S8 E5 | How to Incorporate Poetry Study into Your Homeschool, Pt. 2 (Shiela Catanzarite)
Shiela Catanzarite is an author, speaker, editor, and communication coach. She's a 20-year Charlotte Mason veteran homeschooler and has worked as Jeannie Fulbright’s editor and designer for 20 years helping develop Jeannie’s award-winning Apologia science curriculum and most recently her Charlotte Mason products published through Jeannie Fulbright Press. Shiela is the author of the newly published Living Verse Language Arts in Poetry and is finishing up her second book in the series Living Verse Language Arts in Scripture, to be released spring 2024.
Earning a bachelor’s degree in Special Education and a master’s degree in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary, Shiela has been teaching language arts in some capacity for 40+ years. Her passion remains helping students understand the elements of language and how to use these elements artfully to communicate effectively. Shiela is currently a language communication coach, working one-on-one with students who have language learning and communication challenges. She also writes curriculum for her private middle and high school English language communication classes that focus on writing and speaking.
Both of Shiela's and her husband Bruce’s daughters attended private universities on scholarship and went on to pursue graduate studies in medicine and global business. She attributes their love for learning and academic achievement to homeschooling with Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and methodology.
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Shiela Catanzarite Welcome to the Charlotte Mason Show, a show that discusses Charlotte Mason's philosophy, principles, and methods. I'm your host, Shiela Catanzarite, author of the newly published Living Verse Language Arts in Poetry, and soon to be published, Living Verse Language Arts in Scripture. I'm so thankful you joined me today, and I pray this episode deeply encourages you as you learn more of Charlotte Mason's life-giving methodologies and how to implement them to bring greater freedom, confidence, and joy to your homeschool days.
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Shiela Catanzarite Welcome to the Charlotte Mason Show. I am so thankful you joined me for this episode. And I'm really excited because this is part two of a two part series titled "Why Poetry is Necessary and How to Incorporate It Into Your Homeschool." And on my last podcast, we talked about how God had hardwired our children's brains for poetry, and we learn some of the neuroscience behind that. And we also looked at three main benefits of poetry, and these were based on recent studies. And the three main benefits are that poetry brings pleasure and delight, it stimulates important pathways in the brain for learning, and it promotes healing and strong mental health. So if you didn't get a chance to listen to the last podcast that I did, I really suggest going back to listen to it because it's truly fascinating--the benefit of poetry--and you'll learn how your children's lives can be enriched through adding poetry study into their lessons.
Shiela Catanzarite When I was growing up, I used to love to go antiquing with my mom and my sister. That's something that we did together a lot when I would come home from college and graduate school. I remember we would go and find old toys and old teacups, furniture, handkerchiefs, all types of things that were just beautiful and nostalgic. And that was something that I always remember growing up. And when we homeschooled, I lost track of antiquing. My days were very full, of course. I loved every minute of homeschooling, but when the girls were gone and moved away to graduate school, I picked back up my antiquing. And as I was writing my Language Arts curriculum and began teaching some of my Language Arts students in my classes, I started gravitating toward the old bookshelves in the antique store booths. I don't think I had ever bought an antique book before until the last year, but I started finding these incredible books that were written 1910/1920, and they were English language books that they used in school. And it was fascinating to look through those and see so much of the Language Arts curriculum had a Charlotte Mason flavor to it. There was a lot of oral narration, a lot of written narration. And one of the things that really intrigued me was that poetry was given the same priority as other forms of literature in the Language Arts studies.
Shiela Catanzarite So you'd have these English books and there would be a passage of literature and then a poem, and a passage of literature and a poem. And it would just remind me that poetry was such an important part of a child's Language Arts learning. And recently in modern education, it's all but disappeared, and we want to bring that back. Charlotte Mason knew that poetry study was so important. She said children were born poets. And she actually said that "poetry takes first rank in intellectual culture." And I really agree with that. And when I started teaching my students poetry, I saw very quickly that poetry really is within reach of children and they can learn to love it once we get beyond the intimidation of it. And so today I'm going to talk to you about tips and a framework that you can use to bring poetry into your childrens' lives in your homeschool.
Shiela Catanzarite But I want to go back to the etymology of poetry. The word "poiema" is a word in the Greek, and we see that it appears two times in the New Testament in the Bible, and it actually means "a work of masterful creativity." So we see it in Romans, where creation is being described, the word "poiema". And also in Ephesians, where it says we were created in Christ Jesus and we are His craftsmanship, we are His creation. Again, masterful creativity. And so we see it two times in the Bible. And then in the 1660s, poetry had a figurative use in old English, and the word was actually "meter craft"--which I thought was a beautiful way to describe it--crafting in meter. And one of the definitions was "the art of versification," which is exactly what poetry is. And so poetry carries this idea of crafting and of art. And all language is an art, but poetry is a special type of language artistry.
Shiela Catanzarite Sadly, in today's schools, it's been reduced to an academic subject. And this is why my students complain a lot about poetry, because the schools only give about one week of poetry study a year, so the children just aren't exposed to it. I read an interesting article in 20...it was dated 2021, and it was an educator commenting on how in the UK poetry had been demoted as an option in schooling and not a requirement. And there was an interesting quote that said, "English has been shrunk, confined, and battered into rote learning and stock responses." And they talked about how poetry is hard to teach and accommodate in the curriculum because it can't be easily measured or controlled (and I would add graded). So one of the reasons why they have removed poetry, or all but removed poetry, is because it's difficult for the schools to grade. But that is the beauty of poetry. There's so much freedom in poetry and it provides an endless possibility of ways to create. So when you look at poetry, there are no boundaries. It's not like the formulaic five-paragraph essay with the three points and the introduction and the... Poetry is open ended. And so the mind has the opportunity to craft words and verses and lines in an endless amount of ways. And so we want to preserve that beauty and we want to give our children the opportunity to think in that way and to create with that amount of freedom.
Shiela Catanzarite And so Language Arts study really should be the place where our children have freedom to express their thinking and their speaking and their writing. God has put creative brilliance in each one of our children, and we have the freedom in our homeschools to allow our children to express that brilliance. And so I'm going to do a podcast soon on teaching Language Arts the way Charlotte Mason talked about, because she was very big on the expression. And we know, of course, through notebooking, through oral narration, verbal narration, written narration, that was a big part of the lessons and the methodology in her schools, and we want to we want to emulate that, and we want to bring the best to our children. And so we want our Language Arts programs to really draw forth the expressive language that God has put in them. And poetry can bring out a part of our children's thinking and expression that no other type of of language can. Of course, there's a part of the brain where poetry is processed that's unique. And if we don't allow our children to interact with poetry, that part of the brain doesn't get developed and our children are deprived, not only of academic learning and intellectual development, but of the beauty of being able to express themselves in delightful ways. And we don't want them to miss that.
Shiela Catanzarite So I want to talk specifically now about poetry and give some ideas of how to add it to your homeschool. Now we know that there's great value in just reading poetry or listening to poetry, just to enjoy the words and enjoy the rhythm. So we want to definitely start with that, but we want to go beyond that to actually learning about the great poets and studying their meter craft, setting their unique art of versification, and not just reading the poetry, but actually studying the artistry of the poetry. When we're studying poetry, we want to use an integrated whole-book approach and choose the best poems we can find. So we want to take a whole work, a whole poem-- And there is so much poetry out there to choose from! Charlotte Mason tells us, "It is the part of parents to bring the minds of their children under the influence of the highest, purest, poetic thought we have.".
Shiela Catanzarite So when you're choosing your poems to study, make sure you're very thoughtful and intentional about the poems. There are many books of poems you can check out from the library. I've actually found some wonderful books of poetry at antique stores for just a few dollars. And I would imagine that if you took your children shopping to an antique store or two, and let them pick out some old poetry books or some old language learning books, they would find poetry that they were super excited about. And the books themselves-- Many of the books are older, they're cloth bound, and they have just delightful illustrations. They're super fun. And I feel like when I was looking for poems to include in my Living Verse Language Arts in Poetry curriculum that I just published, there were so many to choose from. It took me months. I spent a lot of time looking at poetry, and I feel that there's so many treasures of verse out there just waiting to be enjoyed and studied. So I think if you take a little time to choose the right poems, and let your children be a part of choosing, I think you'll come up with a beautiful collection of works that you all will remember and enjoy forever.
Shiela Catanzarite So when I first began teaching poetry to my students, I realized that poetry is best learned when the student understands both the structure of the poem and the artistry of the poem. So I developed a framework to teach poetry to my students, which was the inspiration for my new curriculum. And the framework that I use to teach poetry has nine components as we work through the poem. And so I'm going to tell you those nine components, and you can follow this framework to teach any poem. So you collect your group of poems that you want to study with your children and just use the framework. And I would definitely recommend having a notebook designated just for the poetry, because you're going to want your children to narrate throughout the poetry study and, of course, do a lot of writing. And I also recommend that you study poetry as a family. When we beta-tested my curriculum, many families did the poetry study together-- moms and dads and the older ones and the younger ones--and I think that was one of the things that made it so enjoyable is that everybody learned together and shared their insight and their thoughts and their poems. So I recommend when you study poetry, you do it as a family. It's one of those subjects that is open-ended enough to where-- Like Charlotte Mason tells us, to just spread the feast and let the children assimilate and take what they can. And I think that that goes for poetry, that our children are capable of understanding a lot more than we think they can. And so if you spread the feast of poetry, let them take what their hearts and minds are able to, and I think that you'll find it'll be very inspiring.
Shiela Catanzarite So the first component would be to honor the poet. And I would say before you study a poem, it's important to learn about the artist...the "word artist" who actually created the poem. Do some research on each poet, learn about their childhood. Many of the poets were exposed to poetry or writing when they were a child and started writing verse quite young. So if you do a little bit of study on that, have maybe one of your older children do the study and read it. Read about the history, the life, what influenced the writing, and then do a narration. Study the life of the poet and have your younger children narrate back to what they heard, or they can dictate it to you, and have the older children do a written narration. But you definitely want to honor the poet and get to know the person who did the crafting before you study the poem.
Shiela Catanzarite The second component, once you've studied the poet, would be-- I call it experiencing the poem. And this is where you read the poem out loud and you let the child just listen and imagine what's being said through the poem. You can read it several times. You can read it to all your children, you can have one of your older children read it, but we want to experience the poem first. Before we study it we want to allow the poem to really stir the imagination of the child. Poetry, of course, uses so much imagery and metaphor, and I think it's important that children have a chance to really think about the words in pictures in their mind and illustrate what they imagine. Keeping with our Charlotte Mason methodology, once the child hears the poem, ask him to imagine it and then allow them to have a chance to give a visual narration with colored pencils or paint or pastels, whatever you have that would give him an opportunity to do a visual narration of what he imagines in the poem.
Shiela Catanzarite The third component is to mark the poem. And Charlotte Mason says, "When we mark a passage, we inwardly digest it." And I've seen this to be true. And this is where the child learns the structure of the poem through marking the different parts. So you mark things like, "How many stanzas are in the poem? And how many lines were in each stanza?" You might go through and have the child underline the rhyming words to discover the rhyme scheme. "What is the poem's theme? What do you think was the poet's idea behind the work?" These are the type of questions that you can begin to ask. So you want your child to mark the poem, and the different parts of the poem, in different strokes and colors so that he can visually see how the poem is structured. And if you go to my website (ShielaCatanzarite.com) you can get my free PDF on how to mark a poem. I put together a brief tutorial, and I also provide an example of a poem that I marked up. You'll see that at the bottom of my website, but it's a wonderful resource to help you as a mom get an idea, "Okay, this is what a marked up poem looks like. These are the things that I want my child to be looking for." So go to my website, scroll to the bottom and you'll fill out a form to give me your email and then I will send you the free PDF. I hope you'll take advantage of that. I think that you'll find it really helpful.
Shiela Catanzarite The fourth component is to discover the poem, and this is the part where the child starts learning the artistry of the poem, which would include the grammar, the punctuation, figurative language, literary elements, vocabulary, anything like that that the poet used to create the beauty in the poem. And it's kind of like studying a beautiful painting. You go into an art museum and you see the whole work and you're just taken back by the beauty of the painting. But if you get closer, you begin to see the individual colors, the individual brush strokes, and how all of those individual elements were put together to create the whole work. And that's really how we learn poetry. We study the poetry's craft. So once the student looks at the whole poem, reads the whole poem, illustrates it, marks it, sees the structure, then they go back in to ask the question, "Okay, what brushstrokes did the poet use? What colors?" Then you start looking for those elements and you can easily pull in the Language Arts lesson. I recommend teaching Language Arts from a whole living work like a poem. And I would recommend, if you're wanting to work on descriptive language and you're wanting to practice adjectives or adverbs, that you look for those in the poem. "Where are the words that describe the nouns in the poem? Circle all the adjectives. Write down all the adverbs." Things like that, where you're actually pulling the different aspects of Language Arts out from the poem. So Language Arts is not meant to be separated and taught as separate academic concepts, because Language Arts, all the parts that we study--the punctuation, the grammar, the parts of speech--those don't exist outside a piece of writing. They're never meant to be isolated and tested. So the best way for the child to understand all the aspects of Language Arts-- Give them a living piece of poetry or a piece of literature or something that a real person wrote and let them start finding all the different parts of Language Arts that were used to put the work together to make it beautiful and powerful. So that's what we're doing when we're discovering the poem. And so that's component number four.
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Shiela Catanzarite Component number five is interpret the poem. So once we've studied it, we see the artistry, we see the structure, "What does the poem mean? What was the poet trying to say to us?" And this is where the child begins thinking about the meaning. And you're working on the critical thinking skills here and you want to draw out their thinking with questions. There's no right or wrong answer. You want the child to get comfortable thinking about something that may seem a little challenging, but this is the beautiful thing about poetry, it enables a child to develop nuanced thinking and abstract thinking because we don't interact with poetry very often in and we don't speak in poetic language. And so if a child hasn't studied poetry, it does seem difficult, and it's only because it's not familiar. But the more that they study poetry and read poetry, the brain begins to process it more easily. But we want to draw out their thinking and we want to give them a chance to get in touch with that intellectual brilliance that God gave them by asking questions and letting them bring it forth. We don't want to say, "That's not the right answer." Because poetry, a lot of it is really interpreted based upon what it means to the person who's reading it. So give them the freedom to express their thinking and to interpret it. You can have them do a narration, write about it. There's many different ways that they can express the meaning. You can have the whole family get together and share their interpretations. I remember in our beta-testing experience, one mom wrote to me and said that they had the five-year-old, who wasn't reading yet, but she was listening to the poem about the hummingbird and the middle-schooler was sharing something really amazing, but when the five-year-old shared what they thought, she said the whole family was blown away. She said, "We never knew that the five-year-old could think that way." But they can, and we have to give them the opportunity to think and express their thinking. And so when the whole family joins in together in interpreting the poem, it just becomes such a delightful experience. So that's component five.
Shiela Catanzarite The sixth component is to copy the poem. Of course, this is our copy work. And copy work works on the handwriting, works on the spelling. But when they copy the poem, the child is internalizing the structure and the artistry of the poem, and it really works on the writing skills. So I recommend, even if your children in high school, to do copy work for poetry. It enables them to internalize really high-quality writing and language usage and flexibility with language and with words. So you definitely want everyone to do the copy work, no matter how old they are, no matter what grade they're in.
Shiela Catanzarite The seventh component is to express the poem. So after you've studied the poem, you've spent some time-- And I do recommend a week or two. In my curriculum, we take two weeks to study a poem. You could do it in a week. But after the child is familiar with the structure and the artistry, then you want to allow him to creatively express his learning through any way that he wants. It could be through a visual narration. It could be through dictation, recitation. You could have a family night where the older children are reciting the poem. You can have a poetry tea time where the children plan the poetry tea time--they do the decorating, they plan the theme, and they plan the food, and they can dress up. Anything to where your child is expressing what they've learned through the poem. And they will never forget that, I promise. So as much hands-on learning that they can do-- They can sing it. Just whatever creative ideas they come up with, you want them to express the poem, and you want to have a record of it. So if that doesn't involve writing or visual narration of some kind, take pictures or videotape it so that you have that.
Shiela Catanzarite Component number eight is to model the poem. And this is where they take everything that they learned from the poem they've studied and they write from that model. So there's different ways you can do that. You can have them write on the same theme. So if you have a nature poem, they can write about something in nature. You can have them use the same rhyme scheme. So if it's an ABAB rhyme scheme, four lines to a stanza, you can include that. Say, "We're going to write a poem and we're going to have four lines with an ABAB rhyme scheme." Or maybe there is a special metaphor in the poem they studied and you want them to include metaphor in their poem. You can ask them to use the same punctuation that was included in the poem that they studied. The same type of vocabulary. So go back and look at the poem. Look at all the different elements of Language Arts that they learned and have them apply all of those things that they learned to their own poem. And this is so important that they have the opportunity to express their learning in writing their own poem. They're working on creative writing. And the beautiful thing about poetry is it does teach flexible writing. There are so many different rhyme schemes. You can have them write in couplets. So when you're searching for the poetry to use in studying, try and find a variety of different types of poems so that they're being exposed to different ways that words can be put together in a beautiful way. Definitely have the variety, because when it comes time for them to write their own poems, they will be able to draw from that language that they've studied and it'll really help them in their writing, in the flexible writing and the nuanced writing, that's so important.
Shiela Catanzarite The last component, number nine, is to celebrate the poet. And this is when they wrap up and they write what they learned from the poet. So you want to go back maybe, and review who the poet is, what their background is. "What did you learn from this poet?" And this is a writing assignment. And of course, if you have a younger child, he or she can dictate it to you and you can write it down. You can also have them research other poems by the same poet. So that might be a fun thing to do. They can look one up and find one they like, and you can extend the lesson by studying another poem, or at least reading another poem or two from the same poet. And so I recommend that.
Shiela Catanzarite So those nine components, if you go through each one of those and you take time and you notebook it and you record what your children are learning and you have them notebook through the poems, they're going to learn so much. The poems are embedded with such rich language. And Charlotte Mason says that poems are models for our lives, that a lot of these heroic poems, they can teach us things. And there can be a line of poetry, she says, that "strikes us in a moment and changes our lives." And so poetry has such great moral value, if you choose the right poems. It has value of beauty, value of intellectual development, enjoyment. It's therapeutic. Think about David in the Psalms. He worshiped God in poetry. He prayed in poetic language. He sang in poetic language. He poured his heart out in the Scripture through poetry. And so God has made this beautiful language. He's communicated to us in poetry, and He's given us the mind to create this beautiful language that we can engage with. And the earlier that our children engage with poetry--not just reading it and hearing it, but actually studying it--the earlier that we involve them with poetry, the sooner their brains will develop into the language potential. But it's never too late. If you haven't started poetry yet and you've got high schoolers, don't wait, go ahead and start it. If you're an adult-- I've had several moms who said they hated poetry and they're actually doing the poetry with their children through the curriculum that they bought, that I created. And I had one mom, she sent me two of her poems and they're amazing, they're beautiful. And so we even had some dads in the beta test writing poetry with the children. It really is a delight. And even though the schools have nearly abandoned poetry, as homeschoolers we do not have to abandon it. We can bring it to our children and we can restore that intellectual culture in our homeschool, and we can bring in Language Arts that's beautiful and that's delightful to our children, and that's simple.
Shiela Catanzarite If you want to see examples of this framework that I talked about, you can go to my website and there's a curriculum section that shows Living Verse, and there's a button that will take you to a page on my publisher's website, Jeannie Fulbright Press. She has a product page, and there you can download a free three-week sample of Living Verse Language Arts in Poetry. And if you download that sample, you can see the way that I structured it, and you can even have your children do the sample and enjoy learning about poetry. And it would give you, again, just a picture of the framework that I just described in the podcast. I hope this episode was helpful and I hope it encouraged you that, yes, you can teach poetry. Yes, you can make poetry accessible to your children and you should as Charlotte Mason encouraged. I hope that you've learned some practical tips for bringing the beautiful language of poetry into your children's lives. So go to my website to learn more about Living Verse. Get my free PDF on how to mark a poem. And I will be continuing to put free PDFs and downloads on all things Language Arts. And I have a blog there on my website as well, related to Charlotte Mason in Language Arts. And I'll continue to be writing to offer, hopefully, valuable tips and inspiration to use the Charlotte Mason life-giving approach to bring Language Arts and expressions of our childrens' brilliant minds out into the open. And thank you so much for listening and I look forward to being with you next time.
Shiela Catanzarite Thank you for tuning in to the Charlotte Mason Show. If you want to learn more about Charlotte Mason and discover a beautiful Language Arts curriculum that uses her methodologies, go to my website at ShielaCatanzarite.com. There you can find my new blog where I discuss Charlotte Mason's principles for Language Arts, and how to implement her philosophy in your homeschool. Please enjoy my free resource on how to mark a poem. Simply provide your email address and I'll send you the free PDF that teaches a simple, hands-on, Charlotte-Mason-inspired way to bring poetry into your homeschool. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast. And while you're there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show. This will help other homeschooling parents like you get connected to our community. And finally, tag us on Instagram @HomeschoolingDotMom to let us know what you thought of today's episode.
Shiela Catanzarite Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share because you deserve healthcare you can trust. To learn more about Medi-Share and why over 400,000 Christians have made the switch, go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/Medishare.
Shiela Catanzarite Have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling events of the year offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topics, and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit halls in the U.S.. Find out more at GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. I hope to see you there! Have a wonderful week. I look forward to being with you next time.