Homeschool resources that extend the curriculum and build community
“You blew $150k on an education you could have gotten in $1.50 in late fees from the library.” This quote, from the 1997 movie Good Will Hunting, has become a favorite among homeschooling circles. And it’s absolutely true: not only are public libraries the perfect free resource for books, periodicals, movies, music and other library materials, but many libraries have specific collections to assist homeschooling families, including how-to manuals, textbooks and educational kits.
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Do you homeschool? If so, you are increasingly not alone. As more and more families opt for homeschooling, public libraries have emerged as invaluable resources to DIY parent educators and their children. In this article we will see how public libraries can provide materials, programming and space for the homeschooling community, as well as a sense of community.
Not Just Books- The Homeschool Library of Things
Some libraries offer special extended loan periods for homeschoolers. In addition to these more traditional circulating items, public libraries also loan other materials, such as educational board games and software, microscopes, telescopes, science kits and similar items which can supplement a homeschooling curriculum.
Don’t Forget the Museum Passes!
The library’s physical collection is only just the tip of the iceberg, however. Homeschoolers can use their local public library as a gateway to other local cultural institutions as well by taking advantage of museum passes. Most libraries purchase museum passes which can be borrowed by library patrons to obtain free or reduced admission to a variety of participating institutions. Be sure to check to see if your public library has museum passes, and check often to see what new passes may be available, as libraries will add new passes depending on interest, availability and affordability. Just remember to return your passes when you’re done so somebody else can make the most of this wonderful and often hidden resource!
The Makerspace = Shop Class
Does your public library have a Makerspace? If so, you can supplement your homeschooling with a healthy dose of making. Not only do Makerspaces often offer classes in various STEM topics such as 3-D modeling and printing, coding, circuitry and robotics, but as public libraries expand the range of making activities which they support- including more “low-tech” arts and crafts such as sewing, sculpting, woodworking, music, pottery and even jewelry-making- homeschooling students have an opportunity to incorporate hands-on experiential learning into their curriculum. The Makerspace is also another source of loanable technology kits, such as Arduinos, Raspberry Pis, littleBits, Snap Circuits and even LEGO Mindstorms.
Your Virtual French Teacher is Waiting
Public libraries are often great resources for language learning, with foreign language dictionaries, language instruction books and other multimedia resources such as CDs and DVDs available in a variety of foreign languages. Homeschooling families can obviously take advantage of these resources, but most libraries also have subscriptions to online language-learning platforms, such as Mango Languages, which offers instruction in practical conversation in over 70 languages. Your library card can also give you access to other online educational resources like Lynda.com, which offers thousands of courses in technical skills such as photography, coding and multimedia training. These virtual instruction options can help round out any homeschooler’s education and provide access to deeper learning paths which may not otherwise be available.
Programming to Supplement Homeschooling Curriculum
While you are taking advantage of your public library’s electronic resources, don’t forget to pay attention to its human resources as well. The breadth of programming offerings at many public libraries is nothing short of astonishing, with activities earmarked for almost every age or interest group in your library’s community. From storytime to language discussion groups, from book clubs to chess clubs, from poetry reading groups to teen fanfiction writing support groups, not only can library programming supplement the homeschooling curriculum but it can also provide invaluable opportunities for socialization as well. By virtue of the diversity of the public library community, homeschooled children who use the library have the advantage of being able to interact and learn with their peers in age-specific library programming as well as in programs which are open to all ages.
The Library’s Space is Your Community Space
The public library is often a nexus for the community, a safe space for people of all ages to come and learn and experience new things. As such it is a perfect supportive environment for homeschoolers. And as public libraries currently reimagine their spaces to best suit the evolving needs of their communities, there is a growing emphasis on offering as much usable space as possible for community groups, including homeschooling families. Although some libraries charge for the use of library space, an increasing amount of public libraries will waive this fee for homeschooling groups, as they see homeschoolers as an integral part of their community, serving as their de facto school library,
Put Homeschooling on Your Library’s Radar
Just as the library takes direction from the community on what to collect and circulate, so too do public libraries welcome ideas for programming and support from their patrons. For homeschooling families this is an ideal way to make your presence and interests known to the library, especially if they have not traditionally engaged homeschoolers in the past. Some libraries have answered homeschooling groups with specialized programs for homeschooled students and expanded outreach to the local homeschooling community.
As the homeschooling movement continues to grow, more and more public libraries will offer increasingly dynamic and responsive programming to this group. In the meantime, however, there are already so many potential resources for homeschoolers to make use of, so don’t be afraid to visit your local public library and get started!