Note: This article is not just for home-schooling parents. Other caring parents may benefit from some of these tips for their child’s education.
The public or university library is one of the best student dwelling places! For the home-schooled student, it’s also a free or inexpensive source for materials for his studies, and there can be fine programs to meet the needs of everyone in the family. What can you, as a parent, do to facilitate good use of this magnificent source?
Set a goal for that visit. To make effective use of our student’s time in the library, it’s better not to just point him at it and say, “Go!” then skip off for coffee. (I have done that, with disastrous results!) He may find himself wandering looking for the right thing to do or even for inspiration. Instead, before you leave the house, make a plan for that visit. Why are we going to the library? For what subjects are you going to look for materials? What topic(s) within that subject? What kinds of materials do you think we need to find to assist work on that subject? What kind of questions are you (or better yet, he) going to ask the librarian if you can’t find what you need? Are you also going to leave time for pleasure reading and selecting? Are we going just to do homework or reading or is this visit for research, taking notes, and borrowing materials? As you work this out together, write these down, at least in list form to refer to later.
Decide your role as a parent during that visit. Are you going there as a partner in your child’s work for the day, helping him determine what he needs and guiding his steps? Are you there only as a resource, showing him where things are, but letting him make the decisions himself? Or, are you just dropping him off (with specific instructions) or taking the younger kids to the children’s sections? Whatever you decide, make sure you tell him exactly what role you’ll be taking during that day’s library visit. This will avoid any unclear expectations.
Hold him accountable. When you are finished together or pick him up from the library, have your child make a summary of what he accomplished during that time. Since you wrote your goals down before leaving the house, you can now compare them with what actually occurred. If the accomplishment fell short of the goal, examine together why. Were the goals too big? If not, did he not know where or how to find materials or ask for help? Was he not sure of what exactly he went to work on? That is, were the objectives not clear and specific enough (or sometimes, too specific, and the materials just didn’t exist)? Or, was he distracted by something, such as the arrival of a friend or a pleasure book? After answering these questions, you can decide how to make improvements for the next visit to the library.
Services and Programs. It is also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the services and programs the library has to offer. Many libraries have a brochure detailing the service available, or a calendar of upcoming events. At least, you can tell your librarian that you are a homeschooling family and ask what kinds of services you ought to be aware of. If you do not have Internet access in your home, you may be able to establish a limited account at the library. There may also be an interlibrary loan system you can take advantage of.
If you have a busy household, the library may or may not be the ideal place to get school work done, depending on several factors. This should be evaluated by both parent and student. However, the library’s only purpose should not be limited simply to a quiet place, but be used to enhance your home schooler’s studies.