Okay, it’s been a while since I wrote the last one, but I think it’s time again for Unschooling on a Budget. This one, I think, will be a no-brainer.
My last post was on where to wisely spend money, on technology. Since you know where I advise you do spend money, I thought the next step only made sense to talk about where to save money next. Go visit your local library.
Okay, so maybe you already know the wonders of your local library. Maybe you go visit every week. If you do, good for you! You’re already making the system work for you. If not, you should really consider making it a part of your routine.
We do a lot more at our local library than just pop in to take out books. Of course, books are a wonderful resource and I highly recommend every family take use of the wonderful books the library can hold in store for you, but there are other benefits with most local libraries that you should fully take advantage of.
For example, there’s generally space in the children’s section to play. This is awesome not just because it gives kids a chance to play, but it’s also an opportunity for that wonderful thing people think homeschool kids don’t get enough of, socialization. We particularly love the library because it gives the kids a chance to play with things we just don’t have the room for at home, like the train table and the large building blocks.
Most libraries also offer other social opportunities for kids, not just through the summer. Some libraries have book clubs. Our library has build days with LEGO blocks and KEVA plank building. There’s the “Book Buddy” program where kids can practice their reading skills with one of their friendly dog visitors. They have a teen movie day and a teen game day during February vacation. These can be excellent, free ways to get out, be social, and make a few friends. Depending on what your library has to offer, you might find some topics that line up with areas of interest as well.
Most libraries these days have computers as well. Ours also has some tablets set up in the children’s section. This can be a great time to have kids access whatever programs or safe websites are set up for the library. This can also provide a quiet space for teens to work or research things that interest them while younger kids are off to play. In the kids’ section the computers are very kid-friendly, offering an inviting place to play and explore.
This is also a valuable resource if you don’t have a lot of technology at home for your kids to explore with, or if there is a lot of competition for the technology you do have. This can also be a great opportunity to explore if you’ve got some kids looking for books still, or involved in another program at the library and you’ve got another kid that’s just trying to pass the time.
And let’s not forget the books. Our local library is part of a large library network, meaning we can get books from all sorts of other libraries we wouldn’t normally be able to visit. All I have to do is go online and reserve them. Even if your library isn’t a part of a larger network, libraries often have a variety of books on any number of topics, allowing you to freely explore without the need to buy and store books on every topic. This is a great (and free) way to help your kids learn about the topics that interest them.
It’s not just books you can get at the library either. You can get out music, DVDs, and even comics and manga. Corde particularly likes getting manga from the teen section of the library. Manga, comics, and movies can get expensive and take a lot of space to store. Just like books, they can often only be used for a single read through, then they just end up taking up space. Having the opportunity to borrow these things saves a lot of money and gives your kids a lot of freedom to explore.
Some libraries (like mine) also offer free or reduced passes for local museums and zoos. You may have to wait for the passes to come in and probably have to reserve them ahead of time, but this can be a great way to get out to see local attractions for free or for cheap. Of course, how free or cheap it is may depend on how large your family is. If the pass is good for a family of four and you have, say, six, that might change how effective those passes are, but it’s a lot cheaper to pay for two admissions than for a whole family of six. It’s worth looking into because it can save you a healthy chunk of change.
What if there’s no events at your library that your kids want to go to? Well, you can always suggest your own. Most libraries are open to starting new events. Maybe your kids are into Pokemon and want to set up a Pokemon league. Perhaps they’re interested in having a knitting day. It’s great not just for the opportunity to do something they love, but for the experience of organizing an event and getting it running. It’s definitely a good life skill, and can be a lot of fun.
Another thing to think about? If you’re able to get out to other towns’ libraries, sometimes they offer events that would be of interest to you and your children. It might be worth the extra travel to go to an event a little further away if it matches with your family’s interests. I’ve never to this day heard of a library that will turn people away from their free public events simply because someone doesn’t live in that town. Definitely check out the neighboring towns for what they have to offer too.
For most of you, I’m sure this is old hat. I know a lot of homeschooling and unschooling families spend time at their local library. It’s a common and well-known resource. If you’re not making the most out of it, you definitely should look into everything your local library has to offer.