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The Art of Poetry by Classical Academic Press a Schoolhouse Crew Review

I have been wanting to work more poetry into our homeschool.  We had done a short unit earlier in the year, but it did not cover various elements of poetry like I was wanting.  What a blessing to be given The Art of Poetry from Classical Academic Press.  You do not have to be a classical homeschooler to enjoy the great products from Classical Academic Press.

The Art of Poetry is a very flexible curriculum in that it can be used as a short, intense study (great for an older student, or adult) or covering a unit here and there over the course of a few years.  The slower, more relaxed approach definitely fits with our learning style.  My eldest daughter (12 year old 6th grader) was the one to use this.  I don’t think my next younger girls (roughly 4th graders) would be be ready for this – even at a very relaxed pace.  This is not surprising though, since the curriculum is intended for 6th – 12th grades.

The lessons can be studied as in depth as the learner wants (or their parent requires *wink*).  The first half or so of the book explores the elements of poetry, such as images, rhythm, symbols and metaphor.  Each chapter begins with instruction on the element.  Then, one poem is used as an example to do Close Reading.  Close Reading is defined in the text as “learning how to pay attention to a text”.  This is where the reader learns how the element is used.  They aren’t just given the poem and then asked questions to identify the points from the lesson reading, but walked through each part.  I loved this part!  It not only was great to see the element “put into practice” but also helped in strengthening critical thinking skills.  This is something this particular daughter is always needing more practice with.  Finding that practice in an enjoyable subject like poetry is a huge plus for both of us.

The pages following the Close Reading section are called Anthology.  More poems are given with 3-8 discussion-style questions for each.  These questions are not simple, quick to answer questions, but more in-depth questions.  These lend themselves well to co-op settings or informal small groups.  They also worked well for discussions with Mama as we worked in the kitchen.  Possible activities and vocabulary are at the end of the chapter.

I have my daughter look through the vocabulary first, then we read the lesson and do the Close Reading together.  Over the next few weeks, she reads a poem and we discuss using the questions as our guide.  After 2 to 3 weeks (depending upon the number and length of poems in the Anthology), I assign some activities.  Some activities are more in depth (contrasting two poets and their poetry), some are hands-on (drawing or making a collage), some are (as expected) writing your own poems.  You can do as few or as many of these as you like.

The latter lessons are titled the Formal History of Poetry, studying forms, open verse and genre.  These lessons follow the same format of introduction at the beginning of the chapter, Close Reading, Anthology, Activities and Vocabulary.  These latter lessons are not something my middle school daughter is quite ready for — yet.  We will keep moving through the book at a pace she is comfortable with and tackle these weightier lessons when she is a bit older.

***The prices below are correct at this time, but will be reduced beginning in April (coincidentally National Poetry Month).  The bundle will become $99.95, the DVD set $69.95.  Be sure to wait for those lower prices in another week or so!***

The Art of Poetry has 3 components (as a bundle $124.95) that can be used.  The only necessary item is the student text ($24.95).  This non-consumable paper bound text contains not only the 15 chapters as described above, but a 16th chapter on Application (keeping a notebook, poetry recitation, poetry groups or camps).  The appendix contains useful information such as short biographies on the poets featured in the book.  There are also two digital editions available (Kindle $22.95) (iBook $22.99).

The Teacher’s Edition ($29.95) has all of the same pages as the student text plus answers, quizzes and a timeline.  The additional teacher pages are distinguished by a dark header and footer, otherwise, the pages are the same as those found in the student version (even the page #s).  If you will be using this in a group setting or are unfamiliar with poetry, I think the Teacher’s Edition is vital.

The third component is the DVD set ($89.95).  This is a multi-disc set of 15+ hours going through the text chapter by chapter.  Most of the DVD (from the 2 episode sample we received) features the instructor (and author of the course) in Socratic-style discussions with 4 eighth-grade level students.  The first chapter on images was very well illustrated as the text was read through the background demonstration of kneading and baking bread.  Our tummies were growling, our mouths salivating.  This was perfect to show that images are not only visual, but can include the senses of taste and smell as well.  Still, the DVD set is not something we found necessary for our use for The Art of Poetry (though it has been invaluable in other courses from Classical Academic Press).  I do see sharing feedback and having personal interaction (such as that provided in a co-op setting) would be a great help to any learner in poetry.

There are samples and a few free files available at the main page for The Art of Poetry.  One of my daughter’s favorite things is the audio file where she can hear the poem being read.  This course is one we will continue using for years to come.  Each time digging deeper, learning more, and (hopefully) appreciating poetry more.

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Thank you Classical Academic Press!
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