Homeschooling with the Public Library

When I was in middle and high school, I spent a lot of time at the local library. I was always reading and checking out books. I even worked for a time as a page at our Central branch while in high school. In my twenties, I was quite the book collector – I spent way too much money in bookstores and on Amazon. As a result, I built a pretty extensive personal library. It has only been in recent years that I have found myself downsizing (seriously… who needs six different Physics textbooks).
It wasn’t until after Kyri was born, and she got to be in preschool, that I turned back to the library. When she was enrolled in private preschool, I started taking her to Storytime at our local branch in Maryland. She loved the activities and songs, and loved  finding books for the week for our Bedtime reading. When we relocated to Texas, one of the first places we looked for was the nearest library. She enjoyed the Storytime at our new library, and her only complaint was that there wasn’t an ice cream shop within walking distance like there was in Maryland.
Once we started homeschooling in earnest, I really learned to appreciate our public library. Now, I can’t imagine homeschooling without my local library system. I know that as our kids get older and their homeschooling needs change, the library will continue to be a primary resource for us.

Access to books

This goes without saying. But it’s not just going to the library and checking books off the shelves anymore. We have multiple branches here in San Antonio and not all the branches have the same books available. I use our library website  A LOT. I can check the online catalog for books I am interested in. I can easily see what branches have them and how many copies are available. But I typically only go to one branch for our weekly trips. On my profile I have set this particular branch as my Home branch. When I find books in the catalog that I need, I place a hold. The library pulls the book(s) and sends them to the holds shelf of my home branch (or whatever branch I request – the home is just the default). It doesn’t matter which branch the books are located at, they get sent to your requested pick up site. I get an email notification that my book is ready for pickup and I have a week to get them before they get reshelved.

This service alone is so helpful for our school. I can sit down with my lesson plans and do catalog searches, placing holds on what I need. I can request up to 25 books at a time. Additionally, since Kyri has her own card that I manage, this gives me an additional 25 books that I can request under her name. Then, when we go for our weekly visit, I just grab my books from the hold shelf.

Children’s activities

There are so many different activities going on during the week at the various branches. There are Baby Storytime, Toddler Storytime, Discovery times, Family Fun Times that include crafts for homeschoolers, Teen Book Clubs, and more. Throughout the year, there are seasonal activities as well: Valentine’s crafts, celebrations for Dr. Seuss’ birthday, Chinese New Year, etc.

Kyri loves the Family Fun Time at our nearby branch – each week has a new craft or activity. Now that I am starting to look for more activities specifically geared toward kids in Ender’s age group, we are going to start participating in the Toddler Time activities.

Reading, crafts, hands-on activities – there are so many activities available during the week and most, if not all, are FREE!

Resources for homeschool groups

The libraries have meeting rooms that are available for a reasonable rate. We have participated in two different co-ops that have used the meeting rooms at the Igo Branch Library. Spacious, clean, with staff that are gracious and eager to assist.

Even if a  dedicated meeting room is not needed, libraries are still great places to meet. Some branches are quite  close to parks that make meeting for a park day coupled with library time.

Knowledge and Assistance

There are wonderful people working at the library, especially in the children’s section. If you are looking for books on a particular topic, ASK. The folks working in the children’s section are there to help – take advantage of this! The Children’s librarians also work to put together suggested reading titles that focus on different times of the year or themes – such as Spring, Back to School, or Black History month. I love looking at the suggested titles that have been put together by the library staff.

Encouragement for kids

Kyri was so excited when she was old enough last year to have her own card. She likes having the responsibility of her own card (and I certainly appreciate having more books that I can check out and have held…).

Now when it is time to check out books she makes sure to separate books into hers and mine, even though “my” books are all for her. As long as she is enthusiastic about reading, I don’t mind which card is being used to check out!

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