Friday, March 22, 2013

The Art of Poetry - A Schoolhouse Crew Review

In February I was delighted to receive in the mail a copy of The Art of Poetry, by by Christine Perrin (Classical Academic Press), for my son and I to try out and review.
Now, I need to let you know at the start that I approached this product with a clear bias: I love Classical Academic Press! Good. I said it. Now, my review.

In educating my son, since he began Kindergarten, I have always included a poetry component in his scheduled studies.
Sometimes we do better than others at covering the planned material, but it is always part of my plans. Historically we have merely focused on reading the poetry, listening to the flow, letting it sit on our brain, enjoying its flavor, or just moving on from what we did not enjoy.

My son is now in 7th Grade. He is my 3rd student (two are graduated), and so I am able to have a long-range view of his education that I did not have with my daughters. When my girls were in high school, each of them had the opportunity to be instructed in poetry by another home schooling mom who is more gifted than am I. That opportunity will not be available for my son, so I was truly happy when I learned that we would have the opportunity to try out The Art of Poetry.  My son.... well... not so much.

In February I received from Classical Academic Press The Art of Poetry, The Art of Poetry Teacher's Edition, and the first DVD from The Art of Poetry DVD series. The Art of Poetry starts with a nice introduction, instructions on how to give a close reading, followed by "How to Use the Book".  Then the main content is broken down into sixteen chapters. Then at the end there is a section of Acknowledgements followed by three Appendices, a Glossary, Bibliography, and Index of Authors. I'm really glad they included the Index of Authors, because sometimes I just want to look up a particular author's poem. The course is estimated to be a good fit for 8th Graders, but will be suitable for some younger middle school students. It can also be used as part of a program for high schoolers.

In addition to everything in the student's book, the Teacher's Edition also has a very in depth Introduction to the Teacher. What I did not find, no matter how much I searched, was instructions on how to combine the books with the DVD Course. 
Not sure how best to proceed, I enthusiastically jumped in with my son to watch the Lesson 1 on the DVD. My son was engaged with the CD, but he wasn't jumping in with answers to the questions that were being asked or anything. It occurred to me that the students in the DVD had probably read Chapter 1 in preparation for "attending class", so I would want to switch that up for Chapter 2. 

Even though we had watched the DVD for Lesson 1, it went so fast that I was certain my son hadn't really gotten it all, especially since we hadn't read the material before watching the DVD. So at that point we worked our way, in bite-sized portions, through Chapter 1 in written form.

So as Chapter 2 began, I opted to implement my plan to read the material first and watch the DVD 2nd. I had high hopes of this being the beginning of a beautiful relationship, where my son could read each chapter, answering "Discussion Questions" in writing, and then watch the DVD as if he were in class. I was all set to buy the rest of the DVD set, with this model in mind. My son was of a different mind. He's never been a classroom-style kid -- his entire life his classroom has had a student count of "1"! Once he had done the reading in the book, he was perfectly happy to discuss the questions and answers with me for each poem, but his brain doesn't see a point in doing it again by watching the DVD. ::Sigh!:: Doesn't he realize how inadequate I am to do this with him?

So as I struggled my way through this dilema, I realized that the Teacher's Edition has already been written adequately to enable me to do this course without the DVD. The Teacher's Edition has a section that shows what is in the student book, so we can each have a book in hand and take turns reading different sections, but it also has a section just to help me walk through the discussion sections with him, if we choose not to use the DVD. So my review of the DVD is that they are great, but they are not for all students. They are not for my son.

So as we worked our way through sections of the curriculum, during our review time, we covered Images and Metaphors. Additional upcoming subjects include symbols, rhythm, shape and tone, as well as the history of form, movements and genres. There is a chapter dedicated to Emily Dickinson, another dedicated to Walt Whitman, and much material designed specifically to engender in the student a love of poetry. The Rhythms chapter teaches about iambic hexameter, iambic pentameter (... well, all those "iambic"s!), meter, stressed syllables, etc. This section, in particular, I am so thankful to have. This is the material I remember my daughters studying that I felt ill equipped to teach my son, all about A / B / A , A / B / B / A or A / B / C / B patterns. Now I feel I will be able to cover this with my son.

My verdict, after four weeks to review this material? I still love Classical Academic Press, and I do love The Art of Poetry, but my son just does not like it. It is a very new concept to him to have to try to analyze the poetry, to try to see symbolism in the words, to see more than just the surface value.  He groaned to me, "I just don't get it, Mom! I don't get any of it!  I just don't GET poetry!"

And so, in spite of what I expected, he really didn't enjoy the material himself. My plan, since he is only in 7th Grade, is to let it rest until next year and then pick it up again. And next time I will be trying to read the discussion questions in advance, so that I can restate them, using my own words, in the hopes that I can (like Christine Perrin tries to do on the DVD) try to draw him out, help him start to think, help him see possible hidden meanings in the words.

I was about to post the prices when I learned that Classical Academic Press is lowering tje price of their DVD program and their "bundle" effective 4/1/13! So here are current prices, as well as what the new prices will be after the price drop:

The Art of Poetry student book is sold by Classical Academic Press for $24.95;
 The Art of Poetry
 the The Art of Poetry Teacher's Edition is sold for $29.95,
 The Art of Poetry Teacher's Edition
 and the DVD Set is sold for $89.95, dropping to $69.95 on 4/1. 
 The Art of Poetry DVD Set

All of the above can be purchased  as a bundle for $124.95, price dropping to $99.95 on 4/1. 


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