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Teaching Children Poetry Makes Them Smarter

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Poetry memorization imprints beautiful language into the hearts of children. Once a prominent subject in every language arts program, it’s a wonder why poetry is no longer taught in the public schools.

Yet, some of the most literate people I’ve known, both in their vast knowledge of the English language and in their colorful expression of thought, have been poets.

Whether schools offer lessons in  poetry or not, it’s something you should be teaching your children at home if you want to improve their language skills, enrich their minds; and even, on a more mundane level–not at all fitting for a discussion of poetry– improve their chances of getting into a better college.

In short, it makes them smarter.

What exactly do children gain from studying poetry, you might ask?

• extensive vocabulary building

• increase in general knowledge

• stimulation of the imagination

• learn creative syntax

• understand simile and metaphor

• versatility with language

As you can see, they gain a lot and all that they gain develops their minds. Let’s examine each benefit one by one.

Vocabulary

Looking down the road, and getting the mundane out of the way first, entry into colleges today is highly competitive. If you plan on your children entering a four-year university then good SAT or ACT scores are vital to the process, and part of what the children will be tested on is vocabulary.

Possessing a good vocabulary could give your child the edge he needs to score high.

Exposing children to an extensive vocabulary by reading poetry, especially words they may not learn anywhere else, and memorizing poetry will automatically build their vocabularies.

A larger vocabulary is also associated with higher intelligence, therefore, people who have larger vocabularies are perceived as being more intelligent than others.

Whether they are or not is another matter, but the larger vocabulary they possess at least shows that they are using their minds more which would improve their intelligence according to modern research.

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General Knowledge

Poets not only have an extensive working vocabulary, but they are well-read and much of their general knowledge about the world is found in their poetry. Hence, reading poetry increases a child’s general knowledge too.

Poetry is truer than history.
— Aristotle

Imagination

Poetry stimulates the imagination and evokes feelings we can’t always put into words, at least, not to the same effect. Memorizing poetry stirs the workings of the child’s heart.

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,

In the forests of the night;

What immortal hand or eye,

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

Syntax

Poets know how to play with words, and they become masters of the figures of speech like no other.  It’s the ability to arrange words in original and powerful ways that makes some writers stand out above the rest. When children memorize poetry, they are memorizing the skilled writing of master poets.

Poetry is beautiful language distinguished by unusual and unforgettable words.
— David J. Hanson

The language of the poet stays in the children’s hearts and later emerges to influence their own use of language both written and spoken. Just the other day I was writing something and I automatically used the phrase “and above all else.” Why? Because long ago I had memorized a line of poetry that contained the same phrase.

Children who memorize and study poetry will be better speakers and writers having been influenced for life by the great poets both past and present.

Simile and Metaphor

As they get older, children will learn about the adornments of language through poetry: simile and metaphor;  both powerful tools in good writing and persuasive speech.

Versatility

Learning how to play with words to create original expressions of thought is the hallmark of the poet. I had a dear friend who has since left this world, Daniel Moore, and he was a great writer though mostly unrecognized during his time.

I seldom laughed as much with anyone as I did with him, because he was funny, but he also had such an enormous vocabulary and he knew how to play with words. Some of the things he used to say would not only have me in stitches, but I’d be silently marveling at his tremendous understanding of the English language.

He knew a lot of words, he knew their meanings, and he knew how to use them.

This is just some of what your children will get from studying and memorizing poetry.

When children memorize poetry, they are not only storing it in their minds, but also in their hearts. It becomes a part of them, and it shapes who they become.

In Gwynne’s Grammar, Mr. Gwynne begins his chapter on verse-writing by saying this:

Time was when even the most ordinary education included training in competence at writing verse.”

He uses this chapter to define and explain the rules of poetry according to the classical understanding. I’m going to uphold his position here and encourage you to choose good poetry for your children, not the free verse modern stuff that is mistakenly taken for poetry today.

I’ll leave you with a poem my father used to love by his favorite poet after Shakespeare.

The Road Not Taken 

by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.


I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

The Smart Homeschooler Academy will launch soon with its signature course: How to Give Your Child a Private-School Education at Home. Join the waiting list!

Elizabeth Y. Hanson combines her training in holistic medicine, parenting, plus 17+ years working in education, to provide you with a unique approach to raising and educating your children.

A veteran homeschooler herself, she now has two homeschooled children in college. 




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One of the reasons I hear moms saying they don't want to homeschool is because they don't want to make the investment in their time that homeschooling requires. They believe they need more time for themselves. 

The passage of time is a fascinating phenomenon. Our minutes become hours; our hours, days; our days, weeks and then months and then years—but as time is passing us by, we tend to experience the passage of time as minutes and hours.

We don't think about the cumulative effect of these minutes and hours on the quality of our lives. We don't stop to think of what we'll have in ten or twenty years if we add them up. Instead of focusing on the big picture, we can get caught up in the demands of the moment and make short-term decisions that don't have long-term gains.

This is especially true when it comes to our children. 

Time is a brisk wind, for each hour it brings something new... but who can understand and measure its sharp breath, its mystery and its design?
— Paracelsus

Sometimes being a parent can be exhausting because no matter what you're doing, you've always got your family's needs to consider. But the time when your children are young passes, and it passes quickly, and looking back you see the years at a glance, and you've forgotten most of what the minutes, hours and even days felt like.

Which is why older people always tell younger people to enjoy their children while they're young. Childhood goes by like the blink of an eye, as the saying goes.

You blink once, and they're grown.

If you focused more on the years, if you keep the end in sight—the end being the amazing adults your children will grow up to become—you'll not feel so overwhelmed with what will be soon become forgotten, minor inconveniences. 

Especially if you're thinking about homeschooling.

You've got to keep things in perspective. Rather than focus on all the time you won't have for yourself, why not focus on the amazing family you're building and the great treasure you'll have when you're finished? 

A wholesome, loving family is a treasure—a better investment than gold—and when your children are grown you can both relax and reap the rewards of your hard work. Your treasure has been polished and its jewels are clearly visible. 

Rome wasn't built in a day, neither is a beautiful family. 

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Homeschooling affords you the opportunity to better mold your children's characters and expose them to the world of ideas and knowledge. You will teach them to set the table and say "yes, please" and "no, thank you."

You will teach them to read, and you'll lay the foundation for their subsequent literacy. You will lay the foundation for people that give rather than take; for people that gladly serve others rather than suffer a sense of entitlement. 

Raising and educating your children well is far easier to do when you aren't having to counteract the negative lessons they are learning in school. Many public schooled children lose their natural curiosity, they don't love learning, and they could care less about ideas.

They just want to get out of "boring" school. The language and behavior on the school grounds is less than desirable, so one also has to battle the negative societal influences children are exposed to in public schools.

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.
— Frederick Douglass

At home, as you teach your children about such things as the stars in the sky and the tidal patterns of the oceans, on the contrary, you will encourage their natural curiosity and water their love of knowledge. 

You will give your children important gifts that gold could never buy: the love of learning, the importance of family, and the discipline to sacrifice immediate pleasures for hard-earned rewards.  Gifts that will accompany them through life and allow them to lead more fulfilling and meaningful lives when they're grown. 

You will also strengthen the ties of your family, so it doesn't become fragile and begin to disintegrate like so many families in America today. 

While homeschooling may make you feel like you need more minutes in the day, with the right perspective you can defeat that sinking feeling. The minutes will soon be years, and your grown children will visit you one day, and the person they grow up to be will make you proud. 

Don't fret over not having enough time for yourself. One day you'll have too much time on your hands, and you'll wonder what to do with it. For now, focus on building the beautiful family you are blessed to have. 

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Then later, when you look back through the eyes of an older person, and you are able to enjoy the company and activities of loving children and grandchildren, you'll know your time was well spent. 

A parent, when his or her children are grown, will never be heard to say, "I wish I had more time for myself when my children were young."

On the contrary, you'll hear them express regret at the things they never did with their children, and you'll hear them wish they could take time back. 

If you like this post and you're thinking of homeschooling, or you'd like to become a better homeschooler, please join the waiting list for my upcoming course: How to Homeschool the Smart Way.

You might also like my free download Ten Books Every Well-Educated Child Should Read.

For help now with homeschooling, please feel free to schedule a one-hour consultation with me (that's usually all you'll need) http://bit.ly/2GJAZEr

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