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The Link Librarian

by Gail Thorsen

Using the Library for Homeschooling-- It's free!

There is a saying that goes, "There's no such thing as a free lunch". However, I would reply, "You haven't met a homeschooler!" Yes, in order to homeschool on a shoestring budget, we need to find free or inexpensive ways to educate our students. Can your local libraries provide the answer? Yes, they can! Besides getting books, what do homeschoolers want from their libraries, anyway? I wanted to know myself, so I was surprised to find a handbook had been published on this very topic. Here is a condensed list of what the publishers of "Homeschoolers and the Public Library-A Resource Guide for Libraries Serving Homeschoolers" (edited by Susan G. Scheps, 649.68 H767, 1993) found out:

  1. A regularly-updated file that includes the following:
    1. The laws of your state on homeschooling
    2. A directory of homeschoolers in the area
    3. Names & addresses of national and state homeschooling organizations
    4. Addresses of local schools & their contact persons; also the name & address of the state superintendent
    5. Addresses & information re: Suppliers of materials for homeschooling (publishers/distributors)
  2. Workshops on how to use the library
  3. Involvement with state level homeschooling organizations
  4. Bulletin board in the library on which homeschoolers can display such items as meeting calendars, library programs, reviews of new books, science fairs, and book sales
  5. Regular displays of homeschool projects, art, hobbies, etc. in the library
  6. Curriculum guides of local schools
  7. Workshops on topics such as material available, reference books, video collections, children's magazines
  8. Tours of the library, including information on interlibrary loans and other information sources
  9. Special programs: reading programs during the school year for homeschoolers
  10. A volunteer program for tutoring, reviewing books and audiovisual materials. Present children's programs or put on plays.
  11. Access to publisher's catalogs and book review journals
  12. A good collection of audio tapes
  13. Use of the library's meeting room for group meetings, plays and other activities
  14. Use of personal computers and occasional use of A-V equipment (film projectors, etc.)
  15. A library column in the local home newsletter, highlighting programs, services, book reviews, books of special interest and new books
  16. Help in finding materials
  17. Special borrowing privileges (like those extended to teachers)
  18. A good collection of children's books and materials
  19. Subscription to homeschooling journals

Can you imagine how valuable these services would be to a busy homeschool teacher? Thankfully, many libraries have implemented many of these ideas already, perhaps right in your own area. If you haven't given much thought lately on what libraries can offer, let me share some ideas with you. For example, would you like to see art displays? Some libraries offer space for local artists to display their work, for free. Do you need to teach research skills? The librarians can help with tours and show you how to use the Dewey Decimal System, the card catalog-which may be on computer, Reader's Guides and microfiche. Do you need homeschooling books or curriculum? Books for your state history study? A book discussion group or Reading circle to join? Contact your local library to see what they offer, or volunteer to start one yourself.

Besides books, libraries also offer magazines, movies, Internet access, and interlibrary loans. Whatever topic you want to study, you can get free resources at your library. You can use state libraries, college libraries, and school libraries, if available. We use them all! The sky's the limit on the amount of money you can save by including a weekly trip to the library. Best of all, there is always something new at the library! New books and movies come in, new magazines each month, it's great! Please read on for a typical week at our house as we include resources
from the libraries in our homeschooling program. I will include approximate dollar amounts on how much it would cost to buy the items we borrow.

Day One: Picked up a discarded book at the college library entitled "Educator's Guide to FREE Multicultural Materials", 3rd Annual Edition. The series of these FREE educational books may be available at your library. I
have seen these advertised for $25 to $30 each, and there are hundreds of free items to send away for in EACH book! So far I received free videos and teacher's packets on such topics as peanuts, grain, the rainforest, and
Day Two: In reading the Nov./Dec. 2001 issue of the "Creative Classroom" teacher's magazine, I glanced through the section called "Freebies" and found a free kit I was interested in. A website is given so when I went to
the site, I found an e-mail address to request the item. You can get one, too, by finding and looking under "In the community" which will direct you to the education page.
Cost for one issue/subscription to magazine: $2.95/$19.95; Cost of kit: $20

Day Three: We are studying genealogy, so I requested some books through interlibrary loan. Also found a wonderful website with a book you can download or order for $14.95. I got it through interlibrary loan instead
for free. (Granted, some libraries charge for shipping when using interlibrary loan, but the cost is still minimal compared to purchasing every single book you want to use in your program) I found the books I needed at the state library and another library 180 miles away from here. Cost to buy the books I requested: Over $50
Day Four: My son is studying about the American Indians, so I pick up a book called "500 Nations -- An Illustrated History of North American Indians" by Alvin M. Josephy, Jr., Cost: $29.95
Day Five: I joined a free educator's video organization called Video Placement Worldwide (website is and requested two videos to use in conjunction with my daughter's math course. They are on budgeting and insurance. Each video kit comes with poster, teacher's guide and student
worksheets. I read about this offer in one of the teacher's magazines that I borrow each month from the local school library. There are teacher's books/curriculum here as well that I get to borrow, too. By being on the list for videos, I will get more videos sent to me as they become available and an e-mail newsletter to let me know about new videos that I can order. Cost for magazine: $2.95 to $3.95 each issue; Cost for video kits ordered: About $20 each
Okay! Did you add up the costs? By using the library for just one week, I saved over $100! And we haven't even touched all the free stuff we can find on the Internet! Pretty impressive, isn't it? So, I hope you find your own "gold mine" when you are using your library, too!

Book Drawing

We are still putting together our next book drawing. This one is different, because everyone gets to contribute to the prize! To enter this drawing, please send at least one of the following items: Unused stickers, unused postcard from your state, a book you no longer need but is still in good condition, or a souvenir from your state. As always, we do not sell or distribute your names or addresses. They are only needed to send the winner the prize. I hope we can put together a huge package. Maybe we will have more than one winner! Address: Gayla Thorsen, P.O. Box 03, Fort Kent Mills, Me 04744

Remember, for the drawing, besides sending one of the above items, I will need your name, mailing address, and school name. (Ours is Hillside Academy)

Future Topics

We are putting together a list of topics for the new year. Please send in your suggestions and ideas and I will try to use as many as possible in the next articles. Happy Reading!

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