Friday, October 30, 2009

Back in the home school classroom: Autumn & Halloween poetry

I had the pleasure of educating my children at home for sixteen years until they both graduated from home school high school. One has graduated from James Madison University with a computer science degree, and the other is currently at Blue Ridge Community College pursuing a degree in business.

Autumn was one of our favorite times of the year and we would decorate the house with hand-made pumpkins, ghosts, and leaves. Outside we would hang decorations on a small tree. Carving a pumpkin was always a special event that took place on the front porch in the cool October weather.

In the classroom, I would make a tree trunk about four feet tall and tape it to the wall, and the kids would decorate cut-out autumn leaves to put on the tree. Each day as I read out loud from a favorite book, they would decorate a few more leaves and tape them to the autumn tree.

I probably miss reading out loud with my young children more than anything else. We devoured books of all kinds and poetry. One of our favorite poets was Robert Frost and every season we would read his words describing spring, winter, fall, or summer.

Their favorite fall poem from Robert Frost was "The Last Word of a Bluebird (As told to a child)" ... SWAC Daughter memorized it and still recites it when prompted:
As I went out a Crow
In a low voice said, "Oh,
I was looking for you.
How do you do?
I just came to tell you
To tell Lesley (will you?)

That her little Bluebird
Wanted me to bring word
That the north wind last night
That made the stars bright
And made ice on the trough
Almost made him cough
His tail feathers off.

He just had to fly!
But he sent her Good-by,
And said to be good,
And wear her red hood,
And look for skunk tracks
In the snow with an ax--
And do everything!
And perhaps in the spring
He would come back and sing."
In our Calvert 2nd or 3rd grade curriculum, we found a Halloween poem that became a tradition right through 12th grade. "Little Orphant Annie" was written in 1885 by James Whitcomb Riley and later inspired the "Little Orphan Annie" comic.

Even now it's fun to pull out that poem and read it out loud, complete with the rising and lowering voice and spooky overtones that I used for 16 years. It's like riding a bicycle ... one never forgets. While reading, we would all join in together at the end of each verse with, "An' the Gobble-uns 'at gits you ef you don't watch out!"
Little Orphant Annie's come to our house to stay,
An' wash the cups an' saucers up, an' brush the crumbs away,
An' shoo the chickens off the porch, an' dust the hearth, an' sweep,
An' make the fire, an' bake the bread, an' earn her board-an'-keep;
An' all us other childern, when the supper things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an' has the mostest fun
A-list'nin' to the witch-tales 'at Annie tells about,
An' the Gobble-uns 'at gits you ef you don't watch out!

Onc't they was a little boy wouldn't say his prayers,--
So when he went to bed at night, away up stairs,
His Mammy heerd him holler, an' his Daddy heerd him bawl,
An' when they turn't the kivvers down, he wasn't there at all!
An' they seeked him in the rafter-room, an' cubby-hole, an' press,
An' seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an' ever'wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found was thist his pants an' roundabout--
An' the Gobble-uns'll git you ef you don't watch out!

An' one time a little girl 'ud allus laugh an' grin,
An' make fun of ever'one, an' all her blood an' kin;
An' onc't, when they was "company," an' ole folks was there,
She mocked 'em an' shocked 'em, an' said she didn't care!
An' thist as she kicked her heels, an' turn't to run an' hide,
They was two great big Black Things a-standin' by her side,
An' they snatched her through the ceilin' 'fore she knowed what she's about!
An' the Gobble-uns'll git you ef you don't watch out!

An' little Orphant Annie says when the blaze is blue,
An' the lamp-wick sputters, an' the wind goes woo-oo!
An' you hear the crickets quit, an' the moon is gray,
An' the lightnin'-bugs in dew is all squenched away,--
You better mind yer parents, an' yer teachers fond an' dear,
An' churish them 'at loves you, an' dry the orphant's tear,
An' he'p the pore an' needy ones 'at clusters all about,
Er the Gobble-uns'll git you ef you don't watch out!
This year the pumpkins are on the front porch ... the decorations are throughout the house ... but there's no fall tree on the wall or reading out loud as in the past or decorations on an outside tree put there by little hands. But I pulled out the poems today and remembered ... and read "Little Orphant Annie" out loud just as I did for so many years.

Ah, memories. Happy Halloween!


Joy Jackson said...

Boy, me too. I miss so much reading aloud to my kids. It has always been a favorite thing of mine. I always read to my kids when I was teaching, too. Now I drive my husband crazy reading things to him.

Lynn R. Mitchell said...

What's interesting is that my mom read my sister and me when we were kids. Our favorite was "The Bumper Book" which was full of poems and short stories. I loved the poem "Christopher Robin" and memorized it way back then but can still recite it today.

I think my love of writing and language came from those early days of listening to my mom read to us.