Milton? For Five Year-olds?

I didn’t even like Milton as a 35 year-old. I’m still not sure I like Milton. But recently, in our curriculum from A Gentle Feast (which is wonderful, by the way) we have been given some Milton poems to read aloud together. “At a Solemn Music” was one of the first ones, and it was one I had never read before.

I did my homework like a good teacher and “pre-read” this poem the night before, and I have to be honest, I was like, “What? No way.” I didn’t think there was any chance my five and seven year-old would get anything out of this one. I wasn’t even sure that I would.

But then came school time, and I was out of other ideas, so I went for it with the poem. Trust the poetry, I thought. I gave them some bells to ring every time they heard a word that made them think of music (If nothing else, this will keep them from being bored to tears while I read this.)

Surprisingly, my five year-old and seven year old boys listened through the whole way, ringing their bells with great gusto. Ok, I thought, well that’s easy enough…pretty much every other word is about music.

But then, just for the heck of it, I asked them what they got from the poem (not expecting much more than how fun it was go get to ring bells in the house), and my seven year-old said, “Well, when sin entered the world, the beautiful music stopped because people were separated from God.”

Ok. School dismissed 🎤

Trust the poetry.

{{P.S. here are some of my favorite children’s poetry anthologies}}

 

IMG_9003.jpeg

Skipping School

Today we skipped our regular morning routine and took off on a nature hike instead. We saw a blue heron and a raccoon fishing side by side in the soft morning light. We identified a plant I’d never heard of before – a beautyberry – and discovered that it is native to Japan and plays a role in a famous work of Japanese folklore, The Tale of Genji (which now I have to read because it sounds so interesting!). And this was all in the first five minutes of our walk…

I think it’s safe to say we found some ‘school’ out there in Nature.

IMG_7778.jpeg

Screen Shot 2019-09-30 at 8.08.36 PM.png

Quoth the Raven

[Kids Sometimes Like It When You Read Stuff That’s Not Kid Stuff]

This sounds like a terrible psychological experiment or some form of torture, but I recently read Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” aloud to my 7, 5 and 3 year-old on a dark night in the middle of a thunderstorm, and they got a huge kick out of it.

I didn’t mean for this to happen, at all, but here is how it happened:

We were finishing up dinner on our screened porch when a huge summer storm took us by surprise. The wind blew in and the thunder crashed right over our heads. It was magical and terrifying, but the kids seemed to be okay because we were there, enjoying the heck out of it with them. It felt like Halloween feels when you’re young – it freaks you out, but you’re still not going to miss it for the world.

The power went off and we lit candles on the long wooden farm table where we were eating. When I went to the mantle to get the matches, I noticed (eerily) my copy of Poe’s greatest works sitting there. I had just bought this book because of another book that suggested his short story, “The Purloined Letter” was a metaphor for love (questionable), so I was curious to read that story. We had also just taken a family trip where we had seen a house that was dedicated to Poe’s life and writing, so he seemed to keep coming up. The book contains a collection of Poe’s poems as well, among which is “The Raven.”  I thought, if any poem needs to be read in a slightly scary voice in a pretty frightening thunderstorm to some small children it would be this one.

You should have seen my kids faces. They had no idea what the poem was about, but Poe’s language (and my enthusiasm for it), and maybe just their pure fear, kept them rapt. And even though it was a fun experience for me to share it, I didn’t think anyone would remember it – maybe the storm and our exciting family time on the porch – but not the obscure poem.

A few days ago, my five year-old came rushing into the kitchen from the yard, and asked me breathlessly, “Mama, what was it that that bird kept saying over and over again?”

It took a minute for me to register what he was talking about, but then I remembered Poe.

“Nevermore?” I said.

“Yes, that’s it!” he said, and he flew back outside.

Then I heard him shouting, “Nevermore! Nevermore!” as he ran into the woods, half-clad, chasing his brother with a homemade spear.

IMG_7220

If you haven’t read or don’t remember “The Raven,” here it is for your next stormy night.

And if you’re wanting to dive more deeply into some Poe, here you go.

** Links are affiliate links. To buy local (🙌🏼) you can purchase from Parnassus Books or your nearest bookstore. Thanks!**