Aftermath and Leisure: A poetic taste of Indian summer

The end of summer and the beginning of autumn begins with blurred edges and ends with a sharp quick taste, like too-dark chocolate.

Aftermath Scooter in oceanThis year fall we have been graced with long Indian summer days paired with apple crisp evenings.  Our too short summer is now extending into October.

Aftermath library pillow fight 1

Aftermath library pillow fight 2

Our local library hosts an evening pillow fight.

Aftermath kayaks 1We daily wear bathing suits and T-shirts while frisking in the riotous spanking yellows and poignant orange pigments of the season.

Aftermath bioDespite the weather, school is open…and with it we have new lessons, sharpened pencils, more Shakespeare, biology experiments and new poems to memorize.

What better poem to capture the season than Aftermath by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow?

Aftermath Scooter w:bird

Aftermath Bounce w:bird

When the summer fields are mown,

Aftermath Bounce hands w:bird

When the birds are fledged and flown,

And the dry leaves strew the path;

With the falling of the snow,

With the cawing of the crow,

Once again the fields we mow,

 Aftermath tents

And gather in the aftermath.

Not the sweet, new grass with flowers

Is this harvesting of ours;

Aftermath vase 

Not the upland clover bloom;

But the rowan mixed with weeds,

Tangled tufts from marsh and meads,

Where the poppy drops its seeds

In the silence and the gloom.

Or perhaps we need to hold a nugget of summer in our hearts, as expressed in this poem, Leisure, by William Henry Davies.

Aftermath butterfly

What is this life, if full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this, if full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is spending just the right amount time studying this butterfly, and every other thing of beauty.

Kimono of 1000 Cranes

Japanese tradition says that folding 1000 cranes will grant you a special wish.  Happymess kids are wishing for greater understanding amongst differing cultures, with the belief that understanding can conquer fear (of the unknown).

Happymess kids have made a goal of folding 1000 cranes.  There are currently about 2/3 of the way and still folding.  They are using their cranes in many creative ways.

In this picture they have created a paper kimono consisting entirely of cranes.  Gold cranes make a belt design.  Not pictured:  a pair of dangling crane earrings.

While folding cranes they are studying Haiku, the Japanese form of poetry that involves writing a very short poem.  These poems are typically 3 lines, with a 5-7-5 syllable pattern.  The word haiku comes from the word “cut” and thus these poems cut to the essence of the subject matter.

Basho Matsuo (1644 ~ 1694) is known as the first great poet in the history of haikai (and haiku)

Spring departs.
Birds cry
Fishes’ eyes are filled with tears

Bush clover in blossom waves

Without spilling

A drop of dew

These poems are often about nature and reveal man’s connection with nature through imagery, juxtaposition and a surprise conclusion.  Our team tried writing several haikus and then visited a Japanese teacher who helped them translate their English haikus into the Japanese language.

I have reprinted here an informative instructional piece to inspire your students as they attempt this deceptively simple style of poetry.  The original can be found at this link   http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Haiku-Poem

What you feel should be in a haiku. When you see or notice something that makes you want to say to others -“Hey, look at that!”-include that in a haiku. Many people go for walks just to find new inspiration for their poetry.

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Many haiku seem to focus on nature, but what they are really focusing on is a seasonal reference (not all of which are necessarily about nature). Japanese poets use a “saijiki” or season word almanac to check the seasonal association for key words that they might use in a haiku (thus the haiku is a seasonal poem, and often about nature. But it does not have to be about nature if the seasonal reference is about a human activity). The season is important for coming up with words to use in a haiku, because the poem has so few words, simple phrases such as “cherry blossoms” or “falling leaves” can create lush scenes, yet still reflect the feeling of the verse. Moreover, season words also invoke other poems that use the same season word, making the poem part of a rich historical tapestry through allusive variation. In Japanese, the “kigo” or season word was generally understood; “autumn breeze” might be known to express loneliness and the coming of the dark winter season.

  • Winter usually makes us think of burden, cold, sadness, hunger, tranquility, death or peace. Ideas about winter can be invited with words like “snow,” “ice,” “dead tree,” “leafless,” etc.
  • Summer brings about feelings of warmth, vibrancy, love, anger, vigor, lightness, action. General summer phrases include references to the sky, beaches, heat, and romance.
  • Autumn brings to mind a very wide range of ideas: decay, belief in the supernatural, jealousy, saying goodbye, loss, regret, and mystery to name a few. Falling leaves, shadows, and autumn colors are common implementations.
  • Spring, like summer, can make one think of beauty, but it is usually more a sense of infatuation. Also common are themes like innocence, youth, passion, and fickleness. Blossoms, new plants, or warm rains can imply spring. For more information on seasons, go to the link listed below.Seasonal references can also include human activities, and Japanese saijikis contain many such listings. Be aware that some references to human activities, such as Christmas, are effective season words, but require a geographical limitation; while Christmas is a winter season word in the northern hemisphere, it’s a summer reference in the southern hemisphere.
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Add a contrast or comparison. Reading most haiku, you’ll notice they either present one idea for the first two lines and then switch quickly to something else or do the same with the first line and last two. A Japanese haiku achieves this shift with what is called a “kireji” or cutting word, which cuts the poem into two parts. In English, it is essential for nearly every haiku to have this two-part juxtapositional structure. The idea is to create a leap between the two parts, and to create an intuitive realization from what has been called an “internal comparison.” two parts sometimes create a contrast, sometime a comparison. Creating this two-part structure effectively can be the hardest part of writing a haiku, because it can be very difficult to avoid too obvious a connection between the two parts, yet also avoid too great a distance between them that , although this is not necessary provided that the grammar clearly indicates that a shift has occurred.

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Use primarily objective sensory description. Haiku are based on the five senses. They are about things you can experience, not your interpretation or analysis of those things. To do this effectively, it is good to rely on sensory description, and to use mostly objective rather than subjective words.

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Like any other art, haiku takes practice. Basho said that each haiku should be a thousand times on the tongue. It is important to distinguish between pseudo-haiku that says whatever the author thinks in a 5-7-5 syllable pattern and literary haiku that adheres to the use of season words, a two-part juxtapositional structure, and primarily objective sensory imagery.

We have found that studying and writing haiku style poetry is a great linguistic exercise.  The poems are short and the attributes quite specific, thus making the haiku less intimidating for the young student.

Worksheet for Creating Your Own Haiku

http://www.abcteach.com/free/h/howto_haiku.pdf

Girl folds for world peace

Kimono of 1000 cranes

Dressed for tolerance

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is a haiku of global learning.

Wordless Wednesdsay: Leaves of Fall, Inspired by Walt Whitman

“Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.”
Walt Whitman

“Do anything, but let it produce joy.”― Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere – on water and land.”
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

“In the faces of men and women, I see God.”

“Be curious, not judgmental.”
Walt Whitman
Let Me Count the Days: Homeschooling is finding joy in the everyday beauty of life.

Poetry and Leaf Painting: We Too Can Make Beautiful Colors

With the striking fall leaves surrounding us, and the warm Indian summer sunshine toasting the autumn season, today seems like the perfect day for leaf painting.

We started by gathering the last of the hardy green leaves that are still stubbornly clinging to bushes and vines.  The larger leaves, with a sturdy vein structure, work the best.

Next we coated each leaf, on the vein side, with different colors of tempura (washable) paints.

Bounce and Scooter used their painted leaves to create block prints on paper.  They really enjoyed making rainbow leaves.

Rainbow is Bounce’s favorite color.

Leaf abstract

Poetry seems like a natural extension of leaf painting.  We read many poems about fall.  This one is our favorite.

Autumn Fires by Robert Louis Stevenson, A Child’s Garden of Verses, 1885

In the other gardens
  And all up the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!
Pleasant summer over
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The gray smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!

Author of Bounce's Book of Poetry (Allia)

Bounce wrote numerous “leaf” poems.  He also wrote, “Bounce’s Books of Poetry”

Here is Bounce’s favorite from his personal collection.

Fall Leaves

 Leaves, Leaves, Leaves

 Sprinkle colors as they fall

 Reds and yellows, blues and greens

 Building piles for us all

 

 Jump, Jump, Jump

 Leaves crackle in the breeze

 Nipping at your nose

 As your toes begin to freeze

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is welcoming the new season with Art and Poetry.

The Poem: A Costless Lesson Plan for the Thrifty Homeschooler

We have found that a simple poem, quote or Bible verse can provide hours of education across several disciplines.  The cost?  Absolutely nothing.

The Water Harp (Allia)

I like the following poem as it has an educationally relevant message

There is no frigate like a book   

To take us lands away,

Nor any coursers like a page   

Of prancing poetry.   

This traverse may the poorest take        

Without oppress of toll; How frugal is the chariot   

That bears a human soul!

By Emily Dickenson

We begin our lesson with handwriting.  The students copy this poem using their best possible handwriting.  We do this with a pencil so that individual letters and words can be reworked without ruining the whole.

Notice that each line of poetry begins with a capital letter.  Be sure your writers copy the correct punctuation.  Poetry often uses commas to indicate a continuity of thought, despite a line break.

Next we study vocabulary.  Be sure your reader knows the meaning of each word:

Frigate, nor, coursers, prancing, traverse, oppress, toll, frugal, chariot, bears

Have your students copy each word and its dictionary definition.  Be sure they know the spelling of each word and use it in a sentence of their own.

Example:

Frigate: a fast navel vessel of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, generally having a lofty ship rig and heavily armed on one or two decks.

The pirates were no match for the heavy armament of the frigate and were forced to find smaller prey.

Now try reading the poem aloud.  Listen carefully to the way rhythm is used.

Once every word has been defined we can go back and examine the poem.  What does it mean?  This is great for class discussion.  We talk about the actual meaning, the implied meaning and how this poem makes us feel and think about our own relationship with books.

Now we can study poetry and language.

Wikipedia, not always my favorite source, has an excellent discussion on the history and development of poetry and poetic language

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poetry

For convenience, I am including a segment here:

Poetry is primarily governed by idiosyncratic forms and conventions to suggest differential interpretation to words, or to evoke emotive responses. Devices such as assonance, alliteration, onomatopoeia, and rhythm are sometimes used to achieve musical or incantatory effects. The use of ambiguity, symbolism, irony, and other stylistic elements of poetic diction often leaves a poem open to multiple interpretations. Similarly, metaphor, simile, and metonymy[5] create a resonance between otherwise disparate images—a layering of meanings, forming connections previously not perceived. Kindred forms of resonance may exist, between individual verses, in their patterns of rhyme or rhythm.

This is an excellent time to teach the meaning of various literary terms.  You may choose to study one term a day.  Learn the definition of alliteration, find examples of it in poetry, then experiment with creating your own sentences using alliteration.  Understanding and using some of the above literary devices will greatly enhance both the students’ comprehension of literature as well as improve their writing technique.

For the purpose of this lesson we will concentrate on the following two literary terms: metaphor and simile. Have your student define each term and then find each example of a metaphor and a simile within the poem.  Have them write one example of each on their own.

Discuss:  How has the use of metaphors and similes enhanced our understanding of Dickenson’s message?

Each piece of literature should be understood within its historical context.  So now it is time for a brief history lesson.  So we ask, who is Emily Dickenson and when did she live?  What forces influenced her thinking, writing style and perspective?

This link will bring you to an excellent, and exceedingly thorough discussion published in The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).

http://www.bartleby.com/227/0302.html

Emily Dickenson was born in 1830, lived in New England and was surrounded by the Puritan faith.  How did this world vision influence her poetic works?  Did she follow her faith or was she a rebel within her society?  You may want to have a short history lesson on Puritanism and early American values.

It is now time for our writing lesson.  We will begin with the essay.  An essay is a short (depending on the age of your student) formal piece of writing that addresses a specific topic.  We suggest 3-5 paragraphs.  Have your student pick a topic relevant to today’s discussion. This is a good time to introduce the idea of beginning with a topic sentence and an outline.  Be sure the student includes: title, introduction, middle, and conclusion.  The essay can be further enhanced through the inclusion of specific examples, or quotes from sources.  Now you can explain how to footnote, or give credit for cited works.  Recopying the essay is an excellent opportunity to practice both rewriting and handwriting.

An alternative writing lesson is to have your students write their own poem.  Try to have them use metaphors or similes.  You may also ask them to use nature as an inspiration.  Again, have them recopy their poem using their best handwriting.

Every homeschool day must include art, and today is no exception.  Let your student create an illustration for Emily Dickenson’s poem and one for their own poem.  They may want to further decorate their own picture by including their poem (more handwriting) and adding a frame or border.

This final piece may make a beautiful decoration for your schoolroom, or perhaps, your students will have a wonderful gift to share with someone they love.

Another writing exercise can be a journal entry.  Have your students write a personal commentary on what this poem means to them.  Come back to the poem after several months, or towards the end of the school year, and see if the student finds new meaning in the poem.

We are not quite done yet.  You have begun the study of poetry, why not continue with a poetry reading?  Reading aloud greatly enhances literary fluency and diction.  We love to sit by the fire, sip hot chocolate and surround ourselves with piles of poetry books.  Our favorite is a series called Poetry for Young People.

http://www.sterlingpublishing.com/catalog?limit=10&section_key=21-32&offset=10

These books feature classic poets and each page is beautifully illustrated.

Now that your children are exposed to various poems and poets, have them pick a favorite poem.   They should memorize this poem.  Once they have memorized it they can practice reciting their poem.  This is a great time to teach the basics of public speaking:  the importance of knowing your material, speaking clearly, loudly and articulately, remembering to look at your audience, standing straight and remembering to breathe.  Now find an audience, and invite some other homeschooling families to participate and you can host a Poetry Party.  (Note:  great time for your kids to practice their cooking skills.)

Wow!  It has been a busy day!  It must finally be time to play!  See if your students can create metaphors for the world they find outside:

Pumpkin Siblings (Allia)

Example:  The crisp, crunchy leaves of autumn sing of pumpkins and sharp skies of fall.

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is finding an entire day’s lesson in 7 lines of poetry.