I remember!

Years ago when I was in junior high school, Frau Cooley, my German teacher, spent two years of her life teaching us to speak German.  This task obviously included tons of memorization!  It was such fun!  How did she do this?  With patience and a grin.  I can still see her at the front of the classroom with her tiny frame, long brown pony tail, and a twinkle in her eye, encouraging us to go through the vocabulary yet again!  We also memorized short quotes or excerpts in German.  These were the first things I remember memorizing without music as a help-and I did it!  Now when I want to memorize something (or help others to do so) I think of Frau Cooley, and do it her way.  Start at the end and finish at the beginning.

It makes perfect sense.  Generally when you memorize something you are strongest where you started.  If you start at the beginning, you become more uncertain as you go.  If you learn the final few lines or sentences first, your confidence increases as you continue reciting.  Let’s use Robert Frost’s poem, Fire and Ice, as an example:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.     


While I haven’t retained most of the German vocabulary I drilled in that classroom decades back, I am regularly grateful for the skills I learned.  They have been used in my own life, and taught to others as I teach.  Frau Cooley, thank you!









Don’t forget poetry!

Most parents understand the importance of ensuring their children are proficient in the three R’s.  There can be some other studies which get neglected is pursuit of that proficiency.  Poetry is often one of them.  While I would agree to the idea that reading classic literature and learning algebra are important to a basic education, I would also like to suggest that we owe it to our children to give them to opportunity hear the magic of language in poetic form.

It can begin as simply as hearing Mother Goose read or recited.   Meter and rhyme are easily internalized as they have fun with finger plays.  Some rhyme schemes work as great memory aids (Red at night- sailor’s delight.  Red in the morning- sailors take warning, etc.)   There are beautiful pieces written to commemorate historical events such as O Captain, My Captain and Paul Revere’s Ride.  Poets such as Shel Silverstein and Edward Lear delight us with nonsense poetry.  And the classic poets such as Wordsworth and Frost give us images about which to ponder and lessons to learn.

Each day read a poem or two with your children.  Memorize some.  As they get older, try and find a message in them.  If you are uncertain how to interpret poetry, it can be easier to find meaning if you keep the following in mind.

  • Poetry generally fits into one or more of the following categories- deity, life/death, joy/depression, love, humor.
  • Poets often use symbols and/or allusions to well-known cultural themes.  Save this kind of poetry for when your children have enough literary exposure to understand the references.
  • Poetry can be a great opportunity to learn new vocabulary.  Don’t shy away from unfamiliar words.  Look them up.  Find ways to incorporate them into your own communications.

As you study poetry more seriously in the high school years, take time to write some.  Explore the various forms, meters, rhyme schemes, and purposes of poetry.  Have fun with limericks.  Tell a story in a ballad.  Paint a picture through haiku or another different visual form.  Study the lives of famous poets.  (Where they lived.  Why they wrote .  Was it a source of income, or a way to process life around them?)  Not all poetry rhymes; some takes a different, but still planned form.

Poetry cannot be paraphrased.  It cannot be abridged.  It must be experienced in it’s entirety.  It can serve as a voice for the deepest feelings of the heart.

Some of my favorite books of poetry are:

Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

The World of Christopher Robin by A.A. Milne

The Best Loved Poems of the American People selected by Hazel Felleman

A Family Book of Verse selected by Lewis Gannett

Complete poems of Robert Frost

Walking the Bridge of Your Nose selected by Michael Rosen

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

Home and Family, Homeschooling, Uncategorized

I cannot live without my books!

I live in the land of the American pioneer.  Those hearty souls who loaded up all their worldly goods and took themselves and their families westward to establish a new home.  I often think of them driving the oxen or pushing their handcart across the plains and mountain ranges of this great land.  The fortitude required to press on in the face of all opposition is fascinating to me.  Some came as adventurers.  Some wanted a new life and something to call their own.  Many came for religious reasons to settle in a land of their own choosing to live their beliefs.

In the city where we live, there are museums and displays recounting the trails and trials of their journeys.  Many have reproductions of the wagons and handcarts they used for transporting all they brought to begin a new life.  I sometimes think I could simplify my life enough to fit in a wagon until I look at my books.  I would need a box car on a train! In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “I cannot live without my books!”

I love the public library.  I really love a good book store (new or used).  I can lose myself in them for hours.  One of my greatest joys, though, is to pull a stack of books off the shelves in our home and be transported to another time and place, or to simply find what I need to research the latest idea or challenge.  Yes, the internet has some good information, but I relish the feel of the pages in my hand.  I am definitely hard copy girl!  We currently own over 3,500 volumes, both fiction and non-fiction.  My academic texts are organized by subject. They range from the three R’s to pedagogy tomes.  We have classic literature, comic books, household and gardening reference, books dealing with health and wellness, religious commentaries, and a copy of The Oxford Unabridged Dictionary that has over a dozen volumes and makes me smile when I see it on my shelf.  My kitchen has over 70 cook books. There are books in every room.  You will even find a volume or two on the back of the commode in my bathroom.  (And my amazon wish list has a good dozen or two on it at any given time.)  Can we possibly use them all?  Yes!

Just yesterday, one of my daughters came home with a question about writing goals and curriculum for young children.  Within minutes we had a pile of around  half a dozen books to look through for ideas and inspiration.  I was reminded yet again how much joy and empowerment there is between the covers of a good book.

What books did we use?  Here is a list of what I found (and I am still making a longer mental list for her next visit):

The Educated Mind by William Bennett

The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer

You Can Teach Your Child Successfully by Ruth Beechick

Catherine Levison’s books A Charlotte Mason Education and More Charlotte Mason Education

Teaching the Trivium by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn

Teaching Children by Diane Lopez

She is currently reading The Core by Leigh Bortins.  During her next visit I may hand her Unit Studies Make Easy by Valerie Berndt, Homeschooling by Samuel Blumenfeldt, or books from E. D. Hirsch’s Core Knowledge Series.

While I don’t swear by any one of those books, I reference them regularly.  They are all written by articulate, inspiring authors with their own ideas that worked for children who are not the same as my own, but I find great ideas in each, and encouragement in all.  My job, as I see it, is to glean the best from the various methods and texts and create something for my own family which meets our needs and interests.  Without books, I would have a very limited access to these and other minds.  So much would be missed!

So I could probably pare down my clothes, furniture, and even my kitchen equipment to fit into a wagon, but my books?  I don’t think so.