by Edgar Guest

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it”;
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

About the author

Edgar Albert Guest (1881-1959) was a naturalized American citizen born in Great Britain, a prolific poet and writer. Scorned by some poetry critics, he was nicknamed “The People’s Poet” because he wrote about common life and experiences to which most people could relate.  Popular enough to be syndicated in over 300 newspapers, he went on to have radio and television shows.  Guest wrote about topics that encouraged and inspired, and before he died was named the Poet Laureate of Michigan.

Lesson Plan Options

First read the poem silently, then read the poem aloud once or twice. Choose a few of these options depending upon the age of your student(s). Then do a few of the following:

  1. Let your student know that after the reading, he will tell back what the poem said. (Give you an oral narration.)
  2. Ask your students to tell you what this poem means.
  3. Have your students write about what this poem means.
  4. Research the poet and write one to three paragraphs about his life. (See paragraph above for more info)
  5. What character qualities does the person in the poem demonstrate? What specific words in the poem suggest these character qualities?
    • Courageous, unafraid to try:
      • So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
      •  If he worried he hid it.
      • With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
      • Without any doubting
    • Diligence, industriousness:
      • So he buckled right in
      • he tackled the thing
      • But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
        And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
      • Just take off your coat and go to it
      • he did it
    • Good attitude:
      • he with a chuckle
      • with the trace of a grin
        On his face
      • He started to sing
      • with a bit of a grin
      • Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
  6. Have your student memorize the poem.
  7. Here’s a cartoon version of this poem!  Have your student choose another poem, and make a cartoon version of it. Here are some free downloadable cartoon templates to make it easier.

Don’t you love the character qualities this poem inspires?

 

 

Teaching Character Using Poetry II

Considering that April is National Poetry Month, it’s an ideal time to examine how you can incorporate poetry in valuable, meaningful ways. Continue reading throughout this month as we discuss poetry for all ages and various subjects!

This is a continuation from our last post about Teaching Character through Poetry. Today we’ll look at another example from Scripture:

Psalm 8

1 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
above the heavens.

2 From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.

3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,

4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?

5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.

6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:

7 all flocks and herds,
and the beasts of the field,

8 the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

9 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Important Character Concepts and Activities from Psalm 8

When we consider the glory of God and all He created, we should be in awe and amazed just as David was when he wrote this poetry! God’s majesty lies before us in all of creation and He never lets us forget His greatness.

  • Character conceptHumility…which us of could create an animal or put stars in the sky?
  •  Possible related activity: Take a nature walk and note every possible thing that could only be created by God. Discuss how we should be humbled that a God so awesome not only created us, but loves us above all of the rest of His creation. Have your students draw something observed from your walk, and include Psalm 8:9 as copywork under your drawing.
  • Character concept: God places man “a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” With this glory and honor comes responsibility and stewardship. How do you think God expects us to treat His creation?
  • Possible related activity: Make a chart of the many parts of God’s creation from which man benefits. In one column, generally note the creation and then in a second column, specifically list benefits. For example:

Plants     /     medicine, herbs, food, art, cleaning the air

Ocean    /      medicine, food, beauty and leisure

Expanding your study

  • Memorize this Psalm or another one in honor of National Poetry Month!
  • Have your high school student choose another psalm and write “character concepts” and “possible activities” as we have in these last two posts.  Use that to teach a younger sibling or friend.

Which psalm is your favorite for teaching character? Would love to hear about it in the comments!

Editor’s note: This post was written in collaboration with Beth Hempton, formerly with Train up a Child Publishing. You can read more from Beth by going to her website at Classes by Beth or checking out her blog

teaching character using poetry

Considering that April is National Poetry Month, it’s an ideal time to examine how you can incorporate poetry in valuable, meaningful ways. Continue reading throughout this month as we discuss poetry for all ages and various subjects!

If you missed our first post, find out several simple ways to incorporate poetry into your homeschooling by reading Charlotte Mason on Teaching Poetry.

Poetry is not just a necessary part of teaching language arts. Like all literature, it should be used for far more than that!

Teaching Character Using Poetry

Character building has become a major buzzword in the homeschool community.

For so many of us, our children’s character development takes priority over their academic pursuits because we realize that knowledge without morality is not only wasted, but it can also be dangerous.

The Internet is an obvious example as a tool for so many productive and healthy ideas, but it is also replete with immorality. Is it any wonder that we strive to build Biblical character in our children above other things?

Using Biblical Poetry to Teach Character

Scripture provides an abundance of poetic beauty through the Psalms. Did you know this extraordinary book contains 150 lyric poems? Lyric poetry contains the emotional responses of the poet to someone or something. In the case of Psalms, the poets respond to God and His creation.

This type of poetry allows for the opportunity to examine healthy, emotional responses. The world often demonstrates unhealthy emotions, whether it’s something like obsessive love or intense anger, while Scripture offers a godly alternative.

Interestingly enough, while much of ancient pagan poetry has disappeared over the centuries, the beauty and truth of the Psalms continues to change hearts and teach many!

So, how exactly would you use this poetry to discuss and implement specific character qualities with your children?

Let’s start with a familiar Psalm:

Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.

2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

4 Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Important Character Concepts and Activities from Psalm 1

Sometimes we need to understand what not to do as we develop strong, Biblical character. God often tells us not to do certain things or provides non-examples for us. In this Psalm, He is specific about the company we should not keep: “who does not walk the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.”

  •  Character concept: Whom we associate with does have an effect on our behavior and our beliefs. We must be careful about who we choose for friends and who we allow to influence us. Additionally, note the downward spiral of sin illustrated in verse 1 by examining the verbs: “who does not WALK in the counsel of the wicked or STAND in the way of sinners or SIT in the seat of mockers. What a fitting opportunity to teach your children that sin is deceptive and progressive.
  • Possible related activity: Brainstorm the qualities that we want to look for in friends such as honesty, sincerity, kindness, etc. and evaluate our current friendships to determine if we’re headed in the right direction. If you have a special friend that encourages you to have strong character, consider writing him or her a thank you note for being such a good friend.

Obeying God’s law is not always easy, but it does lend to a healthier character. We can only hope to obey the laws of the Lord if we spend time examining them and committing them to heart. “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

  • Character concept: Obedience with a right attitude. If we are sullen or disrespectful in our disobedience then we are only obeying externally rather than with our heart.
  • Possible related activity: Note 2-3 areas in which you have difficulty with obedience and think about how you could improve these aspects of your character. Pray to seek God’s help, specifically asking for forgiveness and assistance with each area. This could be a written assignment for older children. For younger children, drawing or creating a mini-book might be more effective. Be sure to spend some time referring back to these assignments and praising your children as their character improves.
  •  Character concept: Consistency…and in this case, it’s referring to God’s Word. Healthy habits help build strong character. Having a quiet time of prayer and meditation on God’s Word daily not only builds consistency in this area, but helps children move on to other healthy habits.
  •  Possible related activity: Assist your child with developing a quiet time for independent prayer and Bible reading. Remember that modeling consistency is one of the best methods for instilling it in your children.

This Psalm tells us that the Lord not only watches over the righteous, but that the blessed man will also prosper. This is not necessarily referring to financial profit, but more importantly, spiritual prosperity.

  • Character concept: Righteousness is defined as being morally upright, without sin. We should all long for righteousness as God holds the righteous man in such high esteem.
  • Possible related activity: Research Scripture for other examples where righteousness is being discussed.

Editor’s note: This post was written in collaboration with Beth Hempton, formerly with Train up a Child Publishing. You can read more from Beth by going to her website at Classes by Beth or checking out her blog. Thank you, Beth!

Charlotte Mason on Teaching Poetry

Do you cringe at the idea of studying poetry?

That is just it! You don’t have to formally “teach” poetry, particularly at young ages.

Trying to dissect and analyze every word of a poem is not what Charlotte Mason had in mind.  Like when reading a book or studying nature, her emphasis was largely on the experience of the poem… the relationship formed by the reader or hearer.

The thing is, to keep your eye upon words and wait to feel their force and beauty; and, when words are so fit that no other words can be put in their places, so few that none can be left out without spoiling the sense, and so fresh and musical that they delight you, then you may be sure that you are reading Literature, whether in prose or poetry. ~Charlotte Mason, Vol. 4, Chapter 12, p. 41

The economy of words, the vicarious experience of sights and sounds, the beauty of poetry, can be easily neglected or missed with too detailed an examination, particular for your younger students.

So how do I use poetry?

First, read it.  Read it aloud.  Make it part of your day.

You can make it a special part of your week as well, as everyone can come together,  bringing a favorite poem for a weekly “poetry read aloud,” accompanied by tea and cookies.  (Food makes everything more palatable to little ones, you know.)

Make it an event! Use the china!

How do I choose the poems?

Readings in literature, whether of prose or poetry, should generally illustrate the historical period studied… ~Charlotte Mason Vol. 6, p. 340

Our Unit Programs and our Daily Lesson Plans study poets and their poetry in conjunction with the historical period in which they lived and wrote.

Like literature, poetry can spark your imagination so that you are there, in your mind’s eye, watching an historical event as it unfolds. If you doubt this, dramatically read “Paul Revere’s Ride” to your children! The first two stanzas are below, just to give you a taste…

Paul Revere’s Ride

by American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,–
One, if by land, and two,  if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.

Can’t you just see it as it happened?

This is a perfect poem to read during your study of the American Revolution.

The poem in its entirety is available, illustrated, in one of the two e-books we give you for subscribing to our mailing list!  Read more here.

What can we do other than read poetry?

  • Choose a stanza (or more) for copy work
  • Have your children provide an oral or written narration of the poem, just as you would for other literature
  • Have your children illustrate the poem
  • Choose poems for memory work
  • Copy pertinent poems into nature journals
  • Learn about some different poetry forms, such as Haiku, epic, lyric, sonnet, acrostic
  • Write your own poetry
  • Have your older children write a narration in a poetic form

Some of our favorite poetry books:

Here are some of our favorites, beginning with books for your youngest.

    

And for your older students:
  

Do you regularly incorporate poetry into your homeschooling?  How do you do it? Tell me in the comments!

Keep an eye out for other posts in our poetry series for National Poetry Month!