When I was in high school, I hated studying Shakespeare. I needed a translator as I couldn't understand the English used. But as an adult, I have been to see some of his plays in the theater and have seen adaptations in movies. Plus I realize that there are many references to Shakespearean works or characters in our culture. There are reasons why these are considered classics.
I wanted my children to have a quality education and wanted that to include things like Shakespeare without feeling tortured by it like I did.
Instead of pulling out a textbook with one of his plays to read and boring questions to answer, I used the freedom of homeschooling to make Shakespeare much more interesting.
I found a few books designed for kids rather than a high school classroom such as How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare (an informal curriculum guide for children age 6 and up by a Shakespearean actor and dad), Well-Loved Tales from Shakespeare (a retelling of his plays as stories in more modern English), Shakespeare for Kids: His Life and Times: 21 Activities (interesting background information combined with hands-on activities and games), and Tales from Shakespeare (in graphic novel format). I used these to jazz up our learning with games, activities, stories that I read aloud, and interesting historical facts. We acted out scenes and memorized a few famous lines. I found online some inexpensive used books called Brick Shakespeare that tell some of his plays with lots of illustrations (graphic novel style) made of Lego bricks–my kids who still loved Lego bricks and graphic novels spent quite a bit of time pouring over these. They read and re-read them because they found them appealing which means they learned a lot more from them than I did from my boring high school textbooks.
At the library, I found a series of books called William Shakespeare’s Star Wars which retell the Star Wars movies using Shakespearean English. My Star-Wars-obsessed children checked several out from the library at a time and from them, grew more comfortable with the old-fashioned English than I was at their ages.
Finally, I came up with the idea of putting on our very own Shakespeare Festival with friends from our local homeschool support group. The festival was a success. Most of the kids, and even a couple of adults, came in costume (mostly Shakespearean, but a few Star Wars costumes were on display, too). Several of the students showed, on a big screen, Shakespeare-inspired videos they’d filmed; most were stop-motion videos made with Lego bricks. Some were faithful to the Bard's tales but at least one put her own twist on the ending of a scene. We had several outdoor games that were given Shakespearean sounding names and a Corn Hole game was even decorated with Shakespearean quotes. Tea was served–-in tea cups for some and in less breakable vessels for the littlest ones–-along with clotted cream, crumpets, cucumber (and other tiny) sandwiches, fruit, and more. All played a trivia game that I created with questions on the life and times of Shakespeare, as well as questions that asked them to finish famous lines, identify plays from descriptions of them, and more. The grand finale was a skit put on by our club members for the parents and others who came to our festival. The skit, “Kylo and Juliet,” was planned by our members based on the beginning of the play “Romeo and Juliet” and incorporated various characters and material from the Star Wars movies.
If I’d had something like this as a child, I’m sure I wouldn’t have hated Shakespeare so. (Who said that high school classes–or those at any other level–have to be dreadfully dull to count as classes? Who said that we couldn’t spend time on a number of interesting resources besides reading Shakespearean plays in boring textbooks? And, yes, many of these materials were actually meant for much younger children, but that wasn’t a problem because I know the children learned more from these activities than they would have from a brief unit in a high school English textbook.)
That can be the beauty of homeschooling: You can skip the boring school materials and go instead for the more interesting materials published for mass consumption and end up learning more in the end while having some fun along the way.