Wednesday, February 6, 2008

How We Flunked Book Group

An article came out in Mothering Magazine not long ago about Mother-Daughter Book Clubs. Several friends have been talking about the idea and a few have even started their own. The girls and I were asked to join one. We love books, and read a lot. We often have several read-alouds going, in addition to the books we read on our own. We were excited about it, but at the time, we weren't available to meet on Sundays. We knew that our conflict would be shifting after the holidays, so we agreed to join in January for the second book. The email came with the name of the book and the next meeting date. We checked out the book and readied ourselves to join in the fun. Only it wasn't very fun.

The first time we sat down to read the book club book, I fained enthusiasm. The book was in the fantasy-mythical creature genre (which isn't my favorite) and I struggled through the first chapter. This is good for us, I thought. Stretching out of our comfort zone, pushing the limits a bit. The girls seemed interested and when I checked in with them, they wanted to continue. By chapter two, however, it was like pulling teeth. Everyone disappeared when I announced I was ready to sit down and read. Normally, they swarmed around me on the couch like flies. By the middle of the week, we were halfway through chapter two and had only one week to finish the book before the book club meeting. This was not fun. This felt an awful lot like homework.

The next time I suggested we read together, the girls groaned. This was not good. I suggested we sit down and talk instead. It took about 20 seconds to decide that this book was not a match for us. I agreed to contact the leader, and we decided to ask if we could hold off to see if the next book was a better fit. Now that a few weeks have passed, and we are back into books of our own choosing, I wonder if we ever will decide to join. Maybe assigned reading just doesn't fit with our unschooling ways.

Another friend is in the early stages of her book club planning and it seems to be going very well for her. Out of the 5 mother-daughter pairs in the group, only one has backed out for similar reasons. When I heard this, I was secretly relieved. Maybe I wasn't so crazy afterall. Someone else didn't like to be told what to read and when to be finished either! But chatting with my friend about the details of their group made me feel a bit envious as well. It sounded sweet and creative. They were even planning activities to do as a group after their discussions. I used to love that stuff! But then I had to remind myself that my ability to play teacher has been trumped by my firm belief in the principles of unschooling. As unschoolers, we decide what to read and when to read it. We decide if and when to create activities or play games or take classes. The beauty of our life without school is that, for the most part, nothing needs to happen in an imposed timetable. We may have flunked book group, but we're still reading!

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