The BEST Budget-Friendly Way to Keep Your Homeschooling Library Fresh!

curriculum free how-to reading teach well unit study unschooling Sep 18, 2023
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Are you on a budget but still want rich homeschool materials? Your local library can help you create a homeschool library that you’re looking for FREE of charge.

The first two years of our homeschool journey, I was able to use most of the curriculum resources I had from when I was a public school teacher because they were at the same level on which my daughter was working. When we got through those resources and our younger son was ready to begin schooling alongside our daughter, I started shopping around. The big box, all-in-one curriculum was very attractive to me, but the price tag, not so much! Gratefully, I had a homeschooling mama friend who revealed to me a treasure trove of curriculum resources, which centered around the concept of creating a free homeschooling library in my own home using materials which I could check out at our local network of libraries.

Beyond saving us money, the library became not only our main system of acquiring curriculum materials, but a way in which we all came to value and partner with the staff of our local library. My kids and I developed a love for the library in a way that was definitely due to the fact that we spent so much time there. Our consistent visits to find books led to more hours at story time, special events, and then to a partnership with the children’s librarians in which we helped them develop homeschool events for the community at large. We can confidently say that using the library is the best budget-friendly way to homeschool.

How to access homeschooling materials at your local library:

Before we even get started, set yourself up with a library card. That’s the ticket to all of this treasure. When your kids are old enough to get their own, make a special moment out of it…it’s a big deal! Find your local libraries by entering your zip code into the US library finder here.

In our county, the libraries are in partnership with each other with the goal of providing access to their materials for all residents. This means that we are able to find the location of an item at any library in the county and have it delivered to our home library for pick up. When we were ready to return the item, we dropped it off at our local library to be delivered back to its original location. This means we had an entire county's worth of library materials around the corner from our home…..sweet and smart! A fresh homeschooling library that aligned with our plan of study without opening our wallet.

Each municipality operates independently and makes their own rules about sharing library resources. Contact your local library to find out if this service is available to your community.

In researching for this article, we learned of another way to connect with libraries online all over the country through the World Cat online search engine. According to their website, they “help you find exactly what you need from thousands of libraries around the world.” Woohoo! What more could a homeschool momma want?!

Whether online or through the local community, once you are set up with a library account and a way to access materials, a free homeschool library for your home that aligns with your lesson plans and topics of study is ready to be established.

How creating a free homeschooling library actually works:

1. Align your homeschool lessons with books you will need.

Create a schedule of when materials are needed that matches the topics and content of your homeschool lessons.

When year-long lesson plans have been made, it’s easy to view the content by the month. Otherwise, nail down approximately when topics in core subjects will be studied. We have homeschool schedule ideas and samples here for reference. Use these plans to reserve items and schedule in the online library platform pick up dates.


2. Search and place holds for homeschool curriculum.

Devote time to search for homeschool curriculum items and to place holds within the online library platform.

Think of this as the most fun homeschool shopping because it’s FREE!! Once in the online library platform, try entering in one of the items on the curriculum wish list or search for the area of study to find items that look interesting. Look for more than just books. Libraries have books on CD, DVD and as e-readers. They have teacher editions, educational games, puzzles and even free passes to museums!

Once an item is found, place a hold and enter the date the item needs to be available. Choose to reserve all the materials on the list once for the entire school year if year-long plans are solidified or do it as it’s convenient. It’s going to take time to get all of the items reserved but, it’s worth it!


3. Create a space in your home for the “homeschool library."

Once the items are received, keep these library materials separate from personal materials. It’s a hard lesson to learn if fines are being accessed for late materials and/or lost items need to be replaced at full cost. Keep them together and it will be easier to return them all at once when they’re due.

Use a sturdy basket or dedicated shelf/cabinet as a catch all for only these library materials. This will not only keep them together but encourage kids to go through the materials as they know they’ll only “own” them for a short amount of time.


4. Know your due dates!

Sign up to receive due date notifications for texts or emails so there are no surprises of when to return the homeschool books.

The library may provide a way to send notifications and, if they print them, keep the paper receipt showing all that was checked out and the due dates. This list of checked out items can be kept to fulfill legal requirements of a curriculum list in a homeschool portfolio.

Have kids take note of the due dates as well and ask them to gently give reminders when they’re coming due. This is also an encouragement to keep the space in which you keep these materials that we discussed above neat and orderly.


5. Connect with your librarians.

Plan to regularly visit the library for their homeschool programming and/or special events to make connections.

Add a few minutes around these experiences to let kids independently investigate the children’s section while keeping an eye on them. Let them linger and read, check out a few items that interest them and just enjoy the space. This helps the librarians feel valued and that their efforts of choosing quality resources are appreciated.

Establishing and nurturing a good relationship with the librarians may also create opportunities. We benefited from this in several ways, one being a chance for one of our sons to display for a few months his insect collection in the main display case of the children’s section. Imagine how proud he was to see his creation there.


6. Ask for help accessing your homeschool books.

When your desired homeschool materials are not available, contact the children's department director who may order them for you.

You are a taxpayer funding their budget and they want to kindly hear your needs and requests. We were surprised to learn from our children’s department librarian that it’s difficult to get feedback from families on what specific materials would benefit them. Once that door was opened, we were blessed by many purchases of items that we suggested. If the library isn’t able to purchase requested materials but they do take suggestions, let them know that another great way to make resources easy to find is to create a homeschool resource shelf with teacher editions/parent guides/educational research studies/magazines/periodicals for parents and/or teachers. This may help them spend their budget in a way that helps the community at large as well as homeschool families.


That’s it, the nitty gritty on how to create a revolving door of homeschool materials for free. Utilizing the public library will keep your homeschool library from getting boring or stale, and you will always be able to keep your kids coming back for more learning.

Love on the library and it will love you back!❤️️📚


If you like this article, be sure to check out our other blog posts that are related:

How To Plan Your Homeschool Year

Planning For Enrichment


Do you need more smart and/or budget-friendly homeschooling ideas?  Join our weekly support meetings where we ask and answer all homeschool questions, share wins, and trade homeschool secrets. :)


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