Will this be the year that you start a homeschool book club? We’ve got lots of great ideas to get you started with a book that your homeschool community is sure to love!

The Secret Garden

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

The Secret Garden tells the story of the young Mary Lennox, a spoiled child who is whisked off to England when her parents are killed in a cholera outbreak. Alone in the world apart from the wealthy uncle she has never met, Mary travels across the moor to his forbidding estate, Misselthwaite Manor.

By day she explores the extensive gardens, uncovering the key that unlocks an abandoned rose garden. And by night she discovers an unlikely companion when she is awakened by an eerie moaning down the corridor.

In the garden and in the company of her newfound friends, Mary experiences a life-giving magic. Her transformation from a selfish brat to a thoughtful, caring girl can only be described as wondrous. As you are drawn into this enchanting world of friendly robins, blooming crocuses, and a boy who tames wild animals, you’ll find the garden working its magic on you as well. This classic tale beloved by children of all ages since it was first published in 1912 is perfect for sharing with your homeschool friends.

Hosting a Homeschool Book Club

“The secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.”

Invite other families to join you for a book club gathering at least 4 – 6 weeks ahead of time. You’ll need to give everyone plenty of time to read the book. Whether you announce your book club gathering with a social media invite, an email or in person, be sure to let everyone know the title and author of the book as well as the meeting date, time and location.

There are many beautiful versions of The Secret Garden. The one illustrated by Tasha Tudor is a classic. Other families may prefer to listen to the audio book like the excellent free version narrated by Karen Savage available through Librivox. For The Secret Garden this can be especially helpful as several of the characters speak a Yorkshire dialect that can be cumbersome to get through if you aren’t familiar with the accent.

To help your littlest book club participants experience the story on their level, try the Little Golden Book version. Seeing children across a wide range of ages engage with the same book is one of the joys of a homeschool book club.

Collaborate with the other parents to plan food and activities around a Secret Garden theme. You can encourage children to get into the mood by coming dressed as their favorite character from the book or by bringing a drawing of their favorite part of the story to share with the group.

Select Your Location

“It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place any one could imagine. The high walls which shut it in were covered with the leafless stems of climbing roses which were so thick that they were matted together.”

The Secret Garden practically begs to be experienced outdoors. If you’re lucky to have access to a rose garden bordered by stone walls and inhabited by a family of robins, definitely make that your book club spot. Otherwise, look for a nature center, state park or wildlife sanctuary where flowers will be in bloom. If a garden gathering is out of the question, an indoor English tea party will suit this book nicely.

Plan Your Menu

“The table near his sofa was set with a breakfast of home-made bread and fresh butter, snow-white eggs, raspberry jam and clotted cream. Mary always breakfasted with him and when they found themselves at the table–particularly if there were delicate slices of sizzling ham sending forth tempting odors from under a hot silver cover–they would look into each other’s eyes in desperation.”

The Secret Garden describes how Colin grows well with hearty meals like porridge, roasted potatoes, and fresh milk. If you’re feeling adventurous you may want to try a traditional Victorian recipe with your group. Or you can invite everyone to bring something to share for a potluck style picnic. Slices of ham and cheese with bread, fresh berries, cookies, and tea or lemonade would make a lovely Secret Garden picnic.

Prepare Activities

Hide the Key

“Mary looked at it, not really knowing why the hole was there, and as she looked she saw something almost buried in the newly-turned soil. It was something like a ring of rusty iron or brass and when the robin flew up into a tree nearby she put out her hand and picked the ring up. It was more than a ring, however; it was an old key which looked as if it had been buried a long time.”

Your children will love reliving the magical moment when Mary Lennox finds the missing key that unlocks the forbidden garden. In this version of the classic parlor game Hide the Thimble, choose one child to hide a key in a designated area (the more antique looking your key the better!) while the others close their eyes. Then let the children race to find the hidden key. The first one to find it gets to hide the key next.

Skipping Rope

“You just try it,” urged Martha, handing her the skipping-rope. “You can’t skip a hundred at first, but if you practice you’ll mount up. That’s what mother said. She says, `Nothin’ will do her more good than skippin’ rope. It’s th’ sensiblest toy a child can have. Let her play out in th’ fresh air skippin’ an’ it’ll stretch her legs an’ arms an’ give her some strength in ’em.’”

Mary Lennox enjoys skipping rope throughout the gardens of Misselthwaite Manor.  Bring jump ropes or lengths of cord and let the children take turns skipping rope.  See if anyone knows some jump rope rhymes they can teach the group.

Make a Terrarium

“There’s naught as nice as th’ smell o’ good clean earth, except th’ smell o’ fresh growin’ things when th’ rain falls on ’em.”

Give each child or family the opportunity to build their own miniature Secret Garden. For each participant, bring one small glass container, potting soil, and a small plant (maybe an ivy as was covering the walls of the Secret Garden).  A tiny key or bird miniature is a nice touch. Place pebbles in the bottom of the container for drainage, fill about half full with potting soil, and then add the plant.

Discuss the book.

Use open-ended questions to get your kiddos talking about the book. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • How are Mary and Colin similar? How are they different?
  • Why do you think Mary was so disagreeable at the beginning of the book?
  • Have you ever had a secret place that was all your own? What was it like?
  • Who was the most afraid in this story? What were they afraid of?
  • Was it right for Mary to go into the Secret Garden? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think Mary, Colin and Dickon became friends?
  • Which part of the story did you find the most inspiring?
  • Which scene from the Secret Garden do you most want to hold onto?

We hope you enjoy diving into The Secret Garden friends. Please feel free to tag your book club photos with #homeschoolcompass so our community can celebrate the festivities along with you!

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Aimee grew up among the cornfields of rural Michigan, where she was captivated by Jesus as a teenager and married her high school sweetheart. Together they moved to New England, chasing dreams of ministry, and landed in a city by the beach where they homeschool their two children together. Aimee has a Master's degree in Biblical Languages from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She enjoys exploring new places, reading great stories, and enjoying the outdoors with her family.