By: Christine Pritt
Summer is a great time to introduce children of all ages to Shakespeare. We always included all of our kids in whatever the older ones were learning, and we were pleasantly surprised by how much the younger ones enjoyed and remembered these times.
If you introduce your children to the plays at a young age, they will become like old friends. When kids are young, they don’t know that Shakespeare is supposed to be hard. Studying a play is just another fun family activity. Later, when they need to analyze these plays to write about them in high school English, the characters and plots will be fresh and alive, and the quotes will be on the tips of their tongues.
We started with the tragedies. They are timeless stories of good and evil, of the triumph of faithfulness and the consequences of guilt. While many of the comedies contain situations and innuendo that children don’t understand, these tales of kings and knights, witches and sword fights are captivating. No five-year-old boy can resist running around and yelling, “My voice is in my sword!” and there is something about “Double, Double, toil and trouble” that has universal appeal.
Studying Shakespeare together doesn’t have to be hard. Here are a few tips to get you started. First, remember that these are PLAYS. They are meant to be seen and not read. I suggest listening to the same play several times through in various formats. Get an audio version and listen along together. Have your kids make illustrations or puppets or put together some simple costumes and act out a favorite scene. Check a few videos out of the library, but be sure to preview them yourself first to make sure they’re appropriate. The movie format allows for graphic and disturbing scenes not possible on stage, so there may be a scene or two you’ll need to skip.
Finally, go see a production together if possible. In summer, local companies offer inexpensive outdoor productions. This is great fun! You can take a picnic supper, and the relaxed, informal atmosphere allows kids some freedom to move around a bit if they need to.
- This summer Maryland Shakespeare is touring the state with Romeo and Juliet, and is giving free performances in Baker Park July 15 and 16. (http://www.mdshakes.org/shakespeare-on-stage-now/)
- Chesapeake Shakespeare is performing Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing in Ellicott City, and kids are free. (http://www.chesapeakeshakespeare.com/ )
Have a super Shakespeare summer!
Christine Pritt lives in Walkersville, where she has been homeschooling her six children, with lots of help from her husband Mark, since 1998. Her two oldest were homeschooled through twelfth grade and are both students at Harvard. Her children at home are 16 (11th grade), 14 (9th grade), 13 (7th grade), and 11 (6th grade).
See other HSF articles by Christine Pritt:
December 2009: High School Homeschooling
January 2010: Standardized Tests Part I : The SAT
February 2010: Standardized Tests Part II: AP Classes
March 2010: Taking College Courses in High School
April 2010: Honors and Awards for the High School Student
May 2010: Internships for the High School Student
June 2010: Learning Foreign Languages