Poetry tea time is one of the things we enjoy doing as a family. We started it several years ago, inspired by veteran homeschool mom Julie Bogart.
Having experienced poetry in the school setting (read: boring and scary at the same time), reading poetry while drinking tea – or any drink that we like – and relishing pastries seemed like a lovely idea.
We started our poetry time when my two older kids were around 8 and 5 years old, and the youngest was just a year old. Fast-forward to 4 years later, and it’s now a normal part of our week that all three kids look forward to—and not just because of the food!
What to love about poetry time
Children tend to be intimidated by poetry when they are asked to analyze meaning and to tear apart the style. I’m sure a lot of parents can relate, based on their experience, when I say that grades add pressure too, hindering appreciation and enjoyment.
But poetry can be enjoyed for just what it is. It tickles my heart to see my children flipping through our poetry books, choosing a poem to read and laughing at the vivid, funny imagery that we get from most of what we read. Somber poems touch our hearts too, and make us pause and think.
Parents still looking for a push would love the benefits of reading poetry. Exposure to sophisticated vocabulary and language patterns, even of the outwardly simple ones, will prepare children in the appreciation of the richness of the classics, which are always thought of as “difficult.”
Poetry also conveys complex ideas in concentrated form. Experiencing it from a young age will help young people to glean meaning from the works of literary masters.
How to start your own poetry time
Poetry time for our family has been such a rich experience. I invite you to take these baby steps in incorporating it in your family life, whether or not you are homeschooling.
Choose the best time that suits your schedule
We started having our poetry time within our homeschool week. However, we realized that doing it on a Sunday, when my husband can join us, was much better. After our afternoon nap, we all head downstairs and have our poetry time, before we head out to Mass.
I can see that this is already one family tradition that our children will remember when they are grown ups. When we miss some Sundays, though, due to other family commitments, I don’t beat myself up over it and the kids and I just do it on a weekday afternoon.
So, choose a day and time that works for you every week!
Choose poetry books for children
The rhyme and rhythm of poems for children are naturally enjoyable, musical, and oftentimes funny. Don’t be intimated, and just think of the nursery rhymes that you and your children have enjoyed when they were very young.
Some of our children’s poems are those by Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, Robert Louis Stevenson, A. A. Milne Hilaire Belloc, and Lewis Carroll. We have Stevenson’s must-have classic A Child’s Garden of Verses at The Learning Basket Book Shop.
For Filipino poetry, we read “Mga Tula ng Kabataan” and “Buwan, Buwang, Bulawan,” both available at our book shop.
Choose poetry books for yourself
Though I enjoy children’s poetry, I also want to revisit poems I learned in school, and discover new (to me) ones too. My husband and I enjoy reading love poems (the cheesier the better!) aloud, much to the amusement and laughter of our children.
We have several anthologies that we use, such as Harp and Laurel Wreath, Best Loved Poems, and Treasury of Poems from the Best Loved Classics series from my childhood.
There’s something about sitting down together at table, with a feast for the mind and body. If the kids are hesitant about reading poetry, well, the food just might get them to sit with you at that first poetry time.
Through the years, we’ve shared cookies, cakes, pastries, sandwiches, chocolates or anything that we have in the pantry. Although I try to have a pretty table once in a while – with flowers to match – just eating what’s easy to prepare is perfectly fine too.
For drinks, though it’s normally called Poetry Tea Time, you don’t have to limit yourself to tea. My kids love drinking milk with whatever snacks we have, and my husband and I always go for strong, black coffee.
Sit down and read
Gather the family and let your child choose and read aloud a poem if he’s already a reader, or if not, read aloud for everyone.
As you do your poetry time consistently, you will notice which poems or poets your child enjoys. Keep reading her favorites, and introduce similar ones.
Since the two older kids are already independent readers, they choose which poems they wish to read. We take turns, one poem at a time, for several rounds. The four-year old recites poems she has memorized (through osmosis!) from our weekday readings.
Join us for Poetry Tea Time
Watch this video we did live on Facebook several years ago about poetry time.