Blogger Children and Technology Committee

Creating and Implementing STEAM for Homeschoolers

According to NHERI, the National Home Education Research Institute, there were 3.7 million homeschooled American children in the 2020-21 school year. The number of parents opting to teach their children at home spiked during the pandemic and although it has since come down, it is still significantly higher than pre-COVID predictions.

Read more: Creating and Implementing STEAM for Homeschoolers

Homeschoolers are traditionally big library fans because libraries offer access to free materials to support their lessons. But we can offer so much more: we can bring them STEAM! More specifically, we can offer homeschoolers STEAM programs that are often beyond the abilities of their parents or other informal teachers. Let’s take a look at how we can leverage library resources and staff to bring the less accessible parts of STEAM – technology and engineering – to the homeschoolers in our communities.

Step 1: Program Planning

When designing a homeschool STEAM program, one thing to keep in mind is that homeschool families typically have children with different ages and abilities. To better serve them, you can create programs that work for multiple age levels. For example, you can use the Scratch educator resources to design a coding program or series and add on PBS KIDS ScratchJr for younger children. Note that you may need more than one staff member to help run these programs or use sign-ups and limited seats to make these programs work.

Two children are building at a small table. Shelves of books can be seen in the background.
Homeschoolers building towers with skewers, rubber bands, and marshmallows (photo by author)

Another way to scaffold homeschool programs for multiple ages is to set up STEAM stations. These allow older children to work independently while freeing up staff to work more directly with younger children who might need more guidance. Options for stations are nearly limitless, but either theming them or setting up each station to represent a letter in STEAM are both ways to make planning them a little easier. An example of themed stations is bridge building: one station uses LEGO and challenge cards to build bridges, another station has drinking straws and tile spacers, a third station could have bridge-building kits from Lakeshore

Two LEGO structures on a table with a yellow bin.
LEGO bridges built during a homeschool STEAM program (photo by author)

Step 2: Advertising

Once you have your plans created, the next thing you’ll need to do is let homeschool families know what you’re offering. One key to this is clearly labeling your programs with the word “Homeschool” on your calendar, in your program guide, on your social media, and anywhere else you typically market your programs. Another key to marketing is to go directly to the families via their social media. Many homeschoolers are members of local homeschool groups on Facebook, which is a great option for getting the word out. Another option is to find your local homeschool umbrellas (homeschool groups that help families with paperwork and reporting) and ask for their help to get the word out – you can just Google “local homeschool umbrellas.” 

Step 3: Learn and Adjust

When your Homeschool STEAM program is up and running, the next step is getting feedback from program participants and adjusting your offerings to better help them. From my experience, parents want libraries to offer technology (especially coding) and messy science. Your families might want something different. And you might learn that what the children want to do and what would be most beneficial to their parents are not the same thing. Seeking feedback often will allow you to adjust your offerings even though you plan programs far in advance.

Popular Offerings

My library is in a rural area, which has an effect of what my families need, but the programs that have worked best for me include:

  • Engineering using Sphero Blueprint. While Blueprint is designed for middle and high school aged students, the build guides work well for all ages. It is also easy to scaffold this down to younger children by setting up a Duplo or wooden blocks area in the program room.
  • Coding with robots – BeeBots, Sphero BOLT, and Sphero indi
  • Coding with Scratch and ScratchJr
  • Messy science: slime, oobleck, and erupting volcanoes
  • Any program that uses microscopes
Children sit around a table with building kits in front of them.
Homeschoolers (ages 6 – 15) building with Sphero Blueprint (photo by the author, Blur Face app used for censoring)

I also offer extended learning using worksheets and other printables from Scholastic Teachables. If kids are not in a homeschool umbrella, they can use worksheets in their portfolios, but caregivers appreciate them regardless.

Conclusion

STEAM programs, especially when they are messy or rely on expensive technology, are a great way to offer services to local homeschool families. Using tools like social media for marketing and Scholastic Teachables for printables can help you reach more families and make your offerings more useful.


A white woman with shoulder length hair wearing a brown floral top

Karen Earp is a children’s librarian in Somerset County Maryland. She has a background in IT, a love for all things STEAM, and a pet rabbit named Louisa May Bunnycott. 

A small gray rabbit in a white rabbit hutch

This blog post relates to ALSC Core Competencies I. Commitment to Client Group, III. Programming Skills, and V. Outreach and Advocacy

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