Public Libraries Help Homeschooling Parents and Kids
We know that homeschooling has become a familiar (sometimes unplanned) option for parents during the pandemic. The at-home teaching and learning model has been necessary in many cases since schools have only recently begun to reopen. It’s also convenient — especially for those who have needed to work from home.
Despite today’s widespread availability of public and private K-12 education, many parents and children prefer learning at home — at their own pace, using their chosen curriculum, and in many cases, resources available from public libraries.
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Here, we look at these libraries’ vast and varied homeschooling resource collections and the librarians who help families discover and benefit from all that is available.
Homeschooling Variations and Protocols
Homeschooling became a common (if unintended) option for many parents during the pandemic. At-home teaching and learning was necessary in many cases since schools are only now starting to reopen. It was also a convenience — especially for those working from home.
But what was homeschooling like before this urgent and unexpected situation arose? Why did parents homeschool before the health emergency, when a pandemic was the last thing on their minds? And will homeschooling be more prevalent in the decades ahead?
The following are some examples of why homeschooling has gained a foothold and seems likely to stick around.
Some religious denominations feel public school curricula include content (e.g., sex education) they consider their domain, not that of a school system that serves many different beliefs and value systems. Thus, pre-planned, faith-driven curricula became available decades ago, letting parents select learning plans that would support their values and beliefs.
A More Significant Parental Role
For some families, homeschooling offers a richer and more flexible opportunity to play a key role in educating their kids. For example, they might want to integrate impromptu field trips, athletics, hands-on experiments, grandparent interviews, or other spontaneous and innovative learning activities to complement and enhance more traditional lessons.
Accommodating Parents’ Work Situations
Many working parents travel for their jobs — anywhere from a few days to months or even years. But, instead of being away from their families, they want their children and spouses to enjoy the experience too. It could mean learning during a week-long trip to another US city or studying other cultures while living abroad.
Sadly, many of today’s public schools underperform due to a lack of adequate funding, resource-stretched families, and concerns about violent crime. Homeschooling presents a viable alternative for the few who have the time and preparation to teach their kids at home — and, hopefully, with the help of their public library.
The Role of Public Libraries and Librarians in C21 Homeschooling
Many parents interested in homeschooling, whether by desire or out of necessity, start out nervous, not always knowing where to begin or find assistance. That’s why public libraries make extensive efforts to reach out to local homeschooling parents, groups, and organizations. They even host library events to familiarize homeschooling families with available resources.
Hands-on activities, engaging displays, and take-home learning kits prepared or led by librarians are especially popular with homeschooled kids. Parents get a break from coming up with lessons while still watching their “students” enjoy the discovery process. What’s more, all these resources cost them nothing!
Librarians’ roles go beyond this too. As homeschoolers mature and develop intellectually, they want to explore more adult resources, like the online library catalog and various databases, to an extent their parents might not be familiar with. Imagine the confidence a child will gain by having new knowledge and skills to share with Mom or Dad!
We want to point out that families can explore libraries to use the resources on the shelves and (especially in urban libraries) see and interact with unfamiliar people representing various cultures. We must remind you that public libraries are among our country’s most democratic institutions. What better place is there to learn?
In the 21st century, public libraries offer an endless array of learning resources. These include:
- Their own holdings.
- Physical things shared through library networks (books and other items).
- Digital resources accessible to anyone with a computer, internet access, and a local or regional public library card.
- Many public events.
Let’s look at a few of these categories in more depth.
If you’re looking for K-12 or college-level textbooks to augment your homeschooling endeavor, check the library catalog to see what’s available. If you can’t find what you need, ask a librarian to help you dig deeper into the subject area by looking in the stacks or by locating it at another library and using Interlibrary Loan (ILL) to borrow it.
“Plain old library books” often aren’t all that plain, especially when it comes to collections for children and teens. Numerous age-appropriate volumes cover one or more aspects of familiar school subjects like science or history. In addition, many have fascinating illustrations, diagrams, and other features that are sure to absorb a child’s attention.
Learning Kits and More
The most appealing learning experience for kids might be a library learning kit, as mentioned above. They feature hands-on activities from science experiments to musical instrument lessons to arts and crafts projects. Most include the needed materials, tools and instruments.
Also, take advantage of your library’s exhibits, presentations, workshops, movies, story hours, reading groups, or any of the other age-appropriate activities offered. And don’t forget to discuss those events with your kids during the activity or afterwards to share what you enjoyed and learned.
Did you know that libraries often give out passes to museums, zoos, planetariums, and other local attractions where children can learn while having a wonderful time?
By integrating home and school, homeschooling can give children a sense of independence, creativity, and even maturity they might not get by shifting between home and a more structured school environment. Some say that homeschoolers sacrifice socialization. But there is nothing preventing parents from encouraging non-school socializing outside the home.
Libraries technically are not schools, and many librarians aren’t licensed teachers. Nonetheless, they educate the public and offer a great deal to guide families toward some terrific experiential learning opportunities. And parents get support for their goals — which include using their preferred curriculum and teaching their kids as they see fit.
Griffith, Mary. The Homeschooling Handbook, 2nd Ed. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2010.
Homeschooling and Libraries: New Solutions and Opportunities. Edited by Vera Gubnitskaia and Carol Smallwood. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2019. Preview available from Google Books.