Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Enjoying Shakespeare with Children

I recently read a post on Grace in Loving Chaos about how her family has approached their Shakespeare studies and it inspired me to write about our recent study of As You Like It.

Unlike many homeschoolers, I did not start with an introduction to the Bard as a person or with much information about when or where he wrote.  After all, there are many authors I read or have my children read with little to no personal introduction.  I think Shakespeare's writing - his comedic plays in particular - transcend time and place, and such information, while interesting, is not vital for understanding his works.  I will certainly introduce my children to Shakespeare as a person, the Globe Theatre, and Elizabethan England, but I think I will do that in the context of our historical studies rather than as a precursor to enjoying some of his plays.

We started our study informally by listening to Charles and Mary Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare.  We listened to the version from LibriVox several times in the car over the past school year and this has been a great help.  The recording from LibriVox, while perhaps read a little too quickly, is still worthwhile.  While listening, we had a number of casual conversations about the types of plays Shakespeare wrote, themes in his plays, and common narrative arcs.

In May, I decided it was time to study one play in earnest with Emma (9) and Gregory (5).  After a bit of discussion with my daughter, we decided on As You Like It.

Weeks 1 and 2:
During our Wednesday afternoon read-aloud slot, I read the Lamb's version of As You Like It in two parts.  My daughter narrated after each session, and my son, while not required to narrate, added comments.  We also created a map of the characters and their relationships to each other on the white board, which my daughter then copied and embellished.

Week 3:
After we had a solid character map and an overview of the play, we watched the 1978 BBC version of As You Like It, available streaming from Amazon or for rental from Netflix.  I do not recommend the 1936 version with Bergner and Olivier.  Olivier is no where near his best in this one, and Bergner, with her heavy German accent, is almost impossible to understand in many places.  The BBC version is not exactly amazing, but it is a solid presentation of the play with decent actors.

We watched the play over three days, about 45 minutes to a session.  This matched the children's attention spans well and gave us more opportunity for discussion.  We watched during lunch, pausing for questions and occasional narrations.  Emma's character map was quite handy, especially during our first session.

Week 4:
Next we listened to an audio version of the play.  I chose the BBC Radio Shakespeare version, available for download from Amazon (through Audible).  I do not recommend the LibriVox version of the play; the actors are uneven and some are almost impossible to follow.  We listened to this while we knitted, drew, or did other handiwork sorts of things over the course of several days.  At the children's request, we also listened to the play in the car a couple of weeks later.  By this point they had no trouble distinguishing characters or figuring out what was happening.

As the kids get older (or I find another family or two who would like to join us!) I'd love to do an informal group reading at this point.  We're not there yet, but I hope we'll be able to do it someday.

This Summer:
Fortuitously, a semi-local Shakespeare troupe will be performing As You Like It next month, so we've made plans to see it on stage too.  I doubt we'll be fortunate enough to have this happen for each play we study, but I hope to take advantage of this whenever it occurs.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Celebrating Pentecost

Happy Pentecost!

We're still relatively new in our celebrations of the Liturgical Year, but we are learning and growing each year.  This year we decorated our "Jesse Tree Year Round" with tongues of flame inscribed with the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit and doves.  I printed everything out on card stock and the kids and I had fun cutting everything out and discussing why we were using these elements for our tree.  I got the idea from the Windsock for Pentecost at Shower of Roses and adapted it to make it work for us.   

As an aside, if you'd like to work more with your kids (and perhaps yourself!) on memorizing things like the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, I highly recommend Kevin Vost's book Memorize the Faith.  The memory techniques presented in this book are fantastic and work well with kids and adults.   

For dessert - because after all, celebrating the liturgical year with food is such a highlight for everyone! - we had pound cake, whipped cream, and strawberries cut length-wise to look like flames.  The kids The kids thought it was great and were quite impressed that strawberries could be made to look like flames.   We also had some raspberry rooibos tea with our dessert because it was as close as I could get to an appropriately colored beverage on short notice.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Flare of Light

On Pentecost 2009 I stopped blogging.

On Pentecost 2011 I am beginning again.  

A new beginning and a new name.

A flare of light, like the tongues of flame that appeared and rested upon the Apostles, infusing them with the Holy Spirit.  A flare of light, like the bright glow surrounding all the faithful who seek to show the light of Christ in the world.  A flare of light, like the radiance brought forth by all the wonderful women who take the time to share the creativity which brightens their homes.

I pray that I too may be infused and guided by the Holy Spirit as I seek to live out the spiritual gifts, service, and workings that God has manifested in me.