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How to Create an Outdoor Poetry Walk for Kids

Get your kids outside this summer and encourage an appreciation of poetry with an Outdoor Poetry Walk for kids and a nature discussion

Getting kids stoked about poetry can be hard.  The language is often elusive, the meanings not immediately clear–the whole enterprise is enough to cause groans and eyerolls heard ’round the world.

What’s a homeschooling mama to do?

Read poetry during the summer with poetry walks.  Get them outside and active and relate the poems to what they’re doing.  Create an atmosphere of fun around the reading of poetry.

And maybe, just maybe, the groans will turn into gasps of excitement.
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How to Host an Outdoor Poetry Tea Time

Hold an outdoor Poetry Tea Time and engage your kids' interest in poems of all types while you enjoy a leisurely hour together (includes a FREE PRINTABLE!)

Poetry can make kids cringe and run in the other direction.

You know it’s true.

But you can make it a lot less painful for them and even fun with a few simple tweaks to your curriculum.

Take it outside.  Give them something to look forward to.  Choose the right poems.  Done.

Okay, not done.  Let me tell you how to create a poetry experience they won’t dash away from.
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Book Review: Lady’s Maid

Here is a different kind of book for you.  I usually review fun things for your YA-interested littles to read, but I have to tell you about this book.

Lady's Maid-A Novel

If you are looking for a supplement to a Victorian-era study, this novel will make a great read-aloud for your homeschool.  It is the tale of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s life, seen through the eyes of her lady’s maid, Wilson.  Wilson goes to work for Browning when Wilson herself is barely 20 and Browning is near 40.  Browning is an invalid, still living in her father’s house with little contact with the outside world.  Already she is a renowned poet, but she gets all her inspiration from books, letters, and newspapers and what goes on in her own head.  She insists from Wilson’s initial time with her that they be friends, but Wilson is not so gullible as to feel friendship toward her mistress.  What she ends up feeling is a kind of worship that ties her to Browning more strongly than friendship ever could.  It is Wilson who aids her mistress in eloping with Robert Browning and Wilson who flees to Italy with the new couple.  Wilson cares for Browning when her illness overtakes her and is there for the birth of the Brownings’ son.  But Wilson is a human being with dreams of her own and eventually she, too, marries.  When she needs help from the Brownings, she finds herself suddenly and almost entirely cast aside, but her feelings for her mistress refuse to change and she is there right up to Mrs. Browning’s end.  The author weaves fact and fiction together so seamlessly that by the last page you will be convinced you have known Wilson and everything about her life.  And it will be up to you to decide if Mrs. Browning deserved her.  Or even if you liked Mrs. Browning.  She was a mite selfish.  But that may have just been a class thing.

This novel, written eloquently by Margaret Forster, is done in much the same language and tone as a contemporary novel would have been done in Barrett’s time.  It is interspersed with letters from Wilson to various recipients and gives the reader and idea of the type of language and grammar that were used in that era.  It is a genius look at Victorian life–class disparity, politics, marriage, the inner workings of both Upstairs and Downstairs.  It will give you and your children a chance to discuss human nature.  Wilson and Mrs. Browning are two very different people, and they open each other up in ways they might not otherwise have been afforded.  Wilson, especially, grows in unexpected ways.  She also views the relationship between her and her mistress quite differently than Browning does.  It is interesting to think about why being born in the working class allowed Wilson more room to grow, both intellectually and emotionally.

Besides that, the book provides a chance to introduce the poetry of both Brownings as well as that of their friends, such as Edward Bulwer-Lytton, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.  The book doesn’t contain much poetry itself, being Wilson’s story, but reading some poems alongside it will help your littles understand just who the Brownings were and why they are still famous today.  Forster has also written a nonfiction biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning that could make a good companion read.

Even if you’re not studying the Victorian Age or poetry, this is a good book to pick up and have on hand, Mama.  I think you would enjoy it as much as I did.  It is definitely thought-provoking and a little heartbreaking and will have you questioning the choices people make and how even though we have to live with them, it’s never too late to choose a different path.

Love wins,



Celebrating Shakespeare (with a free download!)

I love Shakespeare.  I have crushed on his words and poetic devices since I was very small and my parents would take my siblings and I to witness the overwhelmingly gorgeous productions of his plays in Louisville’s Shakespeare in Central Park every summer.  Though free to the public, these productions were never skimpy.  I remember the stage being covered in candlelight when necessary, sumptuous costumes, soldiers marching from the stage between the rows of the audience…  all very exciting to a small child who half-believed the characters were real.

william shakespeare

I think those early days in that lovely park, the darkness closing about us like a thin blanket to shut out the disturbances of a city night, are what made it easy for me when I reached high school and had to read Shakespeare for lit class.  I had been hearing the language for so long it made perfect sense to me.  I want my littles to have that same lack of struggle when reading Shakespeare, though we live too far away from Louisville now to make the Park a regular childhood thing.

Just look at the set for Twelfth Night. Can you believe this stuff is free?!

Just look at the set for Twelfth Night. Can you believe this stuff is free?!

This year, April 23rd marks the 400th year of Shakespeare’s death as well as being the day we celebrate his birth.  Historians are not 100% sure the 23rd is his actual birthday, but they know he was baptized on April 26.  Since the usual day of baptism occurred at 3 days old back then, it is assumed that he was born on April 23.  Close enough.  Gives us a chance to celebrate the Bard and his works on a specific day (though we hardly need one).  It also gives us the curious fact that Shakespeare may have died on his birthday.  He was a unique man, no doubt.

To give my Littles an early introduction to Shakespeare, I have done everything from taking them to local high school productions to watching films with them.  They love West Side Story, so I made it into a lesson on how it’s based on Romeo and Juliet.  I have several prose versions of Shakespeare’s works that are written specifically for kids, and we read them from time to time just to keep our hand in.  I think they’re old enough now to really read one of the plays, so I am going to be introducing them to Macbeth over the summer.  It is my all-time favorite.  I know, people always think I’m weird for that–What about Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet? Well, I crush on every single play, and every time I read or see one of them, I discover something new to love.  But Macbeth was the very first play I read for myself, and I was so drawn into the intrigue and the resulting guilt and all the consequences that I could not get enough.  I’ve mentioned before that I’m not big on love stories for the sake of love stories, so the romance plays have a slightly less draw for me than the political ones.  Though I have to admit, my favorite Shakespeare line is in Romeo and Juliet: “I’ll prove more true than those that have more cunning to be strange.”

I love that Juliet is saying, “Listen, dude, I know I’m throwing it all out there for you, but you’ll find me more honest and loyal than the girls that play games.”

Yeah yeah.  Nobody likes a player.

If you want to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday with your littles, there are lots of ways to introduce the Bard without confusing the heck out of them.

Watch West Side Story, Ten Things I Hate About You, or Shakespeare in Love.

10 things i hate about you

Joseph Fiennes as Shakespeare?  My dear, I will take it.  On any given day.  Give me a lovely image to go with that way with words… Oh, I’m there.

But this isn’t about Your Pleasure, Mama, it’s about your littles getting a glimpse into Shakespeare’s time, his rivalry with Christopher Marlowe, and what he went through to get his plays produced.  You will have to fast-forward through some of the more loving parts, but the movie (while not being entirely accurate) is beautiful.

Ten Things I Hate About You is based on The Taming of the Shrew, and if you can’t get the Elizabeth Taylor film of the play (or even if you can), this teen flick might be easier for your littles to follow so they can understand the plot.  Plus, Kat’s poem at the end of the movie is a great example of a Shakespeare-type sonnet.  Also, Heath Ledger.

I think West Side Story is one of the most faithful, if not The Most, musical adaptations of a Shakespearean work.  That could be bias as I was raised to be a Jet.

Find book adaptations for children.

If you search Shakespeare in Children’s Books on Amazon, you’ll get over 2000 hits.  There has to be something in there that will tickle your fancy.  I particularly like Shakespeare’s Stories for Young Readers by E. Nesbit.  It has 12 of the Bard’s plays done in prose while retaining much of the language that people often find tricky.  It is a really good introduction to Shakespeare’s work by an author we already adore.  If only Macbeth were included in the lineup, it would be perfect.  Perhaps Nesbit thought it too bloody for littles?  Out, out, damn spot.

Go to my subscriber freebies and download this great Shakespeare Quote worksheet, which introduces your littles to the language in short bites and gives them an opportunity to interpret quotes for themselves.

shakespeare quotes

Check out these great websites for more ways to celebrate:

This Sweet Life Books, unit studies, and other resources

Hub Pages Paper puppets, anyone?  Bring the plays to life for your littles with some very cool crafts.

31 Cups has a cool pic with a listing of a lot of the things we say today that we don’t even realize come from Shakespeare.

Ed Snapshots Throw a Shakespeare party?  Yes, please.

BBC Shakespeare’s plays animated.  Because when has the BBC ever let us down?

Shakespeare can be fun and inspiring even for the littlest of littles.  It’s even more fun when they realize they’ve been influenced by his work in myriad ways all their lives.  So plan something cool for the 23rd.  And fall in love with Shakespeare all over again.

Love wins,