Good book club discussion questions + kid bedtimes

I am in the process of pulling together discussion guides for people reading Tranquility by Tuesday. For folks who want to work through the book as a project, I can use a lot of the same questions that I asked my study participants. But I know that many book groups just discuss a book once. So I’m brainstorming some questions.

If you’re in a book club, what are some of the best discussion questions you’ve seen? What makes for a good question? Were you ever surprised at how long people could talk about a topic?

Any ideas are appreciated!

In other news: I’m also writing up a schedule for my kids for school year mornings and evenings. Our district has yet to start following the guidelines that high school not start before 8 a.m. It will start at 7:30 a.m. Middle school starts at 8:15 and elementary school starts at 9:00 (as does preschool).

I think we will probably drive the high schooler. My plan is for me to wake up at 6:30, make sure he is up by 6:40, and someone will drive him around 7/7:05. The middle schoolers will wake up at 7:00 to leave for the bus at 7:30 (pick up 7:40, so maybe they can leave a minute or two later as we all adjust). The little two kids will likely wake up somewhere in here, but they could get up as late as 8 or so. Our nanny will drive them to school.

So, what time do the kids need to be winding down to make 6:40 and 7:00 wake-ups feasible? I’m thinking that everyone needs to be in their rooms with no devices at 9:00 p.m. I think lights out 9:45 p.m. I know that teens are naturally wired to stay up late — if people can’t fall asleep after trying they can always get back up and read. We shall see how this works…

9 thoughts on “Good book club discussion questions + kid bedtimes

  1. For TBT in particular, I think adventures will be a great conversation topic. What makes a little adventure? What are some fun little adventures you’d recommend to somebody who’s new to our town? How do you get kid/spouse buy-in on big adventures? What are some of the adventures you remember most fondly?

    Movement also seems like a place where it could be really fruitful to compare notes — how do you get out the door in the morning if you’re aiming to exercise before work? Is there a fun lunchtime yoga class near your work? How do you fit a workout into a workday if you’re back in an office setting? Do you have a favorite workout for days when you can only squeeze in 15 minutes of exercise?

  2. My bookclub reads primarily fiction or narrative non-fiction so most of the standard questions might not apply. Our best discussions happen when we discover we feel differently about something: why the author made a certain choice; the influence of one path or another; if we agree on the ending; if this is applicable/realistic to our lives etc. As an ice breaker, we usually start with “What did you think of the book?” or maybe in your case, “which of the nine rules do you find most challenging?” This isn’t the typical thing my bookclub would read, but I would love to explore it with a group!

    Good luck with your school schedule! Our public school is a semi-rural K-12 and while there are some drawbacks (less variety in offerings, same kids year after year) one plus I did not appreciate until I became a parent is that my kids will start/end at the same time/place regardless of grade! At least until they hit middle school and elect to participate in sports/activities.

  3. I am naturally argumentative, so I would want to talk about which Tranquility rules might not apply to everyone, and/or how rules could be adapted to fit into various people’s lives. (For example, the size and frequency of “big” and “little” adventures seem reasonable to adjust.) Also, since being the parent of five children is part of your brand (although I have no idea if your kids are mentioned in the book), it could be interesting to discuss how parenthood has affected your ideas, and how non-parents (or retired people, or young adults, or medical residents working very long shifts, etc) might apply the principles.

    Tangentially related to schedules, I have noticed that with the start of school there has been a lot of chitchat about not overscheduling our kids, letting them have free play, etc. To me this seems like an(other) case of “simplifying” our lives in a way that makes things harder. While my five-year-old is at his afterschool program doing art or soccer, I can work or relax or give 1:1 attention to my younger child. If he is at home having “free play”, somebody has to be supervising him. I realize (hope?) that kids eventually age out of being miniature tornadoes requiring constant vigilance, but this idea that we are going to return to the halcyon days of children riding their bikes in cul-de-sacs assumes not only safe and friendly cul-de-sacs but also a (probably female) parent baking cookies and cooking dinner and keeping a watchful eye from inside.

    1. @Erica – I’m definitely putting in a question about which rules don’t work for you, or that you wanted to change…

      I’m with you on activities – as long as it doesn’t involve parental driving then it’s really a big bonus. Most people have downtime. The question is just how much. And yes, we probably won’t send kids out to ride their bikes all over town from breakfast until dinner as people once did…

  4. That school schedule seems backwards. Here, the elementary schools start earliest – they are usually up and about anyway, right? High school is last which is great since they tend to want to sleep in since, as you said, they like to stay up. Seems your district’s schedule would be a huge challenge for working parents, especially if not WFH, if they have to get their littles to school. High schoolers can find ways to get themselves there.

    1. @Cindy I was thinking the same thing. There is no bus service in my school district because it is so small so everyone k-12 starts at 8:30 and finishes at 3. But in my district growing up where they did want to stagger starts for bussing, elementary and high school started early (maybe 8 am) and middle school didn’t start until a glorious 9:35 am! However, this really shortened the after school time so a lot of extracurricular activities were BEFORE school. It was weird at first but I remember going into the day feeling great after play rehearsal or sports practice…though maybe we didn’t smell amazing…

  5. I always like the book club question “Why do you think the author picked that title?” It’s probably a better question for fiction books, though, and I have a feeling that your title is thoroughly explained in your book. But maybe a question asking readers which days of the week feel more or less tranquil and why might be interesting to discuss.
    My middle child just started Kindergarten in a magnet program that’s at a different school than his 5th grade sister, while his little sister is still in preschool/daycare. I’m realizing that I may never have any of my children at the same school since even when little sis gets old enough for kindergarten, there’s no guarantee that she will get into the same program as her brother and by then the oldest will be in middle school. I guess every year will bring new changes and we will figure it out as we go! 7:30a is awfully early though. My kids are all naturally early risers – no matter how late they go to bed they all seem to be up by 6:30a. (They are supposed to be in bed between 8:30p and 9pm.) I am interested to see if this changes as they enter the teen years. I wonder if people’s bodies adjust to earlier wake times or if waking early will always be hard, but they just realize they need to do it an force themselves through it.

  6. For book study questions, I’d be tempted to reverse-engineer them based on what you hope they are most able to apply in their real lives. Could be things like – What bed time should you give yourself? What activity(ies) do you want to try to do before 3pm? What weekly/recurring tasks could you batch?

    This is a different approach then the “What do you think about” type questions and could help move readers from reflection to application (which I assume is part of the goal of your writing, but feel free to correct me if I’m off base!)

    So excited to have another book to add to the “Laura Vanderkam” section of my bookshelf. 🙂

    1. @Amy – hope you enjoy Tranquility by Tuesday? For a one-meeting book club, I sort of assume that people have half read the book and not everyone has decided to use every rule. So I am approaching the questions in that spirit. Plus some general time questions that I know get people talking (what would you do with an extra hour in your day? what is the biggest source of time stress in your life? And then related to TBT – did any of the rules not work for you? What would you add as a 10th rule?)

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