Review: The Harp and the Laurel Wreath by Laura M. Berquist

The Harp and the Laurel Wreath by Laura M. BerquistThis book, designed mostly for home schoolers, could be of interest to classroom teachers as well. It lists poetry and dictation examples for use in memorization, recitation and dictation by age of students.  The selections the author chooses are organized in order of age, from preschool (The Early Years) to primary (the Grammatical Stage) to middle school (Dialectical Stage) to high school (Rhetorical Stage).  The poetry selections for primary are quite appealing, and include Robert Lewis Stevenson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, among other writers who are perfectly appropriate for a public school classroom but who have been neglected in favor of more “current” but far lower quality work.

I found most interesting the introduction to the book, titled “The Importance of Poetry.” Berquist states quickly and outright that “the appreciation of fine arts is formative for the soul,” a basic tenet of classical education. She then goes on to speak about the impact of the Platonic Triad — the true, the good, and the beautiful — and how “if children are disposed to love the beautiful they will be disposed to love the truth … ”

This has had me thinking all weekend — I thought I taught my kids to appreciate fine arts and beauty, but they still have trouble with moral theology.  Perhaps this will be a source of a future post.

Be that as it may, Berquist has created a useful reference with many poems that are appropriate for all elementary students, and I’m definitely going to bring this one to the classroom this year.

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