Activities

A large part of Lit Group consists of activities. These are fun for teens (and chaperons), and they supplement the reading and discussion.

Attending plays, for example. Drama's a genre of literature and therefore completely appropriate to include in Lit Group. The best way of experiencing drama is to hear and see it, which is after all how it's intended to be experienced.

Other activities can tie literature into real life. Valuable as the study of literature may be, in the end, literature consists only of stories about life - not life itself. We don't want to personally learn all of literature's lessons nor experience all it portrays - neither homeschooled teens nor anyone else needs to personally experience poverty, misery, or the terrible consequences of bad choices.

However, when possible, it is good to inform the literature we read, and our understanding of it, by getting out there into the real world and getting a better idea of just what life was like for the characters we read about. For example, in the book Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Tess is a milkmaid. It's easy to fall into the trap of taking an "ivory tower," literati, snobbish or elitist attitude to this, or just to overlook its significance. But a field trip to a working dairy farm, in which teens shovel manure and curry it off of cows, and milk them, presents a whole different aspect. A teen may realize something of the reality (and totality) of Tess' life; get an idea of just how special Tess really was. The activity informs our understanding of Tess, and of life, and of literature.

Here are some activities homeschooled literature groups have done. Some of these you can do for yourself, others not, because of constraints of time, place, interest, or opportunity. They are presented here for you to use how you may.

Teaching Philosophy to Children

The college students of Dr. Thomas Wartenburg teach philosophy to grade-school children, using discussion-sparking questions and techniques nearly identical to those used in some homeschool teen literature groups. This presents an obvious possibility - "Let's try doing with little kids what we do week-in, week-out, amongst ourselves." Here's some more information.

Museum Visits

If you live near museums you can visit them as literature-related tie-in activities. California residents may visit places Steinbeck describes; those near Chicago may visit the Hemingway Birthplace Museum; those who live near Holocaust Museums can visit those in conjunction with reading Anne Frank's diary.

However, even if you do not live near such museums, you may be able to take advantage of traveling exhibits, such as the traveling Anne Frank exhibit or an exhibit on the history of medicine. If you keep your reading/discussion schedule flexible you may be able to attend the exhibit at the same time you're reading the related book.

Games

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Field Trips

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Attending Plays

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Other Performances

You might think that professional traveling companies only visit big cities but it isn't so - from time to time many such folks like to go "off the beaten path" and visit smaller communities. A performance of Flamenco dance by Jose Greco and Nana Lorca presented at a small community college can be both fun and educational, possibly tying in to any book involving Spain. A performance of early music by the group Chanticleer (which performs nation- and world-wide, including in smaller venues/towns) can enhance and inform a book about the middle ages, such as Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, Michael Crichton's Timeline, or even Robin Hood or The Three Musketeers.

Then of course there are the thousands of local performing groups. A high-quality vocal ensemble called the 16th Century Singers performs in and around Ludington, Michigan; attending one of their performances can be every bit as involving and enlightening as a Chanticleer performance, and just as much fun.

In Summary

Reading and discussing literature can take quite a bit of time, and can be fairly hard work for the teens. Teens may drop out due to lack of time, interest, or "a good fit" - literature discussion groups aren't for everyone. Also, a literature group for homeschooled teens can easily decline in membership as teens graduate, move out of the area, or quit homeschooling. If a literature group gets too small it stops being a group - discussing literature with one, two, or just a few teens can be valuable, educational, and enjoyable, but it's a different experience from discussing literature in a group of 12 teens.

Many leaders of homeschool teen literature groups find that scheduling plenty of fun activities helps in keeping the teens involved in the group, and in recruiting. Scheduling and co-ordinating activities for a literature group may not be much harder than simply enjoying those same activities with your own family. Sometimes the only extra help you need is with transportation, and this help is often easy to get. This is a way to boost attendance, keep up interest, and spread word of your literature group via word of mouth.

A leader's little secret - the tie between an activity (such as a performance or art exhibit) and the literature, doesn't need to be so very strong. Teens can get involved in, and enjoy, many activities. Attending a scientific lecture or a local art gallery event might have nothing at all to do with any book you read this year. You may still justify it based on teen interest, and on the principle "this is the kind of thing that literate people do."

Most leaders of lit groups find that there are very many potential activities for lit group activities. It's all a matter of discovery, scheduling, logistics, and willingness/interest.