Co-op Book Club!

With all the co-ops we've been in, I don't know why we'd never done this before. Co-op book club! What could be a more natural fit for homeschoolers?

For the past two years my youngest boys and I have had the delight of joining several times a month with good friends and their children for supplemental school activities. Before we started, the moms got together to see what types of subjects would lend themselves to our joint sessions. Since we are all in different eras of history and tackle our studies in somewhat different forms, we wondered what would work well communally. We hit on a formula with a bit of science, some art, opportunities for public speaking, and a monthly book club.

Recently we held our last co-op for this school year, and we asked each child to tell about something he or she particularly enjoyed. More than anything else, the stories the children related had to do with books read and the book club activities. Personally I loved book club weeks as well. It was so much fun to see the children's enthusiasm as they discussed among themselves, whether they loved a book or thought it overrated. Talking about a book with ten of your friends is just not the same as discussing it with your mom alone.

Since book club fell under another mom's jurisdiction, these ideas are not mine, but rather Heather U's. With her permission, I'd like to share them here with the hope that they might inspire some others of you to try your own homeschool book club. The younger children's book club consisted of books and activities from Five in a Row. The older children (2nd-6th grades) first discussed their books, delving into some literary analysis as they considered protagonists, antagonists, settings, and what point the author was trying to make. After talking together, we moved into some activities based on that month's selection. Here's a bit of what went on.

September: Homer Price (Robert McCloskey)

Each family chose one chapter to dramatize. Among others, options included "The Doughnuts", "The Case of the Cosmic Comic," and "Mystery Yarn."

October: Survival Books - Your choice!

This one was different because the children were assigned a theme instead of a particular book. A couple of the kids read The Iceberg Hermit by Arthur Roth, which tells the somewhat true story of a young man shipwrecked in 1757 on an Arctic iceberg. Fascinating!
For our co-op book club, the students talked about the various books they had read, found common elements, and described what their protagonist faced and how he survived. We had the kids come up with a list of items they would want to have if they faced a survival situation, then we put these on strips of paper and drew a few out of a hat. Using those items only, we had the kids work in two groups to come up with their own survival story. Finally, the children tried making fire starters from accordion-folded newspapers dipped in wax and we played around with magnesium fire starters.  

November: An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving (Louisa May Alcott)    

Our family enjoys this story every Thanksgiving, but we learned some new things about this old favorite with this month's book club. Revolving around games and food, this book club was a favorite for many.
After the feast in the tale, the Bassett family turns to game-playing and dancing:
"Blind-man's bluff," "Hunt the slipper," "Come, Philander," and other lively games soon set everyone bubbling over with jollity, and when Eph struck up "Money Musk" on his fiddle, old and young fell into their places for a dance. All down the long kitchen they stood, Mr. and Mrs. Bassett at the top, the twins at the bottom, and then away they went, heeling and toeing, cutting pigeon-wings, and taking their steps in a way that would convulse modern children with their new-fangled romps called dancing. Mose and Tilly covered themselves with glory by the vigor with which they kept it up, till fat Aunt Cinthy fell into a chair, breathlessly declaring that a very little of such exercise was enough for a woman of her "heft."
The boys who make up the bulk of our crowd wouldn't have appreciated dancing, but they sure did enjoy playing the games. And then they finished the afternoon by tucking into some old-fashioned delectables such as Indian pudding and cranberry bread.  Yum!

December: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (Barbara Robinson)  

Because several of the families were dealing with illnesses, we held a simplified book club in December at one family's home. We ate popcorn and watched a video version of this holiday tale and then discussed lessons from this book. Very enjoyable!

January: Snow Treasure (Marie McSwigan)
A favorite of mine since childhood, Snow Treasure tells the amazing story of Norwegian children who sneak $9,000,000 in gold past the eyes of the Nazis who have taken over the village. Will the children prevail using sleds and ingenuity? This is a wonderful tale of courage.

After discussing what is and what isn't known about this event, and if it really happened or not, we got busy making diaramas. Each child brought a shoebox and created his own interpretation of a key scene from the book.

February: Peter Pan (J. M. Barrie)

Oh, Peter! The boy who doesn't want to grow up! How interesting to hear the discussion on this book and see the different takes on the story depending on the age of the reader. For younger ones, it was merely a fun adventure story, but the older ones understood, though didn't approve of, the theme of not wanting to grow up.

For the activity this week, the children were given the assignment of creating their own game using elements from the story. They decided to make the game revolve around the flight to Neverland. Some players were clouds, others birds, others Peter, Wendy, John, and Michael. Peter and the children had to take food (balls) from the birds while the clouds tried to make them drop the food by bumping them. If Peter's team were able to gather all of the food, they would win. If the clouds bumped a single player three times, he was out. If all the players were knocked out, the birds and clouds won. As you can tell, it was a bit complicated, but great fun! This is the activity mentioned as a favorite by more children than any other.

March: Spring Break!

April: The Enchanted Castle (Edith Nesbit) 

The Enchanted Castle is another of E. Nesbit's hilarious fantasy tales. It involves four children, a magic ring, and of course, an enchanted castle. But being a Nesbit story, nothing goes off as you might expect, leading to surprises and laughs.

During the book, the children perform a play, but knowing they would lack enough of an audience, they create some Ugly-Wuglies from old clothes, masks and broomsticks. And then, the Ugly-Wuglies come to life. Mwha ha ha ha!

We asked the children to bring supplies for making their own Ugly-Wuglies. Most worked together in pairs to create their characters. Ben reassembled his fellow at home where he remained without getting up to any of the exciting deeds of his namesake.

May: The Bears of Blue River (Charles Major)

For our final selection, the children read this wonderful Indiana story. Balser, a young lad, loves hunting, especially for bears. He and his friends end up in all kinds of improbable situations, usually involving a bear or two.

Surprisingly, at our co-op discussion we learned that some of the more outlandish episodes in the book were actually based on very true events! There was indeed a natural gas explosion like the one described in the book.

The children tried to locate the site of the story based on descriptions in the book and using a number of old and newer maps. (Check out this document for maps.) Then we went to the gym so the kids could try out some of the games mentioned in the book. Once again games were a big hit, especially "Wolf."

So that's a taste of our book club for this year. Like I said, the concept works well for a number of families, whether you have two or a larger crowd. I'm looking forward to seeing what will happen with it next year!


Grace Halsey said…
This looks really neat! Thank you for sharing, Anne!
Anne said…
You're welcome, Grace!

I forgot to mention that for the younger siblings we sometimes were able to pick FIAR books that somewhat matched those of the older kids, though not always. For example, when the big kids did *Homer Price* by Robert McCloskey, the little ones listened to and did activities from McCloskey's *Make Way for Ducklings.* Other pairs I remember were Cranberry Thanksgiving/An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving, and Going For a Bear Hunt/Bears of Blue River.
Jessi Thornhill said…
I just got Snow Treasure off of Paperback Swap. It was one of my favorites too. Are you doing a book club co-op again? If so, will you please share the books being read?
Anne said…

Our co-op is switching gears somewhat this year, but we'll still be doing book club once a month. We haven't decided our books yet, but I'll post them when we have.

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