You have probably heard it said that all you really need to homeschool is a Bible and a library card, and while I’m sure there are a few other necessities (some kind of writing implement may be necessary) there is much truth to this.
As a homeschooler, I LOVE the library. Every year it seems, I’m learning about more and more ways to use our public library to our advantage. At the most basic level, a library is a place where you can go, peruse the shelves, and borrow books. It’s a great way for homeschoolers to save money (I can’t imagine how much we would have spent if we had bought even half of the books we have checked out over the years). But your public library has so much more to offer! These are some of the ways we have been using the library in our homeschool:
Online Book Catalogue & Reservations
Several of the curriculums we have have used over the years have “supplemental” book lists. As a matter of fact, I consider the book lists in the Story of the World Activity Guide to be essential to our use of that program. In preparation for each chapter, I search the library catalogue for the suggested books and put a hold on the books we will be needing. Then, on our weekly library visit, I just grab them off the holds shelf at the library. Pre-ordering your books is especially handy when your library visits involve a toddler.
Interlibrary Loan Request
If there are any books on my lists that look especially good that our library doesn’t carry, I can also fill out an online interlibrary loan request. I’ve been quite pleased with the increased selection that is made available to us in this way! The only downside to this arrangement is that it can take some time for the requested materials to arrive and they are not renewable after the due date.
Suggest a Purchase
Our library also has a form you can fill out to suggest a purchase — last year I suggested the purchase of Susan Wise Bauer’s History of the Ancient World and they notified me when it was purchased — they even automatically put it on hold for me when it came in! As with everything else, you never know if you don’t ask, so it never hurts to see if you can influence their purchasing.
E Books and Audiobooks
Our library has subscriptions to Overdrive, Hoopla, and Freegal, which provide downloadable and/or streamable digital content. I’ve not made use of any ebooks as of yet, but we do regularly borrow audiobooks. Hoopla has ebooks, audiobooks and videos. Freegal is a music site which allows you to stream or download songs, and up until recently they had the entire Jim Weiss collection from Greathall Productions! I was able to download several of his albums, tract by tract using my weekly download allowance.
When I am searching the online catalogue, I also have the option of adding books to various lists I create. For example, I could create a list for each volume of SOTW so that my titles are all neatly organized for future use. I could create booklists by grade level, topic, season, or whatever else I fancy. My latest list is a collection of recommended family movies that I want to watch with my girls this winter.
Many libraries offer individual or family passes to local museums that can be checked out for short period of time. Its a great way to get an educational field trip for free! We used to live in a large city, and our library had passes to several world class museums available. It was definitely a perk!
Community Space/Visit With a Librarian
Public libraries often have meeting rooms available for rent — these may be available free to homeschoolers if you just ask! Maybe your local homeschool group would like to form a book club? Have a field trip library tour? Our local library was happy to give our group of young homeschoolers a visit with the children’s librarian with stories, songs and even a puppet show!
Friends of the Library Book Sales
We have found many wonderful children’s books for almost nothing at the library. I paid 10-25¢ each for several of A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books a few years ago, and it’s always worth a peek to see what kind of steals may be available.
These are the ways we have been making the most of our public library while homeschooling – and I’m excited to explore our library in even more ways in the future! How have you been using the library in your homeschooling?