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I have a confession. Although I'm an avid reader and read many genres, I wasn't all that interested in Shakespeare when I was in school. I think we had an obligatory part of a play to read in high school; but the writing was difficult, and I felt sometimes as if we were over-analyzing everything when I just wanted to read the play. I was familiar with Shakespeare and somewhat knowledgeable about the difference between a comedy and a tragedy. I knew enough to be considered "well read", but I really didn't have much interest in the Bard.
And then I began to learn more about a Charlotte Mason style of education and classical education. Both of these homeschooling methods use readings of Shakespeare. And as I studied these methods and read more of why teaching Shakespeare was really important, my interest was peaked. (By the way, reasons why we should teach Shakespeare should be a whole other blog post, but you can read some about it here.)
We began a gentle introduction to Shakespeare by reading some of the classic books that have Shakespeare's plays as stories. As the kids got older we began taking one play a semester and reading through the actual play with a modern translation handy. And last year we were able to watch a YouTube presentation of A Comedy of Errors.
And so when I saw the book How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig, I was intrigued. I expected a good, solid book with some ideas about introducing Shakespeare to children successfully. I didn't expect much different from the techniques I already knew, but I was hoping to have some ideas to add to my Shakespeare repertoire. Instead, I got much, much more.
How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare isn't necessarily written to homeschool families. Indeed, Ludwig assumes that parents are going to be using these ideas on the weekends and something above and beyond to teach their children. The book is so much more than just suggestions. It is a collection of 25 passages from some of Shakespeare's works (with some additional passages thrown in throughout and extra passages at the end if your child wants to keep going.) Ludwig gives parents a step by step guide to help their kids memorize the passages- and to memorize the passages for themselves. The meanings of words and ideas in the passages are broken down. For it is much easier to memorize when we grasp the meaning behind what we are memorizing.
Ludwig provides additional resources and quotation sheets that he suggests to use in teaching the passages at a website that he gives readers in the book. He groups the passages by play, and the book includes passages from A Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Henry IV, As You Like It, Henry V, Hamlet, and The Tempest. Throughout there are also chapters that cover various aspects of Shakespeare's work.
I love this book. I was busily devouring myself just so that I could learn more about the plays we had been reading. I had several ah ha! moments when I finally understood a phrase whose meaning had alluded me. I haven't even gotten around to using it with the kids yet, but I do plan to work on teaching them the passages. I've always been a fan of memorization, and I love the idea of familiarizing kids with Shakespeare's work using memorization.
Although it's not written to homeschoolers, I recommend this as a great addition to your homeschool resources- especially if you use classical or Charlotte Mason methods and are introducing your kids to Shakespeare.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.
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