Charlotte Mason Shakespeare Resources for Homeschoolers

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Last month, I introduced a series of blog posts that I plan to go through over the next few months, sharing some of my favorite Charlotte Mason homeschool resources broken down by subject. These are the ones we’ve tried and have been so helpful in making our days run more smoothly. They have also engaged my kids in whatever subject we’re covering. In some cases, they’re resources that have been made by other homeschooling moms or are from reputable homeschooling companies, and sometimes they’re just different items that have been helpful to us in a specific subject.

These are by no means the only resources out there, and I will offer others in some subjects that I have heard of but haven’t had the chance to try yet, or I have friends who have used them and appreciate them. But the main list will be the resources we’ve used in our homeschool over the last (almost) six years that have been so helpful to us.

Today I’m sharing resources for Shakespeare! While I wasn’t exposed to the Bard until I was in high school, I have been reading Shakespeare plays with my kids since they were in fourth grade. In our modern society, it may seem daunting to expose children this young to the early modern English, but I have found them very up to the task and not only do they understand it, they find enjoy it as well! Shakespeare is one of the subjects that we look forward to most each week.

Charlotte Mason Shakespeare Overview

We probably read Shakespeare in the first place for his stories, afterwards for his characters, the multitude of delightful persons with whom he makes us so intimate that afterwards, in fiction or in fact, we say, ‘She is another Jessica,’ and ‘That dear girl is a Miranda’; ‘She is a Cordelia to her father,’ and, such a figure in history, ‘a base Iago.’ To become intimate with Shakespeare in this way is a great enrichment of mind and instruction of conscience. Then, by degrees, as we go on reading this world-teacher, lines of insight and beauty take possession of us, and unconsciously mould our judgments of men and things and of the great issues of life.

Charlotte Mason (Ourselves)

Resources

Article

For Form I students, I recommend reading either the Lambs’ or Nesbit versions of any of the plays (though the list of plays that were read in Form II in the article linked above is a good place to start). Generally, Nesbit’s versions are shorter than the Lambs versions. If you have the time, I would recommend Lambs first. According to the article above by Nancy Kelly, Lambs’ was specifically mentioned in Parents’ Review articles as an option for Form 1b students. She did not mention Nesbit as being suggested, so use your discretion here. I have read both versions in our home and Lambs’ specifically in our co-op, and have found them both to work well for my students.

Bruce Coville has also made a series of illustrated versions of Shakespeare’s plays, and I did use one of these at the very beginning of Year 1. They are (for the most part) beautifully illustrated, but I find the language from Lambs and Nesbit to be so much better.

For my Form 2 student, this was the first year that he didn’t have the option of participating with the other co-op kids in reading the play, which was a bit of a dilemma as I feel like these are best read with others. With that in mind, in Terms 1 and 2, we read the plays together, alternating the speaking parts, and then I also made a poster with all of the characters on it to make them easier to track.

Beginning in Term 3, per the recommendation of Karen Canon, when I was admittedly uncomfortable with some of the words and phrases my son was reading in his lines, we started to listen to the Arkangel version while following along in our books. This has been an enormous hit as these are high-quality, well-acted recordings with sound effects. I think as long as we are reading Shakespeare at home, we will use these recordings.

I also have two different book series listed above. The first is the Folger Shakespeare Library which was recommended during a talk I attended by Sarah Lancaster at the Charlotte Mason Educational Retreat in 2017. These are very helpful as every other page includes definitions, explanations, and even pictures of some of the more obscure (and even not-so-obscure) references in the play text. I get these for myself, but I do not recommend giving them to your students as many things really do not need to be explained to them, especially if they are younger. For the students, our co-op always used the Wordsworth Classics books that contain little-to-no commentary and just the text of the play, and they have worked well for us.

For keeping track of characters, I have done everything from drawing out the story on a whiteboard as we read through it to a poster with all of the characters written out, as well as printing out character cards. I think of the three, the last one is my favorite, and I have done this inexpensively by doing an image search for costume concept ideas for a given play (e.g., “midsummer night’s dream costume concept drawings”), finding a set that will work well and printing it out. I then cut each character out to make a card, write their name on it if needed, and then laminate the cards. These are nice to have as I can use them with my Form 1 student and then later in the upper forms when we read the actual plays.

So these are the resources we use in our Charlotte Mason homeschool for Bible and Shakespeare! In my next post in the series, I’ll be sharing our favorite resources for History!

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