Homeschool Hacks: How to Maximize Your Library for Homeschooling

Think libraries are just a place to grab a few books? Think again! Today’s tips will show you how to use your local library for homeschooling.

Think libraries are just a place to grab a few books? Think again! Today we’re sharing tips to show you how to use your local library for homeschooling.

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You don’t have to spend a ton of time in homeschool circles to know that libraries and homeschoolers are often a packaged deal. Even so, it’s possible that you’re missing out on all your local library has to offer whether you’re a library-loving homeschool family or you’re that family that doesn’t have an active membership. Either way, these tips are for you! 

Homeschooling Through The Library

It’s no secret that many homeschool families love spending time at the library.  We are one of those families and we developed that love at the beginning of our homeschool journey. 

It didn’t take me long to see what a treasure we had in our local libraries. As a new homeschooler, our library visits gave us access to books I didn’t know existed. They also kept us from using our homeschool budget on books that were only needed for a few weeks at a time.

How to use the library for homeschooling

Thirteen years later, I realize now how unnecessary it is to complicate our homeschool plans with lots of curricula and overzealous ideas found online. I understand now that all we really need is to find the right books and let them be the foundation for our learning.  

4 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Local Library while Homeschooling

Interested in making the library a part of your homeschool lineup? Here are some practical tips for homeschooling through the library.

!. Start with a plan.

You can certainly walk through your library doors and select books that seem interesting to you or your kiddos, but having a plan is a better, more sustainable option. Your library plan can come through curriculum options like Five in a Row or Around the World with Picture Books. In those cases, you could purchase only the teacher book and then use your library to access the books needed for the lessons.

Depending on your needs, books like Rebecca Rupp’s Home Learning Year by Year, Jamie Martin’s Give Your Child the World, and Sarah Mackenzie’s The Read Aloud Family can also be fantastic tools for homeschooling through the library. They not only provide book suggestions, but they also let you know what those suggestions will accomplish.

Whether using a literature-based curriculum or books that help you accomplish specific goals, having a plan is an essential part of homeschooling. It’s also an essential part of using your library to help with homeschooling.

2. Find Your Library Sweet Spot.

Our family has enjoyed memberships at multiple library systems throughout the years; we even had some of these memberships at the same time (nearby independent library, county library, and the library system in neighboring county).

Unsurprisingly, when you’re borrowing from multiple systems, it can be maddening to keep up with due dates at each location. It also gets to be a bit much in the way of late fees!

A small fee for library membership can be a valuable, game-changing investment for your homeschool.

Oddly enough, joining yet another library system helped us put an end to all those late fees and return date headaches. This membership was different from the rest, though: we paid a small fee to be members of a library system a bit farther away because of its huge circulation and numerous benefits. This new paid membership also showed us the value of finding our sweet spot. 

By going farther out, we’ve been able to find everything we need in one place.  And finding everything in one place has streamlined my book searches and borrowing process, making it SO much easier to homeschool through the library. 

All that to say, the closest branches haven’t always met our needs for homeschooling. You may find the same thing to be true for your library needs and discover that a small membership fee to another library is a valuable investment. 

3. Know the System.

To get the most out of your local library from a homeschooling perspective, you need to be familiar with the logistical aspects of membership. This includes book limits, checkout durations, request and renewal procedures, and the general physical layout. 

Awareness of all those membership details can also help you discover your library’s extra offerings. So be on the lookout for programs for children, teenagers, and families in general. 

Here are some other practical things that will help you maximize library benefits for your homeschool:

Ask About Educator Access.

Some library systems have a separate library card or enhanced membership benefits for educators.

For example, educator access may score you longer checkout periods, higher book limits, and invitations to teacher events hosted at the library. Yours may not offer this educator access, but it’s worth checking into because this access makes homeschooling through the library even easier.

Many libraries offer special memberships for educators and homeschoolers alike.
Research and request books ahead of time.  

Some libraries are a part of cooperative systems that allow them to share books with other libraries. For homeschoolers, that means the books we need may not be available on demand. 

That’s why it helps to search your library database several weeks before specific books are needed and make any requests at that time. While it may not matter if you’re learning about marsupials a few weeks later than planned, it won’t be helpful to receive the Thanksgiving books you requested a week before Christmas. 

Be Open to Alternatives.

If you can’t find the specific titles needed, look for an alternative.  It’s nice to be able to find exact recommendations, but chances are your library will have another book that will work to accomplish the same goal if you can’t find a title. 

Check out *All* the resources.

Explore your borrowing choices.  Don’t forget that most libraries have a good selection of audiobooks, e-books, DVDs, and CDs available for borrowing. 

We’ve even found educational games and manipulatives at the library before!  No two libraries are the same, so it always helps to ask about these things at each branch you visit.

Books in the park is a fun collaboration between our local library system and our parks and recreation department.

4. Go Beyond the Books.

Having access to lots of books is enough reason to use your library for homeschooling, but there’s more to your library than books. Granted, the programs and resources vary from library to library and sometimes from season to season. However, staying informed about what’s happening shouldn’t take long to find even more reasons to love your library.

Beyond the books, here are some ways we’ve put our libraries to work in our homeschool:

  • Weekly story time – These are usually designated for preschoolers and younger children, but they are fantastic ways to encourage kids to read and familiarize them with their libraries.
  • Summer reading programs – These reading programs are great for motivating kids to read throughout the summer months whether you’re on a homeschool break or homeschooling through the summer.
  • STEM workshops – Our favorite was a LEGO Robotics class we enjoyed – for free, mind you – through our library.
  • Animal presentations – It’s not every day that you get to hold a snake while visiting the library, but we’ve held all kinds of creatures through zoology programs at our libraries. This has been true for multiple libraries, too, even the small-town locations!
  • Online classes – It’s not uncommon for libraries to offer adult classes for anything from quilting to basic computer skills, but my library takes it up a notch. As a library patron I enjoy free access to foreign language courses for the kids, continuing education for teachers, and all kinds of business classes.
  • Family fitness classes – Between yoga and the weekly read and dance get-together in our children’s department, a trip to the library is anything but stuffy and boring!

Worth noting, we have participated in wonderful library programs in all of the libraries we’ve used – the big city library branches to the small town libraries, and the ones in between. So offerings like these are truly possible regardless of where you live!

Think libraries are just a place to grab a few books? Think again! Today we’re sharing tips to show you how to use your local library for homeschooling.

In closing, I hope you’re encouraged to know that homeschooling through the library is easy and that it’s a practical way to use the resources in your community for learning. All it really takes is a good library, a plan, and a stack of books to get started. 

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