Homeschooling and Libraries

Things I'm thinking about and learning while working with homeschoolers and writing Helping Homeschoolers in the Library for ALA Editions.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

So What, Exactly, Is This Book You’re Writing?

For months now, I’ve been alluding to this book I’m writing, but I’ve left it shrouded in mystery – mostly because it’s my first book and the whole thing was a little overwhelming when I was first getting started. Now that I’ve written quite a bit and am getting more of a handle on the book as a whole, I’m feeling ready to say a little more about it.

The book is aimed at librarians and has two main goals: to teach librarians something about homeschooling and to help them build effective programs and services. In my experience, most people – including librarians – know relatively little about homeschooling or, if they do know something, their knowledge is limited to a particular segment of the homeschooling world. I think some librarians are reluctant to jump into building services for homeschoolers simply because they don’t know much about homeschooling. Other librarians hit roadblocks when they try to build services because they misunderstand the population. I believe that if more librarians understood more about homeschooling and saw the ways that homeschoolers’ goals are so much in line with core library values, they’d be excited to learn more and to do what they could to work with homeschoolers in their service areas.

To this end, my book is divided into two parts. The first half examines homeschooling as a series of movements and philosophies. It seeks to examine the many different reasons people homeschool, the resources that have built up to support various segments of the homeschooling population, and what different types of homeschoolers might expect from libraries. The second half of the book delves more specifically into ways libraries can build programs and services targeted specifically at homeschoolers. Each chapter contains basic information, profiles of real homeschoolers and thinkers in the homeschooling movement, and concludes with suggestions for librarians who want to further explore the topic at hand. I’m working on two appendices: one is an annotated core list of homeschooling materials for public libraries, and the other is an annotated listing of homeschooling periodicals.

Of course, I’ve been doing all this at the expense of, say, cleaning my house, so I’ve been appreciating the links, comments, and general positive reinforcement. It helps keep me working.


  • At 2:58 PM, Blogger Deb said…

    I'll be interested to know how frequently you encounter parents who are doing it mostly because they think they can do a much better job of educating their kids thoroughly than can public or private schools. That, and we think that school is often an unnecessarily boring interruption of a child's real learning.

    There are more and more of us around lately.

  • At 6:39 AM, Blogger Maureen Wittmann said…

    One thing that I hear from homeschoolers is they would like to be able to take advantage of special privileges given to teachers -- such as longer checkout periods for educational materials.

  • At 11:05 PM, Blogger Adrienne said…

    I wish there were better statistics available on homeschoolers, but researchers seem to have a really difficult time gathering data from such a wide and varied group.

    I've also heard a lot of homeschoolers ask about having the same sorts of privileges as teachers -- and it's such an easy, low-cost thing for libraries to do. I think it's also a thing that one can easily make a case for. It's currently on my list of the top ten easiest things libraries can do to better serve homeschoolers (chapter 12 in the book)....

  • At 8:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    90% of the books that we use with our Tapestry of Grace curriculum are borrowed from the library. Few, but some, nonetheless, must be borrowed by Inter Library Loan. I wish that the Inter Library Loan system were more borrower friendly. Some counties allow the borrower to reserve them online. Mine, in Harris County (one of the largest counties in the country), requires the borrower to submit a list to the librarian who, in turn, requests the book. The borrower has no idea what was or was not successfully requested until the book comes in. Then, the borrower has a limited time - say, 3 weeks - to borrow the book before the library must send it back to the library that owns the book. Renewing is either not an option at all or is only available by taking the book back to the librarian and have her request a renewal. While ILL is a wonderful resource, and one for which I am truly thankful, I wish it were less time consuming and more borrower friendly.

  • At 9:26 PM, Blogger Adrienne said…

    I couldn't agree more. Interlibrary loan ("ILL" in the library world) can be very expensive, which is I think one reason so many systems have developed complicated procedures. Simplifying things would be good for homeschoolers and all kinds of other people doing research. I hear a lot from writers who wish that ILL weren't quite so complicated, and I can't blame them. Of course, I tend to think that we should make just about everything as simple as possible.... :)

  • At 7:07 PM, Anonymous Alice said…

    I picked up a couple of flyers at my library today: Outstanding Books for the College Bound and Lifeloang Learner, and also: Best of the Best Books for Young Adults. Both published by ALA. I was gravely disappointed. One of their criteria was to choose only books published in the last 5 years. Classics have no place for the college bound? Another criteria was diversity. I'm all for diversity, but they went overboard -- really, how does The Vibe History of Hip Hop prepare a teen for college? I'd love to see the ALA get off the political correctness wagon. Thank you for listening.

  • At 11:57 PM, Blogger Nancy C. Brown said…

    I think one idea for homeschoolers is to have some programs in the early afternoon. We have a library near us that seems to really cater to the homeschooling crowd. They offer book discussion groups for multi ages (I believe they have three groups) which carry on simultaneously on a Tuesday afternoon. This is very convienent for parents of multiage homeschooler kids.

    Another class they offer homeschoolers is how to use the library more effectively. I've heard librarians complain about us homeschoolers because we use the library so much (something I can't quite understand, shouldn't librarians LOVE us??!!) but this library is taking the time to teach us how to be more independent in our use of the library, an idea which I love.

    I hope this helps your book!

  • At 10:25 PM, Blogger Adrienne said…

    I hear what you're staying about the American Library Association lists. One thing to remember when looking at any lists produced by ALA is that they're all put together by committees of librarians, who tend, as a group, to be inclusionary. What I think these groups do best is to pick the best of the best when you’re talking more contemporary works; so ALA comes up with an excellent annual lists of things like Notable Recordings for Children (I should mention that I was on that committee for a couple years) and Notable Books for Children. Even being a proud ALA member, I have to admit they aren't the source I'd look to for a list of classics. Ironic, I know, but there you go.

    The trouble with classics is that the definition of what constitutes a classic varies widely. Harold Bloom has some ideas, *I* have some ideas, and I’m sure most of my readers have some ideas – but they could all be quite different. Maureen Wittmann shared this discussion with me from her blog that addresses this issue and is most interesting. Personally, I take exception to something I see on almost *any* best-of or classics list.

    So I guess I'm not giving you any particularly good answers there, but it's an interesting comment and the question of what is or isn't a classic is such an interesting one for all of us who spend a lot of time with literature. :)

    And, yes, librarians should absolutely love homeschoolers. They're part of that 20% of people who walk in the door who account for 80% of our circulation, i.e. our best customers. More and more librarians are thinking about homeschoolers and wanting to better understand how they can serve them well.

    I love the idea of running two classes for homeschoolers at the same time. I just did two library skills classes for homeschoolers at my library yesterday: one for younger kids from 1:00-2:00 and one for older kids from 2:00-3:00. I had plenty of folks with kids who spanned the age levels. I don't know why it didn't occur to me to run them at the same time. We have two rooms we could use, and we also have two librarians. I'm remembering this next time....


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