Sunday, March 24, 2013

Schoolhouse Review: The Art of Poetry


PhotobucketI have been wanting to do a Poetry course with my children for a few years now and had even asked another parent if they might want to do a Co-Op at the beginning of this school year.  You can imagine how excited I was to be able to review The Art of Poetry by Classical Academic Press.  Once again, GOD has given me the desire of my heart and I am ever so appreciative.

Everything I'd hoped it would be (and oh, so much more), I'm happy to be sharing the love of this literary form with my children.  Actually, I may be enjoying it even more than they are --and I'd say that's just fine.  They are all three developing a new appreciation for this oral art form which is evidenced in the way they read both poetry assignments and Scripture aloud.

PhotobucketThe Art of Poetry is a full curriculum for teaching the love and importance of poetry to your middle school and high school children.  The complete bundle contains a student's textbook, a teacher's edition, and a DVD set and costs $99.95 as of April 1.  The Student Textbook is a 268-page softcover book divided into 16 Chapters that explain the elements of poetry, the formal history of poetry, and how to apply all that you learn.  It also includes a wealth of resources to take your studies further such as poet biographies and how-to's on building your own poetry collection.  The Teacher's Edition  is a 313-page softcover book that includes all of the text in the student book PLUS explanations for 37 of the poems contained in that text, answers for all of the discussion questions, chapter quizzes and a cumulative book quiz with suggestions offered for leading discussions as well.  The DVD Set ($69.95 if purchased separately) is a chapter-by-chapter review taught by curriculum author Christine Perrin.  {I'll talk more about these videos in a bit.} 

The suggested schedules offer ideas to make this a 16-week, 32-week, or even 4-year course and this text is a HUGE resource that could be overwhelming if you allowed it to be.  The coursework can be done daily or weekly BUT parents are encouraged to allow students to, if nothing else, look around and simply find a poem that they would like to read aloud.  This small step will begin to "cultivate a relationship between the students and poetry that the students are free to pursue independently  . . . as they discover parts of the book."   In other words, The Art of Poetry is designed to be a guilt-free study.  You can arrange it to fit your schedule perfectly by using it how you deem best -- weekly, monthly, yearly.

For us, this has been a weekly curriculum.  We have been going through the chapters a little at a time all together with the Princess (6th grade), the Boy Scout (8th grade), and the Junior (11th grade) reading the poetry selections aloud to each other and then having a time of discussion.  The Princess and the Boy Scout have done daily activities (adjusted for their grade levels) together and the Junior has worked in a poetry notebook on her own after the initial discussions with all of us.  A favorite activity for the Princess and the Boy Scout was in Chapter 3:  Symbols.  The instructions were for them to tell the story of something significant that has happened to you in life through symbols by painting, sketching, or making a collage.  Hands-on poetry is perfect for my active kids.

So much more than a poetry "curriculum," The Art of Poetry brings poetry to life and puts a living, breathing literature in your hands.  With the Junior, we have begun a Writer's Group with some other high schoolers in our local homeschool group.  It is quite interesting to hear them discuss the feelings that poems emit for each of them.  They are becoming a "word-cherishing group" and I find that to be most delightful.  I have kept a journal of words, phrases, quotes, and poems that tug at my heart for much of my life and I am excited to watch my daughter do the same thing as a result of the study of this curriculum.

It has been my desire that my children would learn to appreciate good poetry and not shy away from it. Poetry IS an oral art form.  The more you read it and hear it, the more you actually "get" it.  This concept is demonstrated for us on the DVD set that can be purchased to complement The Art of Poetry textbook.  There is a corresponding DVD lesson for each chapter of the textbook.  For purposes of this review, we received DVD lessons of Chapters 1 and 2 -- Images and Metaphors.

The DVD lessons begin with a 3 - 4 minute video introduction of the concept or main theme of the chapter.  In Chapter 1, students are taught that "images are the basement of the house of poetry."  That introduction is followed by a 45 minute to an hour "class"which is really a  round-table discussion between the "teacher" and 4 students (two boys and two girls--all 8th graders).  During this discussion, the teacher reads poems from the textbook aloud and then students take turns reading the same poem aloud and all join in for discussion of what is seen, felt, and heard in the poem.  This is what literature is about:  You experience what someone else has experienced because of their technical and imaginative skill.  Poetry comes alive through discussing it with others.  At the completion of the class time, there is about a 15-minute overview of the activities found at the end of each chapter.

In the DVD lesson for Chapter 2:  Metaphor, Perrin explains to the students that "Poetry turns the universal practice of using metaphors into art."  Because the reader's imagination is as important as the writer's imagination, students are encouraged to think outside of the box.  I found the DVDs to be quite beneficial as an added bonus to our studies, but the course could be completed without them if necessary.

Feel free to look over the introductory explanations of How to Use This Book and read through Chapter 1:  Images as you determine if this is right for your children.  Remember that you can use it how you see fit and tweak it to be the perfect curriculum for your homeschool environment.  I am encouraged to know that ANY introduction to poetry is good for the soul and we will be continuing our studies throughout the year.

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 I was given the opportunity to use and review The Art of Poetry by Classical Academic Press as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew.   Make sure you check out the Crew Review and see what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought as well (or just click on the banner below).

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