The Art of Poetry – Classics Revisited

I have a lifelong love of poetry.  My kids…. not so much.  Sure, we love to play with rhyme and alliteration, and Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutzsky have been staples in our home since they could hold themselves up in a high chair.  But Poetry with a capital “P” is another story.

I had the privilege of examining for review a new text from Classical Academic PressThe Art of Poetry by Christine Perrin.  This is a beautiful anthology of classic poems that are accompanied by discussion questions, activities, and even DVD lessons with “class” dialogue!

The curriculum is designed to cover an in-depth study of the form through The Elements of Poetry, then The History of Poetry.  Each chapter opens with a brief lesson on the topic (metaphor, tone, etc.), then offers a sample close reading of a poem, followed by a number of selections with discussion questions to really open up the student’s mind.  Readers will definitely start thinking about poetry as more than just a surface reading, learning to observe the author’s artistic use of words and spacing, and making connections to their own experiences.

Multiple activities invite the student to try their hand at writing their own poems, and making use of the vocabulary lists included within the units.

If you aren’t well-versed in poetry yourself, have no fear!  The Art of Poetry Teacher’s Edition is here to help!  Mirroring the student text, it supplies all the answers to the discussion questions, and even breaks down the poems visually so you can share it step-by-step with your class.  If you have always secretly wanted to delve into the world of poems, the “Explications and Answers” at the end of each chapter will have you talking like a professor in no time!

A word of note, however.  This is a CLASSICAL program, and as such, is heavily structured in the Classical Method (think Socrates).  If you are already utilizing this teaching method, you will absolutely love this study.  If you are not familiar with it, you may find it a bit deep and repetitive from other programs.  Also, there are few contemporary authors included in the selections, so if you want to share modern poems with your kids, you’ll have to dig out your own copy of Billy Collins.

For the tech-savvy, Classical Academic Press offers some nifty online features to expand the curriculum.  You can check out a sample chapter for free, or take a gander at the teacher’s edition sample.  If you aren’t in love with the sound of your own voice, or have a self-directed student, the downloadable Audio Files are a real bonus!  You can listen to these mp3 files on your computer, or put them on an iPod or other player to take with you in the car or for an outside lesson (what could be better than reading Walt Whitman by a peaceful pond?).  Students will also love connecting with the author at her Art of Poetry blog.

The DVD lessons are very informative, and I love that actual students are contributing to the discussion.  It is a great model for small group discussions.  However, they do seem rather long, and the monotonous tone may be a deterrent to some.  The relaxed voices and pace could easily become boring for those with a short attention span.  My daughter, who is upper middle grade level, much preferred to have me lead the discussions from the book, than watch the video lessons.

I’m sure you’ll want to devote 2 to 3 days a week to each chapter, and possibly every day for younger learners.  While the program is ideal for high school levels (and some of this I didn’t even see until college), I believe it would be challenging for middle grades unless broken down into smaller segments.

Just a few of the highlights in The Art of Poetry:

  • Teach the reading of poetry carefully and slowly
  • Introduce students to the elements of poetry
  • Offers multiple opportunities to demonstrate knowledge
  • Includes biographies of the poets
  • Guidance by a gifted poet and teacher
  • Student Text – $24.95 each
  • Teacher’s Edition – $29.95 each
  • DVD Set – $89.95 ($69.95 after April 1st)
  • Art of Poetry Bundle (includes Student Text, Teacher’s Edition, and DVD Set) – $124.95 ($99.95 after April 1st)

The Art of Poetry is truly a quality program that offers in-depth study on a high educational level.  As noted in the Introduction,

There has never been a civilization without poetry. From the beginning of time, people have sought to turn their thoughts, feelings, and stories into memo

rable speech to share with others. Using language, the poet preserves something precious in the world by allowing us to live next to her, to see what she sees, to enter the experience she has built for us with her words and attention to the moment. Poetry acknowledges something deep within our nature – an urge to name, say, sing, grieve, praise, out of our solitariness, to another person. It makes words into a material thing, hard and solid as a table, dense with significance.

Classical Academic Press provides a curriculum that lives up to this feeling, and opens a world of words for a new generation.

You can read more experiences right HERE, at SchoolhouseReviewCrew.com, and in the words of Reading Rainbow’s Levar Burton, “Don’t just take my word for it!”  Read these other great reviews by parent educators like me!

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.  All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with
the FTC Regulations.

“Handwriting Without Tears” Lives Up To Name

A common complaint among home educators is the difficulty in getting their students to practice handwriting skills.  It seems there’s nothing more dull than sitting down for a long page of copy work.   In our family, we’ve tried many programs, all touting the *fun* and *excitement* that children will have by using their system.  Not one of them delivered.

That all changed with the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum.  My son  has been using the 3rd Grade Program for several weeks, and while I wouldn’t call it “fun and exciting”, he absolutely does NOT dread doing his handwriting pages!  This is a major obstacle for him to overcome.  He’s struggled with printing all his young life, lacking the fine motor skills to do it easily.  (For the record, it isn’t just holding pencils that is troublesome, but using scissors and similar tools as well.)  Suddenly, with using Handwriting Without Tears, he’s breezing through his exercises and starting to write with confidence.

Just a few of the opportunities in Handwriting Without Tears:

  • Video lessons online
  • A+ Worksheet Maker
  • Handwriting Proficiency Screener
  • Student & Teacher Workbooks for 36 Lessons
  • Cross-curricular and ELL connections
  • Aligned to National and Common Core State Standards
  • Affordability – Teacher’s Edition is $9.25, Student Workbook is $8.25

Why does Handwriting Without Tears work so much better than other programs?  To quote their website, “The Handwriting Without Tears® curriculum draws from years of innovation and research to provide developmentally appropriate, multisensory tools and strategies for your classroom. The program follows research that demonstrates children learn more effectively by actively doing, with materials that address all styles of learning.”

What this statement translates to is that kids practice forming the letters in a variety of ways, using multiple senses, in humorous, non-threatening ways that let each student achieve small successes every day.  My son feels that the exercise pages are achievable.  I believe it is largely because the letter and word formations are broken down into such small bites that he knows he is having success from the top of the page.  In addition, the instructional method is such that errors are practically nonexistent.  He has had difficulty with letter reversals and writing from the “bottom up”, but those bad habits have disappeared.  Really!  I’ve watched him move his pencil from one line to the next, following the HWT guides, and it has corrected his poor print habits!

Handwriting Without Tears is geared for Kindergarten through 3rd grade, and while I’m grateful for getting to repair the damage done in early years, I really wish I had had this tool from the beginning.  HWT has even released a tablet app for early learners that appears amazing in getting kids enthused about writing, and getting it right from the start.

Lessons for the teacher are easy to follow, with lots of ideas for expanding the learning and offering even more opportunities to integrate handwriting skills into the daily program.  For under$20, a teacher and student set can be purchased that will take you through a whole year without the fighting to practice handwriting.  That is well worth it to me!

I had thought that we would be stuck with poor handwriting forever, and that cursive writing would be lost from the start, but I really do have new faith in our ability to make handwriting an easy part of our routine.  Don’t let the simplicity of the cover and design fool you – this curriculum is pure gold!

You can read more experiences right HERE, at SchoolhouseReviewCrew.com, and in the words of Reading Rainbow’s Levar Burton, “Don’t just take my word for it!”  Read these other great reviews by parent educators like me!

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for
my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.
All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with
the FTC Regulations.

SchoolhouseTeachers.com – A Library of Learning at Your Fingertips

If you’ve ever been to an educational conference or homeschool convention, you remember that first rush as you enter the vendor exhibit hall – part of you wants to jump up and cheer, and the other part of you just wants to hyperventilate!

I felt a bit of this excitement when exploring the SchoolhouseTeachers.com website.  Operating under the umbrella of the highly respected The Old Schoolhouse Magazine (www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com), this online resource is chock-full of lesson plans, daily activities, family aids, and other enhancements for the educating parent.  Looking at the headings at the top menu was like trying to choose which fabulous aisle to walk down first!

Just a few of the included goodies in SchoolhouseTeachers.com:

  • Prepared lesson plans by qualified teachers
  • Age/Grade availability PreK – Grade 12
  • Dailies – “This Day In History”, Daily Grammar or Math Practices, & More
  • A library of crafts, exercises, and reading lists
  • Video and Audio clips of industry “Stars” to help you along your education journey
  • Planning resources, including DIY sheets to fit your lifestyle
  • Free digital copies of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
  • Free e-book every month!
  • Multiple App options
  • $5.95 / month membership

From this smorgasbord of learning delights, teachers can choose what best fits their students’ needs, whether they are looking for age/grade qualities, trying to meet core subject requirements, or want to expand their horizons with art, music, practical skills, or a foreign language.

Lessons are written in clear language, with easy to understand instructions.  Many rely heavily on narrative, or question-and-answer type discussions.  Hopefully, as more teachers are added to the lesson plan pool, there will be more rounded offerings, with attention to varied learning styles.  Another wish-list item of mine would be an itemized list of lessons with keywords for content, instead of the current monthly designations.  (“Lessons for the month of October” doesn’t help me find that great activity for The Story of Ferdinand.)

The one area I always look for in a site is their attention to Geography, and SchoolhouseTeachers.com does not disappoint here!  The maps are clear, easy to download and print, and allow for both blank and complete options.  They are absolutely the best I have seen on the web to date.

Under “Planners”, I’ve already downloaded my personal planning pages for the 2013 school year, and I can’t recommend these enough!  If you’ve been to your local supply store, you know how outrageously expensive these items can be, so this is a terrific value.  I plan to print mine and have them spiral bound for less than ten bucks at my local printers.

Another pleasant bonus was the opportunity to tune in via video and audio to this past summer’s Expo.  Although the video quality is not as professional as it could be, the chance to hear from some of my favorite speakers was too good to pass up (Jessica Hulcy, from Konos, I love you).

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine itself is a tremendous source of encouragement and inspiration, and I am thrilled with the superb layout and ease of use.  As usual, homeschooling is on the cutting edge of using new information and communication methods, and TOS magazine is at the top, offering clickable links to cited sources, video options, colorful tabs with topic headings, and state-of-the-art photos.  Even the advertising shows a forward-thinking philosophy, as e-book ads are placed proudly next to traditional print marketing.

The only downsides to the online version of TOS magazine are the pop-up ads that interrupted my reading at times, and the fact that I love to have a paper copy to look back on, clip out, and reread.  Both the magazine and the SchoolhouseTeachers.com site also present a narrow Christian perspective in many of the lessons and articles.  Much of November and December activities are focused on the holidays.  Many homeschoolers choose not to celebrate them or integrate them into their lesson plans.  I would appreciate a tighter focus on high standards and morals, rather than an overt statement of specific doctrine, which can make readers feel like outsiders.

The magazine and website share common assets, too.  There are targeted age groups within articles, or highlights for special needs.  I especially appreciate the lack of “labeling” on kids.  Homeschoolers like to skip the labels and go right to the solutions.  Multiple methods are represented – whether you lean toward Classical, Unit Studies, or Traditional.  The author diversity reflects the very best in home education, including writers who are parents, certified teachers, retired professionals, and even students themselves.

SchoolhouseTeachers.com is definitely the best value for home educators, at only $5.95 per month (and you can sign up for $1 the first month!).  I urge every parent to skip the latte for one day and invest in their child’s education.  You will not regret it!

You can get the skinny on it all right HERE, at SchoolhouseReviewCrew.com, but in the words of Reading Rainbow’s Levar Burton, “Don’t just take my word for it!”  Read these other great reviews by parent educators like me!

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for
my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.
All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with
the FTC Regulations.