I love the library. There, I said it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told the librarians at our public library that if they’d just get a snack bar, I’d move the whole family right in. And I’m serious about that. So many books, so little time.
On top of that, it is the backbone of our homeschool curriculum.
Without the library, our homeschool wouldn’t just be dull- although it certainly would be- but it would be expensive. Way too expensive for a one-income family of 12 to handle.
I know that when most people think of the library these days, they just picture a stuffy old building with crabby old women shooshing people.
But in reality, the library can be one of the most amazing homeschool resources you have- and it’s free!
Gone are the days of nothing but dusty books and confusing card catalogues. (Remember those?) The library of modern times is a treasure in and of itself. All you need is to know how to use it.
10 Easy Ways to Use the Library in Your Homeschool
1.I’m going to start with the obvious here…the endless amount of books!
Far beyond what you can expect from boring old textbooks, the library offers a vast array of living books, historical fiction, trade books, manga, picture books, science books, foreign language books, math and language arts workbooks, and on and on and on. And thanks to technology today, if your library doesn’t have what you need, most decent-sized libraries offer inter-library loans through neighboring libraries. I cannot tell you enough how much more interesting learning is with books that were written by people with a passion for the subject, rather than books written by people solely for the purpose of education (textbooks).
Let’s face it. Some kids just don’t like to read and some parents dislike reading aloud just as much. Audio books are such a great way to remedy this. Sometimes a child who may not have any interest in a particular title may find it more enjoyable to hear it read aloud by a ‘professional’ or, sometimes, by even the author himself! Audio books are also fantastic for road trips as a nice change from listening to the same songs on the radio over and over again. 🙂 Along with audio books, most libraries have a nice assortment of music CDs, as well.
As many audio books our library may possess, it has that many more movies, documentaries, and TV shows lining the shelves of its audio-visual department. Last year after we had immersed ourselves for 12 weeks in a Greek mythology unit study, I was able to borrow both The Lightning Thief and Sea of Monsters as a grande finale to this intensive unit. As with books, the inter-library loan is also available if your library doesn’t have a specific title you’re looking for. And remember, kids can learn so much from movies and documentaries- sometimes as much as or even more than they do from books. Don’t write them off simply because they’re not books.
4. Free foreign language programs.
Check out your library’s website. It’s not just for checking when they’re open! Our library’s website has a free foreign language program for library card holders. We’ve used our library website to learn Japanese, Swedish, Spanish, and we will soon be using it for French! There are plenty of lessons to cover an entire year’s worth of learning. What I’ve been doing is this: when one of my kids expresses an interest in a foreign language, I’ll have them try the free program for one year to see if they like it. If they do, I’ll spend the money on a curriculum like Rosetta Stone. If not, I didn’t lose any money, and they still learned a year’s worth of another language. It’s a win-win situation. 🙂
Most libraries today are chock full of activities for elementary age children. From summer reading programs to after-school activities to story times, our family has always enjoyed taking part. In fact, even my older children enjoyed the story hours, the magic show, and the Jingle Bell Ball that we attended last Christmas. What fun!
A good library will not neglect its older youth patrons! Our library has anime/manga clubs, crocheting clubs, and art clubs for older kids through teens. Ask your library what’s available. If they don’t have much, request it. If the librarians see a need for something, they are often quick to jump on it to make it happen. Librarians are like that. 🙂
7.Book clubs and discussion groups.
Check your local library’s calendar for events such as these which are geared towards youth. Sometimes a group of teens may be ambitious enough to start a group on their own, and sometimes the library may sponsor a discussion and even provide the books for it. Our local library has teen discussion groups that meet every week for a few months, after which there will be a short break until another is started again. This is not only a great way to encourage reading, but it’s also an awesome way for your kids to meet like-minded friends!
8.Free classes and how-to seminars.
Although these classes are usually designed for adults, if your librarians are familiar with your family and your status as homeschoolers, they will often be happy to oblige your request for your child to attend. Usually all they ask in return is that your child will be well-mannered, and we all know that homeschoolers are always well-mannered. *batting eyelashes* Our library has offered free classes on photography, book publishing, gardening, and computers, just to name a few. Again, let your librarians know if you are interested in something. I recently requested another class on book publishing since I missed the first one, and I’m eagerly waiting to see when it will happen again.
9. Free internet and computer use.
As technological as our society has become, not every family has access to a computer just yet. Or…if you’re like me, you may not want your children to use your computers if they’ve broken them in the past. Ahem. With a valid library card, library patrons can have access to a computer for a limited time (usually 30 min.) as often as they’d like. Libraries also offer free Wi-Fi for people who bring their own electronic devices. (They usually also require a library card for this because they will need to provide you with a password.)
10. Volunteer opportunities.
If there’s one thing a library needs most, it’s volunteers. From putting books away to helping people find what they’re looking for, volunteers are invaluable, and many times those duties are performed by teenage volunteers. Besides looking great on a college resume, volunteering at the library will also be a great way to expose your kids to potential career paths and friendships. It will also work wonders for your child’s confidence as they see how much their help is needed and appreciated. One word of advice about volunteering, though…Suggest to your teen to offer their help during school hours. Since many schools now require volunteer work in order to graduate, many libraries will hold the after-school hours for students who are required to do it.
I’m honestly barely skimming all the possibilities your local library can provide for your homeschool. I just want to encourage you to take a second look at the hidden treasures you can find for free and just around the corner!
How do you use the library?