A wonderful tool mother's have in teaching our children beauty of language are the many plays of William Shakespeare. At an early age, children are very influenced by what they hear. This is the reason many experts agree that reading aloud to children is the most important "education" you can provide children in the early years.
One "trick" I have used to introduce the language of Shakespeare in the early years is by studying the Bible together using the King James version. Children quickly pick up the beforehand unknown words like "thou" and "betwixt". It is interesting to note, the King Jame Bible and Shakespeare were both produced around the same era of time. This period of time in history is when the English language was at it's very best. The pinnacle.
When I began my research into the Enchanted Kindergarten, I had Shakespeare in the back of my mind. "How can we introduce the language of Shakespeare in a way gentle way? How can we create an early appetite for Shakespeare?"
These early building blocks would begin in the Bible. As a group, we will learn and memorize Psalm 121. Read this Psalm:
Psalm 121 King James Version
1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
2 My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
8 The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.
Isn't the language beautiful? We do ourselves and our children such a disservice by offering them texts that are diluted.
The foundation of our home-teaching is the fact, "Children are born persons"~ Charlotte Mason. With that reminder, we teach our children as persons.
I often talk to mother's that say, "My children have no care for Shakespeare and don't understand the plays." I always remind them that it's okay to not fully grasp all that they hear but rather form a relationship with Shakespeare.
One fantastic way to build that relationship is through acting out the plays! My children have performed: Hamlet, The Taming of the Shrew, and Much Ado About Nothing.
The Early Years:
Read to your little ones as much as possible using undiluted text. Young children are not ready to digest Shakespeare. They are however, ready to hear the language of Shakespeare. Even "small doses" of new language benefit our children.
At one time America was at the "top of the class" for being literate. Our children handled difficult texts, knew Latin, and were wordsmiths. What has happened?
Charlotte Mason recommended reading "up" to children instead of "down". She found, children would often rise to the occasion and were able to understand more than adults believed was possible. In the early years, we must be committed to the same. Reading texts from the King James Bible is a wonderful start to Shakespeare. Join our Enchanted Kindergarten community as we live it out this year!
Comedies and Tragedies...the teachers
Shakespeare had a way of putting the hearts of men on display. Morality was often the themes of his plays. Many of Shakespeare's play were influenced by Christianity and the Bible. You will often find Bible themes woven throughout his plays.
It is important for teachers to be reminded: Shakespeare left discernment of character up to the reader. The villains are not wearing a dark cape and sporting an evil laugh.
Shakespeare asks the reader to watch for vices and virtues. With my 4th grade and up students, I have made "virtue and vice" checklists for them to work through. When reading a play we make notes of the characters. We compare and contrast and have conversations about the character at hand.
Along with fairy tales, these comedies and tragedies of Master Shakespeare inspire inquisitive thinkers.
Here ye, Here ye.....How then shall we begin?...
Listen to his plays. It is best to begin with the comedies of Shakespeare. His tragedies are best kept for high school.
I have a wonderful treat for you today, a free recording of "The Children's Shakespeare" by E. Nesbit.
This is a retelling of twelve of Shakespeare's most popular plays as stories for children. These pieces are not long. For an example: Romeo and Juliet is a mere 11 minutes of listening time. Maybe for quiet time this fall, you can play an one play per month/week/whatever you decide. Those plays are here
Act out his plays. When out shopping at garage sales or resale shops, be on the look out for potential costumes.
Here's an idea: After listening to Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" during quiet time one week, work on a small performance and reenact a scene together. Children form relations with what they DO. I promise your children will be delighted to dress up and "play". As your children grow, they will remember Romeo and Juliet as those moments of dress up are in their mind. They will have a relationship with Romeo and Juliet...and that is exactly what Charlotte Mason intended.
Read his sonnets aloud, read his plays, and read similar language from that time period. Often, Shakespeare is not grasped because children are fed literature that is intellectually undemanding. Offer intellectual food that requires chewing and digesting.
As our careers at home teachers continue, I hope you enjoy this feast of literature along with your children. If you feel unprepared to teach Shakespeare, remember, we learn alongside our children and when we "delight" with them...we all walk away inspired.