At the library, I often encounter homeschooling families. In fact, a mom recently asked how she could make a donation to the library as a gesture of thanks for all of the great resources we have available in our catalog or through our online reference data bases which help her teach her kids at home. I had been searching the catalog prior to her visit, looking for items specially designed for homeschoolers. I found a series of kits created by FLIP, the Family Literacy Involvement Program, made available to our library system through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. These kits are designed to support early learning and literacy through home and family-centered activities. The kits contain books, activity guides, art and school supplies and other materials and are available to all patrons for checkout. There is even a homeschooling page on the DCPL website containing books, reference databases, web links to outside resources, book club kits for kids (Book Buddies Take Out). Another website I found called Homeschool World has a lot of resources for homeschool families including contact information for groups locally and around the world, events, teaching materials, contests, and articles. Another fun site I found is an online art gallery for homeschooled budding artists. Many museums, including the High Museum of Art, have programs for homeschoolers.
Homeschooling or un-schooling, as some people call it, is an increasingly popular trend in education. For some, the desire to remove children from public or private collective establishments might be for religious or spiritual reasons, for others the choice might be motivated by social or philosophical reasons. Some children have special needs to which a larger institution might not be able to effectively cater. Families might wish to preserve a native language or languages by promoting multilingual skills. Homeschooling allows parents as educators a great deal of flexibility in scheduling, curriculum, dietary choices, and in the style and content of material presented. It seems to me that creativity, freedom of expression, and flexibility are great advantages of this type of educational focus.
As parents, we want the best possible education and future for our children, and each child, being an unique individual, has very personal needs and desires ready to be trained to reach highest potential. A parent knows his or her own child better than anyone else and is best qualified to evaluate which type of schooling best suits that child’s learning style and temperament. Some families may homeschool one child while another goes to a traditional school.
As a single parent of a somewhat introverted child, while the aspects of flexibility and creativity highly appeal to me as a parent and as an individual, I don’t feel that homeschooling would be or would have been in my own child’s best interest, although the proximity with one’s child can be a wonderful bonding experience. I know that most homeschoolers complement their home lessons with a wide range of outside classes and extra-curricular activities, but the social environment of school has been good for my son’s development. Now that he is in a smaller school devoted to arts and culture, we are both happier than we have ever been. Perhaps as a society we will begin to realize that each child comes into the world with specific gifts and talents. As parents and educators, we can help our world to evolve by working with our children to encourage and reveal the gifts and potential of each child rather than teaching children to adapt to a world that is already part of the past…and I am sure many parents share this desire.
The public library is an amazing resource for all parents, and even if your children are enrolled in a traditional school, the many subjects and values you wish to impart to your children can be complemented by activities using materials you can check out from your public library or find on our reference databases (under the rubrics “Student Resources”, “Encyclopedias and Dictionaries”, “Science and Technology”, History and Biography”, “Magazines and Newspapers”, etc.) through the library website. Certain reference databases such as the Library of Congress / Congressional Quarterly page can be used as print resources for school projects.
I have a friend and neighbor who is an experienced homeschooler, journalist and storyteller. All of her children, the eldest now 28 and the youngest 11 years of age, have been homeschooled from pre-k through grade 12. I spoke with her oldest daughter, who happens to work at the library with me, asking her a few questions about her homeschool experience. She told me that the aspects of her home learning experience that she appreciated most were the freedom to be able to explore in depth a subject or project without being interrupted. She explained that she would not have preferred traditional schooling, feeling that she would not have been as happy or done as well because of the established expectations of behavior and standards of social acceptance. Her favorite memories include spending much time at the library in the days before the internet, exploring books on all subjects, including the discovery of beloved books such as “Lord of the Rings”. She and her siblings also prepared for social studies and science fairs which were displayed at the libraries they used. The children were also involved in mom’s storytelling activities, participating in story time when asked. She also participated in numerous classes and groups outside of home classes, including swim team, basketball, soccer, as well as classes in which her mother was less qualified to teach such as higher math and chemistry. In retrospect, since her mother focused most on reading and literacy and she herself gravitated naturally towards these subjects, she wishes that she had been enrolled in classes on the subjects to which she was less naturally inclined at an earlier age. To sum up her experience as a homeschooled child, she explained that the family spent a lot of quality time together, sharing many adventures outdoors. The family is still very close-knit, and they share many happy memories from those years.
Whether or not you choose to homeschool your child, the library offers many resources, activities, and events that as a parent you can use to complement your child’s educational experience. The library is a great place to spend quality time as a family, to slow down, and explore a world of possibilities.