Five Simple Ways to Teach Poetry in Your Homeschool

I have to admit that throughout my school days, poetry wasn’t my favorite genre to read. I am, and was, an avid reader. But reading poetry sometimes seems difficult to me. In hindsight, I think it’s because I didn’t have much exposure to poetry until high school. And then we seemed to spend so much time picking apart every word and phrase and rarely just enjoyed the beauty of the language.

As a homeschool mom I was determined that my kids would have more exposure to poetry throughout our school years. It was difficult at first because I didn’t know what kind of poetry to read to them, or whether we should read and discuss every poem or just enjoy the reading. Over time, though, it became easier to bring poetry into our homeschool in a variety of ways. 
Teaching poetry is really important. Reading poetry can introduce kids to new ideas, new cultures, and new forms of language. It can be a good jumping off point to discuss grammar and punctuation and how poets do or don’t use the typical rules. Poetry can all for self-expression and show kids how other writers express emotion. The study of poetry can also increase reading and analytical skills.
But even though homeschool moms can see the value of teaching poetry, it sometimes seems like a daunting prospect to know exactly how to teach it, how to introduce it into your homeschool. 
Poetry resources from Sonlight
Disclosure: I partnered with Sonlight and received free books in exchange for this post. All opinions are always my own.
Here are   simple ways that you can bring poetry into your homeschool. And I’m incorporating a few great poetry anthologies that can help. Make sure you read through to the end to enter an awesome giveaway from Sonlight that can help you introduce great poetry to your kids.

Read poems that kids can relate to.

Do you ever remember a time in school when you had a teacher read a poem to the class or had the class read some poetry independently, and you just couldn’t figure out what in the world that poem was about? I can! And when kids are faced with poetry that seems really obscure and hard to relate to, it doesn’t make reading and enjoying poetry very easy.
Eventually, as your child gets older and more capable in reading poetry, there will be a time when he or she can read more difficult poems and learn to analyze them. But when kids are first introduced to poetry, they need to read poems that they can relate to. 
If you’re looking for poetry anthologies with poems your kids can relate to, here are two from Sonlight.
Favorite Poems of Childhood is a great anthology to use to introduce poems to children. It has 84 classic poems from well-known poets. The poem selections are shorter, more easily read poems about subjects that will interest children. Poems such as “The Three Little Kittens” by Eliza Lee Follen, “Mr. Moon” by Bliss Carman, and “Little Boy Blue” by Eugene Field are poems about subjects that kids can understand and relate to. And poems like “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll are ones that kids will find amusing. The book will also be appealing to kids because it is written with a larger, easy-to-read type and has some great illustrations as well.

Read poetry that relates to other subjects.

One of my favorite things about using a literature-based approach to homeschooling is finding great books that relate to different subject areas that we’re studying. I find that science topics and historical time periods come alive when we can relate them to really good books instead of just reading information from a dry and dusty textbook.
When you’re studying different subjects, think about bringing in poets and poetry that will connect. That’s a great way to make poetry relevant to kids. And it can give them a framework to help them understand the poems they’re reading as well as a fresh look at the topic you’re studying.
The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children’s Poems from Sonlight is a great example of a poetry anthology to use when you’re studying American history. It’s a beautiful picture book full of poetry from American poets. For each poem the poet is listed, along with the dates of that poet’s life. This will allow you to place them on your American history timeline. Some of the poem selections actually bring to life times in American history, such as “The Village Blacksmith” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and some are just fun poems written by American poets, such as “The Camel’s Complaint” by Charles E. Carryl.
Poetry resources from Sonlight

Help kids get to know poets.

Introducing kids to the poet before reading the poems that person wrote can facilitate a better understanding of the poem. Getting to know the poet can help the reader to make connections- time period, life circumstances, personal characteristics- that will prepare them to draw meaning from that poet’s words.
I can remember doing a biography report about Emily Dickinson as a high schooler. After that report I felt I was the class’ resident expert on her poetry. Whether that was true or not, the fact is that getting to know about Emily Dickinson made me far more interested in actually reading and understanding her poetry. And getting to know poets will help your kids understand and relate to their poetry.
Sonlight has a poetry anthology that is perfect for this: A Treasury of Poetry for Young People. This beautiful hardcover book has many well-known and well-loved poems, grouped by poets. The reader is introduced to the poet through a short biography and then is presented with some of that poet’s works. Seven poets are represented here with a number of poems from each. This anthology is a favorite of mine because it has a number of features besides the great poet biographies that help make the poetry in it accessible.
  • Some of the poems have a brief introduction to explain what they’re talking about. This is especially helpful for some of the deeper works by poets like Edgar All Poe!
  • Words that may be unknown are defined.
  • And there are beautiful illustrations that will make even the youngest kids want to sit down and spend time with this book.

Show kids that poetry has few rules and explore unusual poetry with them.

I don’t know about your kids, but mine are sometimes deterred from experimenting with writing because all of the rules intimidate them. Grammar, spelling, punctuation: there is so much to remember, much more than just writing down all of your good ideas.
But poetry allows for some experimentation. Although there are specific forms and rhyme schemes that some poetry follows, there are also a number of poets who totally freeform it and don’t use any kind of capitalization or punctation. When kids are introduced to poems like this, they can see that poetry doesn’t have to be scary.
all the small poems and fourteen more is a great poetry anthology from Sonlight. It’s a collection of poems by Valeria Worth, illustrated by Natalie Babbitt. As you can see from the title, the poet doesn’t use regular capitalization. The poem titles are mostly short, one-word titles that aren’t capitalized. The poems are also short, not following a noticeable pattern or rhyme scheme. But the subjects of these poems are ones that kids will relate to and enjoy reading: poems with names such as pie, frog, lions, and door.
Another anthology from Sonlight that will delight kids and help them to see that poems don’t have to be prim and proper is Cornstalks: A Bushel of Poems. It’s actually four collections of poems written by poet James Stevenson. Although the collections are named Corn Chowder, Cornflakes, Sweet Corn, and Corn-Fed the poems aren’t actually about corn. But they are sometimes silly, sometimes intriguing poems written without attention to those pesky rhyme schemes and patterns. And one of the really cool things about this anthology is how the illustrations and even fonts contribute to the meaning of many of the poems.

Read Age Appropriate Poetry

One of the key things that can create a love- or hate- of poetry in kids is whether or not they are developmentally ready to understand the poem. I know I’ve experienced reading a classic poem to my kids, excited that I was introducing them to this amazing poem, sure that they would feel its inspiration, revel in its message like I did, only to have them return blank stares because the poem was just over their heads.
And, yes, you can teach them. And you can give some background. And you can break down the poem by lines and stanzas and help them to discover the meaning. But sometimes kids just aren’t ready for certain poetry. They don’t have the vocabulary or the life experiences or the prior connections they need to really understand the poem.
You can prevent them by starting with age appropriate poetry. Choose shorter poems with less obscure meanings. Poems that are describing concrete items or poems that are referring to events and happenings that kids have seen and can relate to are poems that they’ll better understand and so better enjoy.
Favorite Poems Old and New is a poetry anthology from Sonlight that can grow with your family. It is a huge book of poetry from classic poets to more modern ones: poets from Shakespeare to Tolkien to Langston Hughes. You can use the table of contents to look for specific poems, use the topical divisions like “Myself and I” or “Roundabout the country, roundabout the town” to find poems about different subjects, or use the author index in the back to look for poems from specific poets. There are simple, short poems as well as more complex poems, so you can use this one to find poems for the whole family.
Another great family poetry anthology from Sonlight is 100 Best Loved Poems. In this smaller book, you’ll find a collection of poems sorted by poet. Each poet is briefly introduced and then readers are given one poem or a small sampling of poems from each. Although most of these poems will probably be understood by your older kids, there are a few here that younger kids can relate to as well.
Poetry resources from Sonlight

Poetry Anthology Giveaway!

If you’re looking for resources to introduce more poetry into your homeschool, make sure you enter the poetry anthology giveaway from Sonlight below. This year is Sonlight’s 30th anniversary, and they’ve been giving away things all year! Right now you can enter to win all the great poetry anthologies I mentioned above. The giveaway is live through July 21, 2020, so enter today!

Sonlight’s 30th Anniversary Giveaway: Connect with Poetry Bundle

Enter to win a bundle of poetry anthologies every home library needs. (Contiguous US mailing addresses only)If your home library is sorely lacking in the poetry genre, this bundle solves the problem with seven anthologies that will appeal to all ages from young children to adults.

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