I am a librarian as well as a homeschooling parent. As such, I like to match my knowledge of the library world to the needs of the homeschooling community. Below are five areas of consideration when thinking about the intersection between public libraries and homeschooling families. I hope these help you better understand and serve these customers.
1. Libraries are appreciated places for homeschoolers.
Coming in person to a library to check out books, play a board game, attend a program, or just hang out provides valued social experiences for homeschoolers. Homeschoolers care tremendously about socialization and make conscious efforts to provide a variety of social experiences for their children.
2. There are different approaches to schooling outside of a classroom.
Homeschooling, unschooling, worldschooling, roadschooling, wildschooling, and online schooling are some terms you may hear. You also may hear about traditional, classical, or eclectic homeschooling. Print materials may be of particular interest to traditional or classical learners. Virtual resources are valuable to families who are learning on the go, such as worldschoolers and roadschoolers. Regardless of the educational approach or the format of materials, public library collections are vital to homeschoolers.
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3. Public library programs provide important educational enrichment to homeschooling curricula.
Homeschoolers want a variety of programming that teaches life skills, crafts, and academic subjects including STEM. Intergenerational programs are of interest as well. Consider marketing programs toward homeschoolers to have increased engagement and participation. Generally speaking, homeschoolers like programs that happen Monday to Friday between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. And to attract their attention, put the words “homeschooling” or “homeschooler” in your title. For example, do the same LEGO lab you would do in the afternoon, but offer it at 11:00 a.m. and call it LEGO Lab for Homeschoolers. It will catch the attention of homeschoolers who want to hang out with other homeschooling families, and it will be offered at a time that fits in with their family’s needs.
4. Diversity among homeschooling families is growing.
In past years, a typical homeschooling family may have been white, college educated, and middle class with a father and a mother. As American society changes, so does the homeschooling world. Stereotyping these customers creates misunderstanding and barriers to service.
5. Homeschoolers like libraries to carry some special materials.
Could your library circulate microscope kits, telescopes, globes, math manipulatives, or other learning aids? Does your library carry decodable books for learners who struggle with reading, including not just K–2 level learners but older students, too? Do you have space for a curriculum petting zoo, which would give homeschoolers a chance to preview materials before they use them and also photocopy pages to use as needed to augment their lessons? You may want to think about providing some nontraditional materials to meet the needs of these customers.