Library Tips for Homeschooling Families

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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.

Library Tips for Homeschooling Families

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.

Library Tips for Homeschooling Families

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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!

Library fines

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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

This post is linked to the Hip Homeschool Hop and Finishing Strong.

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  1. My library has “Learning Crates” for young children. What they are are plastic tubs that hold a variety of books, games, and music all theme based. One was nutrition, another farms, etc. And they can be checked out.

  2. I love the library! I can put books on hold and they are all ready for me on the hold shelf when I visit. Makes getting *good* books so much easier.

    We also have interlibrary loan, and I found out my library pays a flat fee to participate. Now I don’t feel bad if we are leaning on it heavily.

    We use a rolling crate for library trips and to store our library books.

    Rarely do we have fines and I think we’ve only lost 1 book so far.

    1. I think we’ve only lost one book as well. Plenty of late ones though… When they said we had a missing book, I looked high and low at home and finally informed them that I was absolutely sure that we had returned the book. I was pretty much mortified when I found the book months later when we were moving! I returned it in the outside box…

  3. I actually left my job as a children’s librarian last week to homeschool my kids, so this is a post I can relate to! All of the above are great ideas. I would also check to see if your local library has online databases that you could access from home. My local library has Britannica Online, Ancestry.com, an online video streaming service, as well as a free foreign language program, among others. I know we’ll be taking advantage of everything we can. The biggest resource that great libraries offer are knowledgeable staff members. Become friends with the librarians and they will keep an eye out for items that they think your family could use.

    1. Those are all excellent tips. Thanks for sharing them! And welcome to the ranks of weird, unsocialized homeschoolers. 😉

  4. Yes the tubs/bags/kits are great. Here they can be checked out from many libraries and sent through the inter-library loan system. Some you cannot get, because the libraries don’t want them to leave, so we refuse to drive an hour to explore a kit or two, we make do with other ones.

    Today my kids listened to a book about growing bean seeds and then I had them put 4 cloth flower/bean pots in order from ‘sprouting’ to ‘beans’ for sequencing. Sure they could have done that on paper, but the kit with flower pots was a lot of fun, and something perfect for their ages 3 and 6.

    They’re a bit more lenient on how many books we can check out as well—I regularly go over the 20 book limit on my account (oops) but coming from any of 100s of libraries, things tend to come in large batches, not trickle– river verses stream.

  5. Our library system offers a special card for teachers, including homeschooling moms. This allows us to check out more books for longer time periods.

    Also, encourage your children to develop relationships with the children’s librarians and library storytime leaders. My children look forward to seeing them, giving them pictures they’ve drawn for them, and telling them stories (I lost my tooth! I got stitches! LOL). I like that my children are interacting with other adults/teachers.

  6. I used to joke, “We support our public library!” to which my dh would dryly reply, “We don’t need to do it single handedly.” I got better about library fines when I instituted the Library Basket, where all library books go when not being read. We stopped losing them into the black holes in the kids’ rooms, for the most part. Then we stopped going to the library altogether for a while when our family was having a hard time getting out, and have just gotten back to it in the past 2 weeks. Feels so good to have a surplus of fresh books again!

  7. My local library had instituted reminder texts when your books are getting close to the due date. It’s definitely helped me because I struggle remembering what the date is

  8. We go to the library the same day every week, and that is the day that I renew all the books. It’s the only way that I can make sure our fines don’t rival the national debt. Tuesday is library day. Always. With the amount of books we come home with, I could otherwise be in big trouble. We generally take out at least 40 books a week.

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