Thursday, January 23, 2014

5 Essential Homeschooling Tools Day 4: A Library Card

I realize for some homeschoolers it may seem like I’m preaching to the choir for this next essential tool, but I still want to cover it.  Just last year I was talking to a veteran HS mom with over a decade under her belt and she’d never heard of interlibrary loans.  So this may be review for some but eye-opening for others.Let’s go over some of the resources you have access to with your library card.


This one was probably obvious to everyone. As much as I love books, I can’t possibly own them all –and frankly don’t want to.  Some books I need just for one unit study.  Some things, like cookbooks, I like to try before I buy—checking it out and seeing if there are enough recipes to make it worth my while.  Anyhow, the real point I want to make here is that you’re not limited to just the books in your library system. Say you discover a great history book from a fellow blogger, but your library doesn’t own it.  Walk up to your librarian and say you’d like to request an inter-library loan.  The usual procedure is for you to fill out a request form with as much information about the book as you can—author, title, publication date.  Some forms will ask the maximum you’re willing to pay.  I’ve never had to pay for an inter-library loan, but some libraries may ask you to chip in to cover the mailing/administration costs.  When the book comes, they will let you know when it needs to be returned so they can get it back to the original library by the borrowing deadline (often I can keep the book for a month, where I only get two weeks with regular books). 

I’ve also had more than one instance where the library decided to just buy the book I requested instead of borrow it.  Which brings up another form at your librarian’s desk – the purchase request.   Now I don’t go crazy here, but there are times when I’ve found books and videos that I think others would enjoy.  For example, my son and I originally requested all the Science of Disney Imagineering DVD’s through inter-library loan.  He enjoyed them, but I couldn’t justify their cost for our homeschool  so I spoke to the children’s librarian.  She was thrilled that I’d done the research for her (they had a grant to use for science and math material).  The library bought the whole series and I was able to check them out again to use in my co-op class.


Now this isn’t going to be like dropping by Blockbuster (do they even have brick & mortar stores any more?).  You’re probably not going to find summer blockbusters or latest releases.  Chances are really good though that you can find rare documentaries, and videos from PBS and the BBC.    Are you’re a visual learner and want to take up crochet?  Even my little library has two or three DVD’s to choose from done with varying camera angles so you can study the moving hands from all sides.  In the kids section, my son has found titles to teach him how to juggle and perform yo-yo stunts.  His favorite DVD, E-Z Math Trix, has taught him a whole magic routine with tricks based on math principles.  I already mentioned the Science of Disney Imagineering titles above.  I’ve also been able to expose my child to theater with PBS Great Performances of Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables in Concert.  (Funny note: when my husband was able to see Phantom with closed captioning on he realized the people in costumes were singing about “masquerade” not “marmalade.”)


I’ve gotten pretty good at getting my son to realize that the candy found at check out has been placed there to separate him from his money with an impulse purchase, but what about me and those magazines touting I can organize, lose weight, or try fabulous new recipes.  I can pass them up now because I know most magazines can be found at the library.  The latest copies are displayed and you may read them on site (or sit and copy recipes).  Older editions can be checked out and taken home to read at your leisure, but PLEASE remember to turn them back in for others to enjoy.  How far back your library keeps old copies depends on how much storage space they have, but I’ve found they do try to keep specialty titles like Mother Earth News and local interests like Missouri Life longer.  That last periodical has a great listing in the back of fairs and events.  It’s how I learn about historical re-enactments for our home school field trips so see if your library carries a similar title for your state.  Magazines can also be great resources for research papers.  Ask your librarian how to use the Periodical Index to look up articles by subject and sub-subject. 

Incentives to Read

Let’s face it, bribery has its place. Twice a year, our library holds reading contests for the kids (adults too in the summer).  For reading a certain number of books, Schnickelfritz can earn books of his own, art supplies, or be entered to win  tickets to see the St. Louis cardinals.  Usually the contests are set up so that kids have to read from certain genres – poetry, cookbook, science, etc.  It helps steer Fritz away from the Hank the Cowdog shelf for a change.  

Story Hour

Our library has weekly story hour for preschooler year round and a special summer version for grade school kids.  One year they focused on American Tall Tales like Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan.  Another year they read through The Invention of Hugo Cabret in installments (the librarian had a DVD that could show all the illustrations on a television monitor).  After the reading, the kids would do activities like paint in the style of Monet, build rockets with film canisters and baking soda, or make their own abacus.  Hmmm… literature, art, science, math.  Sounds like log-able homeschool hours to me and all I’ve had to do is browse the bookshelves while I wait.

Library sales

When funds allow, libraries are always getting new titles which means they need to purge old books to clear shelf space.  They also receive donations from patrons of books, magazines, and DVDs to sell.  My greatest haul was a whole box of Landmark Books from a private collection – all still with their dust jackets.  I got them for 50 cents each.  Some libraries allow you to shop early if you volunteer or join the Friends of the Library (read that as make a donation, but I never begrudge them $5-$10 for everything else I receive for free the rest of the year). 

Every time I move, one of my first priorities is to find the local library and get a card.  It’s another essential tool in our homeschool.  You can click the button below to see what all the others on the Review Crew found to be Homeschooling Essentials but here are a few posts to get you started.

1. Marcy @ Ben and Me

2. Lisa @ Golden Grasses

3. Tess @ Circling Through This Life

4. Victoria @ Homemaking with Heart

5. Kayla @ The Arrowood Zoo

6. Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

7. Deanna @ His Treasure Seekers

8. Melissa @ Grace Christian Homeschool

9. Rebecca @ Raventhreads

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

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