We went for a lovely bike ride around the experimental farm and at some point I spotted a little caterpillar scooting across the path at a speed I did not think caterpillars could go. Always the homeschooling mom, even on sunny Saturdays, I duly pointed it out to the offsprung who made the ooh and ahh and cuuuuuuute noises you'd expect. But something else, too. It reminded them of their first ever poem.
I've been using this fantastic method to teach my kids grammar and one of the things it does is insist on teaching your students to remember, and recite, poems.
Problem: I hate poetry. It's long, it's tedious, it's boring. Right? Certainly everyone who tried to get me interested in the genre failed. So, ugh.
I considered skipping the poems (sort of like what I did when I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy - boy, those songs were ghastly). But then I thought again. I like the authors of that method very much. Their stuff works for us. I bought their books. Maybe I should trust them?
Fine! We'll do poetry. The first one on the list was The Caterpillar, by Christina Rossetti. That was about a year ago. We sat comfortably and started. I read the lines (starting with the title and author's name), and they repeated them after me. I thought I'd start slowly and do just the first half of the poem. Let's not overwhelm them, right?
Pfft. Not only had they memorized the first half in five minutes flat, they wanted to keep going 'til the end.
I was sure they were pulling my leg, except they could each recite the poem properly within ten minutes, and insisted on doing it over and over again. But that's not the amazing part. The amazing part is that they remembered the poem the next day.
And the day after that.
And every single time I've made them recite it over the last year (roughly once a week). Including this very afternoon, after seeing a brown and furry caterpillar in a hurry fleeing from toads across a bike path. They can also recite about five additional poems, and are keen to learn more.
Colour me flabbergasted. Also, converted. Now I tell everyone who'll listen how important it is to teach your kids poetry by making them memorize poems and recite them - including in public. It helps them train their memory, and polish their public speaking skills.
It also lets them absorb the fact that good writing has rhythm, soul, beauty and power. And in my experience, it's working brilliantly. Plus they love it. And when little kids love grammar, you know you've got a winner.