Traditionally, for most families, it is typical to send your child to a public school, a private school, or other educational institutes for their early learning and academic development. Though it is most common for children in families to attend school, an increasing number of families are considering homeschooling their children. Families may choose homeschooling over traditional schooling for a number of reasons, such as financial reasons, having a parent at home or at work, educational preferences, disabilities, or a global pandemic. Whether a family chooses to homeschool or send their children to traditional school, families and children have access to their local library to help them with their learning and academic development.
Homeschooling families specifically have a long history of utilizing the library and relying on public libraries to help their children learn outside the traditional classroom. The library provides homeschooling families and students with curriculum materials, books, DVDs, and online database resources that are often critical for families looking for homeschool support. When there isn’t a lockdown due to any pandemics, library buildings are also safe places for homeschooled students to meet up with other students and families. This helps the family homeschooling community by creating a communicative academic environment. This article will talk about 5 ways that libraries help families homeschool, as well as give families more resources they can use to learn more about homeschooling.
What is Homeschooling?
Before explaining the various ways libraries can assist families with homeschooling, it is first important to define and understand what homeschooling is. Homeschooling is a parent-initiated educational alternative to traditional schooling. Homeschooling can take many forms depending on the family and can be tailored to each student.
Even though guardians and instructors would be teaching students outside of a school institute, homeschooling families are required to follow rules and criteria similar to students that are in a traditional schooling institute. For homeschooling families to be recognized as a legally recognized homeschooling group, families must follow their residential state Board of Education Administrative Rules. Some of these rules might include giving out test scores, teaching required subjects, making sure teachers have certain qualifications, and even evaluating students. The Administrative Rules of the Board of Education vary by state, so before a family begins homeschooling, they must complete the required rules for their state of residence.
Five Ways That Libraries Can Assist With Homeschooling
- Provide A Place For Students to Physically Meet
Libraries are essential places for families and students to gather and receive materials they are interested in or need. Most libraries have designated areas for students to study, do school work, or work with tutors. Families can connect to their local libraries to see if library staff provide homeschooling work hours in the departments, where homeschooling families can do their work with other homeschooling students in a designated area. Some libraries may also have a homeschool resource center for homeschooling families and students. A homeschool resource center can display a variety of textbooks and learning materials that students and parents need when homeschooling. Reaching out to the local library and connecting homeschoolers to its space provides structure and community in a nontraditional school experience.
- Educational Programs and Clubs Offered by Libraries
Another way libraries assist families with homeschooling is through library-run programs. Families, especially those who homeschool, can get a lot out of free library programs like Storytime, geography club, LEGO robotics, learning to sew, coding, and many others. Library interest programs add to what is taught in the classroom, help with social and developmental skills, and give homeschoolers a chance to be part of a social community that they might not have in a homeschool environment. If a library cannot do inside or in-person programs for any reason, there are numerous alternatives to participating in library programs through live book clubs or other programming through Zoom.
- Learning Kits in the Library
It is unrealistic and expensive for a family to buy all kinds of learning equipment in order to successfully homeschool; having access to and the ability to borrow items from a library is very helpful. Learning kits at the library can help homeschooling parents financially. Some kits may include science lab equipment, mathematical materials, language arts, and social studies kits; music and art appreciation materials; virtual dissection and driver’s education software; and early literacy toys for younger siblings.
- Materials for Classroom Use
The library’s Youth Services department staff are experts at connecting children to the right resources. Libraries have printers, computers, and basic office supplies that patrons can check out for free. Let’s say a homeschooled student was having trouble with adding and subtracting or putting their skills to use in real-life lessons and situations. Students may be able to use things like maker spaces, tablets, 3D printers, and bicycles at libraries. Some libraries even lend out microscopes, chemistry sets, scales, math manipulatives, laptop computers, kitchen equipment, board games, and other unusual things. These materials can help bring real-life, hands-on lessons into the homeschooling curriculum.
A homeschooling student may be working on a project that requires them to conduct research on the Supreme Court and create a poster, or the students may be studying world geography and require books on specific countries. Libraries can provide a service called interlibrary loan requests if a book or other material isn’t available in the local home library. If a homeschooling family needs books or materials for their studies or projects and their local library does not have them, they can request them online through the library’s interlibrary loan service. Interloan services allow patrons to request or hold an item from a different library. The interloan request then sends a request to a library that has the material that the student is looking for and then ships it to the patron’s local home library. Additionally, many libraries also offer individual or family passes to local museums that can be checked out for a short period of time. It’s a great way to get an educational field trip for free.
- Digital Research Tools
Libraries also give you access to research databases typically blocked by paywalls and subscriptions. If digital material is available at your library and a student or family member has a library card from their local library, they will be able to access a variety of online resources that can be used in the library or at home. Different libraries have different digital resources, but most offer movies, music, and videos that can be downloaded or streamed, as well as e-magazines, e-books, and e-audiobooks that can be downloaded directly to a device. Students with a library card can also use premium research tools for school work and projects, which are free to use from home with a library card or student e-card. Some premium research tools could include databases that help students find articles, media, maps, and more. Listed below are a few research tools available through library services.
BookFlix pairs fictional and nonfictional children’s books together so that readers can enjoy reading and learn more about a subject through the nonfiction. This is a great resource for homeschooling families who want to put what their kids are reading into a real-world context.
Brainfuse helps students of all ages in many ways. It has virtual live tutoring, a 24-hour writing assignment review, study groups, flashcards, and more. Parents and guardians will also find tutoring and study guides created on Brainfuse that cater to their needs.
Britannica Library Children is a research database that provides an easy way for students to find digital materials on topics they are studying and provides an easy way to conduct research, complete homework assignments, and work on special projects.
Scholastic Teachables is a website where parents, guardians, and teachers can find printable lesson plans, reading passages, games and puzzles, clip art, bulletin board ideas, and skill sheets for students in kindergarten through grade 8.
Here are some other places where homeschooling families can go to learn more about homeschooling, the materials and rules they need, and legal support and advice for them. These websites will also have links to organizers in the homeschool community:
Homeschool World is a website that provides a database of homeschool organizations and support groups for families interested in homeschooling all across the United States and foreign countries.
Homeschool.com is a website that helps families find other homeschooling groups, homeschooling events, and free resources about homeschooling.
(HSLDA) is a nonprofit, membership organization that advocates for homeschooling families and students. The organization defends the civil rights of homeschoolers and provides assistance to homeschooling families.
NHERI is an institute that conducts and collects research about homeschooling and publishes a research journal called Home School Researcher.
World Book is a website that provides homeschooling families access to free, comprehensive curriculum guides for grades preschool through 10th grade through the publisher World Book. Each level lists the components of a typical course of study by subject.