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The Use of the Library in Homeschooling

by Gayla Thoresen

1) A group of runaway slaves whose guide to freedom can only be seen at night.
2) A young girl foils the plot of the rebels.
3) A boy shows up at his own funeral.

Themes from the latest movies? No, all these are found at your local library!

The first on is “Follow the Drinking Gourd” by Jeanette Winter. The slaves are following the north star to freedom and the north star is part of the Big Dipper which looks like a drinking gourd.

In number two, the young girl Felicity is growing up during the Boston tea party time period and is part of the American Girls series of historical fiction published by Pleasant Company.

“Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain is number three.

Is the library just full of interesting books? Perhaps in days gone by, but let’s take another look at what the library offers.

No matter how you conduct your homeschooling, you’ll find something useful at the library. Compare notes with me as I take you on a trip to some libraries in my state.

“It’s a giraffe!”, my five year old exclaimed. We are in the middle of the children’s section at the Ellsworth, Maine Library looking at a life-sized giraffe. In one adjoining room sits a real boat with cushions and toys scattered in the bottom. A young mother feeds her baby in the rocking chair while her toddler examines the bead toy.

Next door is a love seat, a fireplace with framed artwork above, and a table and chairs set with recent chapter books on display. On a bottom shelf by the window are puzzles, puppets and maps.

In an alcove surrounded by windows with two comfortable sofas at each end are two computer terminals. One boy is ‘reading’ the interactive “Arthur” book. My son is playing a 3-D dinosaur game on the second computer. He races against time to save as many dinosaurs as he can.

Inviting? We stayed for over two hours and went back the following day to participate in the craft/story hour.

Another library we visited near Bangor also had a children’s section that excited the little ones. The main attraction was a glass aquarium with a family of hamsters. Talk about a lesson in action! We spent quite awhile poring over hamster books. The library had a box of toys, puzzles and puppets to entertain the children.

Our next stop is a university library. It is best to go in the mornings when most of the college students are in class. The one we visit locally uses a computer to catalog their books and materials. The program is called URSUS. Here’s a learning lesson on computers. The title page offers you several selections in finding a book: author, title or subject. Some books can be obtained through interlibrary loan. A form is required that you fill out and attach to your printed out selection. The librarian takes it from there.

Care for a movie? In a stack of drawers on the main floor you will find videos to borrow for up to three days. We have seen many of the National Geographic animal shows to supplement our studies in science. Documentaries, Shakespeare, and classics are some other choices.

On occasion the library displays art work from local talent in the community. I check the local paper for dates and time and take the children for a free art appreciation tour.

Do you need lesson plans, ideas or educational resources? This university library stocks a large selection of teacher’s magazines. (Yes, this is a teacher’s college, among other courses offered). I like to look over these journals - “Learning” (now called “Mailbox Teacher”), Instructor, Teaching K-8, Creative Classroom, and others on science, art and math education. Many of these magazines offer free educational kits and resources to send for. There are free drawings for books. Yes, even homeschoolers can be included in these drawings.

Here is a list of free educational kits I found from reading these magazines:

“The American Promise” - teacher kit for U.S. History and citizenship, comes with Teacher’s guide in a 3-ring binder and two video tapes. For grades 6-12.
Send a postcard with your name and school address to:
“The American Promise”
P.O. Box 4989
Los Angeles, CA 90051-9723
or call 1-800-204-7722.

Sea World of Florida
Education Dept.
7007 Sea World Drive
Orlando, FL 32821-8097
Receive free Sea World posters and teacher’s kit by sending your name and address. For all grades.

“Thought, Word and Deed”
State Farm Insurance
Public Affairs Department
One State Farm Plaza
Bloomington, IL 61710
Request free kit “Thought, Word and Deed” on school letterhead. You will receive a binder with video tape and teacher’s guide about health. For grades K-6.

Karol Media
P.O. Box 7600
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18773-9968
Request on school letterhead the free video tape and teacher’s guide about wildlife habitat called “A Home for Pearl”. For grades K-8. Also available from Karol Media are:

“The Challenge of the Unknown” - seven programs about mathematics on one video plus teacher’s guide. For grades 4-8.

“The Search for Solutions” about science and problem solving, video and teacher’s guides. For grades 7-12.

“The American Enterprise Series”, about our economic history, video and teacher’s guide. For grades 7-12.

Some excellent children’s magazines available at the library are the ones published by Cobblestone. I will mention three. “Calliope” covers world history with maps and timelines, relevant art from major museums, interviews, and archaeological discoveries covering one topic or theme. Some upcoming themes this year are Stonehenge, Mayan Culture, and Martin Luther (1483-1546).

“Cobblestone” uses historic photographs, original illustrations, primary documents, maps, and activities about American History.

Some themes for the 1998-1999 school year will be Indian of the Great Lakes (Ojibwa), Homesteading: Exodusters and other Black Pioneers, Jane Addams, and The Spanish American War. Back issues are available as well.

“Odyssey” features the newest discoveries in science from around the world. First-hand reports, interviews with leading scientists and many activities for grades 4-9. Some upcoming themes will be Plugged In! Testing the Limits of Cyberspace, Codebreakers, and Tales from the Crypt: Digging Deeper with Science.

The Cobblestone magazines are $15 to $30 per subscription, so the library also saves you money!

Did I mention newspapers yet? We get free educational resources from the Newspapers in Education program. Check locally for a program in your area.

So, now that we’ve seen what is available at the library, here are some ideas to implement once you get home.

From the Instructor magazine we pulled out a poster and worksheets on the “Writer’s Workshop” - only do this if you own the magazine! Each workshop features several authors and how they produced their books. We found information on Karen Hesse using the mini-page feature in the newspaper. Then we went to the library to pick up some books she wrote. “Island of the Blue Dolphins” and “Out of the Dust.” We compared the different styles of writing and tried them in our own stories.

We also like to compare the book and the movie by writing a report or making a poster on the differences and similarities. A few to choose from are “Charlotte’s Web”, “Old Yeller”, “Mary Poppins” and “The Indian in the Cupboard.”

Are you using the unit studies approach? The library is a gold mine for this. For example, your child wants to study oceans. You will cover geography of oceans, science, history, art, and so forth. There will be ocean explorers, animals of the ocean, plants, coral reefs, ocean careers, paintings of the ocean, fishing, recreational use of the ocean, and the list goes on. All the children can study oceans at the same time. There are books, magazines and videos all available at the library, and new ones are being published every year! The possibilities are endless.

Oh, my six year old is reminding me that we need a book on salamanders. He has three and he wants to know what they eat. So you’ll have to excuse me. I’m off to the library again!

Copyright © 2006 Modern Media