Monday, January 11, 2016

What Homeschoolers Need from a Library

It is a common misconception that you have to have a lot of money to homeschool your kids. In fact, research shows that homeschool families spend on average $546 per year on each student. Even if the family invests in a costly curriculum, most homeschoolers rely on free resources they find online or at their local library to supplement their lessons.

And when finances are tight (as they are more so in some years rather than others), some families rely heavily on their local library to provide the materials and tools they need to educate their children. And with the dramatic increase in homeschooling families across the United States, the demand on libraries only continues to grow.

Unfortunately, the majority of libraries cannot fully meet the needs of most homeschoolers. In some cases, I imagine limited funds are the reason, but in the majority of cases, I suspect that most librarians are not fully aware of the needs of homeschool families.

Not that they aren't willing to help! Quite the contrary, in my experience. I have yet to meet a librarian I didn't love. In fact, this article is the result of my experience with my own librarian who has always been eager and proactive about finding our local homeschool group new materials. She's asked us outright what it is we need and she's worked hard to find those resources.

So if you happen to be a librarian doing some research so that you can help the homeschooling families in your community, here's a list of ways that you can benefit your visitors.

(Note: The following post uses some affiliate links.)

Books ABOUT Homeschooling

For many parents, the hardest part about homeschooling is starting it. The decision to homeschool can be a difficult one. There's so much to consider: How do I start? Can I afford it? What are my curriculum choices? There have been so many books published now that help parents make educated choices. So it is important for libraries to have a set of these books. A great basic collection would include:


The best thing a first-time homeschooler can do is use a complete curriculum. It helps them learn how to structure their day, ways to teach their kids, time management, builds confidence, and so much more. But even veteran homeschoolers would love to save money by borrowing those expensive core textbooks so that all they have to do is buy the workbooks for their kids to write in. Complete curricula can be expensive, but you can find gently used ones on sites like eBay or even at homeschool conventions. More and more homeschoolers, however, are moving away from complete curricula because homeschool students are often at different grade levels in different subjects. So purchasing curricula in individual subjects is a big plus. Here are just a sample of some popular curricula include:






Audiobooks remain a precious treasure for homeschoolers. Long car rides for field trips, sports, extracurricular classes and clubs, etc, make for valuable learning time. But even at home, audiobooks may be used. Homeschoolers - better than most people - recognized the value of reading aloud, and so books on CD or MP3s remain an important part of the school day. Some important audiobook resources include:

Reference Books

Oh, yes, we need reference books. Atlases, dictionaries, thesauruses, biographies, and other non-fiction will always be in demand.


This is a biggie. Obviously, access to computers and internet access are a must-have. But there are other tools that homeschoolers need to use from time to time that are often not affordable or easy to find. Microscopes, for instance, can be a major investment for a homeschool family...or a wise one for a library!


Storytimes, summer reading programs, and other special programs give homeschool parents a much-needed break while providing new and different learning opportunities for students. Librarians often also have access to professionals and experts in various fields who can share their experience and knowledge with homeschool students at times that are more convenient for them.

Meeting Rooms and Work Spaces

Homeschool groups often look for venues in which to hold classes or club meetings. Libraries that offer conference rooms free of charge are highly valued. Also, cubby work stations or computer cubbies that allow students to participate in online classes (foreign language, science, and more) are extremely helpful for homeschool families that may not have the internet access necessary for streaming classes.


Educational videos are an absolute must! Liberty Kids, for example, is popular with homeschool families because the award-winning, animated series that features many celebrity voices, such as Walter Cronkite, teaches children about the American Revolution. And there's almost no better way to help your kids travel the world without leaving home than with the animated series Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? featuring Rita Moreno.

Other educational series include:
  • NOVA
  • Nature
  • American Experience
  • Time Scanners
  • Documentaries (such as those by Ken Burns!)


Who knew there were magazines on homeschooling? Well, there are and most offer a subscription for libraries. Here are a few:

Extended Checkout

And perhaps most important of all, homeschool families need trust and time to use these resources. Traditionally, most libraries offer their patrons a period of two weeks to check out items. But for materials such as curricula, homeschoolers need more time. Many libraries offer teacher accounts allowing them up to 6 weeks to check out materials. This privilege needs to be offered to homeschooling parents, too. Maybe longer for complete curricula.

Okay, homeschool parents! What am I forgetting? What do you need from your local library?

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