Learning together: Language and poetry

While I was researching afterschooling curriculum for my daughter, I can across the Michael Clay Thompson language arts program. The MCT level 1 series includes: Grammar Island- an intro into the parts of speech, Building Language- teaches Latin stems, Sentence Island- more details about the eight parts of speech, and Music Hemispheres- an intro to poetry.

The Level 1 series is aimed at 7-9 year olds with lots of silly stories and illustrations. But behind the pretty pictures is a very detailed education in language. I wouldn’t expect Dd to absorbed all the info on the first go round but I like giving her an early intro to be built on later. From the Building Language book..

The goal of this book is, in the most profound way, to give elementary kids the right vocabulary start. We want students to know, from their earliest thinking, that their world is not new, and that they did not come from nowhere

I love that bolded bit, it is something we really try to get across to Dd.

As I looked through the lesson books online, I thought “Damn I want these for myself!” Even as an adult I can see there is much I could learn from these books. The poetry book and the Latin stems look particularly fun.

Here is a sample of what is taught with the program. I love that word supercilious and how funny that it means over hair or raised eyebrow!

And excerpt from the Poetry book

(Opening lines from Percy Shelley’s The Cloud)

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams.

So, I love these books. BUT…..Dd and I already have a couple afterschooling books we are working through and I don’t want to add anymore subjects making the whole experience overwhelming.¬†Also, buying the complete Level 1 set is quite expensive. What I think I am going to do is save up and buy it for summer. Perhaps make language arts and poetry our main focus for summer with only a little math and spelling on the side to maintain what Dd has learned. She loves books and has a newly developing love of poetry. The MCT curriculum seems very informal, there is very little workbook work, so I think it will make a nice fit for the school break. We can just pull out the books when she gets bored or at the end of the day when she is burnt out on outdoor play.

Now even though I am holding off on adding any language lessons for Dd until summer, that doesn’t mean I can’t buy a little something for myself, right ;) After all the teacher has to know what she’s on about. I am particularly interested in learning how a poem is built. As it stands, I know nothing about poetry. I can appreciate a pretty sentence but that’s as far as it goes. One of my goals for 2012 was to read more, * cough* some, poetry. I had Byron and Shelley in mind specifically. Plus I wanted to read Paradise Lost this year. It makes sense to do a little preparation so I call appreciate these great poets.

So I went to Amazon in search of an adult lesson in poetry. Several of the books (or even online resources) I found looked very dry. But then I came across Mary Oliver’s Rules for the Dance..

“True ease in writing comes from art, not chance, / As those move easiest who have learn’d to dance,” wrote Alexander Pope. “The dance,” in the case of Oliver’s brief and luminous book, refers to the interwoven pleasures of sound and sense to be found in some of the most celebrated and beautiful poems in the English language, from Shakespeare to Edna St. Vincent Millay to Robert Frost. With a poet’s ear and a poet’s grace of expression, Oliver shows what makes a metrical poem work – and enables readers, as only she can, to “enter the thudding deeps and the rippling shallows of sound-pleasure and rhythm-pleasure that intensify both the poem’s narrative and its ideas.

That sounds lovely!

Now I’ll have you know, I went right to my Ipad in search of an Ebook version. But no go. And none of the other poetry books available as ebooks looked remotely interesting, plus most of them were more expensive. Now I really tried hard not to have to buy another book. Next I went to my library’s website. The LIBRARY even! You see how dedicated I am to not cluttering up my shelves. Going to the library might seem completely natural to you but not so for me. And this case is the perfectly example why, they didn’t have the book.

So what can I do? Fate is forcing my hand. One woman against the universe, etc, etc. I’ll probably order Oliver’s book from B&N with a coupon or look for it at Elliott bookstore on Friday.

In the meantime, if you have any understanding poetry resources, I would love to hear them.