Poetry Study: Anne Bradstreet, Puritan Poet

Literature 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





Are your kids struggling with Blank Page Syndrome?

Steam is starting to come out of your ears listening to the tap, tap, tap of his pencil on that blank piece of paper as he sits there, groaning and sighing.

When is he going to get started with that writing?!

“Mom, I don’t know what to write!  Can’t I do something ELSE now?

Do you have a reluctant writer?

I know what that’s like. I had one, too.

Not just had one. I AM one.

Two things I’ve learned over the years:

  1. Staring at a blank piece of paper is totally intimidating.
  2. Writing is easier to do the more you do it. (Like with so many other things in life, right?)

Here is one idea you can implement TODAY that will help YOUR reluctant writer practice writing relatively painlessly.


Have him begin a reader’s response journal and write in it every day.  But only for FIVE MINUTES. Tell your writer that even if he has more to say, he can only write for five minutes.

How to Do It.

Find a smaller sized spiral notebook or a composition book.  (Smaller = less intimidating.)

Writing about a good story is easiest. Before your student starts his daily reading assignment, have him write the following in his journal:

  • Date:
  • Title of Book:
  • Page Numbers read for this entry (page # started – page # ended)
  • Have him copy the assigned question (examples below)
  • Underneath, have him write his response to the question

What else you need to know.

If your goal is to build writing fluency, I recommend you focus on just having him write without editing his writing.  (If you have a particularly interesting response from your student on one day, you can always choose to make that into a writing project for the week.  In that case, you would expect your student to fully develop his thoughts, write well-developed paragraphs, use correct spelling and punctuation and to self-edit his work.)

You need to periodically check this to make sure it is being done; every day to start and then once a week once the habit has been developed, with periodic spot checks at irregular intervals.  :-)

Make sure the writing is done immediately after the reading.

Not only does daily writing increase writing fluency, this assignment also helps your student develop the ability to choose the main idea and to summarize a passage, both important writing and critical thinking skills.

Start with easier response prompts and then move to more advanced prompts as your student gets used to the process.

Remember that around middle school students mature to the point where they begin to be able to think more analytically, but this is a developmental thing.  If you are not sure your student is ready but you have been doing this awhile now and you want to ratchet it up a bit, occasionally pitch your student a more analytical question and see how it goes.

For your more artistic students, feel free to throw in some prompts that require illustrations.

A month of prompts to get you started.

  1. Do you like what you are reading? Why or why not?
  2. In a few sentences summarize what you read today.
  3. If you were a character in this book, who would you be and why?
  4. Is what you are reading believable? Why or why not?
  5. Draw four objects that represent your reading. Write a sentence for each item and tell how it relates to your reading.
  6. Write down one word from your reading today that you didn’t know. What do you think it could mean? Explain what made you think that.
  7. Is the setting (where and/or when the story takes place) described well enough that you have a ‘picture’ of it in your mind? Why or why not?
  8. Draw the setting in which the story takes place.
  9. Describe your favorite character and explain why.
  10. Describe your least favorite character and explain why.
  11. If you were writing this story, what would happen next?
  12. Tell me about the main character. What kind of person is he or she?
  13. Tell me what problem the main character is facing. What would you do to solve the problem?
  14. What has happened in the story so far?
  15. What is your favorite part of the story so far?
  16. What is your least favorite part of the story so far?
  17. What have you found boring about your reading? What made it boring? If you were writing the story, how would you make it more interesting?
  18. Describe the thoughts and feelings you had while you were reading today.
  19. What are the two most important ideas from this story so far?
  20. Write the title of this book. Do you think the title fits the story? Why or why not?
  21. What is something you have learned from reading this story?
  22. What ideas do you have about what will happen next? Has the author given you any clues in the story? What were they?
  23. What object is important to the story.  Draw it. Why is it important?
  24. Describe what one character from the story looks like.
  25. What is the most important event that has occurred in the story so far?
  26. Who do you think is the most important character in the story and why?
  27. What have you learned about life from reading this story?
  28. Write a paragraph about the main character in the story.
  29. Write a paragraph telling about the setting of the story.
  30. Has anything happened in the story that was unexpected or surprised you? Why?
  31. Write about what one character feels. Write about when you felt that way, too.

Hang in there, Mom!  You are going to hear some groaning about this, but if you cut down on other writing for a week to compensate for this daily assignment, it will go better.

Have you tried reading response journals before?  How did it go?

If you try this method, tell me how it worked for you in the comments!





How to Write Better in Five Minutes

How to Write Better in Five Minutes

#1 She was tired when she finished her paper at midnight.

#2 Sleepily, Mary slowly climbed under the cool sheets and let out a huge, satisfied sigh. Although she didn’t finish writing her conclusion until the clock chimed for the twelfth time, it was worth it. She couldn’t wait to hear what her political science professor thought of her innovative solution for immigration reform. 

What Makes Excellent Writing? 

First class writing can be hard to produce, but simple to spot. It immediately draws you into a scene.  What did you experience, if anything, while reading #1 above? What was different about #2? Did you ‘see’ a tired Mary get into bed? Did you ‘feel’ cool sheets…’hear’ the clock chiming?

Show, Don’t Tell

#1 tells you what happened, but #2 shows you what happened, as if you were there watching. #2 gives you ‘clues’ that Mary was tired, and that she finished her paper at midnight, without coming right out and telling you. A competent author will describe a scene, providing plenty of specific, sensory details that allow the reader to look over her shoulder at it. If it is well-written, the reader “sees” and “feels” what the writer wants her to “see” and “feel.”

Let’s take another example:

1. He was angry when he left.

 2. Miles stalked out of the house, muttering to himself.  The kids playing in the yard stopped mid-sentence, startled at the slamming of the car door and sound of squealing tires as he rounded the corner. 

Now it’s Your Turn

This is an ideal exercise for your late middle or high school student.  Or for you!

Rewrite one or more of the following sentences so they cause the reader to ‘experience’ a situation or person. First, read the sentence, then envision a scene based on it. Second, use specific sensory details involving the main character (What does s/he  see, hear, smell, feel, taste?) to tell the reader what you want him to know. You will probably use more than one sentence. Remember: “show,” don’t “tell.” Be creative!

Teaching tip: ANY changes in this direction will immediately improve your student’s writing. Don’t expect perfection on this first attempt – just keep working on it and over time it will come more naturally.

  • The girl was happy that day. 
  • The boy is sick. 
  • The book was scary. 
  • He was not happy to see that the tree in his front yard had been cut down while he was on vacation. 
  • Chris had a lot of school work to do.

Post Yours in the Comments

We would LOVE to see one or more of your student(s) (or your) answers posted in the comments. I will respond to any posted–and feel free to respond to anyone else’s post as well! Student’s love to see their work published!

Dana Wilson at Train up a Child Publishing


P.S. This lesson plan was adapted from our Middle School Daily Lesson Plans.



Using this Simple Graphic Tool Will Make You a Better Teacher


No matter what type of homeschooling curriculum or methodology you use, this simple graphic tool will help you be a more effective teacher and your student a better learner.

The Rubric

This is my favorite graphic tool because it is SO helpful, on so many fronts, for both me and my students! Maybe this is something you have never done, but I have been guilty of quickly throwing an assignment at a student, without really thinking it through, let alone sufficiently explaining it. And then I would wonder why it wasn’t at all what I was expecting when it was done!  Especially if you are a newbie at homeschooling, I bet you have struggled with this, too.

A simple rubric often eliminates this problem by:

  • helping you think through the assignment before you give it.
  • giving you a clear, concrete way to explain exactly what you want your student to do.
  • providing a written reminder to your student of what he’s aiming for as he works on the assignment.
  • offering you the perfect tool to evaluate and discuss your student’s work with her.

Rubrics work equally well with written assignments, oral presentations, hands on projects or anything else you might dream up, for history, science, language arts and many other subjects you teach. You can make your rubric as simple or complicated as you want, depending upon the age of your student and your grading criteria.

Sample Rubric


Sample Rubric from K-5 Manual







This rubric is a simple one suitable for a story written by a late elementary student.






Personally, I did not grade my children at that age, but I did use a rubric to insure that we both understood what was expected in an assignment.

How to Make Your Own

  1. View and download this sample of  of a (blank) basic rubric.
  2. Decide which skills or concepts you want to evaluate.
  3. List the most important ones in the first column on the left.
  4. Create a table in Microsoft Word or software similar, or use the blank grid provided on the Train up a Child Publishing Tools CD if you happen own one of our Unit Programs. Type or write in the criteria under the numbers with the highest number being the best score. Notice the wording on the sample criteria to help you develop your own.
  5. You may add rows or columns if you would like a more fine-tuned system.
  6. Share the rubric with your student to explain your expectations for the assignment. Encourage her to check the rubric while she is working on the assignment to make sure it is completely finished before  it is turned in.
  7. Evaluate the assignment using the rubric and calculate the points if you are giving your student a grade for that assignment.
  8. As the teacher, you determine the grading scale depending on the number of elements and whether certain elements are more important than others. With our example, a possible grading scale would be:

9—12 points                Passing

below 9 points          Reteach

Another possible scoring system could be:

10-12                  A

8-9                      B

below 8           Reteach

I actually waited as long as I could to begin formal grading; I didn’t begin until half way through middle school. But whether you decide to grade earlier or not, rubrics will still go a long way to ensure you and your students are on the same page with assignments and evaluation.

Have you used rubrics with your students? When did you start using them and how have they worked for you?

Dana Wilson at Train up a Child Publishing

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King Alfred’s English: a History of the Language We Speak – a Must-read!

A homeschooling mom’s dream, King Alfred’s English: A History of the Language We Speak and Why We Should Be Glad We Do includes European and Bible history, etymology, literature and geography – all in one captivating book!  Not only does this excellent King Alfred's English - a must read!read neatly incorporate several subjects in one readable volume, it does so with humor and clarity.

I absolutely loved this book!

Did You Know?

This history of the English language answers several of my questions, such as:

  1. Why are Spanish, Italian, French, etc., called Romance languages? (Because they were all derived from Latin. Rome = Romance)
  2. Why are words in English spelled with so many silent letters, like the k in knife, knave and knight and the gh in night, cough, and enough? (Those letters were initially pronounced, but those sounds were eventually dropped as the English language simplified and the English wanted to sound more French and less German.)
  3. Why do some people write Xmas instead of Christ – mas? Isn’t this practically the same thing as denying Christ? (No – Emperor Constantine used the “X”, the traditional Greek initial ‘Chi,’ to stand for the first letter of “Christ” in Greek.)
  4. Why is the same country sometimes called “Britain” and at other times called “England”? (Because the names actually portray two different people groups who lived in the same place but at different times.)
  5. Who introduced the idea of B.C. and A.D. to describe time? (The Venerable Bede, called the Father of English history, is credited with this concept.)

A former homeschooling mom herself, the author organizes her book around four major periods of change in the English language that she calls “language invasions.” These are major shifts in English caused by the changing political or cultural climates during the history of Britain. I mean England. These ‘invasions’ added hundreds of words to our language.

How Does English Stack Up?

How does the English language match others in sheer number of words? The author compared a few other countries’ dictionaries for a clue.

  • French dictionary – 100,000 words
  • Russian dictionary – 130,000 words
  • German dictionary – 185,000 words

Are you ready?

  • English dictionary – a whopping 615,000 words!
The plethora of words available makes for great creative writing, as the author points out – but for taking the SAT? Not so much!

European History Made Clear

As she defines the shifts and changes in English, the author describes the historical and cultural catalysts as well, and brings us along for the ride. The sometimes complicated history of Europe overall and England, particularly, becomes so much clearer under her tutelage. As well, her chapters on the Reformation are enlightening, helping her reader understand more clearly its impact on the European culture of the time and the generations around the world that followed.

Along the way she interjects an abundance of interesting nuggets, such as: after describing how experts gauge the authenticity and reliability of ancient texts (interesting in itself!), the author includes a comparison of the New Testament with other ancient writings, such as Homer’s Iliad and Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars. For anyone who regularly shares with those who doubt the veracity of Scripture, this discussion is  not-to-be-missed!  A concluding quote from the author on the subject:

…anyone who does some honest research will be confronted with the fact that we are in possession of a truly astounding quantity of reliable ancient manuscripts all of which attest to the accuracy of our New Testament.  You can argue whether the events took place, but you just can’t argue that these really are the writings of the men who claimed to have witnesses them.  –by Laurie J. White, author of King Alfred’s English

Mrs. White also introduces a topic that was new to me: how William Tyndale, through his English translation of the Bible  both promoted the Reformation cause and influenced our language with his choice of words and phrases that have now seeped into the fabric of our culture. Familiar phrasings such as “eat, drink and be merry,” “fight the good fight,” and “the salt of the earth” are among Tyndale’s memorable contributions to our literary heritage.

In brief: King Alfred’s English is not to be missed!  Children from late elementary on up will enjoy listening to this as a family read-aloud, and it can be assigned as an independent reader from late middle school on up to your high school student studying British history or literature.  And I promise – you will learn and enjoy it as much as they do!

No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.  C. S. Lewis


Have you read it yet? What did you learn that surprised you?




 In the interests of full-disclosure, I received a copy of this book from the author for review purposes, although the opinions given in the review are totally my own.