Your Library’s Digital Resources for Homeschooling
Parents are increasingly interested in homeschooling or schooling from home due to concerns over COVID-19. According to one poll “parents with at least one child in grades K-12 finds that 6 in 10 say they would be likely to pursue at-home learning options instead of sending back their children this fall.” Another national poll reports that 40% of parents are more likely to homeschool this fall. If you are thinking about school from home, I want to put the resources from your local public library and state library on your radar.
I completely understand why parents would make the decision to homeschool, and I support parents’ right to choose what they believe is best for their children. My experience with K-12 education is a bit unique because I’ve helped students along multiple types of educational pathways. After earning my master’s, I became a public school teacher in the state of North Carolina.
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While teaching traditionally, I began supplementing my income by creating high-quality online educational content for use by homeschoolers and traditional students alike. Although I still create educational content, I eventually transitioned from the public school system and became a public librarian.
So, what does being a public librarian have to do with homeschooling, anyway?
A lot! As a public librarian, I provided several homeschool programs, and many libraries around the country provide programming like this as well. Working with homeschoolers and their parents gave me an opportunity to learn more about homeschoolers’ needs and to hear their parents' questions, concerns, and requests.
Your local librarian can provide great resources and materials to meet the needs of your homeschoolers, even if the library building is currently closed. Whether you are a seasoned homeschool teacher or you are considering homeschooling for the first time, your library has lots of awesome digital resources for your child. (Even if you plan on sending your child to a traditional school this fall, the local library can help your child to perform his or her best!)
Let’s take a look at some of the digital resources and services your library can provide for your student.
- Virtual Support and Groups for Parents and Guardians
Your librarian can recommend ebooks, sites, and guides to homeschooling your children. If teaching is new to you, it can feel incredibly overwhelming! There are so many skills that children need to develop and concepts which they must learn to grasp. Educational standards and teaching strategies may be foreign to you as well.
Allow your local librarian to connect you with materials which will help you as you steer your homeschooler towards success. It’s quite likely that your library has a virtual group for the parents and guardians of homeschoolers as well. Joining a group for homeschool families can help you to share and receive advice, as well as keep you connected to your local community.
2. Resources for Early Readers
Libraries offer ebooks for readers of all ages, and they also offer special apps for young readers. One of my favorites is TumbleBooks. It’s an online “read along” resource. Young learners can click through the pages of stories which seem to come to life — the illustrations move during the stories.
TumbleBooks has an audio feature (which can be muted) that reads the stories to students as they read the text. This is a great feature for beginner readers, language learners, and students who are “auditory” learners.
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3. Databases for All Ages
Whether your teen is researching biomes or your 8-year-old needs to learn about different types of clouds, access to high-quality information is important. Databases allow homeschoolers to learn about a wide array of topics and can eliminate questionable content and misinformation from appearing in searches.
Elementary students can benefit from databases like Gale in Context: Elementary and all K-12 homeschoolers can benefit from using SIRS Knowledge Source for research and content exploration.
You can use databases yourself to build your skills as a homeschool teacher. ProQuest Education Journals allow you to research “primary, secondary, and higher education, as well as special education, homeschooling, adult education, and hundreds of related topics.” Another great database for homeschool parents/guardians is the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), which is sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education.
4. Test Preparation and Tutoring
If you’re feeling a little rusty when it comes to algebra (or even elementary content), you’re not alone. Let your library lend a helping hand! Many libraries offer online tutoring through services such as Brainfuse HelpNow. This service also offers practice tests tailored to a variety of grade levels and subjects. With Brainfuse HelpNow, tutors and students can meet together in real-time, so your homeschooler can get the help she needs, even if she’s preparing for the SAT.
5. Digital Language Learning Opportunities
Libraries offer a variety of ways to learn languages digitally. For example, many libraries have virtual classes for English language learners, as well as virtual classes for native English speakers who would like to learn a new language.
An excellent digital resource offered by many libraries is Mango Languages. I love that this resource doesn’t limit homeschoolers (or other learners) to only “basic” options. Mango Languages offers over 70 world language courses! These courses can be used by adults as well as homeschoolers, so feel free to check out Mango and learn something new yourself as well!
6. State Libraries
When considering library resources for your student (whether or not she is a homeschooler), please don’t overlook your state library! State libraries have rich history collections, including original “primary source” documents of historical significance that have been digitized for online use. These sites are also a great place for your homeschooler to learn about government, native species, and the geography and culture of your state!
Like local libraries, state libraries offer access to ebooks, newspapers, audio and video materials, photo collections, test preparation help, databases, and much more. Also, you are not limited to visiting only your state’s library site. If you live in New Jersey and your homeschooler is interested in learning more about Hawaiian language, say “aloha” to the Hawaii State Public Library System!
It can be fascinating for learners to compare and contrast their home states with other areas of the country. Your homeschooler’s exposure to diversity, as well as American culture as a whole, will increase as she learns about other states. Check out this link to view a list of 50 state public sites.
While I listed a handful of digital resources for homeschoolers and their parents/caregivers, please keep in mind that your library has many more options and solutions for families who homeschool. Most digital library resources can be accessed online by entering your library card number when you visit your library’s website. If you don’t have a library card, call your library or chat with a librarian online through the library site. You can probably get your own virtual library card right away.
While it’s too soon to be certain about the exact percentage of homeschoolers during the upcoming school year, it seems like a pretty safe bet to say that America will experience a rise in homeschooling. Take advantage of your local library by asking questions and requesting resources. And remember that our state libraries have fantastic digital collections that support your school from home curriculum. Remember, homeschooling does not mean learning or teaching alone or without professional support!