Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Skyping with My Girls' Favorite Author!

I have been enjoying not blogging.  I have found time to refinish some furniture - a hobby I had before blogging and I have begun a knitting project and been working on photo books - I have two years to catch up on!  We've had fun with friends at the beach and barbecues; the girls have gone out to dinner alone with friends to a restaurant! and are planning their costumes for the Homeschool Masquerade Ball!  They are growing up and they have an awesome group of friends, which I am so thankful for!!

I wanted to share this experience from last week because it was so great!  Several authors will skype with book clubs, so if your kids really love a book, I encourage you to get on that author's website, explore it and see what they offer...it's so empowering for kids to be able to have a conversation with someone whose words have made them feel less alone, understood, whose words have made them dream and inspired them to soar!


Our first year of homeschooling, Allie discovered the Mother-Daughter Book Club series by Heather Vogel Frederick.  

If I had to pick one single thing that has impacted our homeschool in the last three years, it would be this book series.  

Our very first interest-led homeschool rabbit trail took place as a result of Allie reading The Mother Daughter Book Club our first year homeschooling.  We read Little Women which lead to reading a biography of Louisa May Alcott which lead to learning about her father's role in the Transcendental Movement in Concord, Massachusetts, which lead to learning about Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson and learning more about Concord and transcendentalism... (you can read about our experience here:  Immersed in a World of Little Women and here: A Week of Classics Without Even Trying).

Another book lead to my girls reading the Anne of Green Gables series, which lead to a whole other rabbit trail.

Another book lead to an interest in Jane Austen and yet another wonderful rabbit trail...

What I love about these books is that they expose children to classic children's literature and show how the themes may apply today and give vast resources on the authors of these timeless literary masterpieces and provide information on theme and setting for the works as well.
Allie's copy of "Pies and Prejudice" with her favorite passages marked,
sometimes she re-writes them and memorizes them.

Last year, Piper DEVOURED this series, loving them as much as Allie did and we revisited many of the topics.

I can not even begin to tell you how many conversations around the dinner table centered on these books or the themes in these books or how many conversations in the car or at breakfast or late at night in our beds.

The girls in our book club read one of these books for book club, which lead them to read the entire series.  Most of these girls devoured each book in a single day--the moms could not believe how much the girls related to these books!
Much Ado About Anne inspired both of my girls to read Anne of Green Gables.

Friends who read and discuss books together.

Sharing books bonds us.
 Over the last three years, Allie and Piper have explored Heather Vogel Frederick, author of this series, website.  They have entered contests, written fractured fairy tales and corresponded with Heather.

When we realized how much all of the girls in our book club loved this series, we decided to ask Heather if she would skype with the group--and she readily and happily agreed!!!

We decided to have a Not Back to School party, invite some friends and skype with Heather Vogel Frederick!

All of the girls wrote down questions beforehand.

Heather was very, very nice and told the girls about an upcoming trip to New York where she was staying in the hotel where they brought the Titanic survivors, it was a great way to break the ice.

She asked if we wanted to start with questions or have her tell a little about how she became a writer.

We were nervous and opted for the second option.

Heather told us how, as a child she loved to read and her parents were always trying to get her to go outside and exercise.  Some of us could really relate to that!!

She told us how writing kept her from feeling lonely at times when she needed that.  She told us about rejection, her life as a journalist and as a young mom.  She explained the publishing world and gave the girls writing tips.

Then she asked if they had questions.  They each had several and she had put them so at ease that they were comfortable to ask them and she answered them all in detail, leaving the girls feeling even more connected to these books, the characters and the author!

Heather Vogel Frederick on Bullying
Two homeschool bloggers have criticized these books because of the bullying.  I had to ask Heather about her choices with that.  She explained that one of her goals with the books was that they have certain themes common to the classic literature the girls' in the book read, there are many common themes in children's literature that make the books more relatable to kids, bullying being one of them, because, Heather believes, bullying is part of life.  In Anne of Green Gables, Gilbert Blythe is a bully, and the Pye sisters are mean girls; some may say that although she is one of the March sisters, Amy is a mean girl in Little Women; one might say Elizabeth Bennett is a mean girl; in The Hundred Dresses there is Peggy and Maddie; of course, there is Nellie Oleson in Little House, the consummate mean girl.  Heather Vogel Frederick explained that bullying is something kids experience, whether parents like it or want to believe it or not, they do and they may recognize themselves in the person being bullied and feel understood or in the bully and realize what a bad habit they have gotten into.  Also, Heather's books have been promoted as books mothers and daughters read together and discuss themes, so a child who may be experiencing bullying, but who doesn't know how to start the conversation or doesn't feel comfortable, may use the book as a way to open the conversation with their mother or, the mother can use the bullying segments of the book to open dialogue with their daughter, discuss their experiences and how they handled it.  Heather went on to tell the girls how she was bullied.  Allie and several of the other girls - both those who had been in school and those who were always homeschooled - shared some of their experiences with bullies.  The moms chimed in as well and a dialogue was begun....

It was an AWESOME experience!  It was a great way to start our homeschool year (although technically we won't start back for a few more weeks--we've done math and history all summer and have a few chapters left to go).  But, the girls both opened new documents after their friends left and began writing and have been working on these novels every day since (so I guess we are also doing creative writing :)).  Our book club has decided to read Daddy Long Legs, a book featured in the third Mother Daughter Book Club novel, which none of the moms had ever heard of but are all intrigued by.  Several of the girls asked their moms to stop at the book store or library on the way home to get Heather's books that they had not read and the youngest among them was excited to read The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed, a historical novel by Heather Vogel Frederick aimed at a slightly younger audience.

We are looking forward to a great year with our awesome homeschool group!

I want to thank Heather Vogel Frederick, not only for the words that resonate so well with my girls, but for taking the time to speak with and inspire these girls.