Is the Library Enough? The Truth About Homeschooling Without Textbooks

Will homeschoolers who learn via library books be prepared for real life?

The life of a homeschool mom comes with many side effects:

  • glitter all over the floor
  • yesterday’s science experiments in the fridge
  • never making it to the bathroom alone
  • constant questions from the kids
  • constant questions from curious adults

It’s that last item that prompted this post today.

Anytime we humans come across something new or unfamiliar, we tend to get uncomfortable. We don’t like to feel lost. There’s something reassuring about the fact that some things will never change…right?

Very often, this seems to be the case when people think about what a “proper education” looks like. Although the school system as we know it has only been around for 150 years or so, many people have a proclivity to equate that with the sentiment: Things have always been done that way.

Only they haven’t.

Which is what brings me here today.

As a large family homeschool mom, by necessity, I have to make our homeschool as frugal as possible. For us, this means using the library as much as possible.

What started out as a necessity, however, has turned into a preference. Through the years we have grown to absolutely adore the library and everything it has to offer, so even if we had an unlimited homeschool budget, I’m fully confident we would still rely almost completely on the library, anyway.

As I was relating this fact to someone I know who was unfamiliar with homeschooling, she asked some honest questions that kind of saddened me a bit:

Will the library be enough? Will your kids learn everything they need to know if you only use the library?

I’ll admit, I was a little shaken by these questions – not so much that she was looking for answers, but more because of the implication of these questions.

Implications? You might be asking.

Homeschooling- is the library enough?

Here are a few that immediately came to mind:

1. Society has been so indoctrinated by the belief that learning can only be accomplished through textbooks that any other method is deemed “less than.”

Whenever I tell someone that we homeschool, one of the first questions I am asked is where we get our textbooks.

Do they come from the school district? (Heck no!)

Does the state send them to me? (Lol. No, and no thank you.)

Do they have to be approved? (Yup. By me.)

If I decide to mention that we don’t use textbooks, I’m usually the recipient of confused stares. Even if I mention hands-on learning, life learning, going to the library, videos, etc., it can be really hard for most people to envision a learning atmosphere sans textbooks.

It’s rather depressing.

2. Compartmentalized learning – like that done in textbooks – is seen as normal while whole books/living books are not.

For some reason, it is the firm belief of a vast majority of the population that learning has to be disjointed and segmented, because isn’t that exactly what textbooks are?

They break topics apart into subjects, despite the fact that life offers a beautiful cohesiveness that is ignored by most curriculum publishers. Textbooks present brief, shallow, and uninteresting glimpses into an area of study without ever delving deeply enough to ever arouse any genuine interest.

Think about it. Have you ever heard someone say, “I can’t WAIT to read Chapter 3 in my history book to see what happens next! And those review questions are so exciting!”

No? Me neither.

3. Libraries are no longer valued for the treasures that they are.

This can easily be seen by the empty parking lots and aisles of many local libraries. The few people who do choose to go often go simply for the internet access or to borrow movies.

Where have all the readers gone?

The books that are stored within those walls offer something that textbooks never can and never will. They offer adventure. Personality. Depth. Creativity.

While textbooks can only offer the smallest glimpse of a topic due to lack of space, libraries can offer the whole story, because those stories aren’t confined to a section of one chapter in one book. They’re available in all of their glory in entire sections on the shelves of the library.

Instead of reading one chapter on the Revolutionary War, you can choose from a myriad of entire books dedicated to that one subject. Instead of reading one section of a textbook on volcanoes, the library can offer dozens of entire books written about that one topic.

In fact, those textbooks that so many people place on a pedestal? Where do you think the authors get their information? I’ll give you one guess…

Is the library enough?

So is the library enough or not??

Friends, it’s more than enough. Because while textbooks give you pieces, the library  gives you the entire thing.

On a side note: As I was at the library last week, I came upon a book that had a VERY interesting note in the beginning by a former textbook author. Watch this and tell me what you think. 🙂




Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

21 thoughts on “Is the Library Enough? The Truth About Homeschooling Without Textbooks”

  1. We’ve had similar experiences with non-homeschoolers. Actually, I’m having more of them as the kids get older. I suppose that was to be expected. Here in San Francisco, our libraries are well-loved, and well-used. Our neighborhood library is packed. You mentioned using the internet. On the internet, we can reserve books from any of our library’s branches and have them delivered to our branch. There are games and toys for kids. All in all it’s pretty idyllic.

    We’ve also noticed that experiential learning sends the kids and us into a variety of subject matter that we might not get if we were on a curriculum with textbooks. Some of the things the kids have learned just by living outside a classroom wouldn’t be taught for years, or perhaps ever in a classroom.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I LOVE YOU!!!! I am 54!!! I home schooled my two adult children in the 90’s. I don’t even know if we had the internet?!! lol We had few choices and only two curriculum, Bob Jones and ABEKA. We were very relaxed. We were in NJ, and had no state involvement. I did keep records. They were in 7th and 9th at the time. My son was in the hall more then the classroom. I was against home schooling until my precious son starting suffering. I figured I couldn’t do any worse since he was in the hallway all day. He had ADHD and teachers have no patience. My husband and I felt we wanted them to know the things that were important in life. My Curriculum for my kids was simple. Every morning I wrote them a question which they had to answer. It gave me a chance to see into their hearts. We counted Church services, Youth Group as Bible. They both worked at early ages. My daughter was a Mommy’s helper, ice cream server, pharmaceutical aid, and now she is a new Mommy with her Masters in Social Work!!! My poor son who they said would amount to nothing……He is also a college graduate working for the American Bible Institute in Philly. Do you want to know what I learned!? Kids will learn in their own time, things that are interesting to them. He called me and told me he is reading about Stalin!! I couldn’t get him to open a book when he was home schooled. But when he decided he wanted to go to college, it all fell into place for him. Secondly, the time we spent together, now that they are adults, made us all very close. We text and talk to them both daily or every other day. I remember our times together, not what we covered. I believe in keeping it simple also. They did their own laundry and that was home ec. My son worked three days a week in my husbands business. I figured it was work study!!! YOU are doing the right thing. The last thing my wounded son needed was the same thing that turned him off to school!!! Now, at 54, I am embarking on Home schooling again. God has a sense of humor. We have two little girls that were adopted from China as babies. There is no way I am putting my oldest next year in junior High. My oldest went back for her senior year because she wanted an “Official” diploma. She lasted three months and almost had a break down She said the girls and what they spoke so openly about was so upsetting to her. That was in the 90’s.. Can you imagine how bad it is now. My littlest one was having severe separation anxiety, and she suffered enough and we took her out after Christmas this year. So, I am having a ball because THERE IS SO MUCH now that I never had access too!!!! Well, I just love your philosophy. I love how it’s evident your love and devotion to your children!!! I am learning so much from you with note booking!!! I love doing it. My husband reads to them every night, so now he just reads live History books. They journal every night and it gives us access into their little hearts. I count every thing!!! I am looking for a solid, no nonsense math for my 6th grader for next year. She has sensory issues and it effects her math abilities with sequence. She can not follow sequences. She is so smart and I also don’t want her bullied. Their hearts are so sweet and we all know what school does to us. We all bare those scars, but not my babies. They have been thru more trauma in their young years then I will ever know. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. Your comment is such an encouragement to me, as you’ve been through the trenches and have seen the outcome. I wish you the best of success in your new homeschooling journey. God bless!


  3. We LOVE our library. We’re often there two or three times a week and while we do have a few workbooks for math or cursive or spelling I mostly rely on library books for all of our learning. My kids have no idea what a textbook even looks like and I think they’re lucky. I do, however, notice that our library always seems to empty. It baffles me! Any book, audiobook, movie or magazine that we would like to watch or read my boys to check the library first to see if we can get it for free. They are such great resources that are so underused.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with you on so many counts! And it is so sad that the libraries aren’t utilized more. My community library is too small for our homeschool, but luckily we have am much bigger one about 20 minutes away that has (almost) everything I want. Besides young mothers with babies and toddlers there for story time, I’m pretty sure homeschoolers are the only other people who use the library during the day (which makes sense) and is awesome because it is easier to find each other that way! We end up checking out about 70 or so books every time we go – living history books, science books, and general fun picture books and chapter books for reading. But at the same time I do actually like to us “textbooks.” But I look for textbooks that read like a story and act as a springboard for our next trip to the library! And lastly, I have to say, your list of questions from bullet point 1 made me laugh out loud! I could have been reading my own responses! Thanks for the post. I’m going to share it with my homeschooling group on Facebook if you don’t mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sadly, I’ve gotten the worst looks from other homeschool moms when I tell them we don’t use textbooks. They act like they’ve never heard of such a thing so it must be neglect. The homeschoolers I’ve met since moving to TX from CA have ALL used either textbooks or Classical Conversations (with a bit of pressure to join their superior program ;). Non-homeschoolers have just thought it was interesting and cool that you can do it however you want. Oh well, we love real books and educational videos. As an adult I’ve never once read a textbook when I wanted to learn something.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Just a point of interest….schools don’t have textbooks anymore. They put the kids on iPads on programs and they use worksheets. It is really sad! I am so glad we decided to homeschool! And we LOVE our local libraries. We have co op there and study at several of them. My kids say we don’t homeschool, we library and coffee shop school! ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, we’re in Ohio & friends of ours (who’s kids go to school) just informed us that now our schools use iPads only as well. (Literally NOT EVEN 1 book she said. Even chapter books are on the computer. All homework & tests too ). Starting in kindergarten!! And gone are the day of transparencies to show the whole class a new concept at once too. The teacher now uses his or her iPad to show a concept and it shows up on the kid’s individual iPads on their desks. So they are literally staring at a stupid screen ALL.DAY.LONG now & in their own little worlds not even bothering to have to look up! Sad sad sad. :(. Sad and dangerous.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You are so right..we absolutely love YouTube for educational and occasional entertainment..thanks for all you do. I’m new to your page but already know we are going to love it. Such helpful advice already…

    Liked by 1 person

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