Poetry Teatimes

ByrnesPoetry Teatimes offer you and your children a break from the fast-paced demands of homeschooling, parenting, and household running. Everyone sighs a collective "ahhhh" as they settle into their chairs, tea cups or mugs in hand, poetry books scattered across the table. Stopping the rush for a restorative cup of tea (or hot chocolate or cider or coffee or lemonade or juice) creates the perfect space to contemplate rhymes and riddles, limericks and sonnets. When you pair poetry with tea, your children create a connection between contemplation and rest, while also creating memories of serenity and joy. Try it! You'll love it.

In the Brave Writer Lifestyle, we recommend a weekly teatime on Tuesdays. You may find that having a routine helps to establish a break that you can all look forward to. Of course, there are some weeks where we have had them more often and other weeks where we have not had them at all. As with all Brave Writer practices, do what works for your family.

Also, it's not necessary to bake from scratch every time. Cinnamon sugar on toast or store bought cookies work just as well for busy families. But just in case you want to try going the whole way, you can't go wrong with my:

Easy Homemade Apple Pie

In the meantime, follow these instructions to set up your family's teatime for success!

Steps for a successful teatime:

  1. Buy quality tea. If you like British tea (black tea) buy PG Tips or Typhoo tea from a specialty shop. If you aren't picky, you can buy black tea from the supermarket. Herb teas are also acceptable. (Click here if you'd like to learn how to make a pot of tea.)
  2. Keep a supply of clean tablecloths. Always lay a fresh one before teatime. (Hint: you can even throw a clean bed sheet over the table - just fold in half if it is too big.) Placemats work just as well.
  3. Purchase/make cookies, scones, or muffins. Click here for a muffin and scone recipe to try. If you are one of those moms who is on the go all the time, there is nothing inherently better about homemade cookies. Purchase a supply to keep in the back of the cupboard for teatime. In a pinch, we have used toast and jam for our teatimes, or sliced oranges, with just as much success. Any cut up fruit that is in season is delightful to children.
  4. Use nice ceramics. Put out milk in a cream pot, sugar (lumps are especially fun), and jam in a little bowl with a spoon. Be sure each person has a mug or cup. Some families slowly collect individual teacups; others just use an assortment of mugs. We use a mixture of the two! Put out a small plate (we use ceramic, not paper) with a napkin and a teaspoon and knife at each place setting.
  5. A centerpiece is a plus. If you don't have flowers, set out a square of colored card stock or a rectangular board or a colorful plate and decorate it with moss and leaves, shells, a grouping of candles, artwork postcards or little trinkets like marbles, pennies and old pearl necklaces. Change it up each week for interest. I've sometimes made a centerpiece of nature items from around the garden and then have added little Playmobile or Halfpenny dolls to the scene. Kids love this. We use candles and vary the colors with the seasons.
  6. What to read: We keep a stock of poetry books on an individual shelf in our house. I add to these when we go to the library so that the stock rotates. At the start of teatime, everyone selects a poetry book and brings it to the table. While I'm pouring the hot water to steep the tea, the kids are hunting through the books for the poem they will share with the rest of us. Click here for a short list of books.
  7. Bring the current read aloud to the table. (A list of read-aloud suggestions can be found here.)
  8. Begin by pouring tea for everyone. Take time to add sugar/honey and milk. Pass the cookies/muffins around. Cut them open and add butter and jam etc.

The process: Once everyone has his or her tea and food, reading can begin. Ask for a volunteer to start. Each child will read one poem (or a parent can read the poem for the pre-reader—the pre-reader may still select one based on pictures!). Poetry ought to be read with an empty mouth. Each person may read one or two poems (depending on length). Of course, sometimes our family has gone wild and read multiple poems a piece because we can't stop! There is no need to analyze the poem. This is a delight-driven practice. Enjoy the poem. Laugh at its humor, enjoy its rhythm, listen to the rhyme. You might comment on it, but that's not required.

After the poetry is read, offer more tea and food. You may now enjoy reading aloud from your chapter book. Read a chapter. (I usually do the reading while the kids do the eating and sipping.)

When you finish teatime, each person brings her plate and cup to the sink, rinses and puts it in the dishwasher (if you have one). Candles are extinguished, the tablecloth is shaken out and folded, and the centerpiece is removed (or left out).

We've read so many wonderful books at teatime, not just novels either. We've read stories, fairytales, history books, myths, geography, the Bible, and Shakespeare, too. Try it; you'll be hooked.

Would you like your family featured on Tuesday Teatime? Email us your teatime photos with a few lines about your experience (put "Teatime" in the subject line)! If we select your photo to post then you'll receive a free Arrow or Boomerang of your choice! Note: all submissions fall under Creative Commons licensing.