What are your tips for transitioning into the new school year?
As a homeschooler, you’re accustomed to reaching out. From local libraries for resources, to other homeschooling parents and students for connections, to regional attractions for special hours and rates, to online groups for support, the list goes on and on. Since it’s often up to homeschool families to reach out and take advantage of community resources, it’s a refreshing change of pace when local groups or institutions reach out to provide access to their resources and form partnerships with those families. The libraries featured below demonstrate how to reach out and create a community with homeschool families.
The Johnsburg (Illinois) Public Library created a “Homeschool Resource Center” by converting a study room into an area where anyone with an Illinois library card can browse through and bring home some of the many homeschooling curriculum materials to test out. This “try before you buy” approach allows families to see if homeschooling meets their needs. The “HRC” also features science lab equipment, educational toys and games, books and magazines about homeschooling, and lots of other resources. An educational consultant is available for free meetings once a week, and a bulletin board is home to information about local homeschooling events and special offers for homeschoolers. While contact with the library was initiated by one homeschooling parent, the library took interest and initiative in creating this valuable resource, which became so popular that it led to a homeschool open house and used curriculum flea market that has been an incredible way to meet other homeschoolers and make connections.
Similar to Johnsburg, the Pikes Peak Library District (Colorado Springs, Colorado) recognized a need for homeschooling resources to provide to families. It built its own Educational Resource Center, which features science lab equipment; math, language arts, and social studies kits; music and art appreciation materials; and virtual dissection and driver’s education software. While the Center is open to anyone for three hours each day, it was created with the homeschooler in mind so homeschool families can take advantage of the free resources. Additionally, the district put together the Homeschool Hub, an online library space that offers homeschooling reading lists, a newsletter, and hundreds of online resources like lesson plans, worksheets, online courses, tutors, local homeschool laws, and community support groups. The Hub also promotes the library’s many homeschooling programs, including science labs, art shows, curriculum swaps, outdoor game days, and resource fairs.
The Nashville Public Library went out of its way to help homeschoolers of all ages by creating two homeschool groups that kids can join to interact with other homeschoolers and participate in different activities: Homeschool Friends for ages 4 to 7, and Homeschool Tweens for ages 8 to 13. Each group meets once a month at the library’s main branch. Whether it’s planning a princess party, making artificial tornadoes, or creating objects with a 3-D printer, the programs are a hit with the kids–and the library, which considers itself the school library for homeschooled students.
Adrienne Furness, director of the Henrietta Public Library in Rochester, New York, and author of Helping Homeschoolers in the Library is a big proponent of libraries reaching out to homeschool groups when libraries want to start offering homeschool resources, not the other way around. “Try to figure out who’s leading [a local homeschool group] and see: Can you survey them? Can you go to a meeting? Can you try to figure out their interests that you can actually do and figure out what time works for them? Because then you’ve got a built-in audience.”
Do you have a similar experience with a library you’d like to share? Please do in the comments below!
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