Ambleside Online suggests a continual Shakespeare rotation, with children reading/working through one play per term beginning in Grade 4. In years 1-3, children are introduced to Shakespeare a little bit more gently, with either Beautiful Stories From Shakespeare by Edith Nesbit, or Tales From Shakespeare by Mary and Charles Lamb.
Now Shakespeare is daunting to me. I didn’t encounter him much in my own schooling beyond one dry reading of Hamlet and a handful of tear-jerking sonnets. I thought he was, like, only for college kids; you know, English Majors and their sort. So in my first few years of homeschooling, I chose to ignore Nesbit’s and Lamb’s books whenever they jumped out at me from AO’s booklists. They were just so intimidating!
Last year, however, I stumbled upon a tattered paperback of Tales From Shakespeare at a thrift store, and we dove right in. My eight year old and I giggled our way through The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Merchant of Venice, and Pericles, Prince of Tyre. We loved each of them.
The paperback didn’t last the summer, and I failed to purchase another copy as we began our crazy school year back in September. But two weeks ago we picked up this beautiful hardback copy at our library, and the next day began to read.
We’re savoring it together, three of the kids and I. There’s so much food for thought, and so much fodder for discussion. We just finished up Measure For Measure, and even the 5 year old hung on every word. I’m so surprised at how well they take to it, and how easily they grasp the humor. All the same, I’m going to put off reading the plays in Shakespeare’s own words for a little while yet, until we have a few more of the Lamb’s stories under our belt, and at least one more strong reader to join in the fun. But I might just be saying that because I myself feel daunted to properly meet the Bard.