The featured article on front page of yesterday’s Bismarck Tribune entitled “Learning at Home” on the subject of homeschooling in North Dakota got me thinking about the relationship between homeschooling families and libraries. Homeschoolers have long been frequent users of public libraries, and while we in libraries are aware of this fact, we don’t always think past counting them amongst our weekly visitors to the library to explore how we can provide the best possible service targeted to the needs of homeschooling parents and their children.
In North Dakota, as in the rest of the country, homeschooling is on the rise. According to the Tribune article, there are 1,879 homeschooling families in North Dakota as of early this month. In Bismarck, the number of families belonging to the Bismarck-Mandan Area Home Educators group has risen from 90 in 2012 to 118 at the end of 2013. On a national level, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that the number of homeschooled students increased from 1.1 million in 2003 to 1.5 million in 2007, and by 2012, the number had risen to 1.77 million. This steady increase in homeschooling further highlights the need for libraries to give due consideration to how we can help this special population in our communities.
The book Helping Homeschoolers in the Library (2008) by Adrienne Furness, published by ALA and available for loan from NDSL, provides a great overview of the relationship between public libraries and homeschooling families, and outlines some best practices for providing the best possible library service to this group.
Furness says the first step is to develop personal relationships with these families. Strike up conversations with them when they come to the library. Find out what kind of special curriculum they’re using, and ask for suggestions for materials to add to the collection that would be of use to them. Find out what local groups exist to support homeschooling families. Join their discussion lists and sign up to receive their newsletters – these groups are a great outlet for marketing the library’s services and a great way to keep on top of what’s going on with homeschoolers in your community.
Additionally, the book gives some great advice on developing programs targeted to homeschooling students and parents, and for developing a special collection of resources geared specifically toward homeschoolers – check in with the blog next Monday for more on these topics. North Dakota residents and libraries can reserve NDSL’s copy of Helping Homeschoolers in the Library through our online catalog.