Library Schooling: TRY IT!

Low cost and free homeschooling using real books

For families on a budget, a low cost/no cost homeschool education is very attractive.

But one of the rules of frugality is that while one might not be spending money, one is usually investing with time and energy instead.

I can't do the heavy lifting, but I can offer some advice about how to use the library and internet as your primary resources for your homeschool.

The previous post about Library Schooling gave a recommendation (Core Knowledge Sequence) as a blueprint for your relaxed or delight-directed homeschool. The outline is thorough, age appropriate for the average child, and increases in detail and complexity each year.

When you begin to homeschool, you may realize one of the major errors of traditional schooling--compartmentalization. Science only occasionally touches history. Math and literature never meet. Do they even teach art and music anymore?

Library Schooling can tear down these artificial barriers and use the connections between different subject areas to spark curiosity and bring cohesiveness to your child’s educational experience.

Library Schooling is highly adaptable. You can even continue to use the curriculum you purchased and supplement your child's educational experience with real books. 

Here's how you can add resources from the library to the program you are currently using.

Some homeschooling methods naturally lend themselves to Library Schooling, such as unit studies, Charlotte Mason, eclectic/relaxed, delight-directed, unschooling. If you are already engaged in a homeschooling method that employs ‘real books’ more often than textbooks, you probably recognize some aspects of what I am describing. You visit the library and discount bookstores frequently, your answer to many of your kid's questions is "Google it!", you seldom miss an opportunity to take advantage of your child’s curiosity, and you’ve gotten over that anxious feeling you used to have when you put the books down to crawl around in the back yard looking at bugs and leaves under a magnifying glass.

For those who value the formality and structure of traditional schooling, and wonder how one would go about customizing Library Schooling to fit in to your day, browse the library for real books that cover some aspect of  topics currently being studied. Spend a few minutes reading together and discussing what you've read. Watch your kids feel more inspired to learn because you are giving them real life context and continuity.

Many authors are able to blend mountains of factual information with fascinating stories to capture our interest and imagination. Step away for a moment from the textbooks, and grab The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum off the shelf. Read it together (so you can do any needed age-appropriate editing), and discuss discoveries in and applications of chemistry, biology, criminology, and technology during the Roaring Twenties (don’t tell me that your kids won’t get a kick out of telling grandma and all their friends that they read The Poisoner’s Handbook in school that week).

Maybe you'd like to explore music and its effects on the brain, from Alzheimer’s sufferers to synesthesia and savants, in Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks. Biographies and memoirs are one of my favorite ways for kids to engage in learning that feels more concrete and relatable. Coffee table books, which usually weigh about 40 pounds and do not fit in the average book bag, are full of beautiful pictures with minimal text that capture a child's interest and imagination.

Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax
By Dorothy Gilman

For some educational fun in the fiction section, try one of our favorite book series - the Mrs. Pollifax mystery series by Dorothy Gilman (note: this is an adult series with some mild obscenities and violence). Mrs. Emily Pollifax is a very resourceful woman “of a certain age” who ‘accidentally’ joins the CIA. When she isn’t taking karate lessons or caring for her geraniums, she is on an adventure in a different country in every novel, with lots of detailed descriptions of each country and historical details. You kids can get a glimpse of life before the internet and cell phone!

You may be committed to a particular method or curriculum or program, but let me encourage you to look forsupplemental material that is a bit unusual. It doesn’t have to be published by Scholastic or shelved in the children’s section. It can be strange, quirky, or unconventional. And children can learn to enjoy gathering information from a variety of sources and making connections that can inspire them to further study.

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