One Thing Leads to Another,
and some things are Shakespeare

Since we began an unschooling life just a year ago, the tv has become one of my son's favorite avenues to learning.

Over the past few months he's become passionate about Buffy the Vampire Slayer and since steamrolling through all the seasons, he's now moved on to the spinoff, Angel. My son loves tv, movies, drama, characters, movie stars, filmmaking and all the wonderful ins and out of the business of movie entertainment. He's taken a local filmmaking class with other self-directed learners. And what he's gotten from that has only deepened his love and desire to learn more.

Since he was little he's watched Jeopardy with his dad and myself. Recently, the final Jeopardy answer was up and thinking my husband could get out of driving downtown to buy a pizza for our son, his dad bet him the final question.

The category was Shakespearean Literature...can you guess?

My son nailed it! I almost fell off the couch with both pride and laughter because my son SO busted his father! We all laughed and enjoyed pizza about 25 minutes later.

Later, when I asked my son how on earth he knew the answer he smiled and began taking me through the connections he'd made by watching another show...I am still impressed...and his dad has since learned to order the pizza, regardless!

kim...mom to wesleigh
(who recently disclosed "I really, really like everything about myself, mom!")

Somebody once seemed concerned that my young kids loved to watch Much Ado About Nothing, over and over. They thought the subject matter was highly inappropriate for kids.

I asked Rosie, who was about 8 at the time, what the whole thing was about. She said, "Claudio thinks Hero kissed another guy."

-Pam Sorooshian

My then-six-year-old once, when we were chatting to a priest friend over coffee, gave a quote from Shakespeare. The priest said he was impressed by our homeschool curriculum and a six year old knowing Shakespeare. I said so was I, since we didn't have a curriculum, and I wondered how my son knew the quote. I asked. "From reading Asterix comics" was his answer! We all had a great laugh...


Animaniacs, on Hamlet&mdashhh; Very nice line-by-line translation of the Yorick's skull part. Luckily, a regular character was perfect for one of the parts!!

Someone asked on the UnschoolingDiscussion list whether unschoolers use books. Kelli answered:

An example of how we were using a book yesterday. Which I would never have guessed we would be doing. :) We ended up reading Macbeth! My nine year old daughter and I! At her request. How does that happen?

We started with playing 'go fish'. We had just received a new deck of cards as a gift from a friend who had been to London. They were cards with pictures of flowers on them. The flowers were flowers that have been used in lines of Shakespears plays.

So we are playing go fish and Abbi decides that each time you draw a new card or when you have a card someone asks for, you have to read the quote and the other person has to guess what Shakespeare play its from. (Her idea) I'm like,,, OK. I think she's maybe familiar with four Shakespeare plays right now, so I'm hesistant (inside me) because she won't know many names to guess. But that's OK, I just go with it. We had so much fun. 😊 I did study Shakespeare in college so I'm somewhat familiar with the plays. So when she's read me one and we'd come to the play, we'd talk about what it was about. (If I could remember) Most of the quotes I had no idea, though.

(poison hemlock, with spider)

Anyway, we came to a quote from Macbeth, "Root of hemlock digg'd i' the dark" (and there's a pic. of hemlock on the card) and I thought that was from the witches as they are stirring their cauldron. We go and google Shakespeare plays and find a website with lines from all the plays. Look up Macbeth and there ya go, there's the witches, as she is reading through the witches scene, (which is so fun to do, cackling and all) we had a really cool connection happen.

She sees the lines, "Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and Cauldron bubble." She stops and thinks, hmmm and I'm also stopping and thinking.

Earlier we had been downloading the trailer to the new Harry Potter movie, Prisoner of Azkaban, we had seen it in the theater when we went to the Looney Tunes movie and wanted to see it again. Well...did you know that there's Shakespeare in Harry Potter? There's a choir singing "Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and Cauldron bubble" over and over and then they also have, "Something wicked this way comes" which is from the same scene in Macbeth! Blew me over, it was so cool!

So of course we had to go and download the trailer again and listen to the music some more!

As we are doing that, Abbi decides she wants to read through the whole play of Macbeth. She wants to divide up the parts and take turns reading through it. I tell her I think I still have my Complete Works of Shakepeare up above the garage in storage and she is soooo excited! But she says we first have to finish our 'go fish' game. After go fish, we go and dig out the Shakespeare book and... there you have it, we ended up sitting, reading Macbeth last night. I was amazed at how much she was understanding and how she sat there with her finger on each word as she read. Also, she wanted the Macbeth part! Lots of hard reading. There is so much to learn in reading Shakespeare, wow! The style of writing and speaking for one, the history, we looked up a ton of words. Ones that I didn't know either. A dictionary is another book we use, alot! We did that for 2 hours and will be finishing it today.

So yes, unschoolers do use books, its just when they want to use them. 😊

Have a fun day in your new unschooling life.


Sweekriti Singh wrote (in January 2015):
What a lovely post sharing a treasure trove of movie references! Thank you!

Just the other day I was thinking how it would be a great idea to introduce Shakespeare to my little girl when she is a bit older (she is 3 now) through a trilogy of interesting Indian movies based on his plays.

Here are the details of the movies directed by the same person (Vishal Bhardwaj) I am referring to...
1. Maqbool (Macbeth)
2. Omkara (Othello)
3. Haider (Hamlet )

What's interesting is that these movies borrow Shakespeare's plot but are also rooted in contemporary Indian themes. So, watching them is a great way to learn about the culture & local politics of the times they were set in as well.

I will put this on the Movies page, too.

Friday, March 18, 2005 blogpost by Pam Laricchia:

Shakespeare is Fun!

We were laughing so hard and often yesterday afternoon that my throat was raw! Alyssa (10), Michael (7), and I watched The Reduced Shakespeare Company, billed as "All 37 plays in 97 minutes!" It was hilarious! We watched the first sketch on Romeo and Juliet twice before moving on, and parts of the Hamlet sketch at the end more times than I could keep track.

And it gets me thinking about learning ... again. I can't even recall which Shakespeare plays I read - and soliloquies I memorized - in high school (because surely nobody can understand, let alone enjoy, Shakespeare before the age of 14). But truly, Shakespeare's plays are meant to be watched, not read. They are plays, not novels! And by the way, if you don't enjoy his plays, don't watch them. Your life will NOT be meaningless!

Real learning is about connections made and remembered - not facts and soliloquies memorized (and soon forgotten). Here are some Shakespeare connections Alyssa's made - without ever being told to read Shakespeare.

I remember last year when the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban movie trailer came out and we heard the accompanying song, how she and I looked up some of the witches' scenes in Macbeth. "Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble." and "Something wicked this way comes." were directly quoted in the lyrics! And we found the reference to them as "The Weird Sisters", which immediately sparked in Alyssa's memory the name of the band playing at the Yule Ball in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (book 4). We quickly looked it up to confirm. Very cool connections that were made excitedly and likely won't be forgotten!

We watched The Reduced Shakespeare Company with anticipation for the Macbeth sketch. And sure enough, there was a reference to the witches! Along with a reference at the beginning of the sketch to the alleged curse of saying Macbeth out loud ... which sparked more connections to a Simpsons episode set in England with Ian McKellan guest starring and performing in Macbeth. The Simpsons keep saying Macbeth and he was thoroughly cursed!

And Alyssa briefly mentioned she was waiting for the Hamlet, Price of Denmark sketch, to see how it compared to The Simpsons telling of the story - the "play within a play". And she was not disappointed. The Hamlet sketch is priceless! She was waiting to see if they all really did die at the end ... and they did.

Harry Potter ... The Simpsons ... Shakespeare. And these are just some of the more obvious connections she made; I'm sure she also learned some new things that she'll make connections to in the future. And Michael enjoyed a wonderful, hilarious introduction into the world of Shakespeare. We also told Joseph (who heard us roaring with laughter and dropped by but was busy with other stuff) that the sense of humour is right up his alley and that we think he'll really enjoy it. I would venture a guess that he will watch it soon as well.

So much fun, so many learning connections as a joyful byproduct, and no mention of Shakespeare being boring or impossible to understand. A great afternoon in my book!

Update: Sure enough, the next night we sat and watched it with Rocco and Joseph - and they both thought it was great as well!

—Pam Laricchia

The Reduced Shakespeare Company's show is all on YouTube now, in several parts. Here's the first one (and you can click through to YouTube to get to subsequent sections):

Shakespeare & Chaucer
Sarah Clark, September 2015

Here’s Jenna standing in front of posters for Oddsock’s Much Ado About Nothing (which we had just been to see).

My eleven year old, Jenna, is sitting on my bed chatting to me about some Minecraft fanfiction she is writing. She just used such phrases as “passive voice”, “present tense”, and “third person” correctly in context. She has never had a grammar lesson in her life.

In other news, she has seen six Shakespeare plays this year (it was her stated year’s goal, unprompted, to see as much Shakespeare as possible this year), raves randomly about Chaucer, and emails me poems. This kid didn’t read until she was almost nine, and has spent most of the last three months watching YouTube on her phone almost non-stop.

I have had periods of thinking that Jenna would be highly unlikely to choose to do anything in the next few years that outsiders would perceive as having educational value. She has always been interested in history, but otherwise I have spent a fair bit of time “translating” into educationalese for grandparents etc. Who could have predicted that all of that intensive YouTube and Netflix would turn out to have taken a little detour into reading and discussing A Level grade English Literature materials, via Minecraft role play fan groups and Buffy references?! (For the record, I’m genuinely as delighted in her love of Kawaiichan and quoting Giles [from Buffy] and photo manipulation as I am of the Chaucer and Shakespeare – but it’s certainly easier to point out the latter as evidence that Something Is Happening.)

Another additional comment: Yesterday, I mentioned that I have a huge hardback Complete Works of Shakespeare. She said, “Oh I know! I found it months ago! I have read most of it, well all of the sonnets and lots of the plays – but I sort of skim-read the histories… I’m not SO keen on those.”

— Sarah Clark

"ALL THE GALAXY'S A STAGE": Shakespeare in the Star Trek Universe
Lists and notes on Shakespeare references in Star Trek episodes and movies.

Grace Melinda wrote:
Here is another Shakespeare site (which didn't survive into the 2020s, but I've linked a Wayback Machine save):
it has everything about the olde boy! LOL

Welcome to Speak the Speech

"We are a non-profit audio theatre company dedicated to providing freely available Shakespearean audio performances online, for the benefit of educators, students, theatre people, the disabled, those in rural areas or overseas, or to put it simply: Everyone!"


More on Unschooling and Shakespeare:
Bringing Shakespeare Home (by Sandra Dodd)
Plus the bonus writing, "Stopping Shakespeare Before he Starts"


Typical Unschooling Days

Television and Video