Seventy-eight percent of U.S. homeschooling families use the library as their main source of educational materials.
When considering the homeschool option, parents may worry about the potential cost of supplies and learning materials. It’s true–Books, videos, software, Internet access, and classes are often expensive. However, an oft-overlooked source of these learning materials, free to everyone, is the public library system.
According to a 2003 study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 78 percent of U.S. homeschooling families use the free public library as their main source of learning materials.
A 2009 study conducted by the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) found that homeschooling families spend dramatically less money per student than public schools with significantly better test results. Widespread use of the public library system by homeschoolers may account for the difference in cost.
Homeschooling mother April Higgins of West Seattle, “figured as a very rough and low estimate, we check out [from the public library] approximately $18,000 worth of books, CDs and audiotapes annually.”
According to the NHERI study, homeschoolers spend an average of $600 per year on educational costs while U.S. taxpayers spend an average of $10,000 per public school student each year.
Public Library Resources and Services Beyond Books
Libraries are known for their borrowable books, but they provide much more. Public library patrons can check out:
- books and magazines
- audio books
- videos (entertainment and educational)
- audio CDs (music and audio courses)
- software DVDs (games and curriculum programs)
Public library services and events may include:
- homework help
- study groups
- book clubs
- classes and workshops
- free Internet Access
- computer use
- book sharing between libraries
- meeting space
- exhibit space
- knowledgeable librarians
- story times, puppet shows, and musical performances
- author readings
- craft workshops
Resources on library websites may include:
- online catalog search
- remote book renewal and tracking
- children’s pages
- listen to stories or music
- homework help reference links
- instant messaging with librarians
Free Internet Access and Online Learning
Frugal homeschoolers need not even pay for Internet access because most public libraries provide complimentary wireless Internet access as well as some computers for use. Homeschoolers can take their computers and use the library’s wireless Internet access, or they can use the library’s computers to access free online learning resources.
The public library can play a significant role in creating an out-of-the-box or unschooling curriculum or provide access to an online homeschool program. A typical educational program utilizes books, videos, reference materials, peers, and knowledgeable helpers. The library can provide these elements.
The majority of homeschoolers use the library. It has much to offer, from borrowable learning materials to useful services and fun events, and it helps families to save money by providing free access to these materials and services.