Homeschoolers and Libraries: A Match Made in Heaven

Jaime Herndon


Jaime Herndon finished her MFA in nonfiction writing at Columbia, after leaving a life of psychosocial oncology and maternal-child health work. She is a writer, editor, and book reviewer who drinks way too much coffee. She is a new-ish mom, so the coffee comes in extra handy. Twitter: @IvyTarHeelJaime

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Katchoo is a beautiful young woman living in the spare bedroom of her high school friend, Francine. Brash and outspoken, Katchoo makes no secret of her love for Francine but that's not an option for the shy, insecure woman who looks for Prince Charming in a series of bad boyfriends. Enter David, a gentle but persistent artist who seems determined to win Katchoo's heart. The resulting triangle is a touching comedy of romantic errors that takes the trio down a complicated road of murder, mayhem, and love featuring an array of characters including crime bosses, psychopaths, and well-meaning friends.

Ask most homeschoolers what’s one resource they can’t live without, and they’ll say, “The library!” There are storytimes, craft classes for kids, take-and-make crafts, and plenty of books to explore. We include lots of books in every unit or topic we do, and so we are always going to the library and coming home with 20-30 books at a time for the next week or two. It gets expensive very fast if you don’t utilize the library!

Librarians have also been a wealth of knowledge for us. We go to two different libraries, and at one, I got to talking with the librarian one day because we kept seeing her. The next time we were in, she said she’d put aside a book for me of Indigenous stories (this was near Indigenous Peoples Day). It’s little things like that, that go a long way.

One of the libraries we go to has a set-up in one area of the children’s section with a little booth that is sometimes a vet’s office, sometimes a post office — complete with costumes for kids and props. My son loves it, and often has me playing with him in the set-up for much longer than expected (at least it feels that way). They set out trays of magnatiles and crayons next to spinning racks of coloring sheets, and before we leave, we always request the take-and-make craft. This little area also has the added benefit of encouraging kids to play together or sit and color together.

The other library has a closed-off area with a huge busy board attached to the wall, and large modular pillows and foam pieces that the kids can make into shapes on the floor. For the adults, there are comfortable chairs, and it’s right next to the bathroom, which anyone knows comes in handy with kids. They also have opportunities for young kids to practice their reading skills by reading to therapy dogs one night a month, although this fills up very quickly. The librarians at this library, while friendly, are much more hands-off and haven’t been as interactive with kids, at least from our experience. There are also fewer books displayed on tables, and the ones that are propped open on top of shelves are higher up, out of the sightline of smaller children — the other library always has a ton of books out where children can see them and flip through them. We still go to this one because it’s closer, but the books are a lot less diverse and overall, it’s just less engaging during a regular visit for my son.

Regardless, whichever library we go to, we always end up leaving with more books than I planned to get, and always enjoy our time there. Libraries are amazing places for everyone, but especially for homeschoolers. Here’s why.

Libraries + Homeschoolers = True Love

Why are homeschoolers and libraries the perfect match? Why not?

In all seriousness, many homeschoolers are always reading books with their kids: the kids are researching for unit studies or projects, you’re looking for supplemental resources or that fun-looking book you saw someone mention on Instagram…and you don’t want to buy all the books. I mean, you do, but that adds up fast, and you only have so much space in your house. So what’s the next best thing? Borrowing them!

If you’re doing a unit study on something with which you’re not familiar, librarians will always have a book for that, or suggestions about ways to present it. If your kid likes one book series and you’re not sure where to go after that, the librarian has suggestions.

Contrary to the popular belief and persistent stereotype that homeschoolers are hermits and unsocialized feral children, typical homeschool kids actually do A LOT: 4H, Scouts, nature classes, co-op meetups, dance/art/music lessons, and more. One of the common activities is also going to the library for crafts, stories, or meeting up with another family. Many libraries also have things like board game or D&D instruction or gaming groups. I know one of my local libraries offers a Seed Library, Rosetta Stone for languages, access to, and art instructional videos from Creativebug that can be accessed from home. In this way, libraries can be hubs for socializing, and not just for academics.

The library provides lots of programming and resources for homeschoolers — and it’s free! Also, here’s a tip: if you live near multiple libraries, check out their websites or ask a librarian if they offer free memberships for homeschoolers. One library near me is in my county, but because I live in a certain town, I have to join my town’s library — which I have — and if I want to get a card at the county library, I would have to pay for it. However, there are exceptions, and homeschoolers living in the county are one of them, as are students enrolled in any school in the county.

What I’d Love to See at Libraries

We love our libraries, but nothing’s perfect. There are a few things I would love to see more of, in an ideal world. I know they might not be able to do all (or any) of these because of staff shortages, funding and budget cuts, or other reasons, but a parent can dream, right?

My wish list includes:

  • Extended storytimes: At both libraries, my son can’t go to the storytimes because the age cutoff is 5, and they specifically say to not sign up if your child is older. Older kids still benefit from being read to, and my son (who turns 7 soon) loves storytime, but there are none that we can attend.
  • Homeschool programming in general: There are kids older than babies/toddlers/preschoolers who are available during the day for programs, and yet can’t sign up for anything because of age restrictions. We would love any homeschool programming that would enable us to meet other families in a secular environment.
  • Curricula: I know some libraries have homeschool curricula that patrons can borrow or look through — and this would be amazing, even if only to look at prior to purchasing it. Bonus points if they’re secular. Our one library has some homeschooling instruction books, but they’re horribly out of date.
  • More museum passes with an eye toward kids: my libraries offer museum passes to local museums and wildlife refuges, which is awesome — but some of the most kid-friendly local places aren’t among the passes offered.

Even if they never implement these, I’m still grateful for what our libraries do offer.

The library isn’t just a place to get books: it’s a treasure trove of resources, especially if you homeschool. Get to know your local librarians and spend some time at your local branches — I promise you, you won’t regret it!

Does your local library offer anything unique for homeschoolers?