75 Movies You Can Watch With Your Grandparents (or Kids)

75 Movies You Can Watch With Your Grandparents (or Kids)

We spent Easter this year with four generations of my and my husband’s family; and while we were there, my Grandfather mentioned that they were looking for suggestions for Movie Night at their Retirement Home. Ha! I don’t think he was expecting an hour and a half discussion on the merits of various films and then a large list organized by genre, but that’s what he got.

This is a list of movies that are generally pretty clean (‘cause who would recommend movies with twenty minutes of naked people or two hours of the F word to a bunch of grandparents??) and are on this list because they are marvelous in some way and we really like them. Mostly I’m posting this so I don’t lose the list because there are some I still haven’t shown my own kids, but if you are looking for some good stuff to watch, here are a few suggestions in a non-exhaustive list.



Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Superman the Movie

Superman Returns


Back to the Future I, II, and III

Batteries Not Included

Star Trek (the new one with Chris Pine)

Star Trek II, Star Trek IV, Star Trek VI

Star Wars (the old ones, episodes IV,V, and VI)

Batman Begins


Close Encounter of the 3rd Kind

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951 version)

The Time Machine (1960)

The Rocketeer

The Mummy

Iron Man (first one)

Harry Potter (any and all, but watch them in order)

Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)

The Incredible (watch after other Superhero ones)




His Girl Friday

It Happened One Night

Road to Utopia (or Morocco or Rio)

The Philadelphia Story

It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

Operation Petticoat

Arsenic and Old Lace

Return of the Pink Panther

Father Goose

The Court Jester


GalaxyQuest (watch after the Star Treks)

The Princess Bride


Harry and the Hendersons

The Gods Must Be Crazy



Citizen Kane

On the Waterfront

The African Queen

The Maltese Falcon

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

To Kill A Mockingbird

Treasure of Sierra Madre




Apollo 13

Man from Snowy River

The Black Stallion





Pirates of the Caribbean (first one)

Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr. version, first one)

Raiders of the Lost Ark (first one)

The Hunt for Red October



My Fair Lady

Singing in the Rain

{The only reason Les Miserables isn’t on the list is because I didn’t want a whole retirement home crying for two and a half hours)



Night of the Hunter (1955)

North by Northwest




The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Rio Bravo

True Grit (the old one and the new one are both great)





Much Ado About Nothing

Henry V (Kenneth Branagh version)

The Taming of the Shrew (Richard Burton, Liz Taylor)



The Quiet Man (one of my all-time favorites)


So, there you go!

Planning the New Year

Planning the New Year

Happy New Year! For the three people who aren’t on Facebook, haven’t seen me in a year, yet still follow the blog, we did get the house. Score! Purchased in September, spent six weeks tearing out stupid crap and scouring and repainting, and moved in the end of October. But that’s not what this post is about, because you know how much I like to wait until several months after my whole life has changed and then write about something completely unrelated. 🙂

Moving to The Farm has been awesome in that sort of moving-to-Mars kind of way (we’re working on a real name for the place, but pretty much so far we can’t agree on one; two of our children were named after delivery and one of those we flipped a coin for so naming things is not our strong suit). Every day is something I’ve never seen or never done or never thought of before. Every day I look out my back door at my forest or go to the pump house for firewood (we’re mainly wood stove heat, which is new for me) and am delighted by the surroundings. It’s beautiful and quiet, both of which flood me with relief. Six kid dirt + farm dirt + construction dirt (George is remodeling the attic) = a special kind of mess volume that I haven’t quite figured out an adequate way to manage yet.

After the first couple months here were filled with putting things away, trying to figure out how to get the wood stove to cooperate, and holiday madness, it is now the start of a new year and I feel like it’s quiet and I might have a little time to think about and plan for our new life. I feel like I’m just meeting the new house and am trying to get to know it and how to work with it so that our family and home function smoothly and well. This requires organization, which I naturally tend to anyway.

Food is a big issue around here with eight mouths to feed. No one ever gets less hungry, you know? Food reminds me of gardening, which historically has not been my strong suit. I like the idea of a garden, I like planning a garden, I even occasionally plant a garden. Then I subsequently kill it. It’s very sad. Anyway, being a foolish optimist with a large piece of property and a whole basement set up for food storage, I’ve again been thinking about gardening in the spring. This made me think about time management in general and how I hate feeling like my to do list is longer than the available time allotment and how this may be related to my garden-killing. This made me think about meal planning and preparation in general because they are both time-consuming…

Which made me think about the Organized Simplicity lady’s version of meal planning, which is to make a two week menu and then use it twice in a row, which essentially gives you a month of meals from one menu. I’ve also been thinking about how I can use my leftovers more efficiently, make meals that are less fussy yet still yummy and well-rounded, and generally have good things to eat which are easily scalable for company yet don’t take a million years to make. Nothing much.

To that end, I sat down yesterday and today with my laptop and Plan To Eat and spent most of both days meal planning. I ended up with a full three week menu with no repeats and more fancy but easy company meals on Sundays with solid leftover usage. So, with the repeat on that it becomes six weeks of meals and other than a few days unplanned still next week (which I’m going to do in a minute), I am planned up through February 23rd.

I am trying to decide whether I’m feeling ambitious enough to do one more set of three weeks and then I’ll have a full three-month complement of winter dinners and won’t mess with again until spring. This is rather nice. I like deleting things from my brain’s To Do list. It feels good. I like the new year. New Year is good. I have more thoughts swirling in the ticker, but they will have to wait until later. Until then, take a moment to breathe, reflect, and renew.


House-y News!

House-y News!

So, you know how last month I said that our offer was accepted and we were closing on July 28th? That wasn’t all as done deal as we had thought. That post was on the second of June and we were expecting to put down earnest money, have inspections, and carry on. A week went by, two weeks went by, three weeks went by and we kept hearing that the bank hadn’t signed the paperwork, which made no sense since we were accepting their counter-offer.

Finally a week or so ago (after waiting for a month), we find out that the counter-offer wasn’t from the bank that is doing the owner’s short sale, it was from the bank’s negotiator and he really was waiting for the bank to approve it. Did that mean that the bank could still reject what we had been under the impression for a month was pretty much sorted out? Who knows? Then they came back wanting to change the closing date to September 28. Then they decided they wanted to see $10,000 in our bank account right now to make sure they don’t get to closing with people who can’t close.

Ok, that’s great except we don’t have $10,000 in our bank account right now. George has a couple of large contracts with outstanding payments and I’ve been selling on Amazon, which won’t release my funds for a couple weeks. Even then it won’t quite be $10,000. So my parents signed a gift letter (which I think they will not need to actually fulfill) and we didn’t hear anything. That was a week and a half ago.

Last night we heard back. The bank has actually accepted our offer for real this time (!!). Our earnest money is going over today and George is setting up appointments for inspectors and things to come next Monday (I want everything inspected so I know just what we’re getting in to). Also, our closing date has change again (this makes date #4 in case you’re keeping track) to August 29th, which is a month earlier than the last nebulous date but also means we will be moving before school starts and before the weather turns. This makes me much happier.

Our big $10,000 accumulation project has been going pretty well. We have nearly $6,000 taken care of, up from the $2000 we had to apply to this a month ago. George has been working hard and I started selling on Amazon (mostly DVDs), which I’m thoroughly enjoying. I’m out of stock at the moment, but will have more up Saturday or Monday (links to the store and George’s business are on the blog sidebar). My brain has been back in business overdrive, which has its plusses and minuses.

Basically, all this means I have six weeks to pack up everything and get ready to move, come up with $4,000, and plan school for four children for next year (of course, I am not solely responsible for the first two items on the list). If you see me and I look like I might spontaneously combust or have big creepy saucer-eyes, you can pretty much assume this to be why.

When we first put an offer on this house there were a massive number of hurdles and things to get past and it seemed like such a ridiculous long shot. Now we are basically down to just one more big hurdle, the inspection, which we should have an answer on next week. The $10,000 I’m actually not too worried about. Getting it all done will be a lot of work, but I’m not really worried that we won’t have it in the end. The inspection, however, I am still pretty concerned about. Thank you all so much for your continued prayers. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed by the name of the Lord.



P.S. Here’s a link to the house we’re trying to buy: http://bit.ly/M8CSbv

Offer News and Now the Scramble Begins

Offer News and Now the Scramble Begins

Well, a mere two months after we placed an offer on that short sale farmhouse in Oregon City (see the last post for a brush-up on the situation), we have finally heard back from the bank. And… they accepted our offer and our closing date is now July 28th! Since we offered a mere $50,000 less than the asking price, we were expecting a substantial counter of some sort. Instead they didn’t dicker about the price at all, and the only thing they wanted changed was instead of them paying the entire closing cost, they wanted to change it to 2% of the sale price. After talking to our mortgage guy, that amounts to a whole $2500 that is just going to get rolled into the rest of the financing. Translation: woohoo!

Sort of woohoo. Kind of like yay 42% of the process is complete and going well but there are still a couple giant, major hurdles woohoo. Hurdle #1 ~ We were originally planning to use a county grant for the down payment, which everything was set for when we made the offer in March. Last week, before we heard back about the offer, I went back to double check and make sure that was still clear, and guess what? Two weeks after we made the offer, they changed the maximum sales price requirement and now instead of being under the ceiling, we are $5000 over. When I called, they said that it didn’t matter when we made the offer and there was no grandfather clause. All that mattered was the sale price at closing.

So, that’s out. We have about two months to scrounge up $10,000. George has had a couple big contracts lately and I have started selling off everything that’s not tacked down. I found a whole box of old Gymboree stuff from when the girls were little and have all that listed. In that same box I found a bag of Gym stuff I bought to resell nine years ago. It still has all the tags on it and everything. So dumb! Well, it’s listed now, so we’ll see how that goes. I started making Kindle covers a few months ago and will be listing some more of those next week as well. My business brain has gone back into overdrive with crazy ideas. Super stress but kind of fun at the same time. 🙂

In addion to all that and in fashion that is completely consistent for us, we found out yesterday about the offer, and today we found out that George’s huge contract that he was expecting to start next week and would have provided a nice chunk of the $10k got canceled. Hahahaha!

That’s the panic talking. It’s chatty. But then, of course, there’s this: 23 The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you. ” (Numbers 11:23). I love it that God is sarcastic. So that’s hurdle number one.

Hurdle #2 ~ Inspection. We are doing an FHA loan, and if the inspection comes up under their standards then the whole thing is off unless repairs can be made (time, money, just little things like that). The house is a hundred years old and kind of reminds me of the Weasley’s Burrow in Harry Potter. It’s been added to and rearranged and has lots of weirdness. Who knows what is going on inside the house guts. So I’m a bit concerned about that. For some reason I have yet to fathom, this worries George not at all.

Hurdle #3 ~ Yes, I know I said there were only two but in the time it’s taken me to write this I remembered something else to worry about. ‘Cause I obviously need more to obsess over. The appraisal! That beautiful little farmhouse we tried to buy last year fell through when the appraised price came in $10,000 less than the agreed-upon sale price.

The bank that is doing the short sale had an appraisal done already (two, I think), but we have no idea what their numbers were and it’s odd that they didn’t counter our asking price. Of course, if the appraisal comes in low they won’t be able to sell it to anyone else at the higher number either so there would be no benefit at all to them not lowering the sale price to match the appraisal. Hmm. Maybe I should start praying the appraisal comes in low after all. Hehe.

Well, I think that about covers it. We would surely appreciate your prayers for the down payment, inspection, appraisal. Oh yes, and sanity. That would also be nice.

George is actively looking for work/projects/servitude of any type so if you have a project let him know. The children have all volunteered to help. If you have lawns that need mowing or yardwork, please talk to Georgie. The girls have started making jewelry and I’m getting an Etsy store together for them. Should be running next week. The links to all of that and my auctions are on the right menu at the top beneath the big, tacky progress thermometer that I will likely forget to update because I’m terrible at remembering stuff like that. Hmm, actually I just went to update it and it isn’t working. I’ll find a new one Monday.

Here they are again:

House we’re trying to buy: http://bit.ly/M8CSbv

George’s work website: Red Pixel

Rachel’s auctions: rachelwife | ebay

Oh, also if you don’t have any work for us or want to buy any of our stuff but maybe you had a delicious breakfast and are now feeling so generally magnanimous that you would like to help out a little anyway, there is a donate button on the right sidebar beneath our business links as well.

So, now you are all caught up, I think! I’ll post more when we know more. We’ve been looking for a house for fifteen months now, and it’s been a long and discouraging process. You have all been and continue to be such an encouragement to us. Thank you for all your prayers.

George and Rachel

House Update!

House Update!

So for those of you who we haven’t talked to in the last week or who weren’t at Parish on Sunday, last Friday George and I put an offer on a house. This particular house is pretty much the only one George has been truly excited about, and he’s been drooling since he ran across it last July. We both love it. It’s an old 8 acre farmhouse in O.C., five minutes from church, three minutes off the freeway with a separate apartment that is currently rented.

We spent several months squaring away finances the way the bank likes it hoping we could qualify for this house and then as soon as we did, it went pending. This was maybe six weeks ago.

On Friday George called the listing agent who said that the deal had just fallen through and they were accepting offers again, so immediately we put in an offer. It was significantly lower than they were asking, but the same price as they had had it listed for a few months ago.

We just found out today that the sellers have accepted our offer. This house is a short sale though, so the sellers are only the first hurdle out of like twenty-five. Also, the previous deal fell through for some reason relating to the sellers and the short sale as opposed to the buyers. We’re not sure what happened there, but that’s not really super encouraging and the last house we had an accepted offer on fell through when their bank decided they weren’t going to allow a short sale at all so the sellers not only couldn’t sell to us, they couldn’t sell to anyone.

This house is pretty much our family dream. On top of that, with the rental, the monthly payment (depending on the bank’s counter and etc. etc.) is well within our price range. However, because it is a short sale and we have no idea what the bank is going to come back with for a counter if they come back with anything at all, I would say that statistically it is still a long shot. That said, I don’t think of God as someone overly concerned with statistics unless it’s to point out that the greater the odds against something, the more glory to Him when He makes it come to pass. Our God has very long arms as He likes to point out.

We would very much appreciate your prayers for the next couple of months (closing date is theoretically 5/31) as we go through this terrifying yet exciting serpentine process with the bank. Pray for the banks involved with approving the short sale (I think there are two), the appraisers, the inspectors, the sellers, the whole entire affair, and please pray for us during this time.

We’re trying not to be absurdly excited since this is the one that we want so badly and are more or less failing miserably. Thank you all so much.


George and Rachel



So part of why I’ve dropped off the blogging map is due to the vast majority of my brain being swallowed by the all-consuming endeavor known as homeschooling, part of it is due to Facebook making it easier to post one line synopses of what is going on at any given second (and really who doesn’t want to read another status update that says, “Oh no! Henry just spilled cereal on the carpet” or similar?), and part of it is because I’ve started working on long-form writing projects.

For half a dozen years+, I wrote the opening to Gymboree News every week and I have always been pretty good at short form writing (which I define as “whatever is small enough that I can just wing it as I write without having to organize around a coherent plot”). However, ever since I’ve known George he has wanted to make movies. Small problem, he’s not much of a writer of any ilk, which means his film masterpiece would need to be written by someone else.

Confession: I’ve thought for several years that writing for him would be lovely, but oh the work involved in a) learning how to do so, and b) actually doing so! The last couple years I have slowly been working through the learning part. There are tons of good books out there, and I can now pretty well pick a movie apart for story structure, movie theme and how well the film exposits that theme, what made the movie work/not work, what each scene is doing in the film and how it contributes to character development/plot, and a few other important items.

I have four stories that I liked well enough to start working on in my script software, Movie Outline 3, one of which is actually all the way outlined and maybe 1/3 the way through the first draft but is probably too girly for George, one of which I got stuck on and am going to need to chew on for awhile before heading back to it, one of which I like very much and which, hmmmm, now that I think about it might be able to be combined a little bit or merged into #4 which George actually came up with the inspiration for and is the one I am currently actively working on.

Don’t get all excited. You will not see any of these in the theater next summer. I’m starting to realize that perhaps what everyone says is true, that the hardest part about getting a script done is getting the stupid script done!! It’s just slogging through all the work and revision and throwing things out and rewriting until it all actually works. This takes large chunks of time which can be committed to linear thought. This is something of which I am chronically in short supply. Plus, when this type of time block is available, I typically need to do things with it such as plan my education attack on my children (bwahahahaha!). Stupid priorities.

Anyway, this all means that unless I get an all expenses paid trip for a month or two by myself for maybe with either George or my SIL Masha, who is also writing and extremely helpful for bouncing ideas around with, to somewhere far away and which also includes a replacement me being provided at home to take care of all the practical things I do every day, this screenwriting process is likely to be lengthy.

So, in addition to explaining to my three readers my very tedious screenplay endeavors, I know several others of you, particularly at church, are working on your own projects. To be helpful, which I have decided to try to be on a once-a-month, trial basis, I am going to start blogging about my screenplay stuff when I need an excuse to procrastinate actually working on my screenplay stuff or when I get stuck and need to write about why I’m stuck so I can figure it out. Also, I will be posting links to other sites, programs, books, software, etc. on a sparkly new, custom Screenplay menu on the sidebar which so far consists of two links and this post.

Here is the real reason for this post, which I originally intended to be two sentences long: George got me hooked on a brilliant site by a couple of established screenwriters, and it has a whole series of very informative articles. It’s called WordPlayer, a title which makes me jealous just by its very existence. Enjoy!



Blog Purpose

Blog Purpose

“Oh bother,” said Winnie-the-Pooh, “whatever shall I do? I have to many thoughts floating in my head and they are all running into each other, making a terrible racket.” Well, that’s probably what he would have said if he were a 36-year old woman who looked like me.

Since my Gymboree website closed down two years ago, I haven’t done much blogging (sorry, Grandpa). Part of the problem has been indecision. At any given time, I am in the middle of a few major projects and several minor ones, and I can never decide whether the major ones should be spun off to their own blogs or not. So far my strategy has been to start a new, single-topic blog for homeschooling, say, post once, and then let it sit there for a year and a half before finally deciding to let the domain name drop. Good plan, no?

So after having several silly, disposable blogs littering the internet and the dustbin of my brain, I have decided to just use this one blog that already has articles on it. At any given time, I am working on such disparate items as a) trying to find a house (again!!), b) trying to educate small children so they don’t grow up into easily swayed imbeciles, c) long-form writing projects for which I am still in the “research and education” phase with a little bit of actual writing, d) interior design research for the house I someday hope to live in for more than three years, e) organizing the home I currently live in and cooking for myself and the nine other people who live here, and f) trying very hard not to turn into any sort of –icidal maniac whatsoever. I plan to now clog up this blog with rambling blobs of mediocre, probably un-proofread writing on any/all of these topics.

Maybe I’ll see if there’s a way to make an RSS feed by blog category so people who are interested in screenwriting don’t have to listen to me complain about the way Zillow simultaneously manages to have both the most current and out-of-date listings data of any housing place on the net. That is not a project for today, however, since it has the air of an item which should be easily scratched off the agent in three minutes or so, I know it will take a least three hours and I have other things to do. So now you know just how important your RSS feed comfort really is to me.

I am, however, going to go reorganize my blog categories a tiny bit and post a link to a great screenwriting site that my husband got me turned on to. Then – up and at ‘em! Thank you for sitting through the entirety of this terribly dull informational message.



That Will Be OMSI Tickets for Two Adults and Ten Kids, Please

That Will Be OMSI Tickets for Two Adults and Ten Kids, Please

We have six kids. That fact alone prompts stares virtually anytime we venture out with the whole group, but this week my charming nieces and nephews are in town from Florida, so Thursday evening we had the four of them spend the night with our six kiddos and then Friday we took all ten children (ages 3 to 13) on a wee field trip to our local museum of science and industry (OMSI).  

The lady at the ticket counter didn’t seem to think two to ten was high enough adult/child ratio. What she didn’t know was that there are tricks to taking bunches of kids out. Hehe. So here is a brief tutorial of how to take ten kids on an outing, which I’m sure you all do on a regular basis and will no doubt find completely invaluable. 🙂

1. Pick really nice kids to take. If you don’t know any nice kids, rent some. They’re worth the extra money. We chose these (in case you’re wondering why there are only nine here, Henry didn’t quite make it into this shot):



2. Own or steal a huge van:


3. Make sure there are two or more adults (or a couple of teenagers). Very important!


4. Fortify yourself. And no matter what they say, do not let them con you into buying them any of this:


5. Get there as close as possible to when your destination opens. Get them out of bed, stuff them with food. Then leave. Every moment you delay is one fewer minute you get to spend doing something fun with them before they get hungry, tired, or both and turn into lunatic. You do not want to be around when that happens to ten children. Think Zombieland: (and yes, this is actually my arm and watch).


6. Make them wear hats (or headscarves for the girls in the summer). Yes, you guys think I’m just hat-obsessed for no logical reason whatsoever, but guess what? It makes the kids infinitely easier to spot in a crowd. When I look around, instead of having to scan every head for hair and faces that look like the ones I want, I can skip most of them and just zero in on the ones with hats. This sounds absurd but it definitely makes them stick out more:


7. Now that you’re all organized, everyone pick a buddy! Guess what? You don’t actually have to have eyes on ten kids at all times. Before you go inside (at which point if this isn’t done they will be too distracted to function), tell each child that they need to pick a buddy, older kids with younger kids. Remind them that each older child is responsible for keeping track of their little one and each little one must mind the older one. Our guys immediately paired themselves off as follows:


Skyler and Faith

Skyler and Faith


Anika and Silas



Georgie and Henry



Trinity and Olivia


Nichol and Kyra




What was funny to me about this was that none of these pairings are the ones I would have anticipated, but each set seemed to have a great time together. The older kids were extremely conscientious about keeping track of their little guys and the smaller ones were excellent about staying with their very own big kid.

We’d explore a particular section of the museum and each set of kids would go check out what looked interesting to them. When it was time to go to the next section, we just looked for pairs of hats. Easy peasy!


8. Have fun!


Do It Yourself Watershed





Safari Puppet Theater






Chem Lab (Trinity and Olivia spent ages in here and did nearly all of the experiments)







Look at the above picture of my son. That’s the goofy face he makes when I try to get pictures of him. And do you know why he does this? Here’s a hint:


But haha! I sneaked this one when he wasn’t looking. untitled-1-16



9. Take them out to McDonald’s afterwards, but NO HAPPY MEALS (unless you have tons of money). We spent $27 on all twelve of us: two 10pc chicken nugget meals with two sodas and two fries, two large fries, one six piece chicken nuggets, three cheeseburgers, one hamburger, two large sodas, two waters, one filet of fish sandwich meal, on spicy chicken sandwich. It’s called sharing.



My favorite part of the above picture is the three people in the left corner staring at us like we’re insane. I zoomed on the lady with the black hair and she’s looking directly into my lens. Hahaha! Did I mention that people stare like this everywhere we go?

9. And lastly, take lots of pictures (this is the part I usually forget. Thank you, phone camera!). That’s it! Now you are ready to round up all the children in your neighborhood and take them to a museum.



Thank you, Nichol, Skyler, Olivia, and Silas for coming with us. Spending the day with the ten of you kids was a joy, and you’re all getting so grown up! Love you guys. 🙂


Auntie Rachel

How to Trick Your Children Into Liking Shakespeare (Plus video of Shubin Shakespeare Theater’s Presentation of Taming of the Shrew)

How to Trick Your Children Into Liking Shakespeare (Plus video of Shubin Shakespeare Theater’s Presentation of Taming of the Shrew)

I love Shakespeare. In high school, our English class took a trip to the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland to watch Taming of the Shrew in the Elizabethan Theater there, and I took an entire term of Shakespeare in college. Ahhhh, linguistic deliciousness.

Now I have a swarm of small swarm of children swirling about, whom I have been tasked with educating. This term’s lessons for the girls included Shakespeare (Georgie is in 7th grade and going to school this year). Hmmm, how to introduce Shakespeare to a ten year old and a nine year old. As soon as Georgie found out what we were doing, he decided he wanted to do it to, so we waited until he got home to do anything.

Our studies have been such a success that the kids all beg to do Shakespeare class and are all excited about going through Hamlet this week and Henry V. So, with no further ado, is how you con your children into enjoying Shakespeare:

1. Love Shakespeare Yourself (or at least fake it really well). This pretty much applies to everything. If you hate it or groan when you have to read/watch/listen to it, you will have a much harder time getting them to like it. If you are enthusiastic and carry on about how fabulous Much Ado About Nothing is and how much they are going to love it, your chances of passing that attitude to them will improve.

2. Read Them a Short Prose Version of the Play You Are Going to Watch Beforehand. I’ve been reading to the girls from Beautiful Stories From Shakespeare by E. Nesbit because I am a cheapskate and that book is online for free at The Baldwin Project. Several of the most popular plays are contained in the book, and each prose version is maybe four or five pages long. Reading the story first lets them track the film (or play) much better since they don’t have to be trying to wade through both the plot and the unfamiliar dialogue all at the same time.

3. Pick the Most Accessible Film Versions That You Can and Watch the Easiest First. We started with the Emma Thompson/Kenneth Branagh version of Much Ado About Nothing. Since we had read the prose version already, the kids understood what was going on, and as the movie progressed I translated the more complicated pieces of the dialogue. They seemed to think it was hilarious! Georgie, who is twelve, particularly thought it was funny and understood much more of what was going on with less explanation in all the movies we’ve watched so far.

After Much Ado, we watched Romeo and Juliet (the 1960’s Franco Zefferelli version) and The Taming of the Shrew (Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor – brilliant!). Next we are planning to watch Mel Gibson’s Hamlet, Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V, Marlon Brando’s Julius Caesar, and Orson Welles’s Macbeth (we’ll probably do a brief review of the history of for those last two as well).

Romeo & Juliet and Much Ado both have a little nudity in them. I just told my kids to cover their eyes until I told them not to, which they did. If you’re concerned, preview first.

4. Don’t Go Too Fast. I’ve been shooting for one to two plays a week (usually one). The last few weeks have been insanely busy around here, so we’ve stalled a bit but that’s ok. There is no time limit by which the children must be introduced to Shakespeare.

5. Put on Your Own Production! This really is the very best way to get the kids excited. Let them pick their favorite and look for an abridged version or kids version that retains the Shakespearean dialogue. I must admit, this is probably the most difficult part of the entire endeavor.

When I started looking, I found many children’s versions which completely rewrote Shakespeare’s fantastic dialogue in modern verse or prose. I see no advantage to this. A large part of the beauty of Shakespeare is the beauty with which he wields the English language. Why in the world would I want to trade that away instead of teach the kids to relish it?

Having said that, an abridged version is a necessity. The plays are far too long for small kids, many of the plots complicated, and much of the language uses metaphors and idioms that refer to common items or events in the 16th century but which have no cognate now.

I went with the Shakespeare in a Box version of Taming of the Shrew. This comes with ten copies of an abridged (45 minute) script, character cards for the cast, a director’s booklet, and a few props. It is designed to be read (as opposed to memorized) and done cold with no rehearsal. We decided to keep the reader’s theater aspect and have the adults we were pressing into service do their parts cold, but the children and I practiced their parts and blocked out the whole thing prior so that they could get a firm handle on what all of their lines meant and basic stagecraft items like speaking slowly and clearly and making sure to face the audience.

Also, I decided to edit even further for time and clarity, so I cut out all of Bianca’s part of the plot and just focused on Kate and Petruchio. For some reason, the Shakespeare in a Box fellow cut out the scene on the road where Kate changes from being a Shrew to being a dutiful wife; and since the last scene makes no sense without that one, I added it back in.

We borrowed costumes from our church’s costume closet and utilized half a dozen props we had around the house. Family, pizza, and Shakespeare made for a delightful evening. Here is the video of our production:


It came out so much better than I ever would have imagined! The kids were wondrous, the adults delightful, and the entire evening so much fun. Now Trinity wants to know when we are going to do the next one. Ack!

Have you done Shakespeare with your elementary/middle school students? How it go? What did you do? I’m always looking for good ideas. 🙂