Homeschooling with Shakespeare II

Cora’s interest in Shakespeare, which I wrote about a few months ago, continues…

When we went to vote at the neighborhood middle school in November, we saw signs for an upcoming performance of Hamlet. After inquiring, we were invited to attend to a day-time performance attended by Columbus City School students from a few nearby schools.

Cora was excited to see kids, just a bit older than her, acting out the parts. This version was set in the 21st century, and rather than 14th century Denmark, the location was a video game company. The students used various digital technology to share behind-the-scenes memories – prerecorded videos – and conversations – text message screenshots – between the characters to expand the story they acted out.

We had a good time at the performance and Cora left determined to start acting with her friends. Since then, I have been volunteering at her school once a month, playing improv games and reading through scenes from Romeo and Juliet. We’re having fun, but Cora still wants to spend more dedicated time with kids studying and learning to reenact The Bard’s work. I’m on the lookout for summer camps and other opportunities. If we can’t find any, she has asked me to run one. (Please send leads if you have them! I’m not an actor!!!)

In the meantime, Cora got a new book for Christmas; a collection of Shakespeare’s plays, condensed into short stories by Angela McAllister and illustrated with gorgeous paper collages by Alice Lindstrom. Similar in style to Eric Carle but far more detailed, we have been enjoying examining the images and Cora has excitedly shared them with interested friends who come over.

Finding love notes in the forest of As You Like It
Conspiring against Julius Caesar

This week I found her elbow deep in buckets of Playmobil figures (which she hadn’t touched in months), making characters she could use to act out Shakespearean plot lines. This is the kind of independent, playful learning I dream about as a homeschooling mom who aspires to authentic, creative education.

Once she had her cast of characters, I read from her new book as she acted the story with the Playmobil. I wish I had more confidence in making stop motion animation to offer to do that with her. I might have to do some re-search…

Romeo and Juliet (bottom left) meet at the Capulet’s masquerade party. The audience of school kids on a field trip are delighted by the performance.
All the royalty die at the end of Hamlet

Tomorrow we’re visiting The Columbus Civic Theater for The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). This is one of those times when I’m so happy to be homeschooling. I never studied Shakespeare much myself, so reading the stories with Cora I’ve been introduced to cultural touchstones I see referenced elsewhere and have new understanding of. I’m looking forward to the play as much as she is since this theater is just a mile from our house and I’m ashamed to say I haven’t been there since they opened in ten years ago.

One of Cora’s friends who is also currently hooked on Shakespeare is joining us for the performance. They are going to hang out after and you can bet I’ll be close by, seeing how the play winds its way into theirs.

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Homeschooling with Lego

It’s finally feeling really cold and wintery in central Ohio this week and I struggled to get us outside on at all Monday. This is highly unusual for me – a dedicated dog walker who needs to move my body. While our homeschool days are regularly filled with reading, drawing, and playing (educational) games, hanging out inside all day I got the urge to do something different.

Last month, Cora got a few new Lego-related gifts. I found these by searching the web for “gifts to give kids with too many Legos.” This wasn’t because I want her to stop playing with them. On the contrary we LOVE Lego around here – search this blog for Lego and you’ll find lots of posts on the subject. But I wanted to inspire her to do new things with the bricks she already has. Yesterday we dove into one of the books where we met a real building challenge, for mother and child.

Here are a few things I took away from our lesson, which I went into thinking about as supporting girls and innovation. I’ve touched on this topic before, see for example in this brief post about STEAM related picture books.

The first, and ongoing, challenge is finding pieces that meet the supply list for whichever project you choose. At first, Cora selected a project and started building but quickly found she didn’t have certain specialty gears we’d need. Reminded me of times I have started cooking something new without reading the recipe all the way through only to discover I’m missing an ingredient or specially pot or pan I need.

We looked through the book again together and found a project we seemed to have the pieces to complete, though we had to take a lot of liberties finding substitutes for what was recommended. For instance, the walls of our coin bank are made of a range of colors and sizes, not the specific red and gray bricks the author identifies. This seemed like a good lesson about using and being grateful for materials you have on hand, which the author suggests, though the picture perfect images in the book suggest otherwise.

We went through a lot of trial and error, which I was simultaneously happy about and genuinely challenged by. I personally had to fight the desire to give up at least a handful of times. Cora started building a few side projects at some points. I had to remind myself, you are a model right now. If you give up, so will she. I remembered the time Cora asked me to make her shoes that could fit a Barbie doll; the confidence she had that I could do it, and my desire to not let her down. And so we persevered, for hours – losing track of time and reaching a state of flow so intense we nearly missed her piano lesson – until we got the coins to roll down the ramps and into the drawer below.