Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Shakespeare for Middle School

     This post is as much for me as it is for anyone else. The resources I'm digging up are all over the place and I need somewhere to keep them all straight.

     I happened to pick up a Matthews collection of Shakespeare retellings at Costco. The illustrations were cute and I thought it would make a nice compliment to her 7th grade British history. She ripped into the box before we were out of the parking lot and devoured all the tragedies within the next few days. Then she asks, "Hey Mom, do you think there's enough Shakespeare stuff to spend a WHOLE year of literature on it?" LOL

    Keeping this at a middle school depth, I'd like to aim for one major play a month. This will include reading retellings, lots of videos, reading only portions of the originals aloud, and reading lighter modern spin-offs to keep the reading difficulty more even. This whole plan was written with only Grace in mind, a precocious girl who is asynchronous enough to be dabbling in high school level material while playing with paper dolls. She will turn 11 this coming summer and start Official seventh grade in the fall. She is super excited about this course!

This list is subject to constant change to be made as we go along.

  Shakespeare versions already on the shelf

  • The Shakespeare Stories by Matthews boxed set (Probably won't assign these since she's gone through them already.)
  • Tales from Shakespeare by Lamb (audio and hard copy)
  • Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare by Nesbit (audio and Kindle)
  • Shakespeare Stories by Garfield volumes 1 and 2
  • No Sweat Shakespeare (modern English translations,
  • complete collection of originals, along with little Dover paperbacks and random individual titles we've collected over the years, I might add some of the sort that have a modern English retelling opposite the original passage

Plan to buy: 

  • No Fear Shakespeare or Barron's Shakespeare Made Easy version for each play we'll cover - These have Shakespeare's words and a modern English version side by side and are found inexpensively at local used bookstores.
  • Cambridge guides for those we don't already have an annotated version. Grace and I looked at a few different types together and she strongly preferred the Cambridge guides. There were a lot of discussion ideas aimed at a classroom that really pulled her. They ought to be easy enough to modify. (Honor is most willing to read or act if she cooks for him. LOL )
  • I really liked the Oxford School Shakespeare guides for my own reading, and will pick some up for myself if I see them at the used shops.

Biography thread that won't be correlated to any specific play, with some just for the fun of it additions

  • 1) Shakespeare for Kids: His Life and Times (biography and activities)
  • 2) The Shakespeare Stealer (Blackwood)
  • 3) Will Shakespeare and the Globe Theater (Landmark) 
  • 4) Shakespeare's Scribe (Blackwood)
  • 5) Shakespeare: The World as a Stage (Bryson)
  • 6) The Shakespeare Spy (Blackwood)
  • 7) Shakespeare Undead (zombies, vampires, and such in Shakespeare's day)
  • 8) Kill Shakespeare volumes 1-12 (graphic novels with a mash of characters in the same story line) 
  • 9) Doctor Who: The Shakespeare Notebooks, along with the Shakespeare Doctor Who episode
  • The Shakespeare Book (DK) - optional extra resource

Extra Resources

  • How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare (Ludwig)
  • Reading and Understanding Shakespeare - Great Courses lecture set
  • William Shakespeare: Comedies, Histories, and Comedies - Great Courses lecture set
  • Great Characters from Shakespeare Paper Dolls (Starter set. She'll design her own sets, costumes, and accessories to go with it.)
  • Shakespeare Uncovered season 1 and 2 (Amazon Prime and
  • In Search of Shakespeare DVD
  • Shakespeare's Stratford Upon Avon DVD (or Prime)
  • Shakespeare's Storybook: Folk Tales that Inspired the Bard 
  • Shakespeare in Bits app for various plays

Study/literature/teacher guides around the web

  • Holt - Theses are pretty helpful. They cover literary terms, some historical context, lots of graphic organizers if that's your thing. We'll definitely use these, probably orally.
  • Classic Stage - These all seem to have the same beginning and end, with a couple/few play specific pages in the middle. There are a couple pages of analysis that is well done. The extra activity is worth digging into the file for. Grace will love the "which character are you" quizzes.
  • Penguin - Lit terms, activity ideas, writing projects, basics pretty much covered by the other guides, BUT these have fabulous lists of literature for going deeper with the themes found in the Shakespeare play. The booklist alone is worth it.
  • CalShakes - click on the gray, teacher guide tab - Character maps for keeping them all straight, thinking questions, Shakespearean language work, some basic literary analysis, historical context application, movie recommendations, class activity guide that's aimed at middle/high school. We'll definitely use some pieces from these.
  • Homeschool Share notebooking pages - These could accompany the easier retellings to prime the pump, so to speak.
  • Glencoe - These have vocab, some lit terms, graphic organizers, comprehension, personal responses. More worksheets than the others. Lower overall level of maturity expected than the Holt guides. I will probably just browse these for activity or writing project ideas.
*** - Art of Poetry from Classical Academic Press will be covered in her poetry/art/music appreciation block.

**** - I haven't pre-read ANY of these extra spin-off readers as of this posting and they could be completely inappropriate. Yes, some of them are on the fluffy side. They are lighter on purpose, to help balance the heavier Shakespeare reading and analysis.

***** - Some weeks/plays will be heavier and others lighter. That's okay. When Shakespeare is lighter I'll let British history and/or biology have more space on her schedule instead. 

Plays to cover

Unit 1: Romeo and Juliet

      I think this one is Grace's all time favorite. She wants this one to go first.
  • Movies: Romeo + Juliet (Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes), Gnomeo and Juliet, West Side Story, Warm Bodies (Gosh, she loves zombie stuff and she's not squeamish, but *I* might have to look away. Joy volunteered to watch it with her so I wouldn't have to. LOL)
  • Shakespeare Uncovered 2 - Joseph Fiennes episode
  • Reading and Understanding Shakespeare, introductory lectures 1-2, and depending on how well she takes to them, the R&J lectures too, scheduling these in further units depends entirely on how this experiment goes
  • Spin-off Book: Juliet Immortal and possibly it's sequel Romeo Redeemed

 Unit 2: Much Ado About Nothing

  • Movies: David Tennant and Catherine Tate version, Branagh version, Joss Whedon version
  • possibly adding Twelfth Night if we need more to fill this month, unless she's really into reading the original (aloud, with me)

  Unit 3: Hamlet

     Yes, a bit heavy, but she is adamant. The retelling of this one frustrates her and she really, really wants the backstory so she can understand motives.
  • Shakespeare Uncovered 1: David Tennant episode 
  • Movie: David Tennant movie on, Mel Gibson version
  • Lion King comparison
  • Books: To Be or Not To Be by Ryan North (choose your own adventure style), Ophelia (Klein), A Girl, A Ghost, and the Hollywood Hills (Zindel)

  Unit 4: Midsummer Night's Dream

  • Shakespeare Uncovered 2: Hugh Bonneville episode
  • Movie: Kevin Kleine/Michelle Pfieffer version
  • Book Options: The Great Night (Adrian), A Midsummer Tempest (Anderson)

  Unit 5: Macbeth

  • Shakespeare Uncovered 1: Ethan Hawke episode 
  • Movie: Patrick Stewart version on Amazon Prime
  • a younger Ian McKellen analyzes Macbeth, (12 minutes), on YouTube
  • Book options: Lady Macbeth's Daughter (Klein), Exposure (Askew), Enter Three Witches (Cooney), Wyrd Sisters (Pratchett), The Third Witch (Reisart)

  Unit 6: The Tempest

  • Shakespeare Uncovered 1: Trevor Nunn episode
  • Movie: Forbidden Planet
  • Book Options: Tempestuous (Askew), Ariel (Tiffany), The Sea and The Mirror (Auden)

  Unit 7: A Winter's Tale

  • perhaps another comedy for this unit too, or some sonnets

  Unit 8: King Lear

  • Movie: Ian McKellan version, King of Texas (Patrick Stewart)
  • Shakespeare Uncovered 2: Christopher Plummer episode
  • Book: Fool (Moore)

  Unit 9: Henry V and/or Sonnets

  • Movie: Henry V (Branagh)
  • Shakespeare Uncovered 1: Jeremy Irons episode

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Joy - 11th grade

     Joy has been the most difficult to plan for this year. She's still growing and changing as much from year to year as the little ones are. For some reason I keep expecting this to mellow out, but it never does.
     Civil Air Patrol has gotten her deeper into search and rescue, and having it come down this close and real to her has really made her more certain that's where she wants to go. She is fascinated by forensics, search and rescue, firefighting, and such. Before this she was uncertain of what direction she was aiming, and struggled to answer the classic, "What do you want to do when you grow up?" Now she knows she's ending up in this general field somewhere and enjoys exploring the options.

    There's plenty of time for her to change her mind if needed, but it's nice to finally have a specific goal to point at!

Here's the plan.


  • to be determined, or, "You can choose them. You're good at it."I'm leaning toward some of the J. Warner Wallace books. Cold-case Christianity, God's Crime Scene, etc.
  • (Religion will probably end up to be just one cumulative credit spread across all four years of high school.)

English 11

  • Literature will be a wide variety of genres with A Day's Read lecture series from Great Courses. She's pretty excited about this one!
  • Composition is still in the "Ugh" department. We've looked at several different ideas. She doesn't really like any of them. She doesn't really like the idea of doing a weekly pattern with Mom. She doesn't really like the idea of an outside class. Gosh. If we can't find something she'll move beyond "doesn't really like" I'll probably play the parental trump card and tell her we're doing the weekly pattern, using essay prompts from her lecture guide or history book. - We're actually leaning toward Wordsmith Craftsman. It will be on the lighter side, which is okay. She's a good writer and just needs something to keep us on track and insist on nonfiction assignments. We both liked that it included notetaking, business letters, and such.


  •  continue algebra 2, slow and steady

Honors Biology

  • Biology: Concepts and Connections by Campbell
  • correlated workbook
  • Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments for labs

World History

  • World History by Spielvogel (Glencoe)
  • Oak Meadow World History guide


  • Duolingo for daily practice
  • Breaking the Barrier 2
  • Holt textbooks for reinforcement
  • reading practice from children's books


  • Novel Writing Science Fiction/Fantasy: Other Worlds from the One Year Adventure Novel company
  • Choir: local homeschool organization (1st semester)
  • Guitar: same place as the choir (2nd semester)


  • Civil Air Patrol
  • Venture Scouts (once a month camping/hiking and a couple Wednesday nights a month)
  • Cyber Patriot (aka: Computer Science from someone who knows what they're talking about!)
  • JROTC Navy is in the maybe range (it'd replace the choir and guitar time block) - This produces one class credit, and two years of it gives one P.E. credit, but combined with the PT she's already doing with CAP I think a PE this year would be more than fair. 

    And I *think* we're going to add some casual Government in there, since it is an election year. Maybe not a half credit worth, but if there's time for extra reading it could be.

    The literature list can be seen on the Great Courses site. (If you're not familiar with Great Courses, don't even look at the prices there. I buy ours on Audible for $15, and Great Courses runs super steep discount sales all the time.)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Valor - Official Kindergarten

      Valor is a delicious bundle of cuteness and technicality. LOL He curls up on the dog bed and falls asleep with her during late family movies. He notices water puddles at the gas station and asks how they got there, because the cars don't drip on the lines between parking spots and it hasn't rained lately. He's sweet, helpful, and an "old soul" sort of kid. He hero worships Honor on a regular basis and will jump into any big kid activity he can. Toys and activities aimed at his age have never interested him much, and he prefers to play older kids.

     We treated the current school year like it was kindergarten, academically. In this homeschool that means working on phonics, handwriting, and some gentle math. He's thrived with this slow, gentle pace. His birthday is the precise day of the grade cut-off in this area, so we could really go either way, but we've decided to "red shirt" him for now and call this coming year his Official Kindergarten year. Socially he is just not in the same place as the average rising first grader and needs some time to mature. I watched some Tiger scouts this week (1st graders) and it really confirmed that we'd made the right decision. He's just not there yet. He'll start kindergarten right around his sixth birthday.

    At homeschool, of course, this doesn't change anything. We're going to hand him the book he's ready for without caring what number is on the cover. He's an emerging reader, writes well, and is turning into a sturdy little math student. So here's The Plan for this coming school year.

Phonics and Reading

  • continue Sing, Spell, Read, & Write level 1 (also covers handwriting)
  • follow that with Sing, Spell, Read, & Write level 2 if it seems like he needs it
  • BOB Books collection 2 and 3
  • finish Christian Liberty Press kindergarten readers
  • Kindergarten Favorites literature from Veritas Press when he seems ready to leave the phonics readers behind and start real books, First Favorites is already on the shelf if he gets that far
  • daily read alouds from Mom, family bedtime stories, living in a reading culture family


    Slow and steady instruction seems to work best with him, with lots of review and hands on practice.  Rod and Staff math 1 has been a perfect fit this year, but their book 2 will have too much writing and not enough meat for him. It's the only level of their math I don't care for. It stretches the math out too long and beats it into the ground. The older kids did every problem of every lesson in 1 and 3, but we skipped whole swaths of 2. I don't want to buy all five workbooks again just to barely use them. He is not ready for the more aggressive Horizons 1 however. So I'm going to put a few options on his shelf and mostly let him pick which one we'll do each day.  We'll have lots of direct mom teaching time and hands on work.
  • Dr. Wright's Kitchen Table Math volume 1
  • Foundations of Mathematics from Math U See (old, out of print, covers 1st and 2nd grade math)
  • Gattegno Mathematics 1 with Cuisenaire Rods (considering Mathematics Made Meaningful, but I think we'll have plenty to keep him occupied for a year)
  • math sticks, 1s/10s/100s blocks, and whatever other random math manipulatives we find in the school closet (perks of being the baby of the family)
  • blank paper


  • Early Reader's Bible by Beers, to read to Mom
  • The Book of Life volume one, to read to him


     Only one of these resources at a time. Valor can choose the order.
  • Legends and Leagues story book and workbook (Veritas Press)
  • Geography and Map Activities workbook (Rand McNally)
  • Children Just Like Me
  • Children Just Like Me: Celebrations
  • Passport to the World
  • select Childcraft volumes like holidays around the world, landmarks, and such


     Again, only one of these at a time. Valor can choose the order.
  • The Goops - Yes, I know, science?! But it's a family tradition to do The Goops in K or 1st, and it's the best block to stick it in. We have a full color hard copy of the story, and I'll print coordinating pages from the free book (Google Books) full scale for coloring pages. 
  • My First Encyclopedia of the Human Body (With Scholastic paper craft books if he's interested.)
  • Getting to Know Nature's Children nonfiction book series on various animals
  • Seed Babies

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Faith - 3rd Grade

     The little fireball of intensity that is Faith.... Delightful! Sweet as can be and very caring. Quite stubborn. Marches to her own drum. Doesn't like anything that smells too much like work, yet loves to clean the bathroom. She's a strong little student in her own right, and in spite of being the fifth kid, she still shows me how little I really know about teaching. Methods I avoid because I think them boring, she thoroughly enjoys.

     Faith can also excel and thrive in something only to declare it stupid. Math, reading, dance, anything really. One of the dance moms is convinced we make her dance because the family dances no matter what I say. Faith grumbles that her feet are dead and she can't possibly finish classes. She gripes when we suggest she get more social dancing in. An hour before that, however, she was super-duper excited that it was almost time to dance and trying to put together the very best outfit. She loves to watch videos of dancing, has a dancing superhero, and head-over-heels adores her dance teachers. She just happens to have a fire and ice approach to life that smells like bad attitude. *shrug*

     Here's The Plan for third grade.


  • Genesis Through Joshua cards and student pages (Veritas Press), not aligning it with history since she started this one in February of second grade
  • Judges Through Kings afterward


  • Treasured Conversations ( for grammar and composition
  • Spelling by Sound and Structure 3 (Rod and Staff)
  • homegrown literature, including children's classics and a couple Collier's Junior Classics volumes (precise list to be added later) 


  • Singapore Math 4a-4b (very similar to her beloved Math in Focus, without the baby steps she's usually asking to skip, and a very inexpensive pile fell in my lap)
  • Primary Grade Challenge Math by Zaccaro
  • Math Olympiad Contest Problems volume 2
         The latter two are for once a week math challenges. Grace and Honor are in a Math Olympiad team and she'd love to participate, but she has to be 4th grade by age first. So we're cobbling together something similar just for her. 


     She wants "read this with worksheets and activities." I want living books, discussion, and activities. This is a compromise.
  •  Mr. Q's Life Science  (read this, worksheets, activities) (free for the printing = bonus)
  • The Human Body: What It Is And How It Works by Mitchell Wilson (vintage Golden Book)
  • Burgess Animal Book, perhaps Seaside Book and/or Bird Book
  • to be determined for botany

History - starting her first chronological cycle

  • Old Testament and Ancient Egypt (Veritas Press), using the cards, selected student pages (includes worksheets and extra activities), reading the spines, and some extra readers 
    The 5,000 Year Old Puzzle
    The Ancient Egyptians
    The Egyptian Cinderella
    The Great Pyramid
    Mummies Made in Egypt
    Science in Ancient Egypt
    Ancient Science (extra activities)
    Ancient Egyptians and Their Neighbors (extra activities)
    Ancient Israelites and Their Neighbors (extra activities)
    Seeker of Knowledge
    In Search of Tutankhamen
    God's Special Tent
    Archeologists Dig for Clues
    Fun With Heiroglyphs book and stamp set (extra activities)
  • Story of the World volume 1 with activity guide as desired
  • Pages of History


  • Duolingo - daily practice
  • Spanish for Children A, about a page a day, CD or DVD for chanting practice

Reading list (incomplete)

  • Collier's Junior Classics volumes 3 and 4
  • Little House in the Big Woods, maybe the rest of the series if she takes to it well
  • A Child's Garden of Verses
  • Half Magic (Eager)
  • Stuart Little
  • When We Were Very Young 
  • Peter Pan 
  • The Inventions of Hugo Cabret
  • The BFG
  • Faerie Gold
  • Mary Poppins

Read Alouds (some just for her, some family-wide)

  • Gilgamesh the Hero (McCaughrean)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Princess and Curdie
  • Series of Unfortunate Events book 3 and 4
  • Riddle of the Rosetta Stone
  • Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt (portions)
  • Tales of Ancient Egypt (portions)
  • biology related titles tbd

Grace - 6th Grade, or it started that way...

    Grace will be sixth grade by age. She is precocious and academically aggressive. She's also a whimsical, outgoing ten and a half year old who loves dancing and forensics. That little girl chasing the guys with a sword at homeschool park day, in a miniskirt with matching accessories, that's her.  She's competed on a Math Olympiad team this year and wants to continue that next year. For next year she's torn between joining a Future City team or taking ballet. She's always ready for an adventure and constantly defying stereotypes. She's desperately trying to leave little kid-dom behind and spread her big kid wings. This can lead to some frustration when it goes unacknowledged, but some wonderful leaps as well.

    It chaps her hide some days that I make her stick to her grade by age, when everything but spelling is well ahead of her by age grade. We're strongly considering allowing her to officially grade skip to join a cadet program early, which certainly won't help that aggression. LOL She has been tagging along as an honorary cadet for awhile, and the person in charge of registration offered to let her officially join if we'd declare her a grade ahead. She's obviously mature enough to handle the meetings and advanced enough academically that it does make sense. MhoncaiDad and I hashed it out and agreed she may as well give it a shot. When we told her a fire was ignited and she's taking it Very Seriously. Most of The Plan for next year was already plenty strong enough for a seventh grade distinction, but we made a few tweaks. She's even less happy with spelling now, added some oomph to her science, and decided on a formal literature plan instead of just reading a random pile of classics and discussing.

   Here's the New and Improved Plan.


  • Bite-size Theology by Peter Jeffery, alongside a Catholicism unit to help the middle ages history make a lick of sense
  • then she'll start a chronological pass through the Bible using Veritas Press' Bible curriculum, aiming at completing Genesis through Joshua and Judges through Kings this year, she'll only do the advanced readings and projects, and I'm going to write more mapping and research into her schedule
  • History Lives church history series woven into history 


  • Stewart English book 1, with the option to do book 2 this year or next (grammar will be Done after book 2)
  • Cover Story composition
  • Rod and Staff spelling 6, *if* she doesn't finish it this summer. She's pretty determined to finish it this summer, but that's a serious squishing for that book. I've offered a crash course through the spelling rules with Writing Road to Reading, but she seems to think that's a terrible idea.
  • Annotated Hobbit literature study, homegrown, I'll start with the base I built some years ago for Justice and build a plan around Grace. If I recall correctly Hobbit lasted nearly a school year, and we'll do a Shakespeare unit at the end.
  • The girl wants a Shakespeare year. How does one keep up with a kid like this?? Off the top of my head, I'm thinking...
    • read a retelling together
    • read portions of the original aloud, probably memorize a passage here and there
    • lots of videos, and mock acting around the house
    • lighter spin-offs for reading in the middle
    • historical context as needed
    • designing sets, clothing, and props for a paper doll set 
    • Shakespeare biographies

History of Ireland and England 

  • The Young Oxford History of Britain and Ireland - primary spine
  •  History Lives church history series
  • Illustrated Queens and Kings of England
  • The History of Scotland for Children
  • Famous Men of the Middle Ages
  • Archers, Alchemists, and 98 Other Medieval Jobs
  • Step into the Celtic World
  • Castles, Palaces, and Stately Houses of Britain and Ireland
  • Animals, Birds, & Fish of the British Isles
  • Medieval Medicine and the Plague
  • Good Masters, Sweet Ladies
    Obviously this one is homegrown. I've put together the ancient and medieval period so far, and I'll add to the book list as I go.


  • Exploring the Way Life Works by Hoagland - primary spine
         This is a "nonmajor" flavor of high school text that she already flips through for fun. It'd make a good read all by itself.
  • Blood and Guts for some hands on activities
  • The Way WE Work
  • various extra readers to be determined
  • some units from Bioethics and Medical Issues in Literature, Frankenstein, Rappacinni's Daughter, etc
  • forensic tie-ins somehow??
  • joining Honor and Joy for high school biology labs
  • Biology: Exploring Life by Campbell - select portions
         This is a fairly standard 9th grade text, sometimes called "light." I'm going to try blending a few chapters into her schedule just to work on how to learn from a textbook.

Algebra 1

  • Art of Problem Solving with the videos and Alcumus and/or Khan for extra practice

Spanish 2

  • Duolingo
  • Spanish for Children B
  • reading to Mom from Madrigal's Magic Key to Spanish a couple times a week


  • Argument Builder from Classical Academic Press, after Cover Story is completed (28 weeks or so) so it won't add to the schedule, if we don't get it finished we'll work on it orally through the summer


  • Mapping the World With Art (strong interest, she really, really enjoyed working on the United States with the Brookdale Press book this year)
     That looks like a ton, but broken down it looks very doable.  I think it's her asynchronous quirks that give me pause.
Religion = 30 min
Grammar = 10-20 min
Composition = 20-40 min, some random days will be heavier
Literature = 40-50 min
History = 40-50
Science = 40-50 
Math = 60 min (I know AoPS can use more, but that's about all her brain can take.)
Spanish = 30 min
Logic = 0
Art/geography = 20-30
Grand total = 4.5 - 5.5 hours, with transitions and squirrel chasing
     That's still on the low side for a seventh grade day.

Reading list for literature, very incomplete
  • comparing retellings from our collections by Matthews, Lamb, and Garfield
  • bits and pieces of our favorite scenes from our complete works collection
  • Shakespeare for Kids: His Life and Times (biography and activities)
  • Shakespeare: The World as a Stage by Bryson (I think, haven't read it yet)
  • The Shakespeare Book
  • actual plays covered and related spin-offs are to be determined