lest I should be old-fashioned

Posted by on October 30, 2013

Swinging from trees and rosemary hanging to dry (diptych) © 2013 Julia Mason Wickes.

At the park and drying rosemary (diptych) © 2013 Julia Mason Wickes.


The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry’s cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I’ll put a trinket on.

By Emily Dickinson 

* * *

I had my seven year old daughter copy out the above poem this week for her school work. She had to ask about the meaning of: morns, meeker, plumper, gayer, and trinket. It is amazing how many words a seven year-old still has to learn. I explained all of them as best I could. She drew a picture of a rose with arms and legs, walking out of town.

The morns are definitely getting meeker, and I love it. We have been in the process of migrating toward a new curriculum– Charlotte Mason. It is just like life that I have drifted away from the curriculum we paid for and adopted one that is perfectly free on this website (amblesideonline.org). But I am so happy with this new method that I don’t even care. I count it all a part of the process. I am learning so much and in many ways re-connecting with the wonder of the world and life. I love that this curriculum is grounded in good literature. It is somehow gentle and formidable at the same time. Nothing is dumbed down for young children, but the lessons are short and the weekly load is not at all burdensome. We read Rudyard Kipling and real poems, like the one above, full of the mysteries of unfamiliar and often antiquated vocabulary. It’s another form of trust, I suppose, to simply trust that a child can pick up these words and absorb the cadence of good literature without much force or technical explanation. But I am already seeing that this is how it works.

This morning we talked about geography and the world in the most basic sense, using the globe. We talked about the roundness of the world, and how it could possibly be that people discovered the shape of the world before the time of space travel, etc. It was an interesting conversation to have first thing in the morning, over breakfast. We talked about how the earth spins and also travels annually around the sun. We talked about gravity, oxygen, the equator, the north and south poles. We imagined explorers in ships, before the days of cars, airplanes, or space shuttles.

I know that these are topics probably covered in public school, but somehow discussing them at home with my own children feels strangely rich and special, like entering into a mystery together. It really is strange to introduce children to the basic human situation which adults take for granted. And there was a poem to go along with the geography lesson about how wonderful the world is– similar to Psalm 104 read in the Orthodox vesper service. It made me feel good to be introducing the basic context of life to my girls this way. The world is wonderful; the world is good.

Too much time on the internet–all those Facebook links to the Posts, Huffington and Washington–can make me feel as if the earth has an evil earth-shaped twin– a ball of sinister evil hovering over it, about to roll on top of its innocent soul and crush it, envelope it, eclipse, or suffocate it totally, at any moment. Well, there is tremendous evil in this world, and good and evil are complex topics, but for the purposes of children, evil can wait. There will be time enough for them to know about the degrading ubiquitousness of pornography and all the oppressions of past and present wars. For now, it is valid to simply swathe them round about with what is good and delightful, Frog, Toad, Bilbo Baggins, and the host of others, even as the Lord, day after day, even in the year 2013 (that is what the verb tense implies), stretchest out the heavens like a curtain, layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters, maketh his clouds his chariot, and walketh upon the wings of the wind. 

{Poetry Wednesday}

  1. Kate T.
    October 30, 2013

    It has been really inspiring to read your homeschooling posts, Julia. It makes me want to learn more about it. I'm glad you're finding it so rewarding.

    I'm hoping to finish a Poetry Wednesday post tonight, but it will depend on how soon I have to feed a baby. Fingers crossed.

  2. A M B E R
    October 30, 2013

    Ah, this is so beautiful, Julia. And I think too that explaining the world to children brings out the breath-taking qualities of life that so dwarf the darkness.

    It's so nice to have poetry wednesday again!

  3. annajouj
    November 2, 2013

    Oh, dear Julia–I love this! I feel spoiled by my happy world of childhood often enough during the day to smile widely at your post: Frog and Toad take a prominent position in my weekly curriculum, for one 🙂 This morning I talked to a fellow teacher whose children are in my class. She told me the girls have set their minds to memorizing "Eldorado," after beginning it with me in library class. They love it, she says . . . I love that they do! And I love that you get to enjoy the world with your beautiful girls!

  4. Julia
    November 2, 2013

    Anna– we would probably have a lot to talk about these days. I would love to know your list of favorite children's books. I feel as if my own list keep expanding in unexpected ways and that there is an entire world of beautiful children's literature I had no idea about. Eldorado? I will have to look that up…

  5. annajouj
    November 2, 2013

    Yes, I think you're right Julia . . . "Eldorado," by Edgar Allen Poe. One of my favorites 🙂