Bringing Beauty Into Your Homeschool Through Poetry

What is poetry but life condensed? This week, the Virtual Curriculum Fair’s topic is Seeking Beauty. And, as Edgar Allen Poe said, “Poetry is the rhythmic creation of beauty in words.

teaching poetry

It’s like a juice machine, squeezing out the essence of an idea, an emotion, an experience and then ejecting the pulp. In this condensed form, every word is significant.

In this form, literary devices become more obvious and more meaningful. And easier to teach.

I have taught two semesters of poetry in a co-op setting now. That’s two semesters of children, not yet able to read, who can discuss and create examples of such literary devices as allliteration, onomatopoeia, metaphor and imagery.. But we never open a textbook. We never fill out a worksheet. Because the trick to teaching poetry to children is to keep it playful.

So for onomatopoeia (always the favorite), I might introduce a poem like The Bells, by Edgar Allan Poe.

Hear the sledges with the bells –
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells –
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

For added effect, you could even ring a small jingle bell along with every example (in bold) of onomatopoeia. Then I have the children come up with their own examples. Sometimes they need a little help to get started (suggesting an animal noise or two starts a flood of ideas) and then we begin research for our own sound poem. At home, we go outside. At co-op, we just go out in the hall. We then sit quietly, eyes shut, concentrating on all the sounds we hear.

After we are back to our seats, we talk about the sounds we heard and come up with our own “sound words” for our “sound poem.” Each child adds their sound word to the poem and I usually come up with some concluding line to tie it together.

And the continued practice to retain these new concepts is not a worksheet or a drill, but the continued reading of great books. Because literary devices are all around us, in poetry, in song and in prose. Whether it is the “jingle” of Jingle Bells or the “click, clack” of the typewriter in Click Clack, Moo, oppotunities to notice them and what they add to a text abound.

Interested in more lessons? I am working on typing up my lessons and should be done sometime next week. If you would like to be notified when they are finished, subscribe to my blog (via the opt in form in my sidebar or in the header). You can also choose to only receive special offers and not the blog updates (only in my sidebar).

Now I invite you to visit my fellow homeschool bloggers who are talking about seeking beauty in their homeschools:

Links will all be live by Monday at 12 noon EST.

Living & Loving Art by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Putting the Fun in School by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays

Art Fun In Our Homeschool by Amanda @Hopkins Homeschool

Fine Arts Is The Fun Part by Laura @ Four Little Penguins

Washing Dust Off Our Souls by Lisa @ Golden Grasses

Bringing Beauty Into Your Homeschool Through Poetry by Dana @ Roscommon Acres

Seeking out the beauty… by Kim @ Good Sweet Love

Joy in Home Education by Sarah @ Delivering Grace

Teaching Drawing (When You Can’t Draw) by Lizzy @ Peaches At Home

Homeschool Art for the Artistically Challenged by Brittney @ Mom’s Heart

Jesus, Peace, Freedom & Our Homeshool by Meghan W @ Quiet In The Chaos

Fine Arts Options in High School by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

Reluctant Artist? What do you do? by Annette @ A Net in Time

Making Fine Arts a Priority by Lisa @ McClanahan 7

Creative Pursuits by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break

Arts and Crafts in Our Homeschool by Shecki @ Greatly Blessed

Where Do You Find Beauty? by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens

Looping our Beauty Topics Saved our Homeschool by HillaryM @ Walking Fruitfully



I Homeschool So They Can Be Bored

Yes, you read that right. I homeschool so they can be bored.

homeschool boredom

So they can have time to get bored.

I think we as a culture have too much aversion to boredom. And we’ve filled our children’s calendars with so many good and wholesome activities that we sometimes fail to give them one thing they so desperately need: Down Time.

Down time without the television, the video games and the social media.

Down time to sit upside down on the couch, feet in the air and head on floor declaring,

I’m so bored!

Down time for those little brains to decompress and to languish awhile in the tedium of inactivity and understimulation.

Down time for those sparks of creativity to light their fires and drive them to self-directed activities and projects of their own choosing.

I began homeschooling for very different reasons, but the longer we do this, the more I appreciate the fact that my children have undirected free time. And after they hang there upside down long enough, they amaze me with some of the things they come up with.

Marble tracks made from cut up cereal boxes, forts out of things they find in the barn, artwork and stories and invented games. Pursuits of their own creativity.

And they only find that creativity after inactivity that stretches long enough for boredom to strike.

I used to think it was just about having free time. Free time would sometimes lead to active and creative pursuits and would sometimes lead to boredom. I didn’t used to value boredom as anything inherently valuable. I only saw it as a necessary side effect of having enough time to do other things.

But as I watched my children struggle through their boredom, trying not to announce it lest I give them a chore, I noticed that their greatest feats of creativity always came after these periods of boredom. It’s as if the boredom itself were paving the way for something better. It’s as if the boredom ietself were a necessary part of shifting gears.

So it didn’t surprise me much when I found out that science, too, was beginning to appreciate the creative power behind boredom. Or, as fantasy author Neil Gaiman says,

” … boredom is the place you create from in self-defense.”

So feel free to let your children get bored from time to time. And then watch their creativity soar.

This is part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge, where I am sharing some homeschool encouragement, from A to Z! Check out what I’ve written so far!

A is for Adventure
B is for Boredom
C is for Christ
D is for daydreaming
E is for every day

Also check out the Homeschool Nook Link Party for more great homeschool posts!


That Time We Got Lost in the Woods

This week, the Virtual Curriculum Fair’s theme is Exploring our World. What better place is there to explore than the woods? And what better story than that time I got lost? With all my children? As the sun was setting?

Getting lost in the woods

It started off simply enough. I drove out to Mahoney State Park, intending on watching the kids at the playground while my daughter attended an event. Except we were supposed to be at Mahoney Park in Lincoln, not Mahoney State Park in Ashland. Thinking back, maybe I should have taken this as some sort of omen. I mean, we couldn’t even get to the right public park on public roads using GPS. Why ever did I think it was a good idea to take my entire brood — six children aged 2 through 17 — traipsing off into the woods?

But I had just been thinking about how nice it would be to get out more with the children. Explore some of Nebraska’s natural beauty. Combine exercise, family time and getting to know Nebraska. And here I was, the brand new owner of a State Park Pass. It was perfect.

And this is Mahoney State Park. 690 acres which consists mostly of lodges, meeting areas a campground and a golf course. I go here for writer’s conferences. What could go wrong? Seriously. My fellow Nebraskans are probably laughing at the idea of anyone getting lost in Mahoney. It’s not like I just skipped off into the back country of Yellowstone. It’s more like I wandered into the trees in a city park and couldn’t find my way out.

So, yeah. I mentioned a hike in the woods and the children cheered. They wanted the longest possible hike. I picked one that had options. The entire trail was a couple miles, but there were several points where we could just leave the trail and go back to the road and walk back. Because it was late on an October afternoon and I didn’t want to be in the woods in the dark, no matter how small and nearly urban those woods may be.

The trail was rough. Far rougher than I was expecting. Most of our hikes have been on the tamed and heavily mulched trails of Pioneers Park in Lincoln. Suddenly, we were met with obstacles. Drop offs. Places where injury could occur if you didn’t stay on the trail. And it didn’t take long until even staying on the path was no guarantee for safety. Not that it was dangerous, per se. Just that it wasn’t like walking on a mulched trail in Lincoln. There were steep inclines and places where you just sort of had to try to keep your feet under you and slow the descent as much as possible. One such spot landed me face first in the mud at the bottom.

Which was actually kind of funny.

But this was not exactly what I had in mind. Upon reaching the first such descent, I contemplated turning back. But the children were so . . . alive. All their senses were alert as they took in the woods and the activity and this sense of real adventure on a real trail that they actually had to climb to navigate. So I staged the children on the trail, passed Asa down to my son who then passed him down to my daughter and we embarked on this adventure.

And it was an adventure. The children decided they were members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and perhaps the first white people to ever traverse this untamed wild. We saw so many tracks. Deer, raccoon, coyote. There is something about being on a rough-hewn trail in the wilderness that sparks the imagination. And the sense of togetherness.

It was all so right. It was everything I hoped to share with my children through my vague plans of exploring Nebraska’s state parks.

Until the trail we were on just didn’t seem to end. We walked and walked, following the trail, eyeing the sun as it sank lower and lower in the skies. It was below the trees, now, shining through the trunks, calling for us to hurry. It would be getting dark soon. And while I was sure the lights from the campground and the interstate could guide us back to civilization, I was not so sure I wanted to navigate these trails in the dark. Where we could just walk off a drop off and possibly break a leg. I looked at the trail map. It wasn’t a perfect map. But it clearly indicated that this trail should be circling along the outside edge of the treeline and heading back to the campground. But it just kept meandering, on and on. I began to suspect we were not on a trail at all.

At least not one made by park rangers and plotted on a map.

This was one of those spontaneous trails that sprout up in the woods. Trails that seem to be for a ways and then fade away. Trails that disappear when you turn around to try to make your way back.

And I had all my children with me.

I called them to a halt. The first reds and oranges of the sunset were already appearing above the horizon. We had to think through what was best. We could continue forth and hope this trail was indeed the correct one. We had to be close. We had already been walking for too long. Or we could go back. If we got to the creek, it would lead us to the outer fence that would lead us back toward the trail head . . . and several outlets near the campground. This ground was flat. A little less intimidating in the dark. But heading back was heading toward something that was known.

We decided to turn back and move quickly. But the trail instantly turned into a dozen trails, winding this way and that, confirming that we were not on a trail at all.

“We might be spending the night here,” I said aloud.

I hadn’t really meant to say it. I was just trying to figure out what to do.

“We’ll freeze!”

We were just standing in the woods, looking first one way, then the other. I kept staring at the now useless map, trying to make these passageways through the undergrowth into an actual trail.

“No. It’s only supposed to get down to 45 tonight. That’s cold, but I’ve slept in colder. Did I tell you about the time my hair froze to the side of the tent?”

Their eyes were wide. I thought better of telling them that story just then.

“We’ll be fine. We’ll be cold, but we’ll be fine.”

I looked at the colors of the setting sun. That was west. That meant this way was south. South should be the quickest way back to the park road. I could keep us going south as long as there was light on the horizon.

“We’ll brush away a little hollow at the base of one of these trees and you will all snuggle in a family pile. I’ll spread all of our jackets over you like one big blanket and your body heat will keep you warm. I’ll stay up to make sure you’re safe.”

I wanted to give them some sense of calm. Some sense that even the worst case scenario wasn’t that bad. It wouldn’t be a comfortable night, but there wasn’t really anything to be afraid of. But I so wished my husband were home. If he had been home, I would have been certain that at some point, he and a park ranger would come marching through the woods with flash lights until they found us.

Instead, we left what hints of a trail surrounded us and I marched them straight south through the undergrowth as fast as we could move.

We came out of the woods in a clearing and were greeted by five deer. Five breathtakingly beautiful deer. We were on the horse trail. The kids were convinced we would be jailed for walking on it because there were signs at the gate warning against entry. I just felt relief. The trail was broad and clear and regardless of which way we went, it would end up back at the horses.

We were safe. We were free. We were on our way home.

And it amazed me how thin and fragile this line is between civilization and the wild. A trail had been left to overgrow and sent us wandering through the woods, less than a mile from roads and houses and people, and yet there had been a very real chance of getting stranded. One mistake, one miscalculation and we were lost in the wooded area of an otherwise busy state park. There was a time when people hiked off into the wilderness and simply lived off the land for months at a time. Now we aren’t sure what to do for one uncomfortable night and the thought of being forced to fills us with fear.

But adventure is just hardship that ends well.

And do you know what my children ask for every time we go out for a family day? A hike at Mahoney State Park.

I haven’t quite had the courage to go back. But when we do, it will be with a flashlight and a cell phone.

Please visit my fellow homeschool bloggers who are talking about Exploring Our World this week:

Note: all links will be LIVE by Monday 1/23 at noon EST.

Notebooking Our Way through History by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Studying the Where and How by Michele@Family, Faith and Fridays

The History of Our Mysterious Struggle With History by Laura @ Four Little Penguins

Social Science, Science and Exploring our World – Our Path by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Learning History Through Fiction by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset

History in Our Homeschool by Amanda H @ Hopkins Homeschool

Exploring Our World Through History And Science by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World

Bringing History to Life! by Yvie @ Gypsy Road

History, Living Books and the Imagination by Sarah @ Delivering Grace

Exploring our world comes in many different forms. by Kim @ Good Sweet Love

Bible, History and Geography by Lizzy @ Peaches At Home

Beyond the Books – Social Studies and Science by Shecki @ Greatly Blessed

Exploring the World with Living Books by Brittney @ Mom’s Heart

High School History & Science without Textbooks by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

Exploring the World Starting with Canada by Annette @ A Net in Time

Visit The World Through Video by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens

Nature Study is Our Favorite Way to Do Science by HillaryM @ Walking Fruitfully

What A Wonderful World by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break

The Time we got Lost in the Woods by Dana Hanley @ Roscommon Acres

What a World by Jennifer King @ Worth A Bowed Head



Learning is the Adventure

Homeschooling can be rough at times. Sometimes, I have to look for the successes to remember that they are there. That’s why I’ve decided to take the Blogging through the Alphabet challenge. 26 Things I love about homeschooling. Starting with A. For the adventure.

Learning is the adventure

Our strong suits have always been history and literature. I’m not saying that my kids will beat your kids in a head to head history bowl, or anything. I’m not that kind of teacher. Those aren’t my goals for homeschooling. It’s our strong suit because somehow, somewhere, my kids have caught “the spark.

When we go to the library, they are drawn to the history books.

At home, that’s where I get the least resistance. Unless it is a really nice day. Then they might ask for me to take our reading outdoors. And to skip the timeline. Actually, they’ll ask me to skip the timeline any day, but the actual learning they enjoy.

But literature and history are like these little windows into another world. Both represent our struggles with what it means to be human. Both tell us a little about who we are and how we got here. Both can warn us of the folly of a course of action or inspire us to be a little more than we are.

It is here that my children have learned that learning can be an adventure. Every time they open a book, there is a new place to discover, new people to meet, new ideas to unpack.

And it’s not because I have this awesome curriculum I picked up somewhere. I think’s it’s because I don’t have a “curriculum” at all. At least not a curriculum centered on a textbook. We have a library card and an allowance for purchasing really good books.

We delve deeply into the topics we choose to study. Right now it’s Jamestown. We’ve been learning about the Jamestown settlement since we went there back in September. We are exploring facets of the settlement I never learned and my children are enjoying watching the story unfold.

In this one area, at least, I have succeeded at favoring vertical learning over horizontal learning. Of exploring one thing deeply rather than many things shallowly.

On the superficies, horizontally, we’ve been everywhere and done everything, we know all about it. Yet the more we know, superficially, the less we penetrate, vertically. It’s all very well skimming across the surface of the ocean, and saying you know all about the sea. There still remain the terrifying underdeeps, of which we have utterly no experience.

~D.H. Lawrence, The Spell of New Mexico

We are penetrating the surface, trying to learn something of the deeps. Because that is where the adventure lies.

This is part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge, where I am sharing some homeschool encouragement, from A to Z! Check out what I’ve written so far!

A is for Adventure
B is for Boredom
C is for Christ
D is for daydreaming
E is for every day


Taking Mathematics out of the Textbook

The 2017 Virtual Curriculum Fair is talking about Discovering Patterns: Math and Mathematical Sciences this wek. I “only” wanted three things out of math for this school year:

homeschool math-min

  1. More practice in basic skills.
  2. More active engagement.
  3. Not to have to change our our whole curriculum. Again.

Basically, I wanted a supplemental program of instruction that was more engaging and showed my children how the mathematics in their textbook was all around them. I didn’t want more books and worksheets. I wanted games and real world applications.

So I started creating my own. This is what I have so far.

Games, games and more games.

In fact, I dumped everything out of our homeschool budget I could in favor of games. I went to a conference once where one of the presenters tied decreasing math skills with the decreasing number of dice, card and domino games played by children. Not only do these games give regular practice in simple math skills, but she said that research indicated that something about the way you visually perceive the arrangement of dots promoted a kind of mathematical grouping and adding rather than “just” counting.


I started collecting games at Goodwill. Anything with dice was open for consideration, even if it wasn’t technically a “math” game. My best find was Shut the Box. Getting it at Colonial Williamsburg probably helped my children’s fascination along, because they were challenged to games by several colonists. But they still play it All. The. Time. And all you do is roll the dice and add. Over and over. I then spent the rest of my budget on games I found on amazon that promoted mathematical reasoning. We got a spirograph, color cubes, a book of animal shapes to go with the pattern blocks and, while not a game, centimeter cubes we use to make pixelated designs.

School breaks . . . to do math!

OK, so my kids don’t even realize that their “break” from learning is to practice math. But when we’ve been sitting for awhile, we have a challenge. I time them for one minute and they do as many sit ups, push ups or whatever exercise we decide. They then plot their achievement on a graph to see how they improve over time. They get some exercise and focus and I slip in some graphing without them really even noticing.

Daily challenges

Each morning, we warm up with a math challenge. This can really be anything, but we are working on geometry at the moment. We talk about a shape and then they transcribe it in a circle to fit certain parameters. I stamp a clock in their math journal (Which is just several sheets of graph paper folded and stapled together) so they can use the minute marks as a guide and they have to figure out how to use those 60 evenly spaced marks to complete the shape. True, this isn’t anything they will likely ever have to do for anything, but I set it up like a puzzle to solve. Working through one a day keeps it from seeming too much like just another assignment!

Building and Gardening projects.

We do this anyway. But some of my children are getting old enough to be a real help. Steffen built me a small shelf to fit in the corner so we could organize his little brothers’ play area. He then built his sister a balance beam and, using the same design, made me a long thin planter to go along the top of the wall to our stairs. This requires measuring and planning, and when buying soil, the ability to figure out volume.

And spring is almost here! It will be planting time and this year, everyone has their own garden box to plan. If you would like more details on how we incorporate gardening into our homeschool lessons and character education, I wrote up a free unit study and have it as a free download: Developing Christian Character Through Gardening.

Developing Christian Character Through(1)-min

For the younger ones, we started calendar math.

Some of you probably know what that is. It is basically a daily routine that practices basic math skills such as number skills, sequencing, skip counting, money and the base ten system with the use of a calendar. I wrote A Guide for Calendar Time last year to share our plans and how we add on graphing, measuring temperature, basic literacy and other skills. Best of all, it’s a free download so feel free to grab a copy and peruse it for ideas!

A guide to Calendar Time

And that’s it. So far, I am happy with their progress. They are practicing math more, using it more confidently and I’m not sure they realize they have actually increased their time spent on mathematics at all. They still think they’re done with it when they close their math book, but I see them working on it all day long. Sometimes even after our “official” school day is over and they pull a game off the shelf!

(Note: “We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.” )

Please visit my fellow homeschool bloggers who are talking about Discovering Patterns: Math and the Mathematical Sciences this week:

Finding Our Math Equilibrium: Our Plan for 11th, 7th, 5th, and 2nd Grades + Free Printables! by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Math Resources and Programs for All Ages by Amanda H @ Hopkins Homeschool

Math (doesn’t) Stink! by Jennifer King @A Peace of Mind

When Math is NOT Your Thing by Michele@Family, Faith and Fridays

Math U See and All the Supplements by Laura H @ Four Little Penguins

Discovering Patterns in Our World: STEM Studies by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World

Junior High Math by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life

Science & Math for Struggling Learners by Yvie @ Gypsy Road

Maths: a subject in progress by Sarah @ Delivering Grace

Taking Mathematics out of the Textbook by Dana Hanley @ Roscommon Acres

Maths for a Very Maths-y Boy by Lizzy @ Peaches At Home

Practical Math by Annette @ A Net in Time

One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling by Kim @ Good Sweet Love

Math, How I Loathe Thee by Shecki @ Greatly Blessed

Math and Logic in Early Elementary and Preschool {virtual curriculum fair 2017} by Meghan W @ Quiet In The Chaos

Low Stress High School Science and Math by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

Are these toys or manipulatives? This is math? by HillaryM @ Walking Fruitfully

When You Don’t Have a Math Plan by Brittney @ Mom’s Heart

Clear Horizons by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens

A Few Thoughts on Teacher Math by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset