Libraries and homeschooling families tend to be BFFs. I’ll be honest – these days I’m more likely to purchase the books we need on Amazon (Amazon Prime is also a homeschooling mama’s BFF) or at the used book store so we can keep them longer. However, we used to be in the library on a weekly basis and I know that’s still true for many of you.
So, I wanted to offer you some tips we’ve discovered for making the most of our public library – everything from encouraging your kids to read a variety of books to discovering all the offerings of your local library. I offer you these library tips for homeschooling families and invite you to add your tips in the comments.
Give your kids freedom within guidelines
I have a friend whose kids are avid readers, but it was easy for them to get stuck in a rut with their favorite type of reading. To help ensure they were reading a variety of quality choices, she required her kids to choose one biography, one non-fiction book, and one book of poetry, along with their other selections.
They were free to choose whatever they wanted within those guidelines so they were still reading topics of interest to them along with the other books they choose. Let me just tell you, she’s graduated several now and there aren’t too many topics those kids don’t know at least a little something about.
Now that might be a great suggestion if you have voracious readers, but what if you have reluctant readers? You might offer them a reading bingo. It still encourages reading a variety of books, but not so many at a time.
Discover how you can partner with your local library
Many libraries are very excited to work with their local homeschool community. Some of our local libraries have offered events specific to homeschoolers, such as:
- Story Time for older kids, complete with themed topics and hands-on activities
- Social groups – We currently have two groups meeting twice a month at an area library. There is one group for tweens and another for teens. They’re allowed to use the library’s meeting room for a purely social gathering that Megan looks forward to every week.
- Homeschool enrichment classes
- Book clubs
The mom who organizes the social gathering keeps homeschool families abreast of options for supporting our host library though volunteer opportunities and Friends of the Library book sales. Talk to your local librarians to see if they would be interesting in offering events for the homeschooling families in your area.
Investigate your library’s other resources
Many local libraries offer special collections for research, such as history and genealogy collections. There are often many more resources beyond borrowing books. We discovered some of the hidden gems our library has to offer through a library field trip when my kids were younger. We were given a tour of the library and shown how to use resources, such as the computerized card catalog and the special collections rooms.
It’s also worth noting that many libraries now offer e-books for borrowing. That means you may still be able to access many of the books you need without as many trips to the library or as many books to remember to return.
Set up a system for returning borrowed items
It’s kind of a running joke among homeschoolers that often our library fines rival the National Debt. I have to admit that I was a bit shocked to discover just how much debt some families have accrued when I asked the question on my Facebook page recently. Ouch!
Unless you have lots of extra money just lying around waiting to fund a new wing at the library, it’s important to have a plan in place for keeping track of borrowed books. Some ideas include:
1. Have a special spot for books. We used to have a special bookshelf just for library books. Other families use a special basket. If you use one of these methods, teach your kids to return library books to that spot after use, so you always know where the books are.
2. Sign up for email reminders. Thank goodness many libraries now offer email reminders for books that are due! I signed up for email reminders as soon as it was made available. I’ve gotten to the point that I typically just keep Amazon and the UPS man busy, but when I was regularly checking out library books, I was so thankful for that reminder a day or two ahead of time – and the ability to renew online!
3. Set up a Google calendar with reminders. If your library doesn’t offer email reminders, Google calendar makes a great alternative. Just plug in the library due dates and set up email or text reminders.
4. Go old-school with pen and paper. I know there are some strictly pen and paper folks out there. I used to keep a page for library books and due dates in my mom binder. Or, if your library prints out a receipt of your books, you could go really simple and just stick it to the fridge with a magnet.
Keeping track of library books and their due dates is definitely a case of whatever works for you – anything that helps you avoid astronomical fines is worth doing!
These are just a few simple tips for making the most of your local library. I’m sure there are many more.
Are you and your family still familiar faces at your local library? What tips would you add?
top image photo courtesy of pixabay