Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Book Review: How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare

How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig

I had read glowing reviews of this book on other blogs and glanced through the book enough to decide I wanted to try it with the kids next year for our Shakespeare studies. I was thrilled to find the new paperback version available at Blogging for Books and requested it immediately.

Ken Ludwig has written a fantastic book for all parents interested in sharing Shakespeare with their children. These are exactly the methods he used successfully with his own two children, now young adults, though he was not a homeschooling dad. Instead, they delved into Shakespeare in their free time on weekends and in the evenings. Though the strategy is memorization, the true strength of this method is how understanding the meaning of the passages, their context within the plays, and the genius of Shakespeare's language is intertwined with the passages.
...I became convinced that the way into the subject--the way to introduce someone to Shakespeare for the first time so that it doesn't feel daunting and yet has real integrity--is to memorize it. First a few lines, then whole speeches.
The books is designed for the parent to read first, then share the passage and information with the children. Links are provided for resources as well, pages to print as memorization aids and recordings of Shakespearean actors reading the passages, for those of us unsure of pronunciation. The author explains every passage so anyone, even someone who feels daunted by reading Shakespeare themselves, can understand the meaning of the selections.

What I love most of all about this book is the example the author has given us of how to share a passion with children. Mr. Ludwig's delight in Shakespeare and his awe of Shakespeare's abilities permeate the text so much that I found myself delighted and awed as well at all the same things. It seems impossible to present Shakespeare in such a way and not foster a love of language in our children.

This is not a course of study. There are not explicit lessons for each week and day of the school year, but I think a homeschooling parent can easily adapt this book for homeschooling. I intend to simply start at the beginning and work our way through the passages. When we've memorized one (myself included!), we'll move on to the next. (My oldest two will be in fifth grade and second grade, but I think the book can be used with children of any ages, though some of the later passages are more appropriate in content for older children.) I anticipate years of enjoyment from the 25 passages in this book (and a bonus 26th and lists in the back of additional passages to explore and memorize). I will probably also introduce some of his recommended books for children every once in a while. At the end of the book, it's not about being able to pass a test on Shakespeare or incorporate quotations into college writing papers, though you might be able to do that; it's about building a foundation of Shakespeare in a child that will foster a desire to learn more for the rest of his or her life.

This book is also a gem for anyone interested in Shakespeare. I never studied any of his plays after high school and have seen very few of them performed. I would hardly know where to start now given the plethora of books and movies and performances. The appendices in this book include annotated lists of books for children, books for teachers and parents, films, and audio recordings. After finishing the book, there was nothing I wanted to do more than start reading, watching, and listening to all of his recommendations.

You can read more about the book here and more about the author here or on his website.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review. The opinions above are my own.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Book Review: Smart Martha's Catholic Guide for Busy Moms

Smart Martha's Catholic Guide for Busy Moms by Tami Kiser

For some reason (that would be not reading the description completely), I expected this book to focus more on how to like Mary than how to be organized. It's actually an organizational book written to help moms (especially Catholic or Christian moms) shape their homes and responsibilities around their families rather than the other way around.

I am a Martha, you see. I have always been a Martha, but having children made the mean Martha in me come out even more. In just the past few years, I have been paying closer attention to the areas of our lives that cause me to start focusing more on stuff like how clean the house is rather than keeping the house clean enough so I can spend time with my family. I really do not want to be the kind of mom who yells at her kids to clean up all the time or who stresses out so much about a mess that I never let them use glue. If I don't keep an eye on my anxiety levels and plan accordingly, I am totally that mom.

I've read a bunch of organizing books and spend plenty of time skimming Pinterest for ideas for problem spots, so I was surprised to find some great ideas. One of the best so far has been the chore wheel. I should have taken a picture of mine, but you can find a bunch of them online like this one. Ours is just for dinner and is only for the three oldest (the youngest of whom needs mom or dad to closely supervise). It's already cut down on arguments about whose turn it is.

The best thing about this planning and organizing book is how the focus is not on being super-planned or super-organized, but about meeting the minimum needs of your family so you can actually spend time with your family, so you can be at your best (and the kids are at their best) for playing games or enjoying dinner together or taking a nature walk.

She's also reasonable.
Deciding which activities to be involved in is by no means an easy process. It's a balancing act that parents have to perform. Often, both choice are right: you are okay if you do sign up for Little League, and you are okay if you don't.
I also found lots of great ideas for handling technology and issues that grow as the children grow. I don't have teenagers yet, but I'm closer than I used to be! I liked reading a little about what we can expect, some proactive ideas, and (maybe most of all) the assurance that all these opportunities for growth do not have to be huge battlegrounds.

Friday, July 18, 2014

7 Quick Takes Vol 9: Summer Excitement and a Link to a Book Giveaway

We recently finished a week of swimming lessons. Juggling our summer commitments and four kids all at different ability levels had me frustrated with our local pool lesson offerings. At the advice of a friend, we opted for private lessons this year and they were wonderful in so many ways! The kids learned a great deal, the lessons themselves were incredibly relaxing for me, and it was only one week instead of two.


One day we packed a picnic lunch and spent the afternoon at a local lake. The kids were thrilled and, later, exhausted.

We also recently visited Grammy and PawPaw's neighborhood pool for the first time this summer. We still need to find time to visit a water park or the summer water fun will be incomplete.

We celebrated the Fourth of July with another water fight, of course. It's tradition!

Kansas Dad set up a tent in the backyard and had a sleep-out with the kids. They were a little excited. Can you tell?

As if that weren't enough excitement, we also took the kids to the county fair. We hadn't been to a county fair since First Son was little (maybe before First Daughter was born), though they've been to the state fair a few times. For the first time, we bought bracelets for the kids and let them ride and ride and ride. We probably spent two and a half hours just on the rides. I think Second Son and I rode the carousel about twenty-five times in a row. Those were some happy kids! (Until we took them home and put them to bed and tried to make them be civil to each other the next day.)

Earlier this week, I decided to devote an entire day to errands. I'm not sure why I felt inspired to do this. Kansas Dad filled the van with donations and things to sell. I loaded up the four kids. Off we went! Through the course of the day, we made four donations, delivered one political campaign sign, sold items at a resale shop, returned items at one store, shopped at three housewares or office stores, had lunch (at which First Son ate for an hour, ingesting about twice as much food as I did), spent an hour at a candy store, and met Kansas Dad for an afternoon frozen yogurt treat (not quite in that order). At which point the younger two children and I limped home while the others made a final stop to look for birthday presents from brother and sister to brother and sister.

The 10-year-old displayed a shocking lack of patience while the 3-almost-4-year-old staged a violent sit-in at one of the stores when I refused to give him an entire bag of cookies I had bought for the four of them to share. The 7-year-old alternated between complete silliness and attempting to herd her brothers and sister like a mama. The 5-almost-6-year-old alternated between running away from me and antagonizing her younger brother. My feet and knee ached.

So we were all showing our age.

It wasn't as bad as it sounds. For the most part they were reasonably behaved children. The employees at the stores and restaurants were always gracious.

I can't decide if I should challenge myself to always mention at least one book when I do a quick takes post or if I should challenge myself to never mention a book in a quick takes post. I'll leave the debate for next time and let you know you still have a few days to enter to win a copy of Ben Hatke's not-yet-released book Julia's House for Lost Creatures at his blog, Art and Adventure. We love Zita the Spacegirl and I'm so excited for his new book!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

June 2014 Book Reports

Prodigy: A Legend Novel by Marie Lu is a young adult dystopian novel, the sequel to Legend. There's nothing amazing here; it's pretty standard fare. I read this to review it for another website. (library copy)

The Hidden Power of Kindness: A Practical Handbook for Souls Who Dare to Transform the World, One Deed at a Time by Lawrence Lovasik. I've linked to the review. (inter-library loan)

Something Other than God by Jennifer Fulwiler. I've linked to the review. (library copy)

Raising Henry: A Memoir of Motherhood, Disability, and Discovery by Rachel Adams is a book written about her second son, born unexpectedly with Down syndrome. For the most part, I found it a touching memoir, honest about her mixed feelings regarding her son. It's odd to me someone can be nearly certain she would have aborted her son if she had known of his condition, be incredibly delighted with him now that he is here, and yet have no qualms about increasing testing so other women can avoid life with a child just like hers. (library copy)

The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw by Christopher Healy. I've linked to the review. (library copy)

Awakening and Rebellion by Karen Sandler are the second and third books in the Tankborn series. I read them to review them for another website. I was disappointed in the prominence of same gender couples in the second and, especially, the third books. (library copies)

The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw is one of the books First Son will be reading next year. I had considered it for a family read-aloud, but I think it might be a little too much for the girls: child abuse, abandonment, threat of death, and a scary trek through a tomb. I think First Son will be fine reading it in fifth grade and it's full of interesting ancient Egyptian life as well as courage and friendships. (copy from PaperBackSwap.com)

Books in Progress (and date started)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Quote: The Idea of a University (Discourse IX)

Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman in the ninth discourse of The Idea of a University, in part eight:
If then a University is a direct preparation for this world, let it be what it professes. It is not a Convent, it is not a Seminary; it is a place to fit men of the world for the world. We cannot possibly keep them from plunging into the world, with all its ways and principles and maxims, when their time comes; but we can prepare them against what is inevitable; and it is not the way to learn to swim in troubled waters, never to have gone into them. Proscribe (I do not merely say particular authors, particular works, particular passages) but Secular Literature as such; cut out from your class books all broad manifestations of the natural man; and those manifestations are waiting for your pupil's benefit at the very doors of your lecture room in living and breathing substance. They will meet him there in all the charm of novelty, and all the fascination of genius or of amiableness.