How We Learn Shakespeare

After lots of trial and lots of error, we finally have landed on the “what works for us” with regards to teaching Shakespeare.

1. Preparation
We start to learn about Shakespeare – who he was, where he lived, what time period he lived, how it’s different from now, how it’s similar, his background, the Globe, and why we like to learn about Shakespeare. I try to be enthusiastic about Shakespeare – like most American students, I wasn’t considered “ready” for Shakespeare until high school, where we read the plays and discussed them into boredom. If we were lucky we watched a video of a play.

We do Shakespeare as a family subject, and we do it during tea-time. The prospect of tea/hot cocoa/hot cider and popcorn or some other fun snack really helps everyone be excited to do Shakespeare as well, plus it’s good fun for everyone. Ages 3, 5, 7, and 9 are represented at Shakespeare {tea-time is when Nugget is having a nap}.

2. First, the retelling
I select a play – my kids are young so we’re working on the comedies. I thought we could follow Ambleside’s Shakespeare rotation, but I don’t think they’re quite there yet. We started with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, because it was short, it was a comedy, and it seemed like it was something everyone could grasp.

I read everyone Lamb’s retelling {wouldn’t you know, after studying this play in high school I had no clue what was going on, except Puck; but after reading the retelling everything made tons more sense}.  We stop – a lot – and narrate and discuss, defining terms and explaining things. We use paper dolls, a character map drawn on a whiteboard, or Playmobil to keep everyone straight and make sure we know who’s in love with whom.

3. Then, the play
At first, I started reading the play of A Midsummer Night’s Dream but it got old VERY quickly to be constantly defining the characters. We decided to let other people read it for me, and listen to this Librivox recording {which hits what I want in a Shakespeare audio – multiple people for the different parts and some English accents because well, I think it sounds better that way!}. We follow along a text from MIT. Just like the retelling, we stop – even more than the retelling – and break apart confusing language, help the littles figure out what’s going on, and so on. We keep out the Playmobils and work on arranging the characters as they enter and exit the scenes.

Peanut running the characters for Act 3 of “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”

We listen to an act per week – sometimes all in one sitting if it’s short and everyone is feeling it, or breaking it up if it’s longer and there would be a mutiny to listen to it all at once.

And that’s it! I’m going to start reading the plays with the kids once they’re older and can handle reading the language (right now Peanut is the only one who would be even remotely capable). But right now, it works well what we’re doing.

I am interested to see which play our local Shakespeare company will be performing next year. I would love to read the retelling, read the actual play with the kids, and then go watch it live; since that’s the best way to experience Shakespeare, in my opinion. Hopefully they put their 2018 schedule up soon!

AO Year 4, Term 1, Week 8 | AO Year 2, Term 1, Week 10

It’s hard to believe that we are almost finished with Moose’s first term! Peanut is not far behind, and soon we will be switching some books and moving on to new ones. I’ll be quite bummed to finish Understood Betsy, but we’re moving on to The Wind in the Willows which I haven’t read; so it’s not totally a loss.

This week was another crazy week – scheduling a new doctor appointment for me, a nature walk (the weather was GLORIOUS for it and it was just great to be outside and enjoy some sunshine), choir and therapies, homeschool swim class and a park day with a friend and her daughter. I think I need to readjust the school schedule to allow for some afternoons to be truncated or some mornings to be removed because we’re busy with therapies.

I had some glimpses this week of learning with Moose and math. Math isn’t the easiest subject for him, and lots of patience and manipulatives and S.L.O.W. learning. I contemplated even giving up on his current math and going back to absolute core basics, much like I did with reading – lay off and wait, and try again in a couple months. But, I don’t think we need to go back to absolute basics, or wait a few months; because the connections are being made and it IS coming together. Even if it feels like we’re treading water in molasses sometimes, it’s good for both him and me to see the little successes and that YES, he is learning math;  just at his own pace.

I gave the kids reading level assessments this week, and both kids are above grade level. Moose was sort of reading CVC words in January, which is when we began systematic phonics instruction and ta-da he completely caught up and surpassed where he “should” be. Hot diggity dog.

Peanut is finding her friend, Benjamin Franklin quite the person. We had a spirited discussion about taxation, the Stamp Act and its repeal, why the colonists were SO unimpressed with the taxes and how that relates to our lives today. A lot of aha moments happened. I love these times of discussion, to see how her wheels are moving and what she’s thinking.

Peanut and Moose unearthed a rabbit skeleton with their friends on the mountain behind our houses, which has been THE highlight of the week. Earlier this week they had found just the legs, and so I was enlisted to help ID what they were looking at. Today the skull and jaw was found, along with ribs and other bones. Triumph! Peanut was ecstatic that “it still had its bunny teeth!” Thankfully no one has taken to calling the skeleton “Peter Rabbit”, which may put a slight damper on Moose’s enjoyment of Burgess’ Animal Book. 🙂

What I’m Reading Wednesday

Well, it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve done this, right? Lots of stuff going on, watching the hurricanes roll in and make sure my family is out of harm’s way, medical stuff, and more. But it’s nice to check in with what’s going on in my book world, yes?

I started reading Cardinal Sarah’s book, The Power of Silence last week. It’s a lovely, meaty book that really is challenging me as I tend to like “background noise”. Like most people, I’m rather uncomfortable with silence. There’s so much to deal with in silence that it’s easier to just have the background noise on. But, as we know; God is not found in the noise (or the earthquake, or in the fire…) but in the silence.

I suspect this will take me some time to get through, as it is rather meaty like I mentioned above as well as uncomfortable. 🙂

I like to think that I have a good handle on organization, in terms of getting my stuff done (homeschooling, homemaking, etc) and still having time to do All The Things. A recent confession determined that I’m not as organized as I thought (or said) I was. There were still plenty of time-sinks, and a lot of procrastination simply because I felt overwhelmed about what to do when the day gets off track and the like. Providentially, I won a copy of the book, A Plan for Joy in the Home. I’ve already read it and have been working on implementing it. It’s a lot like A Mother’s Rule of Life but I’m finding this way of approaching things more realistic for me, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s because it’s a short book, and it gets right into getting down to business. Maybe it’s because of the handy worksheets included in the book (or printable from the author’s website). Whatever the reason, I am enjoying it and hopefully can reign in a lot of my procrastination.

I visit the doctor tomorrow and hopefully can start moving in the right direction of getting answers to some health issues that I’ve been having as of late. It’s been impacting my energy levels, and so my book reading has been sparse as of late. Kindly pray for me!

(Book images are Amazon affiliate links, thank you for your support!)

Homeschooling as a Cross

“And he said to all: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
~ St. Luke 9:23 (DR) 

As we settle into yet another year of homeschooling, I’ve been thinking about the whole art of homeschooling. Blessedly, it is becoming more common and less “weird”. Much work has been done by folks when I was still a small child to ensure that I can homeschool my kids without interference from the government.

I am one big cheerleader for homeschooling. If you ask me about it, I’ll talk your ear off (although I’ll try not to). I try not to hype it up, it doesn’t need it; it hypes itself. There is one aspect that I don’t talk a lot about for a variety of reasons. Most of the time is because I don’t want to hear “well, maybe you shouldn’t homeschool then.” And yes, someone had the audacity to tell me that once.

Homeschooling is hard. It’s really, really hard. In fact, it can be considered a cross most days. Think about it. Curriculum is your choice. How you teach is your choice. When you teach is your choice. All that choice is overwhelming at times. It gets dreary, it gets tedious, it gets tiring. You have to report to someone (in most states) on some level. There’s always something to be done (grading/evaluating/planning/pre-reading/etc). There are no breaks – if you’re sick, you can’t call in a sub who will take everything for a day or two. Planning for the school year happens around meals and bedtime. Let’s not even think about homeschooling and keeping the house running. Teaching kids isn’t easy, and troubleshooting is on you. Extra fun if you have a special needs learner. You’re mom, teacher, housekeeper, chef, driver, and more.

It’s a cross, for sure. But crosses aren’t something to be feared or run away from. The Bible verse at the top of this post – note how it says daily. Every single day. Pick up that cross and follow Him. I find that my crosses are the heaviest when I’m not focused on Him.

Our crosses are what sanctify us. Our crosses give us an opportunity to give everything to God, rely fully on Him, and be shown our vices and imperfections so we can begin to work them out of our lives and grow in virtue. God knows I can’t do it alone, so I beg Him daily to come and be with us, to make up what I lack.

Homeschooling is hard, it’s a cross; but it’s also a way to sanctity.