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My Biggest Homeschool Regret: Solved!

Homeschooling has been an incredible journey for my family, with both my older son, now headed to grad school, and my younger son, currently in 5th grade, being educated at the same kitchen table. With a twelve school year gap between the boys, I couldn’t help but reflect on how I might tweak a few things for my youngest and avoid missteps I made with my oldest. In taking a hard, honest look at this, I realized a significant regret looming over our homeschooling experience: the missed opportunity for my oldest to appreciate poetry. I absolutely adore poetry, but I’m sad to say my oldest is not a fan. Part of this could just be personality-based; not everyone needs to swoon over “Dover Beach” or “anyone lived in a pretty how town.” But could there be something else going on? I decided to take a closer look.

The Regret: Much to my dismay, my passion for poetry failed to ignite a similar flame in my older son. Determined not to repeat the same mistake with my youngest, I asked some questions. What went wrong with my older son’s first encounters with poetry? Why did it fail to resonate with him? The answers became clear as I identified two major culprits: too much religious content and archaic language.

A lot of timeless, well-respected, beautifully written poetry is religious in nature. But if you don’t happen to share the same religious tradition as the poet, that means you might be trying to untie knots of meaning in a poem full of allusions, references, and beliefs that may be confusing to you. Poetry can be tough to understand in the first place. Add in a hefty dose of unfamiliar religious references and it can become nearly impossible for young students to decipher the deeper meaning behind the words.

To make matters trickier, older poems filled with archaic language – 'thee,' 'thou,' 'o'er,' and the like – only served to alienate my older son further from the beauty of verse.

The Solution: Armed with this newfound understanding, I set out to design Hearth & Story’s poetry curriculum a little differently. The key, I realized, was to select poems that were secular and to keep the use of archaic language to a minimum. This approach would make poetry more accessible, allowing my younger son to appreciate its beauty without being overwhelmed by the extra barriers to understanding.

As a result, Hearth & Story’s poetry component prioritizes secular, accessible themes and leans toward more modern language. To make poetry even more fun and accessible, each poem has its own coloring sheet and I’ve created a set of literary term flashcards parents can introduce one by one to help build each student’s toolbox of formalist literary criticism tools.

I’m so happy to report the impact of this approach for my younger son has been nothing short of remarkable. My youngest, who admittedly came into this study with an existing love for wordplay and strong verbal skills, has embraced poetry with open arms. The focus on accessible topics and the reduction of old-fashioned language have allowed him to connect with the essence of each poem, fostering a deep appreciation for the art form.

Homeschooling is a journey filled with highs and lows, successes and regrets. My biggest regret, the initial failure to instill a love for poetry in my oldest, has become a powerful catalyst for positive change. By analyzing and correcting the specific barriers that hindered his appreciation, I've not only improved the situation for my youngest but have also developed a poetry curriculum that I’m proud to share with other homeschooling families. Through this experience, I've learned that sometimes the key to unlocking a child's potential lies in understanding and addressing their unique preferences and challenges.

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