For some reason, instituting a poetry and tea time into the homeschooling schedule can seem overwhelming to some, but it’s actually very simple to do. When we picture a ‘tea time’, it’s hard not to picture high tea at the Waldorf or a scene out of Downtown Abbey, but really, it’s just a set time to enjoy a few simple snacks and a cup of tea or two. Today, I’m going to share with you how we do our poetry tea time routine and some tips to easily make it a regular part of your schedule.
Charlotte Mason educators LOVE tea time, or at least the idea of it! I’ve noticed that many moms “complicate” it far beyond what it needs to be. To me, there are 6 main components to a great poetry tea time:
I think this is the one thing moms are most nervous about, but being consistent with tea time has probably been one of the best decisions I have made. The children really do look forward to that special time and the more consistent I am with the poetry readings, the more they seem to understand and appreciate poetry. Because I want my kids to be well-read in poetry, it makes sense to try to have a set time each week for it. Some families choose a tea time once a day, once a week or once a month, but whatever schedule you choose, just try to be consistent with it, and the rewards will be worth it. I personally chose the once a week format because we work on memorizing a poem a week.
Simple, but nice table decor
A nice tablecloth or runner, some special cups and plates, maybe some pretty flowers- but it doesn’t have to be uber-fancy. Thrift stores are a gold-mine for tea sets and table decor. I found a really pretty tray one time for a few bucks, but all you really need is a tea pot, some cups, and a plate. A lit candle always makes anything feel special. The extras are just fun and if your family really gets into tea time like mine does, you can go all out if you like.
But what if your family doesn’t like tea??? Serve something else! Maybe a pink lemonade, or a favorite juice or hot cocoa. I found that my children really love fruit teas, so I make a pot of fruit tea for them and a small pot of black tea for me. We like buying and sampling different kinds of tea, especially seasonal, either loose or pre-bagged. To make things simple, I pre-sweeten their tea with honey in the pot so that all we have to do is pour and enjoy.
If you’re new to poetry, you may want to consider a children’s anthology of poetry to begin. It usually includes a broad sampling of styles and content. Once you know what your children love and respond most too, then you can be more specific in your selections. Some homeschoolers like to focus on one poet per semester, this is a really good approach for memorizing poetry and learning as much as you can about each poet. Ambleside Online also has a great anthology to follow for free on their website.
Another aspect of tea time that gets overly complicated is the food. Think of tea time as “an afternoon snack”. Some fruit and cheese cubes, a cracker of some sort and maybe a cookie or two- they can even be store bought. If you want to turn your tea time into some fun cooking lessons, then by all means- get fancy! We’ve had a lot of fun trying different recipes for tea sandwiches, cakes, scones, biscuits etc… but keep in mind that it can be time consuming. As a cooking lesson, I don’t mind it at all, but it isn’t something that should take up my whole day to prepare for.
I really think this is the heart of tea time for us. It’s a moment in our week where we slow down, enjoy poetry and each other. My kids know that at that time, I am focused on them and what they want to talk about. My phone is not in the room, the tv is off, though, we may have some classical or instrumental music going softly in the background. The point is, we fellowship. We talk briefly about the poetry, what we like or don’t like about the selection we read, and then, we just gab. It’s really nice to not have any purpose but to just hang out with my kids. Sometimes, I’ll pull out cookbooks and we will peruse them for tea time recipe ideas, but most of the time, we just talk and visit.
Our Poetry Tea Time Routine
I typically menu plan once a week, and at that time, I will make a notation for what I will serve at our weekly tea time. For example, our tea time menu may read: Raspberry Zinger tea, English Breakfast tea, chicken salad sandwiches, grapes and mandarin oranges, chocolate chip scones.
Because Friday is our Tea Time day, I will make the chicken salad mix and scones on Thursday. I might wash the grapes and store them in the fridge. On Friday afternoon, all I will need to do is make teas, assemble the sandwiches, set the table, light a candle, turn on music and put out the food on platters. The kids also help me with quite a bit of this because they enjoy helping so it really isn’t that hard. If we’re doing a cooking lesson that day, I will try to prepare as much as possible the night before. Again- I just gave you an example of something a little more fancy, but I have also put out sliced apples, store bought cookies and a quick sandwich of ham and cream cheese with our tea– it’s all about doing whatever works for you.
4 pm is a popular time for tea time, but we actually do ours around 3 pm. 4 o’clock was a little too late for us and seemed to spoil the kids dinner. We sit down at the table, say a quick blessing, and I begin reading while everyone fixes their plate and pours their tea. After I’m done reading, I ask the kids what they thought of the selection. Sometimes, they are full of insight and curiosity, sometimes, not so much. I might share some of my insights, what I liked or didn’t like about it. The kids will often tell me a line they liked or that they just didn’t like the poem at all. That’s okay. I want them to feel free to express.
If we are memorizing a poem, I have that printed on a paper and we work on it for about 15 minutes at the most. For the rest of the week, the poem we are memorizing is hung in the homeschool room where we can see it and practice it daily. Usually by Thursday, most of us can recite it without trouble and I introduce a new one on Friday for the coming week.
From start to finish, our poetry tea time routine takes about 30-40 minutes. Clean up is usually pretty quick too. It’s a nice time of reading and fellowship and is a nice afternoon pick me up. I can understand why people do a tea time daily, and maybe, someday, we will. For now though, the weekly schedule is working well for us!