Friday, August 17, 2012

Chapter 4: Shakespeare

The Chandos portrait, likely to be the most authentic of the paintings thought to be of William Shakespeare

People. We get to read and talk about Shakespeare with our kids! How exciting is that? More about the whys and how to's in a minute.

I have long adored The Bard. During their senior year, my super cool high school English teacher always took students to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon, and I'm so happy my parents let me go. We stayed in the dorms of Southern Oregon University, and saw 6 plays while we were there. We saw some on a black box stage, some in a big Globe replica, and some on a regular theater stage. We got a backstage tour of the costumes and got to talk with the seamstresses. It was a huge moment for me, because I discovered I adored all things English literature, knew I would be an English major, and knew I wanted to read and talk about books as my career. And now I get to do all of that with my sweet little ones! I hope to take them to Ashland too. It is magic.

So, Maryellen St. Cyr suggests that even the youngest students be introduced to Shakespeare, using a well-done paraphrase, like the ones by Lamb or Nesbitt. If the child can enjoy something funny, can be scared by something suspenseful, and can be touched by the something deeply human, they are ready. The beautiful language and ideas will push the boundaries of their minds and allow them to read and think more deeply and well. They will write better. They will narrate better. And they will be connected to the greatest writer who ever lived. And he was probably Catholic too;

St. Cyr suggests a solidly historical approach in which students begin to learn about Elizabethan culture, music, religion, Shakespeare's life, the workings of theater, and the geography of England. Since she is writing for a school audience, primarily, her further suggestions have to do with organizing a performance with students from all the grades participating. That might be harder to work out in a homeschool scenario, but we could certainly do dramatic readings with each child reading a part, make costumes, listen to an audio recording of one of the plays (I think this is very important. One should hear Shakespeare spoken, especially by a fine actor), or watch a quality performance, live or on DVD. There are almost always local performances of in the Bay Area, there is Shakespeare Santa Cruz, The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, (with performances on the beach at night!), and university productions. Or, we could always drive up to Ashland:)

I cannot wait to see this world open up for my children. 

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