Friday, 29 April 2016

Shakespeare and Poetry Teas

I have felt particularly this year that our homeschool has been a bit flat.  Dd1 has grown out of a lot of the fun stuff which primary children enjoy and dd2 is not far behind.  Their lack of enthusiasm to try new stuff, go out and meet new people etc has meant it's all been a bit over-bookish and a little dull.  So, not wishing to spend the next 6+ years in this rather deflated state I've been looking for things to spice up the weeks as they go by.  Recently I have tried 'Poetry teas' on a fortnightly basis - I believe these are originally suggested by Charlotte Mason, but I could be wrong there.  I know lots of CM/CMish homeschoolers have poetry teas, but I've always been a little bit unwilling to embrace them.  I'm generally unconvinced of anything which 'needs' to be made pleasant by adding sugar whether that's cake after a church service, a cup of tea or a biscuit-style distraction during a long journey.  Don't get me wrong, there is sugar in our house and too much of it in my opinion, but the thought of bribing my kids to read and listen to poetry by supplying sugary foods just didn't appeal.

However, against my better judgement, I have given this a go and so far so good.  Both dds have found poems they want to read and share and I have joined in too (not with the cake though).  I know people do this with very young children and very successfully but I'm glad I didn't.  We have read lots of poetry over the years, much of it from the Ambleside Online recommendations, other poetry from my own searches.  This has paid off now as both dds have a history of experience of poetry and can pull out favourites to read at the teas.  My hunch at the moment is that these teas won't be the right time to introduce new poetry, but I may try it and see how we get on - I could be wrong, but I suspect most of the attention is on the cake.

Another way I have tried to bring a bit of sunshine to our days is by sticking up a list of interesting words which we notice - these words could be interesting because they are new, they sound funny or are spelled unusually or indeed other reasons.

And finally I have planned some more structured Shakespeare into our week.  I saw this post on Delivering Grace and thought it would be a good starting place for me as well as the kids.  My Shakespeare teaching at school was quite poor and I learnt most of what I needed to get through Eng Lit GCSE by reading York notes.  This isn't how I wanted it to be for my own kids though.  We have read Edith Nesbit's Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare at least once and have acted out many of the plays with lego or playmobil figures, but I wanted to raise my game a bit and this book seems to be just the ticket.

Ken Ludwig tells how he taught Shakespeare to his children (I think they were younger than mine at the time) - in particular he supports the reader in how to teach children Shakespeare passages to learn from memory.  Now, I'm not all the way through this book yet, and as such can't recommend or not recommend it, but so far so good.  We have learnt all of the first passage (from A Midsummer Night's Dream) and intend to continue with the next one.  God willing, I'll post on this book again in the future and how we've got on with it.
I have been sorting out some other Shakespeare resources recently too - I bought this from The Book People at the end of last year and have found it very useful so far.  

These books I picked up at an NCT Nearly New Sale when my kids must have still been pre-school age - I knew they'd come in handy eventually!  They go with the BBC animations which, last time I checked were still available to watch online.

These DVDs I got very cheaply from Sainsbury's last week - it's a good time to find stuff connected to Shakespeare as it's the 400th anniversary of his death this year.  We are quite a way off sitting and watching one yet, but I'm hoping to find the passage we learnt from AMND and watch that little bit.  The 12s will obviously have to wait a while yet - even though dd1 is 12yo I don't necessarily think that the Film Certification Board and I agree on what is and isn't suitable at her age.

This is the Nesbit we've used quite a lot in the past.

And this one is also recommended on the Ambleside Online curriculum but I only got hold of this second hand copy recently and haven't had a chance to compare it to the Nesbit yet.