Our Park Day kids happen to be fantastic thinkers. Over Christmas break I asked the families we meet with weekly if they would be interested in participating in a Literature Club Circle. The goal of the meetings would be to read through a Roald Dahl story together a few chapters at a time and discuss the story in a group to enjoy a more enriching reading experience. I couldn’t wait to discover what these younger thinkers would have to say.
We decided to start off by reading James and the Giant Peach together. All of the kids are either reading the book to themselves, or having it read aloud to them 4 chapters at a time. I created a curriculum to use with the kids which asks them to think about a specific literary device in prep for each meeting. Our kids range from 3 years old to 6th grade, so I worried if we were asking too much of the kids, but I decided to default to my optimism and believe that the kids would be excited to learn from one another no matter what age.
I have been blown away.
Not only are the kids sitting down for 20 to 30 minutes to thoughtfully discuss literary devices at the park, with play equipment just a few steps away mind you, but they politely argue their points and ask amazing questions. I set up the expectation at the beginning of the meeting and make sure everyone has an opportunity to speak, but otherwise the whole event is kid led. Our most intriguing question yet has been from an 11 year old boy, “Is the Peach a character?” We’ve met three times now, and we keep coming back to it. The group is divided, but we have spent a good deal of time discussing the merit of each position. Our kids are going to be experts at reader response criticism by the time we finish this book.
Our next book to work through is going to be Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, complete with visit to the local jelly bean factory as a field trip.
Homeschooling is kind of the best, and I’m blessed to be able to use the skills I learned in college and my love of children’s literature to engage these students. If you are looking for a similar styled lesson for your group of homeschoolers or your classroom, feel free to visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store and download the curriculum for yourself. I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about the group in the comments or by email.
A few years ago I moved away from New Year’s Resolutions. It’s not because they aren’t great ideas, or because I was having trouble keeping them. Instead it was because I was discovering that focusing on a single goal stated in January was not always going to be the best way to use my time in March, May, and November of the year coming up. I’d had years where my resolution was kept, like my Marathon year in 2008. But I’d also had years where my resolution had to be forfeit because everything in our lives changed. You know, like when we moved to a new state.
So, last December, instead of making a resolution, I set an intention for the year. A mantra I’d repeat to myself that embodied the life I wanted to live. That mantra was “Focus.” I’d repeat it to myself when I was getting distracted on facebook. I’d say it in my head when I was getting frustrated with the kids and losing my temper. I said it to myself often while I was suffering through the annual “No Training Brazier Half Marathon.” I made it my intention every time I went to my yoga mat, or to do a skill on the gymnastics floor. It was really effective. It didn’t define what I was doing, it defined how I did it and what kind of person I was.
“Focus” motivated me to set education goals for the girls and keep them on track. It helped me remember to exercise even though I quit my gym membership. And it helped me use my one day of personal time well enough to complete a picture book manuscript and submit it for publication (still waiting for the response on that one).
This year I’ve decided my new mantra, which I hope will not replace “Focus” but compliment it, is “I finish things.” I have struggled in the past with quitting half way through a project, and just walking away. There are times when a chapter must come to an end, and I respect that. But what I’m hoping will happen instead is that my newly found focus will help me only start things I fully intend to finish. Just like everyone else, I only have a small amount of hours each week for my own projects and I want to see those projects through to the end.
I’m almost always working alone and one of my struggles is having no external force telling me when the job is done. Somethings can drag on forever, or I can stop them suddenly because it’s “done.” Honestly, I’ve just learned that I’m not setting clear enough guidelines for what I’m trying to accomplish. If my mantra is “I finish things,” then I’ll have to be more honest with myself at the start of a project what exactly it is that defines “finished.”
So, what about you? Are you a resolution person, or an intention person? I’d love to hear what your focus is going to be and what you plan to finish in 2015.
Please bring me children who are openminded about the gifts they get this year. See, they keep rewriting their lists to you at the last minute. We’ve maxed the budget on Christmas already, and many of the items they want weren’t on the Amazon list. I’m hopeful that their general non-consumerist selves will shine through again this year. But, you know, I just want to get it right.
Please let the goose we bought for Christmas dinner cook according to the plan. I’ve never cooked a goose before, so I might not know what the heck I’m doing.
Please bring me a long nap on Christmas eve afternoon.
Please bring me a membership to SCBWI.
Please bring snow to Yosemite Valley, and tire chains for the Subaru.
We baked you yummy cookies and have been very good,