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Homeschoolers, Get Thee to the Library!


Homeschoolers, Get Thee to the Library!

At the risk of revealing the era that I grew up in, I must admit that I miss the card catalog in the library.  I do.  All those little index cards to flip through that were typed up on some manual, dare I say, typewriter.  And don’t get me started on the reference section….

                But here we are in the 21st Century and things have progressed a bit (sorry index cards).  The libraries still stand, thankfully. And my children go up and down book aisles finding treasures to take home and read.  They find kindly librarians that help with endless requests for books about a particular topic that include “enough” pictures.  It’s true, these librarians do exist.  The children stare glassy eyed at me as I try to explain the Dewey-decimal system. And we leave with our library bags or our arms full of stories, both fact and fiction.

                So where does the difference enter?  Is it all about the cards? No.

                Apparently, the libraries went through the technology burst the same as everyone else.  I just attended a Homeschool Resources seminar by a local library.  I was pretty excited, I admit.  There aren’t that many resources in my immediate area, and I had heard hints of other homeschoolers using their libraries for more than reading materials.

                Here’s some of what I learned can be accessed using your library card:

                E-Books.  Admittedly, I knew about this one, but not the complete picture.  Libraries have accounts with digital media lending services.  So, from the comfort of your home, using whatever book reading device you prefer, you can use your library card to log in and “borrow” a book.  You download it just as you would a book you purchased through the book store apps.  They do have a return date, and there is typically a limit set for the month as to how many materials you may borrow.  The only real problem I’ve encountered with this comes from a limit on how many books they will “lend” each day.  I’ve tried to borrow a book before heading to bed, and often the day’s borrowing limit has been met by the patrons of my library.  Fortunately for me, I’m usually up beyond when I should be (maybe not so fortunate), so when midnight rolls around, I can borrow the book then.  I’d guess that would work well for early risers as well.  You’ll have to let me know.

                Many of these services extend beyond e-books though.  Other media that can be “borrowed” digitally include, audiobooks, magazines, newspapers, streaming music and streaming video.  Not too bad having all that available for free.

                On-line tutoring.  I wasn’t so sure on this until I saw it in action.  For a set number of hours each day, there are folks waiting to answer questions on-line.  For example, maybe your son’s having difficulty solving a particular algebra problem.  He can go on in, type in the problem, and have an actual person guide him through solving the equation and answering any questions you might have.  It’s all done on a shared screen on-line.  I see myself using this particular bit of assistance in the future.  The tutors are available for all age ranges, elementary through college.

                Proofreading Papers.  Now this is something I think everyone should do for themselves.  But what if after you’ve finished editing your own work, you had a second set of eyes look it over.  Submit your work and 24 hours later your paper is returned unchanged, but with grammatical corrections noted, as well as suggestions for improvements.  They do not make any alterations to the original that you submit.  At least the service I learned about didn’t.

                Practice Tests.  Your child can take a practice test in a variety of subject areas and test such as the SAT.   Even if testing isn’t required for your state, or is something you don’t practice, hear me out on the value of this resource.  At some point most people end up taking exams.  It could be the SAT, the LSAT, a licensing test, and so on.  Here’s an opportunity to let your children practice taking a test.  It’s a skill that can be taught like anything else.  And this way at least they’ll have experience. 

                Reference Materials.  Encyclopedias, magazines, newspapers, all available for your perusal.  You can even find articles in magazines by typing in the topic and range of dates for a particular magazine and it will display all results.  And many of the articles come with audio.

                Research platforms.  One of the toughest tech issues is internet safety.  The library has databases that can be searched.  I’m not saying don’t be aware of what you child is researching, but going through the library just greatly narrowed the inappropriate items that might pop-up on the screen while researching a benign topic like dolphins.

                Videos. Some of the videos include a transcript. Don’t ask why I think this is great, but it’s making me feel that this could be of some use down the road.

                Language Programs.  Are you teaching a foreign language this year?  They have several name brand digital language programs – for no cost. Absolutely free. 

                If you’re lucky, you have a superb, community-oriented library.  There are libraries that create programs in the library specifically for homeschoolers such as:

  • maker classes
  • art classes
  • gaming time
  • Lego builds
  • book clubs   

The point is, ask what your local library has, or tell them what you need. You never know, either it might be there waiting for you to discover, of you’ll find a librarian just waiting to engage with the community.

                And if you aren’t lucky, search out the library in the next town.  Some libraries open their services to out-of-town residents for a small fee.  This would allow you to access all of the digital material from your home. 

                With this new discovery, I have to ask:

What resources does your library provide? 

Is there one thing in particular that you’re grateful the library makes available?

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