Clara's Clearing

Clara's Clearing

Lesson One: Nursery Rhymes

Sunday, January 09, 2011

This blog is part of Educating My Boy: Chronicles of a Free-Schooler

Volume One of My Book House: “In the Nursery”

Volume One of the series of books I have by chance come to adopt as a teaching tool (here and here is the story) is all nursery rhymes. The editor, Olive Beaupré Miller, has done a fine job of collecting nursery rhymes from all over the world: Europe, Asia, Americas (including Latin American, Native and African American), and Africa. (Not bad for 1920s, eh?!) There are also short poems from actual poets such as Shakespeare, Christina Rossetti, Robert Burns, Keats, Langston Hughes, etc.

So how do you put an 11-year old boy to work on nursery rhymes?

I started with a famous quote from Aristotle: “The purpose of poetry is to amuse and instruct.”

Here are some points I made while reading some of the nursery rhymes with Jack.

1.    Poetry and art have been used to amuse and instruct children from a very young age in all cultures and throughout history.

2.    Many different art forms are used in nursery rhymes:
Poetry (rhyming of words and rhythm of language)
    b.    Music
    c.    Drawing and painting (especially after the invention of the printing press!)

3.    Before books were widely available nursery rhymes were only “oral” literature. They were memorized by adults and passed on in oral form to children.

4.    Rhymes and music make memorizing easier.

5.    What children are “instructed” in through nursery rhymes:
    a.    Language
    b.    Music, art, etc.
The message to play and enjoy yourself
The message to do the right thing

We also looked at Jack’s own collection of children’s books (including more contemporary children’s literature) and concluded that Aristotle’s purpose is still being served! We analyzed Dr. Seuss books for how they “amuse and instruct.”

While our lesson was going on, Jack was sprawled on the living room floor, fetching and chewing gum, and occasionally bursting into some physical exertion.

After we read some rhymes from Shakespeare, he was reminded of a mock Shakespeare line he had composed a while ago. He recited with exaggerated diction: “Let us grabbbeth hold of reality and taketh it for a ride, shall we?”

When clowning became too intense class was dismissed.


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