But for the sake of flow, I am going to delay talking about Plutarch and Shakespeare for a few days while we finish up the categories which include memorizing.
You can see that I made poetry a question in the title. This is because it is sometimes controversial. Some people do not like poetry which makes them quick to underestimate its value.
Some people think it has some value but that the time spent memorizing poetry would be better spent memorizing more useful information.
To the first group I say, do not let your own lack of love of poetry cause you to dismiss it. I am almost convinced that poetry may be the most important thing we do in our homes apart from those things which draw us to Christ such as Bible study. Still we do not want to be guilty of separating the sacred and secular. Poetry can draw us to Christ too and it can draw us to our fellow men. It can open our eyes to the world around us.
Poetry is a way of seeing.
It is the highest form language takes and it requires a level of thinking that cannot easily be taught. It must be caught. As your children hear and hear and hear poetry they will gradually begin to think in the form of connections or metaphors. I have heard it said that a genius is someone who makes connections that other people miss. The more connections a person can make between seemingly unlike things the more the world opens up to them. Poetry is almost our only tool for teaching this kind of thinking. It is far more valuable to memorize poetry than to memorize lists of information. In fact, when in doubt, err on the side of poetry.
There are many ways we can introduce poetry into our homes. Some ways will include memory and some will just involve hearing. Poetry is perfect for memorization because the lessons it has for us come slowly.
Often the first time we read a poem it is gibberish to us but as we read it day after day after day it slowly begins to make sense and come alive. We slowly begin to see what the poet is sharing. It is magic. Pure magic.
This is why I recommend reading the same poem for weeks on end when memorizing it. We are going for quality not quantity. It is OK to talk about a few elements of the poem at first but I would keep it to a minimum. Don't steal all the 'ahas' from your children. After you have read the poem for a week or so then start asking your children what they think it means and maybe discuss some of the vocabulary. Maybe just bring up one word a day to discuss or one metaphor or none.
This is the best way to spend time with a poem, over a few weeks. But poetry has other values and other lessons to teach us that aren't quite so in depth. It can teach us to feel rhythm or meter. It can teach us to grasp for meaning.
Therefore, we approach poetry each day in 3 ways. First we listen to the poem we are memorizing, every day for weeks. Then each day we review one poem from the past. Finally, I read a poem and we talk about the author and the rhyme scheme and what we can from just that reading. This is like a short calisthenic to work the metaphoric muscles. This daily reading will not help us get to know a certain poem but it will help us become people who think poetically. The key to this kind of learning is to avoid overkill. Don't tear the poem apart, just look for delights.
I will try to give an example of how to do this in a future post along with suggested resources.
Suggestion of the Day for Morning Time Memory:
Sonnet on His Blindness by John Milton
When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide,
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?
I fondly ask; but Patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts, who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best, his state
Is kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.