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Who are Homeschoolers and What do They Want?
To Feel Welcomed: Homeschoolers want to be welcome to use the library during school hours. Many complain of librarians who frown at them and ask them why they are there during school hours. Yet, what better place to learn?
Late readers: There are many different educational philosophies, some of which encourage delaying teaching reading until after the age of 8 or 10 (ie: Waldorf and Moore Academy). Some homeschooled children also have difficulty with reading skills, just as some traditionally schooled children may. They are coming to the library looking for help. Please do not judge the parents to be neglectful if the children are 'behind'. There may be reasons you are unaware of.
Grade Levels: Many home school children are at several different grade levels of curriculum. They may be in 4th grade math and 2nd grade grammar. The question "What grade are you in?" is often not an easy one or a comfortable one. Please ask instead what grade level book they are looking for.
Special Needs: Many homeschoolers have children that have special educational needs. In fact, many have left the school systems because of special needs and they are struggling to meet them at home instead. The need could be for age appropriate yet high school level reading material for an 8 year old - or for books that don't look childish but are of a low level for an older student. Educators for decades have long sought such materials, and homeschoolers are no different. Knowing the books in your collection that fit these unique needs is a terrific boon to homeschoolers.
Confidentiality: Some homeschoolers fear losing their right to homeschool. They fear that they will be harassed or that laws will change and, if they are known in the community, they will lose their right to homeschool. Please be aware that many homeschoolers will worry that if they give a library their name and phone number on a homeschool contact list that the information might be given to another governmental agency. Some even fear coming forth as a homeschooler for fear that the library staff will report them as truant. Trust is hard won in many cases, and takes time.
Eight Popular Homeschooling Philosophies
This is the most familiar style to those of us who attended schools ourselves. Generally it involves four or more subjects a day, taught during specific time periods. Generally this style uses prepackaged purchased curricula, but certainly not always.
Classical (Trivium) -
Classical Education organizes education into three Biblical categories. These three categories are Grammar, Logic & Rhetoric, otherwise known as knowledge (learning the facts), understanding (organizes the facts into rational order), and wisdom (taking that knowledge and understanding and uses it in practical ways). This is the original liberal arts education. Memorization, dialog, writing and languages are stressed.
Charlotte Mason -
A Christian-based philosophy of education that stresses good literature (rather than textbooks), copying of relevant materials, and dictation. Nature walks are stressed throughout. Structure is crucial and training of good habits begins in infancy.
is a non-Christian spiritually based program featuring delayed academics and a rich variety of music, arts and literature. The aim of Waldorf education is to educate the whole child -- head, heart and hands. The curriculum is geared to the child's stages of development and brings together all elements -- intellectual, artistic, spiritual and movement. The goal is to produce individuals who are able, in and of themselves, to impart meaning to their lives. Rituals of daily and seasonal life are strongly emphasized.
The original works of Maria Montessori have been gravely distorted here in America by a lack of copyrights on her name, but the original concept was to respect the child's inner desire to learn and allow him/her to make spontaneous and free choices within a carefully prepared environment (structure the environment, not the child). The role of the adult is to observe and use brief teachable moments to introduce new concepts (usually by doing the activity quietly herself and waiting for a child to ask a question about it).
Unit Study Approach -
Unit studies can be as flexible or structured as a family wants. They allow for a great deal of individual choice in both the choice of units to be done and in the materials used. It is usually an in-depth study of one specific topic (baseball, the planets, trees, puffins) that takes into account many areas of the topic, such as geography, science, history, art, etc. It is a complete immersion into the topic so that the student will see things as a "whole" instead as isolated subject areas.
Unschooling is not how something is done, but why. Unschooling is the belief that all people, no matter how old or young, have a built in desire to learn (unless that desire has been crushed by outside forces). It is a belief that if you allow a person of any age to pursue their own interests throughout life they will end up gaining the knowledge they will need in order to pursue the life they want. Unschoolers use textbooks, movies, classrooms and correspondence courses, museums and magazines, jobs and volunteer positions (and the rest of the world) to learn. Unschooling is not, however, never saying no and letting the wolves raise your children.
Any combination of the styles listed above. This is really what most homeschooling families are.
How To Create a Homeschool Friendly Library
(on the cheap!)
Answers to Questions:
Put links to popular sites on your web page to refer people to and/or compile a resource binder of information from a wide variety of current on-line sources such as:
Answers to Legal Questions: Compile a binder of legal information from a wide variety of current on-line sources.
Area Supervisory Teachers contact list: Some states require the use of supervisory teachers in order to homeschool. Having a local homeschooler create a list of local teachers (and their specialties?) can really make the life of a new homeschooler far easier. All you have to do is provide a space to post the information and try to make sure it is updated once or twice a year!
Area Support Group contact list: Having a local homeschooler create a list of regional support groups, cooperatives and businesses that offer homeschool specials (ie: weekly bowling or twice a week dance lessons are common in many areas) can really make the life of a new homeschooler far easier. All you have to do is provide a space to post the information and try to make sure it is updated once or twice a year.
Be Welcoming: Homeschoolers want to be welcome to use the library during school hours. Many complain of librarians who frown at them and ask them why they are there during school hours. Yet, what better place to learn?
Book Classification Labels such as those for reading levels, historical fiction and math literature
Book Discussion Groups such as those with Junior Great Books
Cataloging with Homeschoolers in Mind: see the section below for helpful tips
Educator Cards with extended checkout periods and reduced/no fines
Find an Active Homeschool Volunteer: Those patrons who are requesting more services may very well be just the resource you need to get some of these ideas implemented!
Fliers and Pamphlets and Catalogs: While many suppliers only offer online catalogs and magazines, some are still available in print. If possible, get a collection of them and provide a vertical file of these wonderful resources.
Free Use of Meeting Room(s) for classes, meetings and speakers: Yes, sometimes a homeschool group may hire a speaker or teacher. Does this mean they can't use your meeting room to hear their chosen speaker? If so, would you be willing to hire the speaker?
Hi / Lo Readers for reluctant readers and tame YA and Adult fiction for advanced readers
Information Center: A bulletin board & more!
Interlibrary Loan that is free and friendly
Reader's Advisory: lists of math literature, historical fiction, and/or popular literature-based curricula (such as Sonlight, Veritas Press, or Five in a Row) materials that your library already owns and where to find the items.
Reading Level Assessment Tools: Microsoft Word, San Diego Quick Assessment, AR lists, Reading Counts lists, Lexiles, etc.
Scope and Sequence Charts: Compile a binder showing a typical course of study for each grade level available from Worldbook.com
Understand Grade Levels: Many home school children are at several different grade levels of curriculum. They may be in 4th grade math and 2nd grade grammar. The question "What grade are you in?" is often not an easy one or a comfortable one. Please ask instead what grade level book they are looking for.
Unit Study Kits or backpacks for a variety of ages
Cataloging With Homeschool Educators In Mind:
The problem many new homeschoolers have with Mr. Dewey's System: Many homeschoolers will never find the cool new math game books you bought if they are off in educational games (371.307) because they are looking for math materials and wouldn't think of looking outside of the 500s. They need to be near the other math books at 519.2.
J FIC vs. Math or Science: The same pre-planning works for the many wonderful math literature books such as the Sir Cumference series or The Librarian who Measured the Earth that are often shelved as J FIC (children's picture books). You can help homeschoolers by using book classification labels or even by asking homeschool volunteers to help create a listing of all of these 'mixed uses' books in your library. Please click HERE for a list of math literature books as a place to start a search of your library's holdings.
'Homeschooling' vs. 'Home Schooling' : New homeschoolers may not know where to look in the library. They go to the OPAC and type in 'homeschooling' for a subject search and find nothing because the Library of Congress has it listed as 'home schooling'. They look in the education section (371.) and again find nothing because the LoC has it categorized as 'family life' and tucked away at 649.68. These new homeschoolers then decide you aren't catering to their needs. However, many will never ask! If you can't recatalog materials, get the word out using signs, posters, bibliographies or information centers!
Knowing you can't recatalog your entire library, know too that creating bibliographies featuring books you already own is a terrific way of helping home educators, as well as making the most of what you already have.
Historical Fiction From Any Specific Time: Many home school patrons can't find appropriate historical fiction about specific topics like the Revolutionary War or Ancient Egypt because those books are listed by author's last name and they have no idea where to even begin. You can help by using "Historical Fiction" book classification labels or even by asking volunteers to help create a chronological listing of all historical literature in your library. Click HERE to see the Johnsburg Public Library's Historical Fiction list.
Many curriculum suppliers are great about listing a wide variety of recommended titles for specific eras. Posting a few of these lists will make everyone's lives much easier!
We would recommend:
Veritas Press (catalog)
Greenleaf Press (catalog)
Five in a Row (catalog)
Beautiful Feet (catalog)
The Well Trained Mind (book)
The Complete Home Learning Source Book
Purchasing for the Homeschool Resource Center (HRC):
A homeschool volunteer (who is also a former teacher) gathered specific recommendations for items from a wide variety of homeschoolers (both on-line and those from area support groups), books, and catalogs. These lists were then compiled, sorted by subject area and then by appropriate age levels. Purchases were then made based on the survey responses. Purchases were made using a $55,000 grant. Funding for this grant was provided by the Illinois State Library, a division of the Office of Secretary of State, using federal LSTA funding. We also gladly accept donated materials in good condition. Materials that are not used are sold by our Friends group at a 'Used Curriculum Fair" that is part of our annual Homeschool Open House.
Based on the survey results we specifically targeted the following purchases:
Educational philosophy books (371.042)
Homeschool information books
Curriculum and unit study materials
Textbooks currently used at the local public schools.
Catalogs of homeschooling materials (free!)
Historical fiction and non-fiction books
Science and technology books
Math game books (cataloged in math rather than in games)
Educational board games and puzzles
Video and audiotapes
Microscopes and telescopes: (2 stereomicroscopes, 2 compound microscopes, astroscan telescope and Celestron with tripod telescope)
3-D anatomy and geology displays
3-D specimens of plants and animals
Physics and Chemistry equipment
Foreign Language tape and video systems
NOTE: The collection in the HRC is carefully curated and updated to maintain a successful balance of educational philosophies, perspectives, and subjects. Changes to the original collection have been necessary due to rapidly expanding curricula options, technological advances, and changing needs in the community. VHS tapes originally purchased with grant funds have been replaced by DVDs. Educational computer games are no longer as popular because they have been replaced by mobile applications. The HRC collection is weeded regularly just as any collection in the library, using the same weeding criteria based on circulation statistics and condition and age of item. Annual purchases for the HRC are budgeted for from the library's regular Library Materials budget line item.
Christian vs. Secular Materials
Probably one of the most frequently asked questions we have been asked is in regards to how we found a balance in regards to religious materials. Admittedly this was one of the most difficult aspects of selecting materials. Every effort was made to find materials in every subject and in every grade level for every need. There are some materials that are specifically Christian, but there are always non-religious materials to balance them. For instance, we do have books on both Creationism and Evolution. So far, everyone we have had feedback from (including Atheists, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, and Wiccan) has complemented us on the balanced job, so the added effort seems to have been worth it!
How Helpful Is the HRC CollectionTo Homeschoolers?
Most families switch styles and/or curriculums an average of 7 times in the first 2 years of homeschooling! This switching around can cost tens of thousands of dollars to an already struggling single income family.
What About Circulation?
What kind of circulation has Johnsburg's Homeschool Resource Center generated? Annual circulation for items in the HRC averages approximately 3% of the library's total circulation. (The size of the HRC collection is also approximately 3% of the library's total collection.) Reciprocal borrowers account for 80-90% of the total circulation of the HRC collection. Homeschool educators have driven in from several hours away (with picnic baskets!) to make a day of visiting and making use of HRC materials.
Click HERE to see the Top 100 Circulated Items in the HRC.
Click HERE to see the Top 100 Books in the HRC.
Click HERE to see the Top 100 Non-Book Items in the HRC.
Some pages for you to look at if you are considering adding a Homeschool Resource Center to your library: