By Kristen Smith, Contributing Writer
When I first considered homeschooling, I wondered where in the world I would find the materials I’d need to teach my children. Then I started looking into homeschooling more thoroughly, and I was overwhelmed by how many choices there were!
Then I found myself overwhelmed a second time. And that was by the price of most boxed curriculum packages.
Ouch! I knew right away that it would be simply impossible for our family to afford homeschooling if we were going to rely on boxed curriculum packages.
We live on a modest teacher’s salary, along with some supplemental income from my work from home and my husband’s additional job as a pastor. The little extra helps, but it’s certainly not enough to spend $500-$700 per child on homeschooling.
I knew I had to think outside of the box. Literally. And so I started thinking.
Doesn’t the Library Have Most of These Books?
I looked at the beautiful catalogs from various publishers that interested me, and something really stood out to me. If I would purchase a boxed set of materials, a great majority of the books in the set could be easily found at the library.
The lightbulb turned on, and our bank account was spared!
For example, Charlotte’s Web is a popular children’s book that is typically found in most sets somewhere between grades 1-3. Charlotte’s Web is also found at even the smallest of local library branches.
Of course there are certain books that are better to own. My booklist anthologies (which help me choose what books to get at the library), family favorite books, dictionaries, and animal encyclopedias are referenced often. Borrowing them from the library would be a hassle.
But those books that we just need for a set amount of time? I rely heavily on the library for those!
Our approach to homeschooling involves lots of reading and literature. Every couple of weeks, I chart out what we are going to be studying or make a list of books I want my independent readers to read. Then we head to the library and check out anywhere from 20 to 40 books at a time.
Finding More Resources Beyond Just Books
We all know that libraries offer a plethora of books. But did you also know that they also offer a variety of magazines and other periodicals, audio recordings, videos, ebooks, computer games, and even activity packs for kids?
When we are studying a certain composer, I might look for a CD of his music. If we are studying the ancient Romans, I might check out an engaging and informative DVD on the time period.
I especially love the activity packs that our library offers in the children’s section. Though this option will vary from library to library, typically you’ll find books, recordings, and other materials like flashcards all centered around one topic or theme and in one container.
We’ve checked out lab kits (another term for these activity packs) on scientific themes, math facts, historical periods, and more! My children get extra excited about these and I love having a group of resources already put together for me. They’re kind of like boxed curriculum sets without the cost!
Don’t forget that most libraries offer special free programs for school-aged children, and some even have programs especially for homeschoolers.
Making the Library a Familiar Place
Another great benefit of utilizing the library for the vast majority of our homeschool resources is that it becomes a celebrated and familiar place that my children love.
I kid you not. My children occasionally cry when a trip to the library has to be postponed and they’ve read all of the books in our current stash!
The library has become a treasured destination in their eyes. They are beginning to understand all of the potential that it has to offer: the stories, the knowledge, the imagination, and more.
They are also learning how to use the library. My guess is that a great number of adults would struggle to find a specific book on a particular subject at their local library.
But my children? They are starting to learn how to search the computerized library catalog, write down the location of the book, and find it themselves. Sure, they still need some help from me or a librarian, but they are becoming more and more confident navigating the library.
If you’re interested in homeschooling but concerned about the cost, don’t despair! Spend some time at your local public library and you’ll quickly realize how many resources are available for you to use for free.
Does the cost of homeschooling concern you? Are you familiar with all that your local public library has to offer?
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