Until I began homeschooling, I assumed the library was merely a place to check out reading materials and subsequently pay fines for returning them past their due date. (TBH, every once in a while my kids and I discovered past-due books under couch cushions or beneath the seats of our van or in the dark recesses of a messy closet. Okay, maybe more than once in a while. I’m pretty sure we could have a new wing of the library named after our family based on overdue books alone, but I digress.) However, once we were in the full swing of homeschooling, I became enlightened to the vast opportunities local libraries have to offer. In fact, the National Center for Educational Statistics published a survey in 2012 in which 70% of homeschooled parents cite the public library as their most valued resource (Redford et al., 2017, p.13). The best part: opportunities at the library are nearly always free! Here are thirteen ways homeschool families can take advantage of the library.
Reserve a conference room or community room. You can use it for things like:
Co-op classes (art, first aid, Spanish, etc.)
Special homeschool events (science fair, holiday party, World’s Fair, service project, etc.)
Playdates for the kiddos on a rainy or blustery day (bring Legos, Playdough, games, jump ropes…)
Field trips with invited guest speakers (community workers, Native American dancers, college reps, etc.)
Attend the library’s regular storytimes for children (or request them).
Ask a librarian to give an in-depth tour of the library or to arrange a library scavenger hunt for your family or homeschool group.
Participate in (or facilitate) a book club.
Conduct research on your family’s ancestry and genealogy using the library’s historical databases (including local and state history records, as well as microfilm and digital resources).
Request museum passes for free or reduced admission to participating institutions.
Sign up to use the library’s Makerspace. Libraries that have a Makerspace offer a variety of shop-type classes such as robotics, circuitry, woodworking, sculpting, sewing, 3-D modeling and printing, etc.
Inquire how your children and/or your homeschool group can submit work for an art exhibit at the library.
Participate in the library’s summer reading program, which includes special events and prizes to encourage summer reading.
Take advantage of practice ACT and SAT tests at the library and ask if your library staff will proctor them (many do!).
Find out if your library offers discovery kits or educational kits. You can check out a pre-made kit about beehives, for example, that might include books, a honeycomb, a hive, a DVD, a learning packet, and a list of additional resources.
Create a reward system where your kids can earn “library dollars” to purchase their own book if your library has a used book store or regular book sales.
Reserve one of the library’s quiet rooms for your kids to do their schoolwork and pretend that you’ve all “gone to work” for the day. Everyone can choose their business attire, use a briefcase for their schoolwork, and bring their lunch. They may need to make a special call to check in with the CEO of the company (Dad, a grandparent, or a friend) to report their progress at some point. ;)
As if live access to a world of glorious adventure stories and mind-expanding information isn’t enough, the library offers even more. I learned to shift my perspective about fines from, “Oh no! Not another fine!” to “I’m donating to a myriad of educational, life-enriching opportunities for me and others.” (I’m happy to report I eventually became responsible enough to return books on time and avoid the fines.) Don’t let the internet age (or fear of incurring a fine) dissuade you from regularly sharing the gift of your local library with your children. Instead, dare to discover all its hidden gems.