Having come over to a slightly more classical side of education from the relatively scary (I kid, I kid!) unschooling side of things, we have lately been doing a lot more memorization work in our homeschool. We memorize poetry, Scripture, basic catechism questions and even some historical and scientific facts from the lessons we cover during regular school.
I have written in the past about our method of studying history, a subject I hold quite dear. And what I believe about what they should know was lately confirmed to me by reading E. D. Hirsch Jr.’s book The Knowledge Deficit. There is much (and I do mean much!) I disagree with him on, including Common Core, but I had to admit that his argument for children to have a body of knowledge from which they can draw to increase their reading comprehension made perfect sense.
I began to wonder then if it wasn’t the lack of this background information that was holding my children back from speaking clear, proper English. 2 out of my 3 children are late talkers, so I understand they have some catching up to do when they do start talking, however, I would like to help their grammar along once they do. Poetry, Scripture and basic background facts do an amazing job of this.
The How of Memorizing Poetry
I went to a homeschooling conference a few months ago and made the decision to teach poetry memorization. But the book and CD they were selling gave me serious sticker shock. Wow, I thought, classical education sure costs a pretty penny!
I understood however why it cost so much. It was because the CD had to be recorded. Children – my children and perhaps yours too – like to listen to poetry and imitate the inflections and emphases of the speaker. There is a rhythm to the spoken word they hear and imitate. Poetry then isn’t that different from learning songs where the rhythm carries you along.
No. I did not purchase the poetry memorization CD. I am too eclectic of a homeschooler, classical or not, to let someone else direct my curriculum so completely. I mean, picking things from here and there, putting it all together is one of fortes and my greatest joys.
Instead, this is what I did and where we find poetry to memorize.
Okay, so this is quite obvious. Scouring literature anthologies can help with finding great poetry. Begin small, then add another stanza and another and another. We began with Tennyson’s The Eagle, which is six lines long.
Check your local library. Our local library in Sacramento has books on CD which we may borrow. I’m not certain they have poetry as well, but it’s worth a try.
These are by far my favorite. Pandora, Spotify, YouTube – all these websites have poetry read by poets or voice actors that are just a joy to listen to! The added bonus is that you get to save the ones you like and begin your own collection which you can come back and play over and over.
I have the children listen to the poem while reading the words from an anthology and then repeat. The slowest we learn is a stanza a week. Short poems should take no longer than a month to memorize.