It was Charlotte Mason’s idea.
Just like when I looked at the back of her reading book and thought, we’ll never be able to do that, I felt skeptical. Yet here it came, at the end of the year, and we were doing it.
I hadn’t read Shakespeare until High School. We were given little books our Senior year, I think it was, and we read at least 4 of his plays. Wonderful. I had even taught High School for a year and did Romeo and Juliet with the freshman (“Mrs. Lee, did you memorize this?!” “No honey, you’re my fourth class today, I just know it.”). But Shakespeare with Fifth Graders?
I’ve homeschooled my daughter all through. I don’t give her normal tests very often, so it’s hard on me when I think if she’s “really” doing Fifth Grade work, and sometimes I used the two level demarcation to express how I felt: she’s in 3/4 or 4/5. That acknowledges difficulty in some subjects and bespeaks grace.
We came to the Elizabethan age in history at the end of our school year. The curriculum had scheduled only one day to introduce Shakespeare, but we had extra weeks so I played around with the schedule and gave us a week to do Shakespeare (putting off Sir Walter Raleigh and Francis Drake, both of whom she was already interested in). The booklist had suggested Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb; a friend loaned it to us and I happened to find a link to LibriVox recordings so that Ravinia could read along. I was already reading aloud to her Susan Cooper’s wonderful King of Shadows.
Then I started to look for DVDs of the comedies, and we were off and running. She listened to and read the main plot before we watched the play. Then, because I was watching with her, I pulled out my Riverside Shakespeare to follow along.
I happened to mention that some lines were left out and I’d say them now and then and her curiosity was piqued. What started as just extending one day into a week has turned into a love for Shakespeare. We got some other books from the library, Leon Garfield’s Shakespeare Stories, that tell more of the subplots and explain nicely as well. We watched Twelfth Night so often that I bought it from itunes. Ravinia dreams of putting it on and has enlisted the neighborhood kids to play different parts with her.
One fun book we read that week of extending Shakespeare in our lessons was The Shakespeare Stealer and the play Hamlet was featured in it. So she wanted to see Hamlet, and I picked the one with Mel Gibson from the library because the others sounded too adult! Honestly? It’s slow going because there are so many questions from the sharp thinking Fifth grader for old Mom (who has an MA in English from 1990!) to answer quickly. We just keep renewing it from the library.
Right now this morning she is sitting in her room rereading Twelfth Night. At least she was, seeing if there are other words than the ones she has memorized from watching the movie over and over again…
Is she a Fifth Grader? Well, yes. Does she struggle with reading? honestly, She still does, but the vision therapy, the reading glasses, and the love of Shakespeare have helped tremendously.
ALL THANKS AND PRAISE TO THEE, O LORD!