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What a Homeschooler Should Do If You Didn’t Introduce Shakespeare Early: Don’t Ask Me.

As a homeschooler, what happens if you didn’t introduce Shakespeare early to your kids? And when you finally do, everyone hates the first Shakespeare play they see?

Nothing. Nothing happens at all.

Life goes on.

I remember a time I read Shakespeare for fun. As newlyweds my husband and I would read it together from this beautiful, thick, leather-bound book. Probably by candlelight. Because we were newlyweds with no kids and had the time and energy to care about candles. We even went to the plays, which is infinitely easier (and more affordable) when you don’t have to arrange a babysitter.

In later years (meaning after parenthood and fifteen pounds gained during my 30s), I used that beautiful leather-bound book as a prop for my workout weights. With three moves in three years, I finally gave the book to Goodwill.

I honest to god don’t know what happened. I consider myself intelligent. I went to college. At one time I enjoyed the mental gymnastics it took to read Shakespeare. But I’m not sure I enjoy Shakespearean gymnastics anymore.

Methinks thy brain is tired.

I have a ton of other mental gymnastics I have to do. Like figure out how to get my struggling writer somewhere near proficiency before college.

And when my always-good-at-math son hits a brick wall with algebra 1, I have to figure out why and what’s going on and how we are going to fix it. Is it the curriculum? I should research a different approach! Is it just maturity? Maybe he should wait six months and try again. What? No, he doesn’t want to temporarily stop doing math? Oh, okay, yay for persistence! So let’s research more curriculum!

Not to mention I also have to help the other son with algebra 2. And it’s not that I can’t help him. I was very good at math in college. I like math. I can do this. But I still have to do the mental gymnastics to relearn it myself and then figure out ways to help my son understand it.

And then can we talk about high school level literature? Like how to teach teenagers to recognize complexity in novels and spark events, point of view, key events, adventure narratives, unreliable narrators, character motivation, theme, symbolism and good lord let’s stop listing all of the “supposed tos” around teaching literature before I throw my hands up in despair. More mental gymnastics.

Hark! I admit impediments.

It’s a lot. And I only mentioned math & English. In high school there are usually four other subjects each year. I think we need to say it again. IT IS A LOT.

It’s not that I can’t do it. I can do hard things.

But am I required to throw Shakespeare into the mix too?

I don’t know. That secret intellectual snob who occasionally sits on my shoulder whispers, “Yes, you are required. If you want to count your kids as well-educated and yourself as a top-quality home educator, OF COURSE YOU HAVE TO TEACH THEM TO LOVE & APPRECIATE SHAKESPEARE!”

Sitting on my other shoulder is the secret me who wants to stay sane and maybe have some part of myself left that isn’t ALL ABOUT THE EDUCATING, and she replies, “Shit.”

We did the whole Milkshakes & Shakespeare. Yes, I know, the word play thing. I can’t help it; it’s what I do. (I also can’t help guessing when it’s okay to use a semicolon. I’m still not sure!) I make milkshakes and read aloud Shakespeare from Leon Garfields’s book. Yep, I’m reading a children’s Shakespeare book to my high schoolers because the sane me can’t tackle more than that. It’s low-key, low-pressure; this will work! (But does that semicolon work? Hmm…)

We read The Taming of the Shrew. We drove an hour in Atlanta’s infamous rush hour traffic to see the play. And we all wanted to leave at intermission because we disliked it that much. We stayed. But we didn’t like it.

As I sat through the play, I realized that reading Garfields’s book wasn’t enough for us to be able to follow the play. That’s when my heart sank.

You mean I have to do more with this? For the love of OPI, have you seen my half-painted toenails? I would like to have the wherewithal to care that my toenails haven’t been painted in four months and are an embarrassment to all open-toed shoes.

It’s not that I don’t want my boys to know Shakespeare, his famous lines and how he still influences our language today. I’d love for them to know and learn it in a way that doesn’t kill the joy. Heck, I’d love to know more and have fun too.

But I already feel like we’re behind the homeschool eight ball on this because I didn’t start it when they were ten. Instead, college dual enrollment is now staring me in the face, as is the binomial theorem.

Shall I see thee anon, Bard? Perchance. Perchance not.

Can I say, “You know what, we’re just not one of those Shakespeare homeschoolers,” and be okay with it? That I let Shakespeare just slide on by?

I really don’t know. That’s the rub of this homeschooling thing sometimes. We have this vision of who we want to be. The homeschooling world out there has high standards. For one, we do want our kids to have an excellent education, no doubt. That’s worthy. But is it also possible we feel we have to overcompensate to validate what we do?

Where is that line for me? What’s a quality education versus me feeling I need to overachieve in order to prove homeschooling is all that and a side of fries? To prove I earned The Good Homeschooler Seal of Approval?

What side of that equation does the Bard fall for me? Quality education or overachieving?

I’ll have to get back to you on that one. Speaking of equations, I need to go teach fractional exponents…

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