Written by Simple Homeschool contributor Renee Tougas of FIMBY.
At the start of our family’s homeschool experience I felt uncertain about this journey. I questioned my skills as a mother and teacher, wondered how my children could learn “all they needed to know” at home and how we could possibly afford to give them an excellent education. (I still feel this way somedays).
Around this time I read a strategy for home education that seemed doable for me. I wish I could remember where I read it or who wrote it, but it went something like this:
All you really need to homeschool is love and a library card.
I’ve hung my educational hat on these principles during my kids’ early years.
Love will lead you to seek what’s best for your child and motivate you to find the resources you need. And with a library card and good library system you can provide the books to form the foundation of an excellent education.
Here are the reasons we’ve done that and how we’ve made it work.
Benefits of Using the Library
The low cost factor alone makes libraries an attractive option for homeschooling families. Many of us are giving up second incomes to stay home and money is strictly budgeted. Public libraries are the best deal going to provide reading (& listening) material for your family.
Our city offers an excellent inter-libary loan system and free membership to the local branch. We decided to maximize this great resource and for now keep our home library to a minimum of loved classics and quality reference materials.
Photo by Renee Tougas
I know many homeschoolers swear by building large home libaries. If a family has the funds or limited library access I can understand that view point. But I want to advocate that with a good library system parents can give their young children quality education for a minimum cost.
Modern libraries are about so much more than books. They are a place where your family can connect with the community.
The children’s department of a library may host a variety of educational opportunities. Reading programs, arts and crafts, artist and author talks might all be featured (for free) at your local library. Our favorite library activity this summer was the visiting magician.
Community bulletin boards at the library can be a wealth of information and good source for field trip ideas for your homeschool.
On any given week at our library the posted announcements might include a community play, garden tour, nutrition club meeting, and art gallery reception.
Bulletin boards and children’s department programs can also be a good resource for some of those harder to teach subjects such as art and music.
Photo by Renee Tougas
Making it Work
Using the library as a primary resource for homeschool materials takes time. But there are ways to make it more simple. Even if you use the library only casually these tips might help you avoid late fees and make the most of your visits.
Schedule a library day
Choose a specific day and time to visit the library. This makes it easier not to miss due dates for checked out books and pick up dates for requested materials.
Set aside time to plan for upcoming library visits. I have three kids with different interests and reading abilities. This could make library visits insane without advance planning.
I keep a written list of books (the quality living books that form our curriculum) I want to check out and always have in mind what the kids are interested in studying at the time. During library planning I will search and request these books from the comfort of home (see point below) and write down call numbers for our upcoming visit.
Photo by Renee Tougas
I do much of my library planning with pen and paper but I make good use of the library’s on-line search, request and renewal features. By doing this at home our library time is well spent locating titles and perusing the shelves for new books.
If you are tech savvy you might like Lora Lynn’s Google Calendar idea for keeping track of library books.
It’s wise to keep a separate shelf or box for library books. This keeps lost books to a minimum.
Since we don’t own many of the books we read I like to keep track of what we’ve read in goodreads. I create “shelves” according to subject and then print this list at the end of the year for our assessment. This is a very easy way to record and share what we’ve read (hundreds of titles in a year) and is essentially our year’s curriculum.
How do you make the most of the library?