As summer comes to an end, families prepare for their children to begin a new year of school learning. But what does this mean for homeschooling families? How can libraries support families who do school-at-home? All of the basic offerings of libraries—facilities, services, programs, and materials—can be targeted toward homeschoolers, and homeschoolers can take advantage of what libraries are already doing. Here are a few ideas.
Put out a big display of educational books, CDs, and videos that appeal to homeschoolers. Nonfiction books of all kinds are of value to homeschoolers, but some series like The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer and Life of Fred by Stanley F. Schmidt are very popular. Fiction is popular for general literacy, and especially for families who do literature-based learning. The Travels with Wyatt & Gannon series by Patti Wheeler is a fictional series based loosely upon the lives of two real, current-day homeschooled boys. Be sure to include some how-to-homeschool books, as well. What elements can you add to your display to make it interactive and increase engagement?
Number of Holds
How many holds/reserves are your patrons allowed to have at one time? My library system allows a maximum of seven, which is just not enough for homeschooling families. Even if each family member has a card, these customers report that is not enough. Consider increasing the number of holds you allow your customers to have.
Homeschoolers love library programs, such as storytime. They also like programs like geography club, LEGO robotics, learning to sew, coding, and pretty much anything that enriches curriculum, teaches a skill, or provides a social opportunity. If your library cannot do inside or in-person programs at this time, consider doing storytime on the lawn or in a neighborhood park. Or do live book clubs or other programming through Zoom or Teams.
Some libraries circulate microscopes, chemistry sets, scales, math manipulatives, laptop computers, kitchen equipment, board games, and other nontraditional materials. It is a bit unrealistic for a family to buy all this kind of equipment, so being able to borrow it from a library is very helpful.
Curriculum Petting Zoos
One overwhelming aspect of homeschooling is selecting the appropriate curriculum for one’s child. There are many choices and the prices vary. Sometimes it takes trying more than one curriculum before a family finds one that best fits their needs, which can be expensive. Having a reference/noncirculating curriculum petting zoo allows families to explore options before buying. Having circulating sets of curricula is highly valued, as well.