Wednesday, February 6, 2013

*Homeschool~ Shakespeare Study for Kids

Shakespeare for kids? Yes! 

It is part of our Ambleside Online Year 1 Literature schedule to read several different plays from Shakespeare each Term.  Year 2 has a Literature schedule with different plays. We have been getting quite a bit of Shakespeare in this year!

In the younger years it is suggested that Shakespeare is read from a storybook format of the plays. We are using Tales From Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb. This is our second year reading from Tales and it is wonderful. These are not by any means easy reading and so they are great read-alouds for both the boys. I have been surprised at how how much they retain from these readings. Even in this more simplified version the reading is complex and has a lot of 'meat' to it. We usually take 2 to three days to read it. I take just a bit at a time, and have them narrate back to me orally. 

A well loved copy of Tales From Shakespeare.

Why would we take the time? 
Why bother with Shakespeare? 
Is it even appropriate for reading to children? 

I had all these questions when I started teaching it last year. I had always associated Shakespeare with more of a secular and frankly, a quite bawdy reputation. While I was excited to try reading the plays to them I thought to myself that they would never be able to follow along. The plots are sometimes confusing, evil and good are often mixed up, and sin is prevalent. Not to mention the tragedies are so very heart wrenching, I wondered if it would affect them negatively.

Surprising to me, they actually like to do Shakespeare readings. Who knew?! They pick up on far more than I ever expected. Sir Bean has especially connected with certain themes. He will often tell me weeks after we have read a play that he was thinking about it. 
Remember when we read about the king who was so angry he didn't talk to his daughter? She just told him the truth! And he got mad at her! Then she had to leave and he got sad but he was too proud to say it. That was wrong. He was wrong.
That was after we read King Lear. We learned that pride goes before the fall (Prv 16:18) and that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). We then Netflixed a BBC version of it and both boys were able to tell dad everything that was happening.

Scene from King Lear. (source)

We have actually had Bible studies spring forth from our Shakespeare study. Shakespeare had a way of making characters much more believable, much more real-life if you will, then most modern day writings. He did not shy away from subjects that are still sometimes taboo in our current world. Good is not always all rosy and pink and bad is often found redeeming itself. I think that is such a positive message to give our kids. In Shakespeare, there are stages of gray in what can seem like a black and white world. What better way to start a conversation on those gray areas than after reading about them?

I strongly encourage any homeschool mom to look into reading a bit from Tales From Shakespeare! It has been a very gentle way of 'getting to know' the works of William Shakespeare.

To supplement the reading I also search out videos from Youtube so we can see the play or at least a child friendly rendition of it. Please do preview them as some subject matter is better left for your teens and you to discuss. I have had good luck with the Youtube channels Shakespeareanimated and VideoSparkNotes. My kids have enjoyed watching these videos more than once.

I often let them draw pictures of the play while I am reading it. This drawing page might help with inspiration! You can purchase coloring books everywhere online but I haven't found free ones yet. ;)

For notebooking I have used these  and also these free resources.

I also will use LibriVox when I am short on time and need another reader. LibriVox offers thousands of audio books for free. I can put on a reading while we are making supper or doing dishes and then we discuss it just as if I had read it to them.

Their absolute favorite thing about reading Shakespeare has to be the acting out of the plays. I will find them acting out the scenes on their own. Sir Bean and Prince Ray especially like the fighting parts... but I think Princess Petunia prefers to be, of course, The Princess in every play.

What resources have you used for teaching Shakespeare? How do you teach it?

Always Blessed,
Gretchen :)

Possibly Linking With:


  1. Thank you for linking this Shakespeare post for homeschoolers over at WholeHearted Home. I loved homeschooling so I am always thrilled when there are some posts shared about it.

  2. This is such a great resource, Gretchen, thank you! We, too, use Ambleside but the only one so far who has gone through our Tales of Shakespeare is my oldest daughter. I've been wanting to get to it but haven't I REALLY want to! Hope you don't mind I pinned the article so I can come back to it later.

    I'm hosting my Homemaking Linkup Weekend and would love to have you join, if you'd like!

    Have a great day!
    Mrs. Sarah Coller

    1. Well I am honored! Thank you! We really enjoy Shakespeare. It has improved out knowledge in more ways then one.

      Blessings, Gretch

  3. Hey Gretchen,

    This is a great article! And great content as well. On a side note, I write Shakespeare for Kids books that would compliment this very article. I would like to send you a copy for you to take a look at. If you are interested, please email me at:



    1. I would love to take a look! I'll send you an email. Thank you!

  4. Hi, Gretchen. I've been doing exactly as you said for years, first reading the storybooks like that by Garfield, then moving to the plays themselves. We're also lucky to live near Stratford and able to attend live performances. This year, I've created an on-line course for homeschooled students who want to put Shakespeare a bit more in context -- a Renaissance Lit course that will cover 3 Shakespeare plays as well as poetry and prose from the era. I know a lot of teens out there want some way to bounce ideas off their peers, but might not be able to because they're isolated in some way (an only child, or living remotely, or no academic peers). My own daughter is in this situation, which is why I started it. Maybe others would like to know more about it?

  5. My father in law is teaching my daughter Shakespeare right now. I help in finding resources. You mention there are no free coloring books and you are right. However, I do "google images" searches on the plays my father in law will be going over. I find lots of things there that I can use. Just an FYI


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