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book club

Book Clubs, Brave Writer, Homeschooling, Literature

More Than a Shelf of Books

I am not one of those moms who can’t get rid of books. I am a purger. And I have no problem purging books.

The way I see it, that is what libraries are for. Libraries house my books.

But even I have my soft spots and my memories, so I must admit that there is a section of our hallway bookcase that is more than just a shelf of books.

It is a collection of memories that will always be exempt from purging.

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Book Club Titles 2017-2018

Another year of school is about to start and another round of book clubs are ready to begin. Of course, these are just your average book clubs. We love to dive in with a memorable, themed party school book club!

This will be my third year organizing book clubs for my kids. While the girls have been in a book club for two years, last year was the first year that my boys participated in a book club.

It takes a bit of organization to pick the dates and then we choose the book titles. We typically choose books from the Brave Writer annual subscription lists so we can use the Arrow and Boomerang Guides, but that isn’t a hard, fast requirement.

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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

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.)


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