Book Club Meetup: Trumpet of the Swan

Trumpet of the Swan is a delightful children’s novel by E.B. White published in 1970. It is one of those stories you grieve when you finish reading because you don’t want it to end. Trumpet of the Swan tells the story of Louis, a trumpeter swan who was born without a voice. Louis overcomes this difficulty by learning to play the trumpet in order to impress a beautiful swan named Serena. The story takes him around Canada and the United States on all sorts of adventures.

After reading this book over the course of about 5 weeks, we celebrated with our book club. Read more about How to Start a Children’s Book Club here

Here are the activities we did at this meet up. 

Bird Nest Treats

Using this recipe, the kids made their own bird nest treats. We used broken up pretzel sticks instead of noodles and mini marshmallows instead of candy eggs. The kids loved stirring the mixture and forming their nests on parchment paper. We popped them in the freezer to harden quicker while we moved on to the next activity.

Clay Swans

Using this tutorial, one of the moms led the kids in making air-dry clay swans. To better represent the trumpeter swan, we used all white clay and painted the swans beaks black after drying.

Chalk Name Writing

In the story, Louis learned how to communicate by writing with chalk, using his beak. I wrapped duct tape around pieces of chalk and the children used their mouths to write their names on our big chalkboard. It was so funny to watch and the mamas even gave it a go. The kids loved that!

Snack and Chat

We munched on our bird’s nests and Bugle chips (mini trumpets) while we had a little book discussion. Everyone shared their favorite part of the story. Then we talked about Louis Armstrong and his mention in the book. I pulled up a photo of him for the kids to see and read some information to them about his life. We finished munching while listening to some of his music!

Funnel Trumpet Craft and Game

We provided each child with a funnel, some duct tape, a paper towel tube, and foil. They built their trumpet and wrapped it in foil. Then we sat in a circle and took turns being “Louis.” When a child was Louis, they wore the four items around their neck that Louis wore in the story–a slate, the life-saving medal, the trumpet, and a money bag. The kids absolutely loved that little touch to bring the story to life. When it was their turn they played “taps” on their trumpet and the rest of the children mimicked their tune. 

Story Reenactments

I allowed the children to brainstorm scenes from the book they wanted to reenact together. Here is what they chose and how we did it.

Swan Boat Ride

Using a blanket, one child pretended to be Louis by pulling it along the hardwood floor and playing their trumpet while another child sat on top for a ride. 

Saving Applegate

In the story, Louis saved a boy named Applegate Skinner. The kids reenacted this scene by using our ballpit to be the lake. One child was Applegate, drowning in the ballpit, and another was Louis “swimming” out to save his life. So many laughs on this one!

I pulled these ideas from various resources, including The Masterpiece Studio. The Masterpiece Studio has an Art + Baking Study Guide for The Trumpet of the Swan that would be great to use if you were going chapter-by-chapter through the book and wanted enrichment ideas. Use my code TREEHOUSE15 to get 15% off any order.

We had such a good time with this bookclub meet up! If you try any of these activities in your home to celebrate this story or with your bookclub, I would love it if you would share them with me by tagging me on Instagram at @treehouse_schoolhouse

How to Start a Children’s Book Club

When my children were preschool age, we started reading chapter books aloud. I loved the idea of ending each book with a celebration to reflect on what we read and invite my children into fun experiences related to the themes in the story. After doing this on our own a few times, I decided to invite a few close friends to join us. Over time, we invited more and more friends and adjusted things to be more of a collaborative effort. Now, we have a committed group of five moms and eleven participating children. After many, many books and months of having an active book club, we have settled into a good routine. I am going to share with you how we set up our book club and some tips to begin and facilitate your own! 

For each book club meet up, each mom brings one themed snack to share and one activity for the group along with all of the materials needed.  We communicate ahead of time what we are contributing to help bring a diversity of activities. We try to have a good mix of table activities and active activities.

If you want to start a book club, here are my recommended steps.  

Pick your people

My advice is to choose children within a similar age frame as your children so that they can enjoy the same books and can participate in the activities together. The children in our book club range from 4-7 years old. I also advise keeping your book club at a manageable number of children. My general rule is that they could fit around a kitchen table. Thankfully I have a large table and the eleven children fit fairly well if we pull up a couple of chairs. 

You also want to communicate with the moms that you are inviting that book club is a collaborative effort, so you want to find moms who are willing to host, help create the experiences, and are willing to stay and help their children with the activities. I personally wanted a committed group of moms that would make it a priority to read the book with their children and attend as many meet-ups as possible. 

For communication purposes, the moms and I started a private Facebook group.

The Adventures of Reddy Fox Book Club

Make a book list

All of the moms in the group submitted books that they would like to use for the book club to a list. I compiled the list into one and posted it in our Facebook group. If there were any books on the list that certain moms didn’t want to read for whatever reason, we removed them from the list. This list is constantly being added to as we all discover new books we want to read for book club.

Create a host rotation schedule

This has been the main reason our book club has been successful, in my opinion. All of the responsibility doesn’t fall on any one mom. The moms in the group rotate who is the host. 

This is what the responsibility of the host is:

  1. Choose the book. Using the book list that we compiled, the host chooses which book is next to read and communicates that to the group. 
  1. Choose the book club date. We usually go about 4-6 weeks between meetups. It is the responsibility of the host to determine what is a good amount of time to give families to finish the book (less time for shorter books and more time for longer books). It is also their responsibility to communicate to the group and nail down a date that works for everyone. The host creates the event within our Facebook group with all the details. We usually meet on a weekday morning for about 2-3 hours. 
  1. Choose the location. The host either has the book club meet up at their house or chooses an outdoor location with a picnic table. 
  1. Keep communication going as we prep for the meetup. During the weeks leading up to the meetup, the host reminds the other moms to RSVP and to submit their activity and snack ideas to the group so that we have a good variety.
  1. Facilitate the meetup. The host is responsible to make an order of events for the book club and to keep the activities going on meetup day. We have found it to be most successful to set up the order of events in a way that moves the kids around throughout the activities, rather than keeping them in one spot for a long period of time. We have done activities in the kitchen, outside, in the living room, and at the kitchen table. We put snack time in somewhere in the middle and do some book discussion as we munch. We have also experimented with breaking the group into two smaller groups and rotating the smaller groups through activities. The host is responsible for looking at the activities and deciding on the best order and way to implement them with the group. Whichever mom brought each activity, also leads the group in the activity.
The Mouse and the Motorcycle Book Club Activity

Here are the books we have used in book club so far and have enjoyed:

  • Charlotte’s Web
  • The Mouse and the Motorcycle
  • My Father’s Dragon 
  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins
  •  The Bears on Hemlock Mountain
  • McBroom’s Wonderful One Acre Farm
  • The Trumpet of the Swan

Unfortunately, I didn’t document all of the details of each of these meet-ups, but you can find the ones I did document with details here.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins Book Club Activities

One more tip

If you have baby and toddler siblings in the group, you may want to try setting up a separate area for them to play during the meetup and rotating moms in to watch them. We have 7 babies and toddlers that come to our meetups, so it got really loud and challenging to lead activities without a plan in place. We recently started trying this and it has helped so much! Of course, there are still baby-wearing mamas, nursing sessions, and toddlers needing their mama, but having an area set up just for them with toys or sensory bins has been a helpful option.

How I Organize and Use Homeschool Bundles

What is a homeschool bundle?

You may have seen these going around Instagram recently. All of a sudden all of your favorite homeschool accounts are sharing about a “bundle” of resources around a particular theme. So what is it exactly? In a nutshell, these popular bundles are…well, brillant. The main idea is that a bunch of creators come together and offer their products (often all surrounding one theme) in one big themed set for a super reduced price for a limited time.

For example, the current bundle that I am a contributor for is the Nature Mega Bundle Vol. 2. This bundle has over 600 pages, valued at $600 for only $25! Included in this bundle are wonderful guides and mini-curriculums, that feature complete nature and art studies, science, games and other enriching activities. The themes of this bundle are water, trees, sky, plants, mini-beasts, earth, birds, bees, and animals. This bundle is only available through October 17th.

What’s the catch? 

There’s really not one. Bundles are beneficial for the creators and for the buyers. It helps the creators get their name out and their products in many hands who may not have found them otherwise. Creators also benefit financially because they have an affiliate link to the bundle and get a percentage of each purchase that goes through their link. It benefits the buyer because the value of the bundle is significantly more than the price and the products are themed, so it’s a one-stop shop without much effort on the buyer’s part.

Downloading and organizing bundles

Once you purchase a bundle, you receive an email with a link to view and download the bundle. Typically, bundles are organized through Google Drive, and once you click on the link you will see folders with units and lessons organized by theme within the folders. Some bundles only allow access to the folders for a limited time and others will keep the link active indefinitely. I personally prefer to go through the folders and download the content into my hard drive and into my personal Google Drive account. Then, I can organize the files as I see fit and refer to them easily without fear of losing the link or it expiring.

The way I organize the content in bundles, and really any additional mini unit study or digital educational content that I purchase, is by using folders in Google Drive. In my Google Drive account, I have a homeschool folder. In that folder, I have more folders for each main subject: Math, Science, Literature, History, etc. Inside those folders are more folders with sub-topics, such as “preschool math”, “insects”, or “US History.” You could really break it down however makes the most sense to you. In those folders, I organize all of the mini-units and “extras” that come my way via bundles, shops I come across through Instagram,  and any digital learning content I find and download. 

Sometimes items in a bundle may fall into more than one category or sub-subject. That’s okay–you can make a copy and place the files in more than one folder. For example, if you have Insect Counting Cards, you may want to place them in your “Preschool Math” and your “Insects” folders. Organize your materials in a way that makes it easiest for you to quickly find what you are looking for. 

Using bundles in my homeschool

You may see all of the beautiful resources and wonder what to do with them all. It can be overwhelming, especially as a new homeschooling family. Here’s how I view these resources–I have my main curriculums and guides that I use continually and for the year; these are our staples that we use everyday. These include our phonics and math curriculums. Then I have areas of our schooling that allow for extras. These areas currently are geography, history, art, science, nature study, and music appreciation. I love keeping these open so that I can add things in seasonally, because I find something I think my children would enjoy, or to follow my children’s interests about a topic. I do loosely follow some guides in these areas here and there, such as Exploring Nature with Children, but for the most part they are open. Even in following a guide or curriculum, the material included in these bundles can be added to the lessons in your curriculum to further studies.

Rather than printing and preparing the material all at once and in advance, I have everything organized digitally for when we are ready to study a topic. During my weekly planning session, I find what relates to what we will be studying and prepare it then. I print, cut, laminate, and bind all at home. You can see the office supplies I use and love here. 

Types of materials frequently offered in bundles and how I use them:

Informational posters

I like to print these and frame them or simply hang them in our school area for quick reference. The Nature Mega Bundle II has many of these, such as “Anatomy of a Rose”, “Woodland Fungi” and “Phases of the Moon.”

Full unit studies

These unit studies could be used in part or in full to enhance your lessons or completely stand alone for a full week or more of studying a certain area of interest. The Nature Mega Bundle II has many of these, such as one about trees, weather, bees, and many more.

Learning cards

I love to print, cut, and laminate these to hang in our school area or keep as reference if we’re learning about a certain topic. They’re also nice to throw in a backpack for learning outings. The Nature Mega Bundle II has many of these, such as ones about mountains, moths, landforms, and more.

There are more activities included in Nature Mega Bundle II like crafts, games, nature journals, and printable stickers! You really won’t be disappointed with this purchase.