Recently, I added something new and different to my personal study and devotion time, as I had the opportunity to use Working It Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert. This versatile study of poetry is one of the resources from Everyday Education, LLC that I and other members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing this week.
Everyday Education, LLC has been offering homeschool information and resources since 2001, and offers all of author Janice Campbell's books, as well as many other helpful, twaddle-free educational resources. Janice Campbell's four boys have all graduated from her homeschool, and she shares her wisdom and expertise in providing an active lifestyle of learning approach with Charlotte Mason, Thomas Jefferson, and classical learning influences.
Working It Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert is one of the many resources available. It was originally written by Joseph L. Womack, primarily as a devotional based on the poems of George Herbert, but offers a thoughtful and methodical approach to reading and understanding his poetry that serves as a model for enjoying and appreciating poetry in general.
This study is designed to be a one-year devotional guide through 51 works of 17th century poet George Herbert. Although it's not intended as a complete course in poetry analysis, it does guide the reader in a structured method for understanding poetry, and helps show how literary devices are used in poetry to convey ideas.
If you're not familiar with the name George Herbert (I wasn't!), he was a Cambridge instructor and a rector in the Church of England during the 17th century, and was a favorite Lyric poet of author C.S. Lewis. Herbert's special talents were in language and music, and he wrote poetry throughout his life. He served his church faithfully despite suffering ill health, and shortly before his death he had passed along to a friend a collection of his poems. Herbert asked this friend to read the poetry and to publish it only if he thought it would be helpful to others.
The author of Working It Out, Joseph L. Womack, sought to bring the poetry of George Herbert to people who would value the spiritual guidance and benefit from slowing down to engage with the depth and quality of this collection of devotional poems, which are quite personal, and share insights from Herbert's own personal experience.
There are 51 poems featured, so that the reader can spend about a week in consideration of each, and complete the study in a year. For each poem, Womack explains:
- The Big Picture, or what the poem is about
- The Parts of the Picture, a more detailed look at each stanza and identification of literary devices and poetic techniques
- The Parts of the Picture Come Together, an explanation of the overall movement of thought in the poem
- Reflections, questions for personal thought and application
- Scriptures for Further Reflection
In addition to reading the study as a personal devotion, it can be used as a teaching tool. A student can copy all or part of each poem, re-write the poems in prose, or use the poems as models for writing their own poetry.
How did we use it? I used Working It Out myself, as part of my personal devotional study, spending at least three days on a poem. First, for each poem I studied, I read The Big Picture first and then the poem as a whole. Then, usually on another day, I worked through The Parts of the Picture and its explication of each stanza, re-reading the parts of the poem while looking specifically for the devices or thoughts highlighted in the study. Depending on how much time I had, I often spread this over more than one day, especially for longer poems. And finally, after reading The Parts of the Picture Come Together, I re-read the whole poem again, and copied at least part of it in my own handwriting. I find that writing something out myself does help me remember it. My goal was to remember some of the themes rather than memorizing the exact words, although I think some of these poems would be lovely to commit to memory. I also spent some time considering the questions and Scripture passages in the Reflections section.
Our bottom line: This was a very different experience for me, as I have never used poetry as a regular part of my devotions. The explanations offered by Womack are very clear, so that I didn't feel that I needed to be a scholar in order to understand the imagery and movement of the poems. Even as literary devices were being pointed out stanza-by-stanza, the overall feel of the guide is one of inspiration and an appreciation of the gift of language to share profound spiritual insights. I would recommend Working It Out to older teens or to adults that are interested in incorporating thoughtful poetry into their personal devotional times, or to high school students looking for a gentle and inspirational introduction to studying poetry.
Would you be interested in Working It Out or other Everyday Education ideas? Here's what you need to know:
Visit the website: http://everyday-education.com/
Pricing: Working It Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert is available for $17.95 - see the website for more information.
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Visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog for more information and to read other reviews. Crew members reviewed other titles from Everyday Education as well so be sure to check out all the reviews!
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