How we do Poetry Teatime

Poetry tea

Poetry teatime is my absolute favourite part of the Brave Writer lifestyle.

We enjoyed one this morning.  Here’s what we did.

Setting the scene

I lit a candle and put a posy of summer flowers as a centrepiece. Often we gather flowers from the garden. Today I grabbed the fake flowers that normally live in our downstairs loo!

Food and drink

This morning’s poetry teatime was mid-morning, so I set out raspberries, cherries, blueberries and brioches. I made cocoa for the children, and tea for me.

Choosing poems

Everyone chooses their poems beforehand. They can take as much or as little time as they like over this. There are no rules.

J(8) almost always chooses poems from The Puffin Book of Utterly Brilliant Poetry.  Today he said he was going to make up one of his poems – “I’ve got the first line, I’m just playing with the rest in my head.”

C(9) spent much of last term writing out poems for copywork. She chose to read a few of these.

I selected a few short, funny poems from Read Me And Laugh.

Poetry Tea

Poetry teatime

Poetry teatime usually kicks off with the children commenting appreciatively on how good the table looks (apparently it’s a rare thing!). Then we tuck into food and poems, taking turns around the table to read.

Both my kids adore reading poems aloud; they do it with gusto. For J(8), especially, this is an excellent opportunity – his desire to entertain completely overcomes his reading difficulties, and he amazes us with his fluency!

poetry tea

Reflections on poetry teatime


I love these lines from Tennyson’s Morte d’Arthur:

The old order changeth, yielding place to new,

And God fulfils himself in many ways,

Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.

I memorised them for English O Level when I was fifteen, and I quote them frequently.

When I read The Well-Trained Mind, I loved the idea of my children happily committing long verses of classical poetry to memory.  That was before I realised that I’m not the kind of parent who can “require” my children to do things (even if that were possible).

But… I was so glad I’d learned the Tennyson. Would my children miss out, because of my non-insistence on memorisation, I wondered?

Over time, our poetry teas have given me the answer. Today, for example, J(8) announced that he was going to read one of his favourite poems – Sky In The Pie! by Roger McGough – “because I want to know it off by heart”.  My children can recite plenty of poems, and find dozens more by their first lines. Not because I made them, but for the sheer joy of it.

Poetry tea reading

Will they always choose “easy” poems?

Poetry teatime

I used to wonder, too, whether my children’s choice of poems would mature, without anyone prodding them on to more difficult works. Laughter helped them fall in love with poetry, but would they ever outgrow the limericks and short comedy verses that delighted them when they were six? (And did it matter, anyway?)

My answer to this question came quickly. For a year, we shared weekly poetry teatimes with a slightly older family. It was interesting to observe the poetry choices among the differently aged children. I noticed how the teenager tended to choose longer, more sophisticated works. And over time, I’ve begun to notice C(9) choosing more complex poems – though we all still love limericks.

As for me, I don’t go out of my way to choose poems to extend the children’s repertoire, but neither do I dumb down my choices.  I read long poems and short ones, funny poems and serious ones, straightforward and allegorical poems, poems about spring, or elephants, or war, depending on my mood. If a poem inspires me, my appreciation will speak for itself.

Our favourite poetry books

We were inspired to buy most of our favourite books by the friends who introduced us to poetry teatimes.

* The Puffin Book of Utterly Brilliant Poetry

* Read Me and Laugh – A Funny Poem for Every Day of the Year

* Sensational! – Poems Inspired by the Five Senses

* Great Poems – Compiled by Kate Miles

Read Me Out Loud – A Poem to Rap, Chant, Whisper or Shout for Every Day of the Year

I’d love to hear of any other recommendations you might have.

poetry teatime


To read how the other Homeschool Help bloggers teach poetry, visit:

Highhill Homeschool – Studying Poetry with Children – A Poem a Day

Barefoot Hippie Girl – Waxing Poetical

Hammock Tracks – Poetry – How and Why to Teach It

One Magnificent Obsession – Our First Poetry Smoothietime!

Homeschool Mother’s Journal – So You Call Yourself a Homeschooler

poetry teatime

Here at Navigating By Joy I post regularly about the hands-on way we homeschool sciencemathshistoryEnglishartgeography and a lot more besides.

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This post is linked up here:

Hip Homeschool Hop – 08/27/13

Entertaining and Educational – Highhill Homeschool

Collage Friday – Homegrown Learners

TGIF Linky Party #92

Weekly Wrap Up – Weird Unsocialised Homeschoolers

Homeschool Mother’s Journal {September 7, 2013}

Share it Saturday – Teach Beside Me

All Things Thursday Blog Hop {No. 9}

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40 thoughts on “How we do Poetry Teatime

  1. You’re the first person to have inspired me to do poetry tea, and to look into it. Thank you for the inspiration! I, too, wonder about how and whether to actively encourage Tiger to choose to read more sophisticated poems other than the limericks that he just doesn’t seem to get enough of. Your post has answered many of my questions. Thanks for sharing your experience. 🙂

  2. Lucinda, Those poetry books look like great fun. Thanks for the suggestions. My girl turns 8 in a few weeks and I know she’ll appreciate receiving a few.
    PS – Speaking of reading older poems to the kids at tea time…last night my husband read the cremation of sam mcgee…omg! I would never have chosen this poem, mainly because I had not heard it, but the kids giggled furiously!

    1. Hi Savannah, yes a few of our books were given as very welcome Christmas presents – I’m sure your daughter will love them.
      I’m listening to Johnny Cash read The Cremation of Sam McGee right now on Youtube – love it!!

  3. What a rich resource this account of your poetry teatime is. Lots of yummy new books and ideas for me to borrow or buy! Thanks for sharing it.

    I think Julie would jump at the chance to share this on the Brave Writer blog if you email her. 🙂

    1. Thanks Vanessa! I love reading about other people’s poetry teatimes too – so many ideas to be inspired by!
      And thanks for the suggestion – I was long overdue to express my appreciation directly to Julie, but I’ve done it now!

  4. It looks like poetry tea time is a big hit in your house. I’ve read about similar methods on other blogs and will have to try it, and be consistent with it on a weekly basis. I like the way the kids select their poems in advance.

    1. I like us to choose poems beforehand so that we can each be present to the others’ reading, instead of thumbing through books instead of listening. But often we find extra poems as we go.

  5. We’ll be starting poetry tea times this year. We’ve always had special tea times and special poetry reading times but never together. Class idea which I am shamelessly copying!

  6. I am with Claire we do both seperately so you have inspired us to combine them this afternoon. We also have just made some invites to a Poetry teatime with some of my girls homeschooled friends towards the end of September. They are “totes” excited and have already planned the menu!

  7. Thank you for detailing your thoughts/questions about how poetry tea time might and has evolved – I’ve read a couple of posts about poetry tea time in the past year, and keep thinking about getting around to it. I need to pull out our poetry books, and jump into it, because it seems like a great experience, especially when done regularly.

  8. I love this – you are inspiring me to do this with my children this year – I’m wanting to encourage my son, especially, to be more interested in poetry. Thanks for such a great post, and for linking with Collage Friday.

    1. Thank you, Mary! My 8 yr old has really got into poetry thanks to our teas – I’m sure Grant will enjoy it too. I recommend access to lots of funny poems 🙂 Thanks for hosting Collage Friday.

  9. Hello Lula!

    I couldn’t find a way to email you…I am reaching out to some of my fellow homeschooling Moms to see if I can feature a few on my site over the next several weeks …. would you be up for an interview? (via email)

    Shoot me an email if you’re up for it!


  10. What a lovely setting for a memorable tea! We’ve occasionally done tea time and poetry in the past but have gotten out of the habit. You’ve inspired me to continue!

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