Blogger Abby Johnson

How to Help Homeschoolers and E-Learners

Schools are starting back up, but many of your families may be choosing alternatives to brick and mortar schools for the first time this year. Are you prepared to help homeschoolers and e-learners this fall? This is something we’ve been thinking about for the past few months at my library and I wanted to share the ways that we’re preparing to help new and continuing homeschoolers and our families who are choose virtual learning.

A box of crayons is in the foreground with a child coloring in the background

Updating our website

Have you looked at your homeschool resources page on your website recently? I found that ours had not been updated in awhile and was quite basic. I started a shared document with our youth services and reference librarians and asked for suggestions on how we could beef it up. I also reached out to some of our local homeschooling families for resource suggestions and they really came through for us! Think about resources for both homeschooling families and families who may be doing a hybrid or needing extra help on top of e-learning this school year. Your website may be the first (and only) place families engage with the library, so having a page to help homeschoolers find your resources and services for them is essential.

Turning up the internet and letting people know about it

Also part of our COVID response was increasing the range of our wireless internet so that families can use it from our parking lots at all our locations. If your library has different computer policies than normal due to COVID, make sure you are communicating that information as best you can. Families may have forgotten over the summer or their circumstances may have changed since school was last in session, so be clear and communicative about what your families’ options for internet and computer use is. In our current “virtual reality”, providing internet access is an important way to help homeschoolers and e-learners.

Updating our homeschooling books

Because we do a lot of programming for our local homeschoolers already, I’m in the habit of updating our homeschool and parenting books pretty regularly. If you’re not, now’s a great time to take a look. I have a list of recently updated homeschooling books on my personal blog if you need a place to get started. I have also been purchasing some of these titles for our digital collection, as well.

I looked for not only books that address homeschooling, but also books that would help homeschoolers and e-learners know what subjects and topics are generally covered in school. Your state Department of Education surely includes the educational standards on their website, but can families easily interpret them? I know a lot of families who are concerned about keeping their kids on track. One suggestion from a blogger I follow is to get workbooks for grade levels. They generally start easier and build on skills as you go through, so they can be an indicator of what is typically taught in each grade. Families don’t have to actually do all the worksheets for them to be helpful as a guide. And I know it’s probably not practical for your library to purchase consumable books, but that’s a suggestion you can pass on to your families if you like it.

Training and providing resources for staff

Our staff answering the phones and chat reference are not always going to be our staff who have the most experience working with our homeschooling families. Do staff know how to help homeschoolers telling them “I’m brand new to homeschooling and don’t know where to start!”? Years ago when our schools had big budget cuts that resulted in some reorganization, we had lots of families opting for homeschooling. I put together a simple flyer that my youth services staff could hand to new homeschoolers. It includes state homeschooling information, local homeschool support groups, and information about our library’s homeschool programs and collections that might be useful. This year, I’m creating a digital version that we’ll save in our general email account so that any staff who are assigned to check this email have easy access. I’m adding the resources that have been suggested to me by the homeschoolers I have reached out to.

Improving digital resources and services

With many schools going virtual, now’s the time (if you haven’t already) to take a look at what you’re offering and how you’re letting patrons know about it. As part of our COVID-19 response, my library has already created an easy one-stop page for all our digital resources, including databases that will be helpful for students. We’re adding a digital tutoring service, which I think homeschooling, e-learning, and traditional schooling families will find useful. Even if you don’t have the budget to add paid services right now, seek out free resources that you can suggest to your families. For example, do you know about Rose Hulman University’s free math tutoring AskRose.org?

Not sure where to start?

If you’re brand new to homeschooling yourself, I have a couple of book recommendations for you: Helping Homeschoolers in the Library by Adrienne Furness (ALA, 2008) is a bit older, but a good introduction to library services for homeschoolers. A reader also recommended the book Homeschooling and Libraries: New Solutions and Opportunities edited by Vera Gubnitskaia and Carol Smallwood (McFarland Press, 2020). Reading one or both of these books may help you prepare yourself for engaging with your homeschooling community.

And don’t be afraid to reach out to your local homeschoolers for ideas and to ask directly how your library can best support them. Right now, with many library buildings closed, it may be difficult to identify homeschooling families if you aren’t already familiar with some. Look for local homeschool groups – often the moderators of these groups will be happy to put you in touch with folks who can answer questions.

ALSC also has resources that can help! Here are some posts from this very blog about helping homeschoolers in the library:

What other ways are you preparing to serve e-learners and new homeschooling families this school year? I would love to get your suggestions in the comments!

This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group, II. Reference and User Services

6 comments

  1. Jennifer

    Thank you so much for posting these great resources Abby! We’re just in the process of looking at our homeschooling resources at my library system (as well as an online tutoring company)-so this is very helpful!

    1. abbylibrarian Post author

      Thanks, Jennifer! I’m so glad you’re finding it useful! I figured a lot of libraries would be in our same boat this year.

  2. Donna Butler

    Thanks for this. Great pointers and reminders, too. Our little branch has always had a large homeschool segment. As our home school audience grew, I hosted Story Time Adventures for several years for ages 4-7 and Lunch & Learn for 8-10 year olds. Story Time Adventures was weekly, while Lunch & Learn was monthly or bi-monthly. We focused on storytelling, nonfiction picture books, (especially STEAM), author studies and history. All our sessions were well attended and fun. However, a change in our home school demographics (families moving, kids aging out of homeschooling to co-ops) gradually eroded both programs. So, last year we offered Wonderful Wednesdays for ages 5-9. Each week was a different focus. We offered Storytelling, Biography, a Book Club and STEAM on a weekly rotation. Each week offered stories, multiple learning stations and art. LOTS of work, but very successful! Parents and their children chose to attend if the subject was something they were interested in or needed pointers on. One of my co-staff is a retired nationally certified teacher for the gifted. We are looking forward to helping our parents struggling with the frustrations and expectations of home schooling their kids. I wish us ALL luck in a new programming environment.

    1. abbylibrarian Post author

      Those are some great homeschooling programs! Are you offering in-person programs at your library this school year or transitioning your programs to virtual?

  3. Nancee

    Was there more to this post?

    1. abbylibrarian Post author

      Yes, Nancee! Thanks for your comment – I realized that I formatted it incorrectly with a page break instead of a “read more” break. I’ve fixed it now! My apologies!

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