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book club

Book Clubs, Brave Writer, Homeschooling

Creating a Book Club for Kids

Our monthly book clubs are one of the best things that ever happened to our homeschool.

From the first attempt at the fun for the Hunger Games to our most recent book styled two ways for the Green Ember, our book clubs have become a huge hit with my kids.

Of course, this means that I receive a lot of questions about is starting a book club for kids.  And while a lot of information about my book clubs can be found on this blog and my YouTube channel, I thought I’d answer some of your most common questions.

How to create a book club for your kids! Continue Reading

Book Clubs, Brave Writer, Homeschooling, Literature

My Children’s Book Club Plans this Year

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Last year I organized two successful book clubs for my daughters:  The Arrow Book Club (5th/6th) and the Boomerang Book Club (7th/8th).  We follow the Brave Writer literature suggestions for our titles and our family uses the Brave Writer Language Arts book guides at home.

This year the girls have graduated so the Arrow Book Club will include 6th and 7th grade girls while the Boomerang Book Club will include 8th and 9th grade girls.  I will also be adding a boys book club for 3rd-6th grade boys! Continue Reading

Book Clubs, Brave Writer, Homeschooling, Literature

Literature List for our 5th and 6th Grade Book Club

The previous school year has ended, our exciting summer of travel is almost wrapped up, and it is time for this teacher to begin planning the next school year.

As I look back, one of my favorite successful endeavors this year was the creation of two book clubs for my daughters.  The older girls book club, the Boomerang Book Club, included titles for 7th and 8th graders.  The younger girls book club, the Arrow Book Club, includes titles for 5th and 6th graders.

arrow bookclub

{This post contains affiliate links.  Thanks for your support of Notbefore7.}

Our book club title – The Arrow Book Club – was derived from my use of the Arrow Book Guides at Brave Writer.   The Arrow Book Guides are designed for students in grades 3-6.  These Brave Writer guides provide grammar, copywork, and literary element discussions surrounding a book title.  Our family uses the guides at home during the month and our book club provides an opportunity to discuss and celebrate the reading.

Without further ado, here are the fantastic titles we used for our 5th and 6th book club.  (Arrow Guides for each of these titles can be purchased individually.)

SeptemberHow to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell.

Our first book was a ton of fun because the host mom did a great job. She creatively came up with some fun crafts and foods for these girls based on a book that was tailored more toward a group of boys.

While I am glad we read it, most of the girls didn’t enjoy the book. They found it gross.

OctoberFlora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo.

The unlikely friendship of a superhero squirrel and the self-proclaimed cynic, Flora, make for a fantastic journey. This delightful tale is full of memorable lines and delightful characters.  All of my children, ages 6, 8 and 11, enjoyed this story..

Our Arrow book club included nutty themed snacks and superhero crafts, including a superhero themed T-shirt created by each girl.

NovemberThe Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.

While this book is quite a time commitment to read, it is well worth it. We used the audio version for the sake of my voice and enjoyed the narration quite a bit.

While dozens of kids answer an ad in the newspaper seeking gifted children, only are chosen to be part of the Mysterious Benedict Society.   Their admittance to the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened takes them on a fantastic series of adventures as they go undercover to save the world!

DecemberPoppy by Avi.

Hands down, this was my family’s favorite book this year. Not only was our party school book club an amazing experience, but we fell in love with the characters in this book. In fact, after reading this title, we returned to the prequel, Ragweed, and then finished the rest of the books in the series.

Our family christmas ornament was an owl this year, representing Mr. Ocax, a character in Poppy. Because when I say that we loved this book. I mean that we loved this book.

JanuaryLove that Dog by Sharon Creech.

This creative tale is written as a series of poetry journal entries. Jack, the main character and author of the journal is a student who is studying poetry and poets at school. He experiments with his own poetic voice and finds it as the journal entries progress.

This book was a perfect jumping point to play with poetry in our own homeschool this year.

FebruaryCourage Has no Color, The True Story of the Triple Nickels: America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone.

This was an incredible non-fiction story of America’s First Black Paratroopers.  Told in a conversational story style, Tanya Lee Stone includes narratives, facts and quotes to communicate this important piece of American History.

We took the opportunity to dive deeply into this topic and looked at the segregation of America during this time period.  As part of our month, we enjoyed the “Remember the Titans” movie and the sounds of Motown!

MarchUnderstood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher.

This is a delightful coming of age story as Elizabeth grows into herself while becoming known as Betsy. This tale is filled with deeper themes of love, friendship, and parenting. As a homeschooling mom, I was delighted with commentary found on education within the pages of this tale.

AprilCracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata.

While we all enjoyed this difficult story, my boys especially were drawn to it. This wasn’t an easy read as the realities of war are descriptive, but it was an important story and one we all enjoyed. I learned quite a bit about the way dogs were trained during the war. It was an informational book based on true events during the Vietnam War. Pictures and more historical details are included in the book.

Note: There is some language in this book, used by the soldiers, and while appropriate to the setting, it is important to note for parents.

MayLove, Ruby Lavendar by Deborah Wiles.

We loved this book as well. Ruby Lavendar and her grandmother, Miss Eula are as close as can be, so when Miss Eula announces a trip to Hawaii to visit another grandbaby, Ruby is just certain she will not survive. Not only does she survive, she makes a new friend, confronts some deep realities about her grandfather’s death, and keeps in touch with Miss Eula through letter writing. We all laughed at the memorable events in this book and talked through some of the deeper messages.

That sums it up! We had a fantastic year of challenging and fun literature.

As for next year, we will continue to use the Arrow Book Guides at home and focus our monthly book club meetings on the selected titles. The titles for the coming school year can be found on the Brave Writer site.

(NotBefore7 is an affiliate with Brave Writer and uses the curriculum in our own homeschool. I am happy to share how we implement this curriculum on my blog. I do earn a small commission if you purchase through one of my links. NotBefore7 is also a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com)

Book Clubs, Books We Read, Brave Writer, Homeschooling, Literature

Literature List for Our 7th and 8th Grade Book Club

We made it!  

Our school year has wrapped up and with the exception of a few loose ends in math, we are relishing our free time.

Of course, my free time includes time spent reflecting on our completed school year.  It’s important for me to re-evaluate choices that didn’t work, while also celebrating our successful ones.

One of my favorite successful endeavors this year was the creation of a monthly Boomerang Book Club.

{This post contains affiliate links.  Thanks for your support of Notbefore7.}

Our title – The Boomerang Book Club – was derived from my use of the Boomerang Book Guides at Brave Writer, which I used to guide our discussions.   The Boomerang Book Guides are designed for book titles appropriate for grades 7-10.  Unlike the Arrow Guides, for grades 3-6, the Boomerang Guides contain “Think Piece Questions” at the end for reflection and discussion.  Forming a book club for my daughter in the Boomerang book titles was an opportunity to discuss these questions.

(NOTE: The guides also provide weekly copywork passages with grammar and literature discussions included related to the passages.  For more information, check out the Brave Writer website.)

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What began as a simple idea to chat about books at Starbucks with my oldest daughter and her friends turned into memorable monthly #partyschool experience.  I have no doubt that our experiences together carried us beyond reading comprehension into developing reading connections that won’t quickly be forgotten.

My daughter will have such fond memories of her 7th grade “literature class” including memorable quotes, silly discussions, and delicious food.

And from a purely academic perspective, when I look back over our book choices this year it adds up to a pretty awesome list of literature.  So without further ado, here are the monthly selections we enjoyed during our 7th and 8th grade girls book club this year:

September:  Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.

I purposefully kicked off our book club with a title that most of the girls have read and loved. I wanted our first book club to revolve around a book that they would be familiar with and excited to discuss.

This is also the title that created the first #partyschool experience thanks to the creative host mom!

October: Little Women by Lousia May Alcott.

Interestingly enough, the little women in our book club were not very excited about the Little Women in the book. There were a few girls who LOVED the book and had read it before, but most of them weren’t very fond of Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy.

November:  The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton.

Having never read this book myself, I was so thrilled to have the chance to experience this classic. Not only is the story one that transcends time, but the author has a unique story as she wrote this book while in high school. It was published after her graduation, but the majority was written during the year she received a “D” in creative writing in her high school class.

This book discussion included another #partyschool atmosphere and was followed by the movie.

December:  Short Stories.

I selected four short stories for this month with the idea that we could read 1-2 each week and then meet together for a Christmas party and brief discussion.  All four of these stories were accessable online.

The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant – another well known story about pride.
Two Kinds by Amy Tan – great introduction to Amy Tan and a discussion of the mother/daughter relationship.
Gift of the Magi by O’Henry – a classic, especially around the Christmas season.
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson – some of the moms remembered reading this in their school experience, although I never had.  It is a pretty shocking story and worthy of discussion.

Short stories should be an important part of a middle and high school literature study, so I was glad to include a few in our monthly selections.

January: Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery.

I have found memories of Anne from my own middle school years. Sadly, my daughter did not share my love for her, though we had a fantastic #partyschool book club. Some of my favorite quotes came from this book and we all enjoyed sharing them at our tea party.

February: Lord of the Flies by William Holding.

A classic.  This book is a great title to read and explore the use of symbolism as it is heavily used in this book. While many read this in high school, and that is certainly appropriate, it did work for our 7th and 8th grade girls group.

They found it a strange story, as it is. But we had a great #partyschool book club (not yet on the blog) and even tried to meet around the fire pit, but the smoke got in the way.

March: What the Moon Saw by Laura Resau.

This title was entirely new to me.  It is one of the reason that I love referring to the list of Boomerang titles because Julie at Bravewriter does such a great job of mixing classic literature with modern titles.

I think this was one of my favorite books this year.  It is a unique coming of age story that combines elements of family history (father from Mexico) and modern life as a child in America in a tale woven through two time periods.  I highly recommend this one for this age group.

April: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.

A classic piece of literature that opens up a thoughtful discussion about life as a teenage girl as well as important historical events.  While I had read this book in school as a teenager, I enjoyed it so much more as an adult.  The insights into a teenage girl’s mind were delightful to read on the other side of that time period.

The girls in the group had a difficult time making it through this one.  It isn’t a story, but it is very much reading the scattered thoughts of a teenager in her diary.  We had a discussion that included some thoughts about a true journal vs. a story told through a created journal.  This title worked well in our book club.

May: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.

(We used the “Shakespeare Made Easy” version that included a modern translation next to the original work.)

I wanted to build a strong foundation for a future understanding of Shakespeare in our house, so we began looking at his plays a little earlier than the traditional public school plan.

This title was requested by one of the girls in the book club and I was inclined to oblige any requests!  Student interest is always helpful to learning and discussion.

Rather than have a traditional book discussion, we acted out five scenes from the book while we were together.   It’s amazing what a few scarves and swords can do for simple costuming!   After working through a few scenes, we enjoyed the movie version of this film with Leonardo DiCaprio.

That sums it up!  A fantastic year of challenging and fun literature.

As for next year, we will continue to use the Boomerang Book Guides at home and as one source of questions for our book club discussions.   I can’t wait to begin picking titles for our next school year!

(NotBefore7 is an affiliate with Brave Writer and uses the curriculum in our own homeschool.  I am happy to share our various uses here and do earn a small commission if you purchase through one of my links.  NotBefore7 is also a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com)

Book Clubs, Brave Writer, Homeschooling, Literature

Book Club: Anne of Green Gables

anne_of_green_gables-702891While our January Boomerang Book Club meeting couldn’t re-locate to Prince Edward Island, I did attempt to capture the feeling of a tea party with Anne at Green Gables as much as possible.

The table was set for a full tea party to enjoy over our book discussion.   At the center of our table were pink roses, after all, Anne herself declares, “After all, the only read roses are pink ones.  They are the flowers of love and faith.”

The treats at our table included raspberry cordial, pudding (though it wasn’t plum), cookies, cucumber sandwiches, and biscuits with strawberry preserves.

My plan was to make homemade vanilla ice cream after our discussion and craft, but we had had enough sugar.

IMG_0798Part of the sugary fun included this layered pudding in a cup, complete with a sculpey clay mouse who didn’t fall in!  But we enjoyed the memory of Anne’s plum pudding mishap.

All in all, our discussion of the book went well.  It was a typical book discussion with middle school girls.  Lots of giggles.  Lots of quiet.  Lots of distraction.  But in the middle of the giggles, insightful discussion existed.

We had a very thoughtful discussion about whether or not Anne of Green Gables was a piece of feminist literature.  I was impressed with the girls’ conclusions which were supported with good reasoning.

The “Think Piece Questions” included with every Boomerang Guide provided a great platform for some good discussions.  We also discussed the “hook and return” the author used in this book, as explained Week Four of the Brave Writer Boomerang Guide.  I appreciated the insight into the connection between the opening chapter and the concluding one.

IMG_2023After our discussion, the girls created an Anne of Green Gables bookmark.  We dubbed it the “Creepy Craft” because it appeared that Anne was squished in my book.

We laughed and laughed and laughed over this one.  But in the end, each of the girls made their memorable book mark, complete with their favorite quotes.

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In the end, a great time was had by all.  I feel so fortunate to have such fun with this group of gals!

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More of our Boomerang and Arrow Book Club posts can be found here and on the menu bar.

(NotBefore7 is an affiliate with Brave Writer.  My adoration of the curriculum is my own!)

Book Clubs, Homeschooling, Uncategorized

Love That Dog Book Club

We had another successful book club this month! Our book selection was the delightful tale, Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. This book is unique in that the entire story is written through free verse poetry journal entries. It was a quick and enjoyable read for all of our attendees.

In order to create a party school book club atmosphere, the planners focused on a dog theme!

First up, a table cloth decorated to imitate the cover of the book.  It didn’t take a whole lot of fancy planning to grab a cheap table cloth and give my daughter a black sharpie marker, yet it did wonders for our decor.

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As the girls arrived, they began work on their dog collar bookmarks using a variety of colorful ribbons, one included dog paws.

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Our dog themed snacks included puppy chow, puppy pretzels, cheese cut into bone shaped slices using a bone shaped cookie cutter (which could also be used for bone shaped sugar cookies), carrots, and Poetry Pop.

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Poetry Pop was created by re-labelling a soda bottle with a printed poem about dogs.  The girls enjoyed sharing the poems found on their bottles.

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While snacking we discussed how to ask good questions about poems, using the literary element plans found in the back of our current Arrow edition of Love That Dog from Brave Writer.  The Brave Writer guide also included the titles of various poems for discussion and I distributed copies to the girls.  After reading and discussing several, I explained that their next activity was to create their own poem and “publish” it on card stock.

Before sending them off, I shared a poem I wrote when I was twelve years old.  It was one of the precious gems my mother saved from my middle school years.  When I teach a poetry class, I always share this poem.  It’s a simple one for kids to imitate and they enjoy knowing how much I still relate to the statements conveyed when I was twelve years old.

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Feeling inspired, everyone set off to work on their poems.

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Plain paper.  Lined paper.  Ultra fine-tip sharpie packs.

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Their final products were ready for display.  I was really proud of what these girls created in a short time.  One of the girls was very resistant to trying her hand at writing a poem, yet wrote something she was really proud of.

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In the end, we had a great time celebrating this creative piece of literature.  Our monthly book club has become one of my favorite events of our school year and this month was no exception!

View this book club set up on periscope if you would like to see a tour of the activities!

(NotBefore7 is a Brave Writer ambassador and is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com)

Books We Read, Brave Writer, DIY, Homeschooling, Periscope

Christmas Ornament for our book clubs

This school year, each of my daughters are involved in a book club with their homeschooled friends. It has been such a sweet time of friendship and learning for each of them.

When I happened upon this ornament, I knew it was the perfect craft to make in honor of this memorable year of our book clubs.  With a few minor adaptations to make the construction a bit easier and somewhat more secure, I knew this would turn out as a precious memento of our year!

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Of course, my book design has my name on the front, but each girl will create and personalize their own book.  The “pages” of the book contain the names of each of the book titles that we studied this school year.

On the back “cover” of the book, I thought the girls could write the names of their friends who are participating in the book club with them.

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The supplies are pretty basic and you will probably find that most are in your house this very moment:  card stock, paper cutter (or straight edge with exacto knife), tape, pencil, glue, ruler, ribbon/string/embroidery floss for the ornament tie, and fine tip markers.

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Once you have gathered your supplies, you can check out my periscope on how to make this mini-book ornament.

If you want to learn more about my Boomerang or Arrow book Clubs, then feel free to read previous posts by clicking on those terms.