Mondays With Frost: A Girl’s Garden

Today I wanted to share one of Frost’s poems from his 1916 Mountain Interval.

A Girl’s Garden

A neighbor of mine in the village
      Likes to tell how one spring
When she was a girl on the farm, she did
      A childlike thing.

One day she asked her father
      To give her a garden plot
To plant and tend and reap herself,
       And he said, “Why not?”

In casting about for a corner
      He thought of an idle bit
Of walled-off ground where a shop had stood,
      And he said, “Just it.”

And he said, “That ought to make you
      An ideal one-girl farm,
And give you a chance to put some strength
      On your slim-jim arm.”

It was not enough of a garden,
      Her father said, to plow;
So she had to work it all by hand,
      But she don’t mind now.

She wheeled the dung in the wheelbarrow
      Along a stretch of road;
But she always ran away and left
      Her not-nice load,

And hid from anyone passing.
      And then she begged the seed.
She says she thinks she planted one
      Of all things but weed.

A hill each of potatoes,
      Radishes, lettuce, peas,
Tomatoes, beets,beans, pumpkins, corn,
      And even fruit trees.

And yes, she has long mistrusted
      That a cider-apple tree
In bearing there today is hers,
      Or at least may be.

Her crop was a miscellany
      When all was said and done,
A little bit of everything,
      A great deal of none.

Now when she sees in the village
      How village things go,
Just when it seems to come in right,
      She says, “I know!”

“It’s as when I was a farmer…”
      Oh, never by way of advice!
And she never sins by telling the tale
      To the same person twice.

We’ve got a bit of a patchwork garden going here, and the images that are evoked when reading this poem are just priceless.

I have children of my own – one of whom has also in seasons past asked for her very own garden bed. Her best crop ended up being the bird seed she planted…

There are so many images conjured up with this poem – a child wanting to try something new, willing to do the grittiest of tasks but embarrassed if she is seen doing them, and somehow with the confidence of youth, feeling as though one try at something has made her an expert. I can certainly see myself in her!

One link to share this week. Robert Frost spent years at his Derry Farm home, and it is a Historical Site now. The website has wonderful information, about his life and his works. It is worth exploring. One link I wanted to include was the Teacher’s Resources, which includes lesson plans and ideas to incorporate Frost poems into various subjects.

Robert Frost’s Derry Farm – Teachers’ Resources

One resource listed, of interest to me, is using Frost in a more unconventional manner, to teach global warming, astronomy, botany, among other subjects. The link listed in the Teachers’ Resources is broken so here is the live link.

Robert Frost In The Petri Dish

Mondays With Frost: Hyla Brook

Here we are in the middle of June, so I though this poem would be fitting…

Hyla Brook

By June our brook’s run out of song and speed.
Sought for much after that, it will be found
Either to have gone groping underground
(And taken with it all the Hyla breed
That shouted in the mist a month ago,
Like ghost of sleigh bells in a ghost of snow) –
Or flourished and come up in jewelweed,
Weak foliage that is blown upon and bent,
Even against the way its waters went.
Its bed is left a faded paper sheet
Of dead leaves stuck together by the heat –
A brook to none but who remember long.
This as it will be seen is other far
Than with brooks taken otherwhere in song.
We love the things we love for what they are.

I love this… the image it evokes. Here in Florida, we aren’t even in summer officially yet and we are almost hitting 100 degrees F in the afternoon. We live close to a bog, and when I step outside in the evenings, I hear the noise of insects, crickets, and of course the frogs! I don’t know what kind of frogs we have in this area, maybe they are also the Hyla breed mentioned in the poem.

Last week, I shared a link to a fascinating article regarding a character attack on Frost. I had no idea some people felt so harshly about him. I’ve done some more reading, and I found a more detailed biography which speaks about Frost’s dark tone, and suggests the dark tone found in his later writing could be attributed to a decade-long series of personal tragedies.

Here is another story, this time in the Washington Post, about the Oates short story that took aim at Frost.

And here is the short story itself, published in the November 2013 edition of Harper’s Bazaar. I will say, it is tough reading a work of fiction about a real person. As you read, you are left wondering, where the truthful depiction ends and the fiction picks up. Taken with the various criticisms of Oates’s short story, it would appear that this picture of Frost is grossly exaggerated. But it is worth the read.

In Common: Surprised By Joy

My 2016 reading plan has gone off the rails, thanks  to  my return to work. Even with working part-time, I am struggling to keep up with my self-imposed pace.

But that’s okay. My reading list should work for me, and not the other way around. I have been reevaluating my list, and have been deciding which titles are must-haves for the year, and which ones can be postponed.

My current Read pile includes a couple of titles I’ve been working on slowly since January, as well as a few new ones that I’ve just added.

During this season of life, I am finding myself drawn to books that focus on educational philosophy, parenting, and Christian faith.

One book that I am wrapping up this week (finally!) is C.S. Lewis Surprised By  Joy.

While I have been exploring the writings of C.S. Lewis, it has been incredible to read about his childhood and early life experiences. So often, we have a one-dimensional view of authors; we only know them through their writings.

C.S. Lewis is of course known for his writings on Christian apologetics, but to read about his transformation into an atheist and eventual discovery of true Christian faith is quite moving.

Lewis shared about his time living with and being tutored by a family friend Mr. Kirkpatrick, or Old Knock as he was sometimes called. He wrote of his time reading and studying Homer in Greek.

In our homeschool, we are just getting started with Latin, which I am quite excited about since I studied Latin all through high school.  We have also learned the Hebrew alphabet and are still in the early stages of learning vocabulary and basic grammar.

This passage, from Lewis’ time with Old Knock, really struck me as we work on learning new languages.

The great gain was that I very soon became able to understand a great deal without (even mentally) translating it; I was beginning to think in Greek. That is the great Rubicon to cross in learning any language. Those in whom the Greek word lives only while they are hunting for it in the lexicon, and who then substitute the English word for it, are not reading the Greek at all; they are only solving a puzzle. The very formula, “Naus means a ship,” is wrong. Naus and ship both mean a thing, they do not mean one another. Behind Naus, as behind navis or naca, we want to have a picture of a dark, slender mass with sail or oars, climbing the ridges, with no officious English word intruding.

As I find myself getting stressed out because I have less time available for personal scholarship right now, I am reminded of another passage, again from Lewis’ time with Old Knock. Reflecting on the ideal day of study and reflection, what he terms “settled, calm, Epicurean life.” This ideal schedule, defined by set study times and minimal interactions and distractions, sound wonderful to someone seeking a scholarly life. But as Lewis points out:

It is no doubt for my own good that I have been so generally prevented from leading it, for it is a life almost entirely selfish. Selfish, not self-centered: for in such a life my mind would be directed toward a thousand things, not one of which is myself.

These words will serve as a comfort as I try to find that perfect balance between family, faith, work and personal scholarship.

Mondays With Frost: The Tuft Of Flowers

Robert Frost has been my favorite poet since the 6th grade. We memorized Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening, stanza by stanza, over the course of several weeks. At the time, I found it tedious. But I never forgot the lines, and once I got out of that middle school funk, I found I liked the realness, the earthiness of Frost’s writing.

This is one of my favorite poems. I love the image it conjurs up. This connection to another person, through a simple gesture.

The Tuft Of Flowers

I went to turn the grass once after one
Who mowed it in the dew before the sun.

The dew was gone that made his blade so keen
Before I came to view the leveled scene.

I looked for him behind an isle of trees;
I listened for his whetstone on the breeze.

But he had gone his way, the grass all mown,
And I must be, as he had been – alone,

“As all must be,” I said within my heart,
“Whether they work together or apart.”

But as I said it, swift there passed me by
On noiseless wing a bewildered butterfly,

Seeking with memories grown dim o’er night
Some resting flower of yesterday’s delight.

And once I marked his flight go round and round,
As where some flower lay withering on the ground.

And then he flew as far as eye could see,
And then on tremulous wing came back to me.

I though of questions that have no reply,
And would have turned to toss the grass to dry;

But he turned first, and led my eye to look
At a tall tuft of flowers beside a brook,

A leaping tongue of bloom the scythe had spared
Beside a reedy brook the scythe had bared.

The mower in the dew had loved them thus,
By leaving them to flourish, not for us,

Nor yet to draw one thought of ours to him,
But from sheer morning gladness at the brim.

The butterfly and I had lit upon,
Nevertheless, a message from the dawn,

That made me hear the wakening birds around,
And hear his long scythe whispering to the ground,

And feel a spirit kindred to my own;
So that henceforth I worked no more alone;

But glad with him, I worked as with his aid,
And weary, sought at noon with him the shade;

And dreaming, as it were, held brotherly speech
With one whose thought I had not hoped to reach.

“Men work together,” I told him from the heart,
Whether they work together or apart.”

This is a brief biography of Frost, with a detailed bibliography at the end, put together by The Poetry Foundation. I have always found it fascinating that he only got the recognition as a poet, writing about New England, after he left the country and lived in England.

As an aside, I wanted to share a fascinating article out of Harvard. While I am familiar with his basic biography, I had no idea of any controversy or  animosity associated with Frost. This story certainly took me off guard. Now my attention is piqued and I want to follow this rabbit trail…

 

Review: Teaching Character Through Literature

One way we cultivate character in our children is to expose them to beautiful, quality literature.

Well-written stories allows our children to experience things, good and bad, in a safe environment. We may find literary mentors that guide us in our personal development, and characters may embody personality traits or behaviors that we want to incorporate into our lives.

While there are wonderful reading lists available elsewhere, I wanted to share one particular resource that I am excited about.

teachingcharacter1This past year we have been exploring the study guides from Beautiful Feet.

Can I just say how impressed I am with these study guides?!

This particular one, Teaching Character Through Literature, is such an incredible resource.

The study guide would be worth the cost of purchasing just for the wonderful leveled book lists. These are quality works of literature with characters to relate to and lessons to learn.

There are two levels of reading lists – Primary and Intermediate. Within each level, there is a list of favorite authors (along with some of their more notable titles), as well as a list of favorite titles.

But the “meat” of the study guides are the lesson plans (entitled Study Notes in the guide) that are included. There are two sets of lesson plans – one for Primary (PreK through grade 3) and one for Intermediate (grades 4-6), each with age appropriate books selected.

teachingcharacter2

Each lesson includes a reading selection (either some number of pages, or chapters) followed by a couple of questions. These aren’t simple comprehension questions, they are designed to promote thinking and reflecting. Several lessons include a suggested scripture passage that can be included and ties directly into the reading.

You can view sample pages of the study guide here at the Beautiful Feet website to see how the lessons are laid out.

Even though the lessons are ordered and numbered, the lessons for one book do not necessarily build on a previous book. So in our case, we have actually jumped around in the study guide as we have obtained the books. And because I have a 4th grader along with three younger children, I am  selecting books from both the Primary and Intermediate book lists.

I typically use the questions from each lesson to guide discussion during and after our reading. The questions also work well as essay or journal prompts, and in fact I have asked for written responses on occasion from my 9-year-old.

This study guide is versatile – use it as merely a book list, use the lesson questions to direct discussion, or for more formal written assignments.

After using this guide, I have been so impressed that we are switching to the History Study Guide for Ancient History in the fall. I’ll put together more details as my fall planning comes together.

We are also starting our History of the Horse study this summer. Look for a full review of this study guide soon.

In Common: Twelfth Night

I admit to having an irrational dislike for Shakespeare. I think it comes from school teachers pushing it on me all through middle and high school.

I told you it was irrational.

Now that I am older, I want to read Shakespeare for me. I know it is worth my time and effort and I know I will enjoy it.

I am a member of Read Aloud Revival and recently participated in a member’s only Master Class on teaching Shakespeare to our children (you see the irony, here, right?!). It was such an awesome class and I am feeling really fired up about not only embracing Shakespeare for myself, but also presenting it to my children.

Want to find out more about the Read Aloud Revival and the Master Classes? Follow this link!

Well, I have added Twelfth Night to my reading list. This is one Shakespeare work that I have never read in my younger years, so I am glad that it is the one I am starting with.

As an aside, I am LOVING the Folger Shakespeare Library edition. There are extensive notes about Shakespeare and the writing and story at the beginning, and each page of writing has a companion page of notes – obscure words or phrases defined. Having each two-page spread set up this way, with definitions on the left and the actual text on the right makes it much easier to read. Because clarification of obscure terms requires little more than a glance to the opposite page, reading is smooth and not disjointed.

Here is one of my favorite passages:

 

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I’m elbow deep in books right now. When I started working part time at the beginning of the year, I had no idea how it would impact my personal scholar time. I am finding it difficult to keep up with my projected reading list I planned out in late December. Right now, I am working to finish the stack of books I started at the beginning of the year, along with a couple smaller books I have added. I will be paring down my 2016 reading list soon to something more realistic given my time constraints. Look for a revised 2016 reading plan soon.

 

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