S9 E13 | Celebrate National Poetry Month with the Perfect Poetry Tea Time! (Shiela Catanzarite)

S9 E13 | Celebrate National Poetry Month with the Perfect Poetry Tea Time! (Shiela Catanzarite)

Show Notes:

April is National Poetry Month and what better way to celebrate the beautiful language of poetry than with the Perfect Poetry Tea Time! Whether you’re new to the idea or are already enjoying poetry tea times, this episode is for you. Join Shiela as she shares practical ideas for engaging in a month long poetry study that culminates in hosting a tea time celebration. You’ll learn Charlotte Mason’s thoughts on poetry and how to engage with carefully selected poems during the month. You’ll be inspired to gather your family to visioneer and plan the perfect tea time and everything it entails: from choosing the poets and their poems to deciding the decorations and tableware to learning to be a gracious host. Most importantly, you’ll choose what guests to invite and how to create a welcoming ambiance that highlights your theme. Visit Shiela’s website to request her FREE Poetry Team Time Planner to help you get started and stay organized.

About Shiela

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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Show Transcript:

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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Hello and happy National Poetry Month! Thank you so much for being with me today. I'm so excited because April is the month where we celebrate the beautiful language of poetry. There are so many fun ways to engage with poetry over the next month, and I can't wait to share some ideas with you, specifically how to plan and host the perfect poetry tea time. But before we get started, I want to invite you to sign up for my growing newsletter community, if you haven't already. I send out a weekly newsletter that's all things Language Arts, and I share ideas and mini lessons along with the word of the week and a free resource to encourage you on your journey. And I always feature a piece of writing from a student using Living Verse Language Arts In Poetry, my curriculum, or from one of the current students who I teach. It's an inspiring and fun newsletter, and if you love Language Arts or you're looking for ideas and encouragement, I know you'll love my newsletter. So feel free to email me at [email protected] or visit my website SheilaCatanzarite.com to enter your email address, and I will put you on the list for my newsletter.

So if you follow Charlotte Mason, you know that she prioritized poetry in her students' education. And she was very wise because neuroscience studies reveal that poetry benefits a child's emotional and intellectual development in ways that no other genre of language can. And if you're interested in learning about these benefits, you can listen to my podcast from season eight titled "The Benefits and Necessity of Poetry Study." And there you'll learn the myriad of benefits that poetry study is to your children, and why it's so necessary to include it. Well, when speaking on the importance of children reading aloud every day, Charlotte Mason told us that "their readings should include a good deal of poetry to accustom him to the delicate rendering of shades of meaning, and especially to make him aware that words are beautiful in themselves, that they are a source of pleasure and are worthy of our honor, and that a beautiful word deserves to be beautifully said, with a certain roundness of tone and precision of utterance." Charlotte Mason also tells us, "Poetry is perhaps the most searching and intimate of our teachers." And that, "Poetry too supply us with tools for the modeling of our lives, and the use of these we must get at for ourselves. The line that strikes us as we read, that recurs, that we murmur over at odd moments, this is the line that influences our living." And various studies in neuroscience throughout the years have proven what Charlotte Mason said long ago, that children are born poets, and we want to honor that, and we want to give opportunity for our children to express the poetic language that God has designed them for. And what better way than to focus your Language Arts on poetry study during National Poetry Month?

Even if your children already study poetry regularly, you can take it to the next level in the month of April. And this is what I want to talk about: how you can plan for and engage in a month-long poetry study that culminates in hosting the perfect poetry tea time. And you may be thinking, "Well, we already have regular poetry tea times." I know a lot of you do. It's a very popular thing to do. But I want to share an idea that I believe will help you experience and enjoy poetry study and tea times on an even deeper level. Not only will your children grow in their language development through the month, they'll grow in other important life skills, creative expression, and social manners. And so to start, you're going to want to gather the family together to plan your poetry study and your end-of-the-month tea time celebration. And you want this to be an experience that everyone is a part of. We know that if our children take ownership in their learning, it is so much more enjoyable and impactful. They engage with it on a much deeper level. So we want to make our month of poetry study a fun family bonding experience. And I've created for you a free PDF that you can download and fill out to help you plan. Simply go to my website, enter your email address, and request the tea time resource, and I'll send it to you. So once everyone has weighed in and you've created your plan, it's time to decide which poets and poems that you want to study. And I recommend studying four different poems over the month. So you can choose one poet and study four of his or her poems, or you can choose four different poets and study one of their poems each. But you'll want to be sure and research the poets' childhood and history and what influenced them to begin writing poetry.

It was really interesting when I was writing my poetry curriculum. I included a little short biography of the poet, and it was fascinating to study how each of the poets began writing poetry and what piqued their interest in it. And I think it would be really fun for your children to study that and research that and come to understand that influence. So you'll definitely want to include that for each poet that you choose to study. It's really up to you how deep you want to go with each poem, based on the age of your children and how much experience they've had with poetry. That will determine at what depth you want to study the poems, but you definitely want to read the poem you're studying each day of that week. Determine what makes the poem unique. Have your children identify the rhyming words, how many stanzas there are. Have them find out what the message or the theme of the poem is. Read it out loud to experience and enjoy the musical aspect of the rhythm of the poem. Have them narrate the poem. They can create a visual narration or memorize the poem. And if you use my Living Verse Language Arts In Poetry curriculum, you already know how to discover the structure and the Language Arts of each poem, and how to model the poems to produce original poetry. And if you're not familiar with that framework for poetry study, you can just simply read and enjoy experiencing the beauty of each poem.

And if possible, I highly recommend visiting an antique store that sells old children's books, specifically books that have poetry. And there's so many out there. Even the old cloth-bound English school books have both literature and poetry in them, because in early American education, the schools gave equal weight to literature and poetry. So when you find some of those old school books, you'll find that poetry and literature will both be included. And they're just such a treasure to find. It would be so fun to have your children pick out one of the old books that has poetry, something that they're drawn to, and from that book they can choose the poems that they want to study for the month. Usually these books are just a few dollars, but they're delightful keepsakes. And actually, this is one of my favorite Language Arts field trips to take your children to an antique store or an antique bookstore and let them look through all the old books. The pictures are so unique and so curious and beautiful, and I think that your children would be so fascinated to see the type of language of long ago—how it was written and how it was taught. And if you can find a book of poetry from an antique bookstore and choose poems to study for your month of April, National Poetry Month study, I think it would be really wonderful and fun for the kids. And while you're at the antique store, go ahead and pick out some teacups for your tea time. There are always so many to choose from and lots of different styles, and I know your children will have a lot of fun with that, so I encourage you to do that. Everyone can choose their own cup, and you can even choose ones based upon the theme of your poems.

Once you've chosen your poems, the next thing you'll want to do is decide on a theme for your tea time. And you can do that based upon the theme of your poems. For example, if you're studying poems about nature, then you can have a nature-themed tea time, which would be really easy to do. Or maybe you're studying nonsense poetry and you want to have a silly theme. For example, if you're studying the Quangle Wangle Quee from Living Verse, you could design the hat in the poem and use it as a centerpiece on your tea time table. Or you can have each person design their own hat and wear it to the tea time. That would be a fun idea. Another fun idea is if you study Rachel Field's poem The Cobblers, you could ask everyone to wear their favorite pair of old shoes, or bring their favorite pair of shoes to tell the story of the places where the shoes have taken you. So whatever you decide to do, encourage your children to think creatively when coming up with the theme for the poetry tea time that you're going to have. And once you decide on the theme, you're going to want to think of ways to enhance your theme so that your guests can experience it when they come. This is a great opportunity to teach your children about ambiance and how to create a specific mood when hosting an event. So the biggest factor, obviously, is the setting of where your tea time will take place. Will you host it inside or will you host it outside? Would a formal dining room support your theme or would an outdoor nature picnic be better? So your theme will definitely determine the best setting to create the mood that you want your guests to experience.

A good way to further add to the ambiance is to play music at the tea time that matches your theme. So maybe you've chosen poems written by a British author in 1800, then you could play something from the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack. Or maybe you chose poems about space that are going with an outer space theme, then you could play the Star Wars soundtrack. So think about the poems themselves, the theme that you've chosen, and what music might enhance the mood that would bring the theme forth for your guests when they come to experience that time. So have your children really think about that. And another way to create ambiance is through smell. Obviously, you can use scented candles or essential oils. Simmering spices also work well. Creating ambiance, it's a good way to teach your children the importance of creating for guests an enjoyable and memorable experience, and it's a great way to show hospitality. So we want to be teaching these skills to our children, and this is such a great opportunity to have them think about, "What will my guests experience and how can I create something memorable and enjoyable for them?"

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So next, we want to decide on decorations. And this is another wonderful opportunity to have your children engage with handicrafts and all types of art and creative expression. Some ideas are to create lighting for your table, which also adds to the ambiance. There's so many different ways you can do this. You can make decorative homemade candles for the table. I saw where you can put dried flower stickers on different types of candles, the long taper candles. I saw that on Instagram. It was just such a cute idea. And there's many different ways you could add a theme to the candles. You can create little lanterns by ModPodging leaves and flowers on jars, and putting tea lights or even real tea candles inside of them. Another idea is to make simple wax lanterns by ironing greenery or flowers between two pieces of wax paper and rolling them up with a tea light inside. I follow an account on Instagram called Little Pine Learners, and I've seen some of these ideas recently. So you can follow that account and get lots of wonderful crafty nature ideas for decorating and creating things related to nature. She's just got a lot of wonderful ideas. So it's @littlepinelearners and it's on the Instagram account.

But there are so many ways to decorate, and flowers are always fun for a tea time. It would be a great time to teach the skill of flower arranging. Start with a simple vase and have your children go to a place where you can buy individual flower stems. Let them choose based on your theme and the color scheme that you're going with, and let them arrange the flowers in the vases. This is really fun. I bought a vase when our girls were young that had a top on it with holes. The holes were specifically equally spaced out, and the girls would put the flowers in the holes and it would create this perfectly symmetric arrangement. We had so much fun with that. We used it for many different occasions and many different seasons and holidays, and that would be a really fun thing to have for a decoration on the table for the poetry tea time. I'm not sure— I don't even remember where I got it, but I'm sure that you can purchase that somewhere if you look it up, and that would be fun to have. Another idea is to buy a decorative planter at a plant nursery, and let your children go to the nursery and choose a variety of small flowers to arrange and plant in the planter. You're working on creativity, and you're working on gardening and creative expression. You could even find a little small flower pot for each place setting at the table, and put one stem flower in it. And you can add a handwritten place card or a handmade placemat. There are many different ways that you can decorate, and I encourage to let your children make the decorations for the table. You may have to buy a few things, but use this as an opportunity for creative expression and get in some of those spring, nature, creative art assignments that maybe you've been thinking of. This is a great time to let them engage with that, not only for themselves, but so that other people can enjoy it.

Another wonderful decoration is to print out the poems that you studied and place them in five-by-seven frames to put around the table. So you could put one poem in front of each place setting, and the guests could go around and read that poem. And your children can even create their own poems. You could have them write the poem, write it neatly on a nice piece of paper, have them add colorful illustrations, and then their poems can also be placed in a picture frame to use as a decoration on the table. And this really honors their writing, and it features their writing in a beautiful way. Again, you're working on creative writing skills, visual narration skills. So you're getting some of the creative academic learning in as well, as you think about decorating the table. A lot of people just put the books out on the table. I feel like I would be a little nervous to do that because I wouldn't want something to spill on my books, but certainly, you can do that as well. Or you can take the books and put them in the recipe holders that they make, those iron recipe holders, and open them up and place them. Lots of different ways. But use the poems themselves as decorations on the table. Those are just a few ideas, and I'm sure that your children can come up with many more creative things. Just the main idea is that you give them the time to sit down and think about what they want to do and create a plan to actually follow through on that.

So next, you want to decide on and plan for what food you're going to offer at your tea time. And again, think about your theme and what creative foods would enhance that theme. So what time of day will your tea time be? And are you going to have a lunch tea time with sandwiches or an afternoon high tea time with sweets? So the food element of your tea time brings in the baking and the cooking, which are skills that are so fun to learn and teach. And there's so many recipes that are suitable for tea time. You can do the edible flour shortbread cookies. I've seen those on Pinterest. I have never done that, but I always wanted to. We didn't get around to it. They're decorative and they're interesting and fun. Every type of cookie cutter imaginable is out there. So even if you're going with the space theme, you can do cut-out cookies with rockets and planets. If you're going with a dinosaur theme, you can do that. So try and keep the food in the theme. And be creative and let your children experience cooking in a creative way. All kinds of finger foods, which I'm sure your children will have an opinion on. And again, try and encourage them to keep creatively to the theme. What beverages will you serve at the tea time? Of course tea, but what type of tea?

Well, I received a wonderful Christmas gift from one of my clients a few years ago and it was a clear teapot, and with it came these tea bombs. And I didn't realize what they were, but when I went to put the first tea bomb in the steaming water, to my surprise, it opened up into flowers. And the flowers then just began floating around in the tea, creating this beautiful floral pot, colorful pot. It had a floral scent and a floral flavor. And it was such an incredible experience. And something like that would be so fun to serve your guests. So you can float berries in lemonade, and you can put fruit in ice cubes to float around in juice, and they're just tons of ideas for fun foods like that. If you go to Pinterest, I think they have the best ideas. I'm sure there's some Instagram accounts as well. But try and think— Again, creativity. Let this tea time be a time when your children are preparing and expressing themselves creatively and thinking creatively as they prepare all these areas that will come together to create this wonderful tea time experience.

So next you want to plan for the tableware. So what type of utensils will your guests need? What size plates? What types of napkins? There's so many creative ways to display food, and that in and of itself is an adventure in creativity. So something my girls and I have loved doing the last years is— And we still do this for parties in our family dinners. But we create these themed grazing boards. And grazing boards— It's kind of a craze right now, and there's tons of accounts that have grazing boards. Again, Pinterest and Instagram. But it would be so awesome for a poetry tea time. We did one for my daughter's college graduation. And we've done them for Thanksgiving and for Christmas. And when I have my Christmas party for my students, I always have a grazing board. And it's basically just a big board—you can do a wooden board or plastic board, there's all different types—and it goes across the middle of the table and you just put all the food on the board or around the board. And so it's down the middle and you just display the food creatively. You can add plates. We have plates on pedestals and bowls on pedestals. And you can do different heights and you can put some food in those. And then you can have tiered trays or little small bowls for candy and mints. Or you can just pile the food up kind of artistically on different parts of the board, around the board. You can add signs on the board and flowers and decorations. And again, be creative with your theme. But it would be really fun to have a poetry grazing board in the middle. Someone has probably created an amazing one. You can look online. But that's such a fun thing to do with your children. And again, everybody weighs in on what the food is going to be and how it's going to be arranged. And you know, depending upon how many children, you'll have to take turns. But that would be a really fun way to incorporate decorating and creativity with the food.

So what about a gift for your guests who are coming to your poetry tea time? One idea is for your children to make bookmarks by writing their favorite line or stanza from one of the poems and adding dried flower stickers. You can buy blank bookmarks and you can buy these dried flower stickers from Amazon. You can punch a hole at the top and tie a pretty colorful ribbon. And you could even pick flowers from your own garden and dry them to use on the bookmarks, or to use on other decorations or other gifts. So try and think of how you might, at the table setting, have a gift, or give a gift when they leave. That would be another way to serve and bless someone with creative expression. Last, you want to create a schedule of what will happen from the time the guests arrive to when they leave, to make sure that everything goes smoothly and everyone's aware of what's happening next. So don't forget to do that. And you can print it out, go over it before the event, and then make sure everyone knows what's happening.

So you've gathered your family, you've chosen your poems, and together you all have created a plan for the perfect poetry tea time. And over the next four weeks, while studying the poems and deepening your Language Arts learning, you'll be collecting everything you need to carry out your plan. Your children will be reading and they'll be writing. They'll be engaged with handicrafts and art, and they will be decorating and cooking and baking. Your children will be drawing and thinking creatively. They'll be visioneering and working to carry out their vision, all to create a beautiful experience of celebrating and enjoying one of God's greatest gifts to us, the beautiful language of poetry. And when your guests arrive, your children will get to express one of the most important aspects of their education: social manners and displaying a gracious spirit toward others. And this is the perfect opportunity for your children to practice welcoming guests at the door and engaging in conversation through listening and asking questions and connecting. They can practice serving the guests by offering them food, refilling their glasses, and clearing their plates. And you can work on these habits and manners throughout the month so that your children will be prepared when the event arrives. And I encourage you to look over what's planned for the month to see where you can integrate more learning or develop new skills or levels of responsibility in your children. There are tons of learning opportunities tucked into planning and hosting a creative event like this, so be on the lookout for different things that can be taught through this experience.

If you choose to devote the month of April to a poetry study that culminates in hosting the perfect poetry tea time, your children will engage in so many types of learning and they will develop new and important skills. It will be a fun, creative, and interesting learning project that your family can do together, with the end goal of serving and blessing others. I promise it will be something your family will remember with joy and will look forward to doing every single year. So gather your family and think about who you could invite over to share an afternoon with. Who can you bless? Who needs to be encouraged and included? Who needs to experience a sense of belonging? Once you've decided, send them an invitation. Then start learning and preparing to create a fun and memorable tea time for everyone. Well, I hope that this episode has been inspiring for you and that you have a vision for spending the month of April engaging in beautiful poetry, and planning to share that poetry as a blessing to somebody else. I would love to offer you my PDF that has ideas for what I shared, and has, actually, a planner that you can fill out and use with your children to create the perfect poetry tea time. Feel free to email me if you want to be added to my newsletter. I would love to have you join my community. Or go to my website and leave your email and I will send you my free resource and add you to my newsletter that way. I hope that you have a wonderful day and a wonderful month celebrating poetry. See you next time!

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.

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