I was reading a poem about the color gray, we were eating brownies fresh out of the oven, and outside it was raining loudly, as it often is in our wild little corner of the jungle. It was our weekly poetry teatime and we were gathered around the kitchen table, the scent of cinnamon tea and chocolate mingling with the earthy, mushroom-like tang that comes up from the forest floor during the heavier rains.
Brice had brownie crumbs from the curls across her forehead all the way to her naked toes. Blake leaned forward in her chair, listening intently as I finished. I closed the book and smiled at them.
“That was a beautiful poem, wasn’t it? It definitely matches the weather today!” I stood and began to clear the table.
“Mama, poetry teatime is not over, is it?” Blake asked from behind her too-big coffee mug.
“Well, yeah. Why? Do you want me to read another poem?”
“Mama, we haven’t done real poetry yet.” She cried, her eyes widening.
I paused, balancing the plates on my forearms. “Real poetry?”
“Yeah! Mom, you know.” She sighed at my blank stare. “REAL poetry. You dress up and you stand in front of everyone and have inspiration and you talk the poetry.”
My mind flew through every event, movie, and book from the last few months. Where on earth had she gotten this idea from? I drew a blank. But her big brown eyes stared unblinking at me, waiting for me to light up with recognition. I smiled widely. “Yeah! Real poetry! I, uh, guess we had better, um…”
“Get dressed!” She cheered, jumping to her feet in her chair. Before I could say another word, she leapt to the ground and raced downstairs to her room.
I looked at Brice. She smiled. “Poetry.”
In a few moments, Blake emerged with a very serious face. She had changed into shorts and a sun-hat and she had stuffed a sock into the neck of her t-shirt. I smiled. “Well! Don’t you look stylish?”
“This is my bowtie.” She said, adjusting the sock. “Why aren’t you dressed, Mama?”
“I have to dress up too?”
“Yes. Everyone has to wear a bowtie and a hat.” She said frankly. This, apparently, was common knowledge.
“That’s right.” I remembered, heading to my bedroom.
The only hat I hadn’t sold when we moved to Hawaii was a floppy Ascott-like sunhat that went out a foot in every direction, almost comically huge. I obediently shoved it onto my messy bun. I decided to compensate for my lack of a proper poetry hat by wearing a real tie and borrowed one of Jason’s. Blake appeared in the door of my bathroom and smiled at me.
“Brilliant.” She said in her fake British accent, and I suddenly realized where the inspiration had come from. Sarah & Duck. Always filling our home with their colorful phrasing and peculiar ideas.
Blake grabbed my hand and pulled me into the living room, where Brice sat on the couch with a wet-wipe tucked into her shirt. “Gang’s all here.” I said, and Blake gestured for me to sit.
“I’ll go first.” She said, and stood in front of us, looking all around. We waited patiently as she scanned the room, the windows, the ceiling.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I am finding inspiration.” She said. She closed her eyes. Brice and I looked at each other. Suddenly, Blake’s eyes flew open. “Ocean! Books! Books about the ocean! And – and sharks! Whale sharks, swimming. Swimming. I like whale sharks the best. The end!” She clapped delightfully and bowed. Brice clapped and I snapped my fingers. “Your turn, Mama!”
I walked to the stage, feeling awfully proud that our theatre background had managed to rub off on our daughter so thoroughly, even though she knew very little about it. My poem was short, about the African Tulip Tree outside the window, which had erupted into orange blooms only weeks prior.
Brice took a turn, too, though she preferred to giggle and turn in circles rather than recite anything. Blake didn’t seem to mind the different style and clapped enthusiastically for her.
Blake’s next poem focused on her view of the kitchen. “I smell brownies. I see the avocado tree. I see the tea I don’t actually like. I see library books.” She bowed seriously and I made a mental note to try yet another kind of tea next week.
This went on for half an hour before things got silly and dissolved into the girls building a snow fort out of our yoga mats. I hung Jason’s tie back up and quietly slipped into the kitchen to finish cleaning up. Who knew that poetry teatime could be so much fun?
In theatre, we used to play games to warm-up and keep our minds sharp. One game was called “Yes, and.” Here’s how it went:
- Someone begins by standing on the stage and acting out an impromptu scene, which they are narrating as they go.
- Someone else jumps up, interrupts them, and says “Yes, and…” and proceeds to take over the story. The original person plays along, helping to act out the new chapter.
- Someone else jumps in, interrupting with “Yes, and…” and begins to tell another part of the story. The others play right along without skipping a beat, accepting the new twists and turns as though they were already written to happen.
- This continues for many minutes, until the story comes to a natural conclusion.
Sometimes in homeschool, or in parenting in general, it’s good to play a game of “Yes, and” with your child. Not just for their benefit, but for yours too. Give them a chance to write the script, and change the course of the day. You’d be surprised how much fun can be had that way! And the math lesson we were supposed to do after our poetry teatime? It waited until some other day, and everything was fine. Sometimes you have more important things to do, like joining a beat poetry session organized by your four-year-old.