I thought it was about time I wrote a little something about our first Barefoot Book Club, especially as I’d promised a tutorial for our craft activity quite some time ago.
For those of you that don’t know I have started running Barefoot Book Clubs with our little home ed group here in Plymouth. I find that out of all the subjects we cover in our unschooling “curriculum”, literacy is one of the hardest to explore without being part of a group. I believe that understanding and exploring stories is a largely a collaborative process, and that discussion can play an integral part in getting the most out of a really good book.
Does that all sound a bit formal? It probably does, but actually our Barefoot Book Clubs are a very informal space where a group of children can gather together to hear a story, discuss the text and create a little something to take away with them. Oh and there’s plenty of cake and biscuits too!
For our first Book Club, The Genius of Leonardo seemed like the perfect place to start. It is the story of Leonardo da Vinci’s life as seen through the eyes of his 10 year old apprentice, Giacomo. The book has some beautiful illustrations by Bimba Landmann and features many original quotes from Leonardo’s own sketchbooks such as “Giacomo has come to live with me. He is 10 years old. He is a liar, a thief and a greedy brute. He eats as much as two boys and causes as much trouble as four”! Do you know any kids like that? Quite a few of our book club participants do, or so they say!
Of course, the story of Leonardo is one that’s particularly relevant to home educating families such as ours. For him there was no difference between art, science and maths, they were all integral to helping him understand how the world works and he had a great deal of reverence for the natural world too. Not only that, but Leonardo didn’t go to school himself. As a child born out of wedlock, traditional schooling was not an option for this great man. Instead he did much of his learning as an apprentice to the sculptor and painter, Andrea del Verrochio. Until he surpassed his master, that is, and went on to become the genius he is remembered as today. So I guess Leonardo could be the original example of how far unschooling can open the imagination and lead to great things?
I was a bit worried about having a group of 12 kids in my house for a two hour session of story, discussion and crafts but all the kids who came were fantastic. We had some great conversations about Leonardo’s approach and had a look at some of his original sketches. They did an amazing job of answering questions about the story and all of them made their own sketchbooks to take home with them and record their own discoveries and ideas. With an age range of 3 – 10 years old it could have been bedlam, but they all did brilliantly and are almost all coming back for our next Book Club session, with the exception of a couple who can’t make it due to other commitments on that day.
If you want to know how to make your own sketchbook then check out this tutorial. I got all of our materials from our local scrapstore at Plymouth Play Association. We used wallpaper for the covers and adjusted the design slightly by doubling up some of the paper and using hole protectors to make the sketchbooks more durable – I’m a great believer in making things that will actually last! All the resources such as wordsearches and crosswords for the kids to take home with them are available to you as a Barefoot Books Ambassador, as are the discussion questions for the book if the thought of coming up with your own fills you with dread!
Running a Barefoot Book Club is such a great way for me to earn money as a Barefoot Books Ambassador and to provide a fun learning experience for my kids and their friends at the same time! I absolutely love it and the girls and I are really looking forward to our next get together which is almost fully booked already. The kids have chosen The Barefoot Book of Animal Tales so I am scurrying around looking for craft activities and materials to help them make the most of their club. I’ll let you know how it goes!