They Said It Couldn't Be Done…

shakespeare-caitilinby Caitilin Fiona

When my dear friend Ana suggested some years ago that we should extend my Shakespeare reading class into the realm of actual theater, I admit, I was dubious. It sounded too large-scale, too daunting, too serious! For starters, my eldest student was 15, and the majority were eighth and ninth graders, with a few younger ones thrown in. It seemed like one of those ideas we all have, the “pie in the sky, dream that would never work” ideas…and yet, somehow, it was so tempting to give it a shot. We did.

Our shot:

We decided to perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as it was fun, familiar, accessible, and short(ish). Our stage was Ana’s backyard acreage, with an outbuilding as backstage. Our costumes were homemade and improvisational. Our scripts were the Dover thrift editions of the play (which have been a real boon to us, as there is no way we could find a full length script at an equivalently affordable price).

We also decided to do our play practice somewhat on the model of our local homeschool group’s drama camp: campers were assigned their lines six weeks or so in advance, and came to the week-long camp with their lines (mostly) memorized. We worked on Shakespeare for one week, every afternoon from 1pm till 8pm, with a dinner break, and performed on Saturday evening to an attentive audience of relatives and friends.

Fabulous. It was nothing short of fabulous. Truly, it stands as a testament to the capacity of teens to succeed at something most people, of any age, would be to afraid to consider, much less attempt! We put on a whole Elizabethan play, uncut, with teen actors, inside of one week. It felt miraculous, (perhaps more so to me than to them!) that something so untested could come off so well.

Those same kids, nearly all of whom are now graduates, were still reminiscing about “our first year” and how wonderful it was when I saw them this summer. It is one of their most treasured memories. And this, this is why we homeschool, guys. This is the kind of opportunity we can provide for our kids, for whom the sky is honestly the limit because they don’t carry the baggage of worry that they’ll fail, socially or otherwise. It is the embodiment of the old saw about “that which is worth doing is worth doing badly,” as that was the risk they ran and passed right over, banners waving.

Since that first Midsummer year, we have performed four more plays: Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth, The Tempest, and King Lear. All have been wonderful, the kids’ acting superb. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Try it–take the leap onto the stage!

Postscript: link to the first year’s play here. From there, you can hunt around on the Shakespeare Camp tab and see other photos and descriptions. Enjoy!

Caitilin Fiona is a homeschooling mother of six children, ranging from sixteen year old twins down to a five year old. Her particular interests in the homeschool universe include teaching Latin, Shakespeare, and Great Books. Outside of homeschooling, her interests include language and languages, theology, cookery and nutrition, movies, and fooling around, er, researching on the Internet.

Summer Self-Education with Professor Freeman

by Amy Rose

What do you do when your Homeschool Moms’ Online Book Club drags a little during the long, hot summer? Our group decided to stop reading books. Instead, we’ve been listening together online to Professor Joanne Freeman of Yale University as she teaches us (and many others) about the American Revolution. We have a Facebook group in which to chat as we listen, and we are having so much fun with it! Some of us have already taught this subject to our children  and are pleased to find we know the people, places, and events of which Professor Freeman speaks. Others in our group have younger children and are fortifying their knowledge before teaching this era of our nation’s history in their own home schools. Certainly, we are all learning.

This is an excellent foundation for an American History course for your homeschooled teens, or if you are really hardcore you could use it for Family Movie Night for 25 weeks. Or simply enjoy it yourself, to add another layer of depth to your own understanding of the era. Professor Freeman obviously loves her work and speaks very animatedly (and often humorously) about the founding of our country. She brings each hero, villain, and episode to life, while skillfully posing the big questions and providing perceptive and satisfying answers conversationally and memorably.

As Professor Freeman explains in the first lecture, the point of the course is to understand why the Revolutionary War was only part of the revolution. She quotes John Adams who said, “The war was not the revolution. It was on the effect and consequence of the revolution. The revolution was in the minds of the people.” We learn more about how the people of the era actually thought through the excellent teaching by Professor Freeman.

What exactly is the course about? From the introduction:

“The American Revolution entailed some remarkable transformations–converting British colonists into American revolutionaries, and a cluster of colonies into a confederation of states with a common cause–but it was far more complex and enduring than the fighting of a war. As John Adams put it, “The Revolution was in the Minds of the people… before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington”–and it continued long past America’s victory at Yorktown. This course will examine the Revolution from this broad perspective, tracing the participants’ shifting sense of themselves as British subjects, colonial settlers, revolutionaries, and Americans.”

The home page for the course is here: History 116: The American Revolution

The home page includes links to the syllabus, sessions, and recommended reading. (My friends and I did not purchase the books. You might want them for your students, or you might want to just use the lectures as “gravy” for an American History course that you’ve already chosen.)

And here is the first lecture, “Freeman’s Top Five Tips for Studying the American Revolution.”

amy_roseAmy Rose was a middle child growing up in a trailer park in the Midwest with talented parents who struggled financially. Her future life was easy to imagine until one magical day when she was thirteen, her fairy godmother gave her a box of oil pastels and a vintage textbook titled, “England in Literature.” Suddenly the entire wealth of riches found in the history of the West became to her a Holy Grail.  So she grew up and learned how to classically educate her own children who all turned out to be geniuses or at least mostly teachable.

Introducing Sandbox to Socrates

Hello, world!  We are a group of mothers who met–in the virtual realm–through our shared interest in homeschooling, especially concerning classical education.  For some time we have wanted to raise a public voice in support of home education and of inclusiveness in the homeschooling world.  As we discussed the many issues we want to bring up, we discovered that we have some very ambitious ideas, but precious little time to accomplish them as we navigate the daily realities of motherhood and family life.  We therefore decided to start a blog, in hopes of bringing people together to discuss homeschooling while still keeping up with our lives.

We chose our name because collectively, we have raised children of all ages, and we have lots to share about every stage!   We want our focus to be classical, but “classical” includes lots of playtime, fun, and yes–joy.

We are all very different people!  As we write about our lives and our opinions, you will see some variety here.  That is what we are hoping for–to share our different experiences in hopes that we can support others in their journeys.  We have practical ideas, to help you get through the daily work of educating your children, and we love to discuss theories and inspirational dreams.

Home education is big enough for everyone who wants to dedicate themselves to learning and to teaching children.    We are not here to push particular lifestyles or faiths (although you will certainly see us talk about our own in the course of things); we want to support home education regardless of lifestyle or faith tradition.