Poetry Friday: Art & Poetry collide for a homeschooling project

Never in my widest dreams did I ever think I’d be homeschooling my children…yet, here we are.

Going to live classes in school wasn’t really an option, and remote learning was becoming increasingly frustrating for both kids. So my wife and I decided our only choice was to go the homeschooling route.

It’s not easy, and we’re doing as much research and prep work as we can, but fortunately our state has no requirements or standards for homeschooling; as long as the kids learn what the need to learn to be able to move up to the next grade next year, what we do and how we do it between now and then is completely up to us.

So we’ve ordered Saxon Math and a couple of other programs to make sure we cover the vital subjects, and the rest we’re doing ourselves. Take today, for example, where I combined an ELA lesson with Art to create a two-plus hour project the kids enjoyed so much, they didn’t want to stop:

Ah, yes, one of the many things you can do when homeschooling: hold art class at the local coffee house! After we shared a smoothie and a whoopie pie, I had them practice unguided line drawings, whereby you draw an object without looking at the paper. It’s great practice for budding artists to become familiar with their subjects and develop spatial awareness.

You probably can’t tell, but there’s a coffeehouse in there, a war monument, and a giant blue gnu figurine that stands near the coffeehouse lawn. (Yes, a gnu, aka wildebeest) The fact that the kids were free to draw without fear of getting something wrong or somehow making a mistake was liberating and exciting for them. I had anticipated them each doing a couple of drawings, but after about 4 or 5 each I told them we really needed to get going!

Back home, after lunch and some playtime, I had each child write a poem about one of the pictures drawn by the other. I described how to write a list poem and told them to just have at it and write whatever came to mind. My son, a very creative yet literal-minded fellow who is more at ease reading nonfiction than anything else, followed my guidance and came up with this:

(It took me a few minutes before I realized he spelled “gnu” incorrectly in the first line!)

I probably should have been more explicit in my instructions, as he took them to heart and literally created a bulleted list – but it was a worthy effort, nonetheless. His 7-year-old little sister, on the other hand – the artiste of the family and one of the most creative, inventive souls I’ve ever met – went the rhyming route. I can’t say she didn’t knock it out of the park:

You don’t need to be a homeschooling parent to offer this as an activity for kids – it hardly seemed like a lesson at all to these two! The secret is, in both exercises, perfection was not required – nor even considered. This was all about letting one’s mind open and be free to feel the art and words being created. There’s a time and place for proper sentence structure, grammar, and spelling…and my kids loved the fact that this was not one of those times.


In celebration of the new children’s poetry anthology, Night Wishes, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers is allowing me to give away one free copy! A number of folks commented on the blog post or shared links to help spread the word, and everyone who did so earned an entry in the drawing. After plugging all the entries into the ol’ Random Number Generator, the winner is…


I’m so happy for Maria, because she went out of her way to publish a 7-poet interview on her blog to help promote the book! It’s by sheer coincidence

her name was chosen at random, and I’m very happy for her. (If you’d care to pick up a copy, just click on the cover, below!) For more poetry, head over to The Opposite of Indifference, where Tabatha Yeatts is hosting the Poetry Friday roundup with a guest post by Carole Boston Weatherford about Carole’s new YA verse novel about Marilyn Monroe, “Beauty Mark.”


I’m now a part of the BOOKROO family!

You can create an account to add books to wishlists and be notified of special deals and dates…create custom collections…and discover and follow your favorite authors & illustrators!

Find out more about BOOKROO here!


What is Talkabook? Details coming soon!


Did you know that Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme is one of the TOP 20 children’s poetry blogs, according to FEEDSPOT? That’s right – I’m scratching my head, too! FEEDSPOT is an app that allows you to combine all your favorite news feeds, podcasts, YouTube channels, etc. into ONE newsletter. Be sure to check it out!


I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.


Coming March 2, 2021! Pre-orders are available!


Ordering personalized signed copies online?
Oh, yes, you can!

You can purchase personalized signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly ALL of the books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

Click any of the following covers to order!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it, and then they’ll ship it! (Plus, you’ll be supporting your local bookseller – and won’t that make you feel good?)


Thank you to everyone for your support!


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27 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Art & Poetry collide for a homeschooling project

  1. I think your kids are very lucky to have you as a teacher. Reading their poems was joyous, reminding me of the honest reactions, natural curiosity, and creativity of children. Thank you for sharing.


    1. Thank you so much, Rose. Although I’ve done plenty of school visits and writing workshops, I would never put myself on the level of “teacher” – so I just hope we’re doing ok. So far, things seem to be working, so fingers crossed!


  2. Jane Heitman Healy

    You and a few other virtual or homeschool parents I know are making learning so much fun that their kids will never want to go back to traditional school. Good job, Matt, and kids! Thanks for sharing.


  3. Rebecca Herzog

    How cool is this? And I love the poems your kids came up with. This is a crazy crazy time. How lucky they are to have a creative mind for their teacher this year.


  4. lindabaie

    Our school where I taught had students – all from 4 to 14 – keep journals, Matt, & we did everything from observations, taking notes & sketching in nature, writing poetry, etc. I love what you did & though some say how can the young ones do it, they can just as your own did. I love their work!


  5. margaretsmn

    I love teaching but I’m not sure I could have taught my own kids. This activity is a winner and both writing pieces express their joy in freedom of expression. Thanks for sharing.


  6. I love your son’s words: “a twisty, stretchy, turny pool noodle” – of course it is a gnu! What a fun lesson! I read once that practice doesn’t make perfection, it makes progress. I like that stress-reducing approach to life. 🙂


  7. I homeschooled my kids for a year while we traveled the East Coast by boat. An adventure, for sure. Thanks for sharing a glimpse into your homeschool lives and your kids’ poetry. Such fun to see! Have fun!


  8. Matt, it is a difficult decision for parents to become homeschool teachers but you seem to have a good handle on it and a great talent for choosing a lesson that helps your children to tap into their creativity while being engaged in their project-based lesson. With my last role as a districtwide literacy director, before retiring from public ed, I was in charge of homeschooling. Many of the parents bought computerized packages at online programs but some were creative in their approach. You seem to be intent on helping your children become motivated learners. Best of luck. I do like what your children wrote. Enjoy your new role.


    1. Thank you, Carol. As I mentioned in the post, we bought a couple of standardized programs because we wanted to be sure we weren’t missing anything during the course of the year – but we really are excited about tailoring their experience to their particular tastes and interests. Here’s hoping the kids remain engaged for the next 9 months!


  9. Pingback: Poetry Friday: “Winners, we have winners…!” – Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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