T.U.R.D.S.: A Teen Book Club

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Yes, you read that correctly: TURDS!

Here is a peek into our homeschool and how we support our eclectic-unschooly, interest-led learners: Our GEMS.

img_9140Teen Unschoolers Reading Diverse Stories.

Yes: I’m that parent.

I’m the parent who will help make learning fun, do my best to inspire {but in my weak moments will throw my hands up and give in}, and love to help my boys reach their potential.

Following passions isn’t always easy. It isn’t easy for adults of children, what with the having to feed, clothe, and protect them, to follow their own interests and passions. To provide opportunities for our children to pursue their passions sometimes seems easier — find a class, sign them up, bah-dah-bing bah-dah-boom: Inspiration!

Or is it?

Not exactly. You see, your children can’t live your passions for you {make sure where you’re dropping them is where they want to be, not what you enjoyed as a child} and you can’t live your passions for your children {say, start a book club and have them read and enjoy highly literary works of art}.


Since my boys love stories and reading, and we read from a specific book list, I have wanted them to want to be in a literary book club. I wanted them to want to read great works of literature and wax poetic about them with like-minded teens. Imagine my surprise when the interest level was low; and by low, I mean not there, and by not there, I mean non-existent.

Nothing. Nil. Nada.

I pleaded, begged, and began to think of ways I could persuade {bribe} them to want to go to a literary book club. Of course, as I was deliberating over promises of ice cream and monetary supplements, the boys launched into yet another discussion of what they were reading.

Like a ton of bricks it hit me:

they want to discuss their book choices, not mine.

I was strategizing to ply them with sugar and coins when all I really needed to do was get over myself. What I mean is this: I needed to follow their passion, not mine.

My boys love books. They love stories. They write, read, create, and enjoy stories of all kinds. What I couldn’t understand was why they didn’t see the benefits of a hosting a book club. As the adult, I saw the benefits: discussing their passions, finding like-minded readers, and creating community they are invested in. They had zero interest in creating community around literature, but they had great interest around creating community around their interests.

Listen to their passions, not your own!

Once I realized they could follow their book choices in their book club,  my boys couldn’t wait to get started! The boys decided they wanted to read the Percy Jackson book series with their new book club and decided they could discuss the mythology associated with the books. If you’ve not read the books, myths are weaved through the stories in every Rick Riordan book series, but it all started with Percy Jackson —  Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1).

We’d been discussing mythology from cultures around the world for years. Reading them as part of our country studies, as well as to weave into our history and literature studies. Author Rick Riordan makes his stories come to life with imaginative, present-day characters, including demigods running around New York City!


I digress.

My goal for encouraging my guys to gather like-minded, story-loving, teens is to help them follow their passions. My boys don’t know it, but getting them used to creating community around what they are already doing is one of the best ways to dive deeper into their interests. They get to discuss their thoughts and ideas on a wide range of stories and story-telling without having to read ‘literature’ to do it!


This is what we promote: interest-led learning; a passion project. By using these fun, easy stories as a jumping off point, the boys have discussed literature, films, and even their own written stories with the group. My boys are learning how to hone their leadership skills, discussion techniques, group dynamics, and the snack table. You can’t have book club, or any teen meeting, without a snack table.

Snacks for the Percy Jackson series are decidedly blue.

And the name T.U.R.D.S.? You can thank me for that one! My boys wanted to have a cool name for their group – Teen Book Club is a little lame. Unimaginative. Encouraging creativity, many acronyms we were tossed out as ideas flowed. I said TURDS as a gag name – completely farcical but the boys thought it was hilarious; the name stuck.

And really, if people don’t have a sense of humor, that’s a clear clue this book club is not for them. As a family, we thrive on humor. The funny gets us through our tough days, as well as our our challenging days. I’m not talking about pejorative humor, just good, old fashioned funny. Cynical irony is always appreciated.

Sound like fun? Let me help you out to start your own!

The boys chose books that would be easy reads for summer and, quite frankly, wouldn’t interfere with our rather busy {reading} schedule. These books spoke to my boys hearts and they knew they would be wide-appealing enough to reach a great number of interested persons. The boys didn’t want teens who were dragged to the meetings by overzealous parents hellbent on literature discussions. Families {adults like me} who were hoping to make the discussions more ‘schooly’ had expectations set early by our invitation to the meetings.

How the group is run:

My boys have everyone introduce themselves and include their favorite something. It varies what the ‘favorite’ is, but usually book, movie, comic, or film series. They then come up with a brief outline of trivia and questions prior to the meeting and lead a discussion based on the trivia and questions. They start drawing parallels between  the specific story they’ve just read, other stories in the series, and other stories they know from various sources.

In the past few meetings, we’ve been brainstorming ideas and the students would like to do some writing together and share some of the stories they’ve written with one another. Some would just like to read their stories while others are looking for feedback on characters and plot.

It’s all going according to my ‘evil’ plans….{insert evil voice….} waaa haaa haaa!

My evil plan? Planting the seeds through our eclectic unschool for pursing passions all while living a literature focused lifestyle. Effective communication is a cornerstone of our homeschool, so yes: this fits directly into my evil plan of home education.

Tah Dah!

And it’s really that easy! I wrote some vague guidelines for the meetings to set expectations {see below} – I’ve been at this ‘gathering-of-eclectic-learners’ for years. I’m not sure if it’s just common to metropolitan areas, but in the Greater Seattle area, homeschoolers have virtually unlimited options for activities. When perusing activities,  as a parent, I want to know a few high level facts before we invest the time in our schedule to attend.

With this in mind, I am familiar with the regular questions. I book a free community room in our local library, set up an ‘event’ in our various online homeschool communities, and bring snacks, plates, napkins, cups, paper, and writing utensils. We borrow white board marker sets from the library while we’re there to take notes on the large whiteboard. Parents of the teens can either stay in the library or go run errands – teens could even come by themselves – as we make all the events drop-off.

Having teens is awesome!

Because the teens are in a public space, the responsibility for what the teens do before and after the meeting are not mine {which means I don’t have to wait around for parents to pick up at my home!}. My boys re-read each books prior to the monthly meeting and derive trivia and discussion questions, I try to keep read-up as well, and we show up ready to have a fun time.

That’s it. It’s really that easy.

We’ve had several consistent attendees and many who come and go. I schedule the meetings with the library to use their community room one of the last weeks of the month on a day that we have no other outstanding, regular commitments year-round {for us, it’s Tuesdays}. One of the other things I do: we don’t change the day or time to work for anyone else – we do what’s convenient for our family {pro-life tip when you’re scheduling events with homeschoolers!}.

Generosity of the teens and their parents to bring snacks, we find we always have more than can be eaten. My boys set intention at the beginning of the meeting that everyone is responsible for cleaning up after themselves, but we’ve found the teens jump in and help clean and reset the room for the library. They can then go look at books, jump on the computers, or chat before and afterwards.

This month we’re adding a writing and reading component. I’m thrilled! I’ve taught/coached writing for the past several years. It’s always exciting to read emerging authors stories. I lead mainly through freewriting, not dissimilar from Bravewriter, but include my own eclectic mix of many styles, including image prompts – not unlike the weekly challenges I host right here on my blog called 100 Word Wednesdays!

And if you’re homeschooling, I definitely recommend pre-ordering Julie’s book coming out in February: The Brave Learner: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschool, Learning, and Life

Of course, we write together Natalie Goldberg style — her book,  Writing Down the Bones changed me – it’s all about the timed writing. Constant movement of the pen for a specified period of time: It’s all about getting rid of ‘Monkey Mind’.

Of course, that’s a whole different story!

Here’s the fun for you part:

Are you wanting to host your own book club party in July? Below is the announcement I sent out to several of my local online homeschool groups to encourage teens to participate in the book club!

I’d love to hear any tips or tricks you have from your experience with book clubs!


How do you do book clubs?

As promised, here is the announcement — minus the details! Good Luck!


Please RSVP and join us for Teen Unschoolers Reading Diverse Stories.

Our July Meeting is on July XX, 2018 from this time to this time at the __________ Library Community Room.

Please read the book: Percy Jackson & the Titans Curse.

My sons will be leading the meeting – and are happy for someone to volunteer snacks {easy for the teens to clean-up}. This is a drop-off event; teens will be asked to wait inside the library when the meeting is finished if you have not arrived.

Due to high demand, we’re adding a writing portion to these meetings. Please bring in a short abstract, poem, or reading to share. Everyone will be offered the opportunity to share, but it is not required. Please limit readings to a few lines so everyone has the opportunity to share and to comment on your work.

I will lead a free-writing session for the students to practice their creative writing skills. This is a low-pressure, fun way to collaborate and learn together in a supportive environment. We will not be concerned with grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, or any other mechanics of writing — we are writing for the joy of the practice and to encourage writing for fun!

Please bring water, read the book, and be prepared to share your thoughts on it. See you there!


Commonly asked Questions:

Is this event open to the public?
It is! Though I’ve reserved the community room in the Public Library for this event, all community room events at the libraries are open to the public. In addition, we’ve invited many of the groups we’re involved in. The boys have invited their friends, church youth group, and homeschool groups of past and present.

My child/children/student/s read the book when they were 8, do they need to re-read the book?
No! As long as your students have read the book, they are welcome to attend!

My child is 8 {7,9,10,11} and I would like (them) to attend this meeting.
While the meeting is technically open to the public, this group is specifically for teens aged (12+) and teenagers.

When my boys were younger, we led and attended book clubs for children which were magical! I encourage you to start one for you and your children!

There are snacks – Yay! Can I help?/OH NO! We have allergies!
While we cannot be sure we do not bring something that will trigger your child/children/student/s allergies, we will ensure labeling is provided for you/yours to make the best choice/s for your situation. Let us know if you’d like to help by bringing snacks!

This date/time/location/book choice/content/etc. doesn’t work for me/us, can you change it/will there be another meeting?
I’m so sorry you can’t make it or if this doesn’t otherwise work for you, but my boys are planning on hosting these through the summer. If the meetings meet my boys expectations, they’ll plan to continue hosting them indefinitely. As interest-led learners, my boys chose the name after a humorous conversation round the dinner table {I hope you got a laugh too – life is nothing without humor!} and plan to choose books and themes they find interesting.

Other questions/concerns?
Please do not hesitate to contact me directly!

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