Less-Romantic Poetry and Valentine’s Day Parties

Last year I feel like I kind of went overboard for Valentine’s Day. As homeschooling moms I think there will inevitably be times when we worry that our kids are missing out by not being in public school.

Truthfully, I never feel like they are missing out by way of academic instruction. I don’t feel bad that they don’t go to recess with other kids (we have park days and personally, I think those are much better for us). We go on more field trips than the public school kids get to go on, so there isn’t much guilt there, either.

I can see myself getting a little nostalgic once they hit high school ages, thinking how they won’t get to do the high school sports, orchestra, drama, choir, band, etc.

But really, all those options are out there and attainable without the public school restrictions, drama, and legislation. We’re even involved in a handful of those activities already, so the initial guilt, I’m sure I will easily be able to overrun with reason.

So what am I worried about them missing out on? (And what does any of this have to do with poetry and Valentine’s Day, anyway?)

Well, last year it was the Valentine’s Day party. Probably the Halloween party and the Christmas party and whatever parties their age groups were having in their classrooms.(Except not the St. Patrick’s Day party.)

I know, it’s totally ridiculous, but I got those feelings again.

Maybe my kids were missing out. Maybe their lives would be ruined because they didn’t get to write their name on scraps of paper covered with pop culture icons to hand out to other kids, who would just eat the candy and throw the cards in the trash. Maybe there is something really deep and meaningful, some rite of passage, some threshold that can only be crossed via these sugar cookies, conversation hearts, and glitter and doily crafts?

Rationally, I can confidently reply, “no.” They will be just fine, or more than, if they never attend a public school classroom Valentine’s Day party ever.

But sometimes the irrational “what ifs” accompany fun memories from my childhood and I feel a little like, just maybe, even if in a very small way, they are missing out on something that would be beneficial to them because I chose to homeschool them.

So last year, well, I went a little overboard.

But this year I learned my lesson!

(Either that or I was just lazy. Both scenarios are equally possible.)

We barely spoke about Valentine’s Day, just because we had other things going on. We didn’t do any crafts with hearts and glitter. I didn’t buy them any cute Valentine’s Day presents. (Since when do we give presents to our kids for every. single. holiday?) We didn’t have any discussions on love or kindness (besides the ordinary discussions on such topics, I guess), nor did we go into some back history on who St. Valentine actually was – although I have done all these things in the past and every one of them is a worthwhile pursuit.

Even the gift giving at times.

And you know what? I don’t feel bad about it at all.

This isn’t to say we completely neglected Valentine’s Day. We went to the Valentine’s Day party our park day homeschool group hosted, and I love their traditions. Each family brings one box for valentines, decorated as much or as little as they want. We used the same box we had made for last year’s party that we missed due to illness (think “hoarder” OR “wisely prepared in advance.”) Another family had a cute wicker basket. And yet another family had a crocodile that they had rigged some speakers and homemade circuits up to so that when you opened it’s mouth to put your valentine in and pressed a button it spoke to you!

Homeschoolers are SO creative! 😉

Instead of each child handing out 30 valentines (that’s 5 x 30 for our family!!), we made 8 group valentines. I figured ours would either be a completely awesome, or cause major contention and discord. We made pink Rice Krispy treats with sprinkles, but also bought a bunch of party favors from Walmart, and each family got a bouncy ball, some funny glasses, a pencil, a stamp, an eraser, a mini notebook, and what my kids affectionately call a “shooter.” I have no idea what they are really called. Nothing to share -the contentious part- but hopefully something for everyone, which is what I call awesome.

The other fabulous tradition this group has is a poetry recitation. Each child has the opportunity to recite a poem of their choice for the entire group. This can be really daunting! There were about 40 of us altogether. (But afterwards, you hand out group valentines and then just play for as long as your mom will let you. Think nerf gun fights. My boys were in heaven.)

There were silly, long, short, serious, beautiful, and inspiring poems. And the recitation is completely optional. Nobody has to participate.

Unless you are my kid.

Then it’s completely mandatory.

Or else I will eat all your Valentine’s chocolates. Don’t call my bluff on this one.

So, this is what we got! I’m more than a little bursting with pride – even though technically they are just average performances – but a mom can be proud of her children whenever she wants – especially if they are doing something that is hard for them.

Ok, you can’t actually hear him at all. Don’t watch that above video. Just picture him being awesome – and a little nervous – and saying this…

The Cat by J.R.R. Tolkien

The fat cat on the mat
may seem to dream
of nice mice that suffice
for him, or cream;
but he free, maybe,
walks in thought
unbowed, proud, where loud
roared and fought
his kin, lean and slim,
or deep in den
in the East feasted on beasts
and tender men.

The giant lion with iron
claw in paw,
and huge ruthless tooth
in gory jaw;
the pard, dark-starred,
fleet upon feet,
that oft soft from aloft
leaps on his meat
where woods loom in gloom–
far now they be,
fierce and free,
and tamed is he;
but fat cat on the mat
kept as a pet,
he does not forget.

My oldest thought the Robert Frost poem was antiquated and that a modern day 3rd grader should really be reciting something a little more, well, real to life. So he came up with his own rendition of “A Time to Talk.”

When a friend calls to me from the road

And slows his bike to a rolling stop

I don’t stand still and look around

At all the weeds I haven’t picked

And call from where I am, “What do you want?”

No, not as there is a time to play.

I throw my rake across the yard

Blade end up and in the dirt

And run. I go up to the vinyl fence

For a friendly visit.

We aren’t worried about following the rhyming scheme obviously. And you know, when you ask kids to do this sort of thing, or even assign it to them, you never get stuff this good!

Well, sometimes. Here is another poem recitation from last year – this time, with props!

Poetry is so fun!

And yes. Yes. So are Valentine’s Day parties.