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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Some really good books!

There are three books that we've checked out of the library that have caused our house to buzz with all sorts of history discussion! For at least a fortnight I was being presented with a new discovery every time I turned around!

For instance, I didn't know the United States had a president before George Washington, or that the Eiffel Tower was almost razed by the Parisians, or that the man who created television wouldn't let his own son watch it, or that President Lincoln was an inventor, did you?

These books are great for those children who are not that interested in history, or who have had the subject ruined by "textbooks" or who just need something to ignite their own desire to dig deeper and find things out for themselves...

Besides these, I have stumbled upon some nicely illustrated fairy story books that I have been reading to my little girls. My favorite so far is Papa Gatto, which is my favorite because the sweetest young maiden is not the pretty one, but the plain one. 

I also checked out The Enchanted Wood and The Twelve Dancing Princesses, also by Ruth Sanderson, but we haven't read them yet...I try and spread these treats throughout the week!

Jean Fritz is another author I am investigating. She has written numerous books about American history, and our current is Around the World in a Hundred Years. Although her books are not overtly Christian, she does diminish Christian influence but makes sure to mention it. She is also an engaging writer, and the illustrations in this book are very interesting.

I have always loved Alice Dalgliesh' The Courage of Sarah Noble, so I was so excited to find a number of other books by her at our library. My early readers are very happy to find these--they do mention the Bible and the Christian lives of the historical characters--so very wonderful to have a young child read about history and become encouraged at the same time!

I don't currently have an Amazon affiliation, so don't feel pressured to buy on Amazon, unless you don't have a good library near you. You could try and find these titles on Paperback swap, if you do not have any cheaper way to go.

I like to share good books I find because there are so many awful ones out there these days, and my creative self needs to find new and wonderful titles! We are so blessed with a library that allows me to reserve these books online and then just go and pick them up! Thanks be to God!

What sorts of good books have you found lately?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Gateway to Shakespeare

Schooling does nothing for Shakespeare. The system most of us were taught under has turned the works of the Bard into something that is, at best, to be yawned at, at worst, to be avoided like the plague!

We may even feign to be interested, or even well-versed in his plays in order to impress others, or at least so as not to appear "ignorant." Yet we would never spend our spare time engaged in reading plays that put us to sleep!

I remember reading Julius Caesar in class, along with Romeo and Juliet, and feeling as lost as lost can be. Teachers raved, and quoted, and forced us to memorize, but there were so many other things I would rather have been doing!

It is a sad thing that two of the most tragic of Shakespeare's works were forced upon me and my classmates, and that they were presented in such horrid ways. How awful it was to be placed in a circle and hear his words murdered in a thousand different ways as we attempted to read his plays out loud!

Here at home we have watched various renditions of his works, with varied results. The Hamlet we viewed the other day, starring Sir Lawrence Olivier, was received with indifference, as was Julius Caesar (and older version, I have to admit) when we watched it some months ago (my favorite Hamlet is the one with Mel Gibson).

But there is one movie that always captures the attention of my children; The Taming of the Shrew, with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Now, I know this would never fly in a politically-correct public schoolroom, but the laughter it renders here makes the rafters shake!

After the movie was over, I dug out our own copies of the play and began reading the familiar lines out loud, which led to rounds of even more laughter, and the children walked around for the next few days with pithy quotes flowing from their lips.

Why study Shakespeare, you might ask?

Here are some of the reasons why we study the Bard's works:

  • Besides the Bible, his works are the bestsellers of the Western world
  • The plots are timeless, and you will see them repeated often in modern literature, plays, movies, etc.
  • Shakespeare knew human nature well, and his plays are often instructive
  • One of our favorite Christian writers and teachers, A. W. Tozer, studied Shakespeare, always beginning on his knees and asking the Holy Spirit to teach him how to communicate better through his studies.
  • Shakespeare had a way with words, and so studying his ways helps us to become better with our own English language.
  • We will come across quotes from Shakespeare in numerous places in our lives, so it is good to be at least familiar with where they have come from
  • McGuffey thought them worthy enough to be included in his readers
  • Charlotte Mason recommended them

Of course, the archaic language can be confusing and our lack of understanding can bar us from the many benefits we may gain. This is why a good synopsis of the different plots can be immensely helpful. For this purpose we have the book, Tales of Shakespeare, by Charles and Mary Lamb. These condensed stories are short, so that even young children may find them interesting. My daughter, Sarah, naturally picked up this book in her free time, and there is a waiting list of children who want to read it next.

Children who are allowed to read Shakespeare for pure enjoyment find it very pleasing. When my older children were little we sat around and read The Taming of the Shrew together a few times, before we ever saw the movie, and my older daughters left with stacks of paper-back copies of his plays which they purchased with their own money.