Rhia and I Have Published a Book!

Rhia and I have published a children’s poetry book together!

It came about because Rhia loves to draw these adorable mushroom doodles (among others) and I told her they were so fun that they ought to be in a children’s book.  She suggested that I could write some poems to accompany them, and we decided to do a joint children’s book together.

It’s filled with poems that are silly, sentimental and occasionally educational, all about mushrooms, nature, fairies and other related topics.

We had so much fun doing it, and I’m so proud of our finished book!

You can check out the book on amazon here: Poems from Under a Toadstool (affiliate link).



25 Poetry Prompts

Got a kid who loves to write poetry?  Got one who wants to but can’t think of what to write?  Want to get past some writer’s block yourself?  Here’s a few random prompts to play along with, off the top of my head because I’m in a poetry mood again lately.  🙂

  1. Write a sentence about how you feel right now, with each word starting one line.  Fill in the lines with a poem about anything.
  2. Write a poem that starts with the words “I never thought…”.
  3. Repetition can be a powerful tool.  Write a poem that uses any of these words at least 10 times:  rub, blind, so, pulse, knock.
  4. Write a poem through your mother’s eyes.
  5. Write a poem through your pet’s eyes.
  6. Write a poem to yourself as a child (or younger child).
  7. Write a poem that uses these words anywhere in it (all of them):  my, high, shy, white, flight, right.
  8. Write a poem that is exactly 25 words long.
  9. Write a poem that starts every line with “and then.”  Don’t capitalize anything in it.  Punctuation is optional.
  10. Write a poem using 5 random lines you pick from the newspaper.
  11. Write a poem in which every line is exactly 5 words long.
  12. Write a poem about something that scares you.
  13. Write a poem about a color.
  14. Write a poem about something you dreamed, as if it were real.
  15. Write each letter of your name (first or full) down a sheet of paper and then write a poem about yourself starting each line with that letter.
  16. Rewrite a nursery rhyme into a new poem.
  17. Write a poem about a part of your body and what it represents.
  18. Write a poem inspired by a song.
  19. Write a short poem that would be good for a gravestone.
  20. Write a poem with your non-dominant hand.
  21. Write a poem that involves science or math (even in vague ways).
  22. Write a haiku (5-7-5 syllables) about a memory.
  23. Search random key words on Morguefile and then write a poem about one of the pictures you find that inspires you.
  24. Write a poem about a character from a book.
  25. Write a poem that starts with a number.

Feel free to come back and post poems here in the comments or post links to where you post them!  I’ll do the same if any of my kiddos or I tackle some.  🙂



30 Days of Poetry Assignments to Get Creative Juices Flowing

Anna is really into poetry lately and Toria has been having fun writing some poetry too.

I used to be quite a prolific poet, with over a hundred poems published in my angsty younger days (mostly in small journals).  I minored in creative writing in college and did poetry readings in coffee houses in slightly scandalous clothes.

I also used to have fun doing poetry assignments with friends, challenging each other to write in different voices or with strange requirements.

I thought it would be fun to make up a list of a month’s worth of poetry assignments for my kids, and post it here in case anybody else wants to play along — parents too!

If you or your kids do take part and you want to share any of the resulting poems, please do!

Remind the kids that the only rule of poetry is that there are no rules. Poems don’t have to rhyme.  You don’t have to use proper capitalization or punctuation.  You can break sentences in the middle of the line (and it’s often a good thing!).

In the spirit of no rules, let the kids know that they’re free to substitute their own assignments or change them up on any day, too!

30 Days of Poetry Assignments

  1. Write a poem where every line starts with the same letter.
  2. Write a poem from the point of view of a plant.
  3. Write a poem that uses a great deal of alliteration (here’s a refresher what alliteration means).
  4. Write a poem to yourself.
  5. Write a poem that starts with the first three words of a song lyric that you like.  End it with three more words from the lyrics.
  6. Create a found poem.  Here’s a refresher of what found poetry is.  Experiment a lot with where you break the lines and end the poem in order to make the biggest impact.
  7. Write a poem with lines that all have odd numbers of words, and no repeat of numbers (for instance, lines could be 7, 5, 9, 13 and 1 word long).
  8. Write a poem about a historic figure.
  9. Write a poem that retells a fairy tale theme in a new way (for instance, from the perspective of the wicked witch, or with Snow White choosing a different ending).
  10. Write a twitter poem — it must be 140 characters or less.
  11. Take an old poem of your own and replace at least 50% of the words with new words (they can be synonyms, antonyms or any words at all).  See which version you prefer.  Then write the poem again with whichever words you prefer.
  12. Do the same exercise with a classic nursery rhyme.
  13. Write a poem that is exactly 16 lines long and starts with the word sometimes.
  14. Write a haiku about winter.  (Remember, a haiku is generally 5-7-5 syllables long.)
  15. Open up a book and put your finger on a random word.  Do it 9 more times.  Write down those 10 words and use them in a poem.
  16. Write a poem that includes the words other, mother, smother and/or cover at least 10 times (any of the words or all).  Feel free to add other words and phrases that sound similar (such as brother and of her).
  17. Write a poem as an elderly version of yourself looking back on these years.
  18. Write a poem that starts with the word and.
  19. Find a photograph that you like (that you took or found) and write a poem to accompany it.
  20. Write FOREVER down a sheet of paper.  Write a poem with each line starting with the corresponding letter.
  21. Pick one of the 24 poets every child should know and read at least 5 poems by her/him, then write a poem about a subject in one of the poems while the poet’s voice is still fresh in your mind.
  22. Write a gravestone poem — a poem about someone who has died (made up, real, historical, anyone) that would fit on a gravestone and sum up that person in just a few short lines.
  23. Write a poem about an aspect of yourself that is made up for the poem (for instance, what it’s like to be an immigrant or the time you saved the world).
  24. Write a dice poem.  Get out one or two dice and roll to see how many words each line should be.  If you like, roll to find out how many lines long it should be, too.
  25. Think of a popular ad slogan and work that into a poem.  Try to use the phrase in a totally different way (for instance, making “good to the last drop” be about tears).
  26. Write a poem about a childhood memory.
  27. Set a timer for 3 minutes and write a random poem about anything that comes to mind nonstop with your non-dominant hand (for instance, your left hand if you are right handed).  When the timer goes off, recopy it with your dominant hand and add three lines anywhere in the poem.
  28. Write a poem about a dream you’ve had.
  29. Write a poem that incorporates at least three senses (for instance, what you can hear, see or taste).
  30. Write a poem about yourself in the third person (as if you were writing about someone else).

If you want to do more with poetry, I have my 10 week poetry for kids course (free) online here.

I’ll share some of the poems we come up with here.  🙂




A little poem by Anna

Anna (13) wrote this poem and I thought I’d post it in honor of the season.  She’s quite a prolific poet these days and I love watching her poetry evolve.

When We Were Young

When we were young
the simplest of Christmas lights
were a thousand stars in our eyes.

The mechanical reindeer
were unimaginable,
how did they move
if they weren’t alive?

The snow on the ground
was like the fine sand on Florida beaches,
and we made angels
for the sun to melt
like the tide washed our castles away.

When we were young,
Santa brought all our presents
and we were in bed by nine
waiting to see if we would hear
the bells on Santa’s sleigh.

When we were young,
candy canes were the highlight of the season,
along with our stockings
stuffed with bobbles and toy cars.

When we were young,
the world was a million times as large as it seemed,
and the full December moon
fit in a nutshell.

(Rhiannon Bayer)

A Poem by Anna

Our family lost two of our cats within the last week, of completely unrelated causes.  It was hard on us all.

My kids have had a lot of experience with death in their lives, not only from losing far too many pets and adults they’ve known, but also the loss of Victoria’s and Anna’s dearly loved friend Hannah when they were younger. The loss of Hannah had a profound impact on both girls that continues on for all of us.

Anna wrote songs about Hannah nearly every day for months after her death.  It helped her grieve.  Writing is still a huge part of how she processes things, and she recently joined an online poetry forum where she’s had fun taking part in challenges and posting her poems.

She wrote this poem about me and losses last night and she gave me permission to share it here.

Death of loved ones
hurt and pain
until only you remain
standing strong throughout the crowd
waiting for me to return

During struggles that drag us down
you are the one pulling us back to shore
when we’re so lost,
when we nearly drown
you are the buoy who stays afloat

when we are shaken,
you are the one who restrains us
before we lose who we have grown to be
you are the one who shapes us

One more cry of a name
one more loss
one more gain
once more tragedy comes around
once more you keep me safe and sound.

~Rhiannon (Anna) Lee Bayer

Writing Prompts, New Babies and Such

Sorry I’ve been gone so long!

Fiona is doing marvelously and we’re all madly in love with her. She’s a really sweet, fun, adorable little girl and about as easy as a baby can get (which is great for a fifth baby!).

I’ve had a few bumps in my recovery. I developed an infection from the C-section and was on antibiotics for a while.  That finally cleared up and then a few days ago I came down with mastitis.  I seem to be finally kicking it, but it really did a number on me.  I’m treating it naturally because I do not want to get on any more antibiotics (using them while nursing can set Fiona up for asthma, allergies and such, not to mention make us both more likely to get thrush, yeast infections and related maladies).  I’m still hurting and feverish, but nowhere near as sick as I was the past couple of days.  My fingers are crossed that it will be gone by the start of next week.

I’ve been keeping up with my free 10 week poetry course for kids and this week I wrote about using free writing to jump start poems.  While doing research, I found some fun sites and wanted to share them here.

  • This page of  Writing Exercises has prompts for journals, memoirs, free writing and more.
  • This page of Writing Exercises has writing tips, Q&A’s and over 200 writing exercises or prompts, mostly geared towards fiction writing.

Here’s the poetry courses so far:

Other new homeschool related posts…

We’ve been pretty busy for having a newborn in the house (which might explain why I keep backsliding in my recovery!).  Some of the things we’ve done lately include going to the Science Museum, two trips to Mankato to see friends and family, and even a short trip to Nebraska to hang out with Tiffany and her family.

Fiona mostly hangs out in my sling during the excitement or in my arms (or Daddy’s).  And don’t worry, I have all sorts of safeguards to keep her little immune system safe during our escapades.  🙂

All in all, life is pretty awesome, illnesses and setbacks or not!



10 Fun Ways We've Learned and Played Lately

There’s a week and a half until our new baby joins us!  Eek!  Nonetheless, we haven’t slowed down much.  🙂

Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to lately…

  1. We got together with some new homeschool families at the ball field in town yesterday. The kids played kickball, climbed trees, made friends and otherwise had a blast.   I really liked getting to hang out with some fun moms too!
  2. We went to a cookout at some elderly friends’ farm yesterday. They built a fire in the fire pit and roasted old fashioned hot dogs (and made pan fried cheese quesadillas for vegetarian Annalee) and smores later, plus had all sorts of wonderful goodies to eat.  The kids hiked their trails in the woods, played with their many cats and kittens, helped cook and prep for dinner, climbed, explored, cut buckthorn and more.
  3. I signed Jack, Anna and Victoria up for a month of iXL math. They really disliked xtramath.com so even though it was free I dropped it.  So far they enjoy iXL a lot more but I don’t like the price!  I have some leads on steep discounts for it so I’m looking into that.  There are just too many great educational freebies online for me to pay that much for something my kids aren’t crazy in love with.  🙂
  4. The kids are taking part in a free 10-week poetry course I’m offering online. Monday was lesson one (cliche busting) but we actually started last week.  We’re all having a lot of fun with it!
  5. Victoria and Anna have been doing lots of cooking. Victoria has made apple crisp several times to use all the apples we’re getting from friends’ trees.  Both girls are practicing making dinner to prepare for when the baby comes and they’ll be taking over for a while.
  6. There’s been lots of talk about fetal development and what the baby’s doing these days. She kicks, moves and hiccups a lot!  We’ve talked about C-sections, baby positions, you name it.  (Side note:  As I’m typing this I’m having massive contractions and it’s quite hard to concentrate!  I have a cervix like a bear trap though, so I know baby’s not coming early no matter what my uterus tries!)
  7. The kids are all reading like crazy. Current faves include Percy Jackson and Pokemon.  I think Anna finished all of the 39 Clues books and both girls have been reading another series at the same time that’s led to lots of drama over who gets to read the next library books!
  8. Victoria has been “doing school” with Jack. She writes him out Pokemon sentences to copy for handwriting practice, and also has been teaching him how to draw various Pokemon characters.
  9. Alex has been doing lots of block building (especially Angry Birds towers to topple). He’s also enjoying other typical preschool activities — being read to, playing letter games, watching Dr. Seuss movies with Daddy at bedtime, playing with the cats, doing nature crafts, and so on.  He’s very loving towards me and the baby lately, and gives my belly lots of kisses.
  10. We’ve all been doing the usual family stuff — playing at parks, bird watching, visiting friends, talking on the phone, preserving fall goodies, going to libraries, shopping at the farmers’ market, playing Bananagrams, riding bikes, doing art, taking pictures, watching shows together, going to restaurants, squabbling, making up games, listening to music and so on.

Latest yappings (some)…

Five Fun Ways to Homeschool This Week

I realized I haven’t done one of these in a while, so until I catch up on photos and such I thought it could be fun.

Here’s a few ways to have some homeschool fun this week….

  1. Sing “100 bottles of beer on the wall” — math style. Take turns adding or subtracting numbers and have everybody keep singing along, while filling in the new number.  For example, “99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer, take 4 down, pass them around…” and have everybody sing “95 bottles of beer on the wall.”  Of course, feel free to make it far more PC by making it milk, juice, pop, etc.!
  2. Make  or collect some natural toys and manipulatives.
  3. Have a “meet and greet” with historic characters. Assign each child a historic character to read up on a little bit.  Make sure they keep their identities a secret.  Then have a little snack party where you all mingle.  Encourage the kids to introduce themselves only by first initial and talk about their interests, hobbies, accomplishments, etc.  At the end of the party, have them guess who they’ve been talking to (if they have any idea — it’s fine if they don’t!) and introduce themselves.
  4. Memorize a short poem each and take turns reciting them. This is especially fun to do with grandparents, when Mom or Dad get home from work, etc.
  5. Do some nature science. I posted some good October activities here, like making shrunken apple  heads, joining the Wild Watch and pumpkin seed activities.

And with that, I’m off to take a bath with a small, well painted boy and a magazine.

Two Limericks by Victoria

There once was a young girl called Anna
She wanted to go to Montana
She whined and she groaned
She sobbed and she moaned
But next vacation, they went to see Nana!
We once had a cute dog called Spot.
And he loved when it got very hot
He could splash in the pond
(Of that he was fond)
But scuba dive, he could not.

It's World Poetry Day!

I always find out these things once the day has already started and I have no advance prep time.  🙂  In case you want to take part and haven’t prepped either, I threw together a bunch of poetry ideas here (in every subject!).

I figure poetry is too fun to relegate to one day so we’ll do a whole week.  Anybody want to join us?