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Back to Homeschooling at the Library


Surf at Cape Elizabeth, Portland, Me., Digital ID 63105, New York Public LibraryAs New Yorkers get ready for Back to School this week, I'll be loading the trunk of my car with library books and heading off with my family for our own version of school.

We call it "homeschooling at the library." With a library card and our library books, we can take our school anywhere. Next week it will be to New Hampshire and Maine.

This will be our 5th year of homeschooling our 12 year old son and the New York Public Library has played an integral role in our son's education. For the past four years we have used library materials and public programs almost exclusively to educate our son. Is that possible? Yes it is. How's he doing? This past June, he scored 99% on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Why the Iowa test? We like it because it covers more subjects, making it more difficult. We have only ever purchased one text book, from the Life of Fred series for Math.

Why homeschool? Is it for you? Where to start? Many reasons bring people to homeschooling. We felt like we were trying to cram a square peg into a round hole with our son and public school. He loved learning, but he hated being in school. Sensory Processing Disorder only complicated things. So, we borrowed a few books from the library about homeschooling including What Your 4th Grader Needs to Know and Homeschooling for Dummies and we've never looked back.

You can buy curriculum packages but we felt that was silly since we all have library cards. The NYPL is a treasure trove of knowledge and experiences. We borrow books, music, computer games, movies, documentaries, language cassettes and magazines. Our son logs on to both from home and while in the library to use electronic databases such as Mango Languages and Brain Pop. He attends many musical and dramatic performances at local branches and attends nearly every exhibition at all of the Research Libraries. Research that he did at the Science, Industry and Business Library helped him win a national science contest and a trip to Washington, D.C., Last week he won a blue ribbon and a "best in show" for his French Macaron cookies at the New York State Fair. He learned to cook them from a library book that he picked up at Mid-Manhattan Library, Macarons: Authentic French Cookie Recipes.

So what are we packing as we head off to start 8th grade? We'll focus on the geography of the seacoast, marine biology and stories and poems to tie everything together. A great benefit of homeschooling is the ability to travel off peak and off season and reap many savings benefits.

We'll bring Ted Hughes' The Mermaid's Purse. It's one of our favorites for sea-themed poetry. We'll have books on sea glass since we like to collect it on the beach and make jewelry out of it when we get back home. We've packed at least half a dozen books on sea shells and sea creatures. I don't push Math too much if we're traveling, but my son will help with our travel budget and calculating gas mileage and map reading. I've tucked How Deep Sea Divers Use Math into my suitcase because I know that will interest him. I'll be reading aloud from Moby Duck by Donovan Hohn as we drive — a fascinating environmental tale. We'll also visit the Seacoast Science Center in Rye, NH and the new William Wegman exhibit at Bowdoin College in Maine. When we get back to New York William Wegman will be here at NYPL on September 19th at 6 p.m.

If you are considering homeschooling you might want to start with the Core Knowledge series of books. Pick up a copy of our latest edition of Roar! at your local branch and browse the listing of classes, programs and exhibitions for kids. Ask any of our librarians for help or suggestions. Good luck and happy travels!


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Seacoast education

I'm a lifelong learner, and your lovely and thoughtful post has given me more gifts from the NYPL and my local systems to investigate. In return, may I suggest checking the National Park Service website for volunteer opportunities as you travel? That's how I became a devoted Boston Harbor Islands volunteer and then a citizen science participant. I'm just finishing working with a graduate student studying the invertebrate population of the intertidal zones. This student started as a local teen volunteer, then a seasonal park ranger and biology technician, and now a NPS sponsored graduate student launching her science and research career. And yes,you get to use science AND math! Topography, and timing investigations with the tides are important aspects. The rangers, and many of the regular volunteers are polymaths, and everyone loves questions of all sorts and at all levels of interest and expertise. As a landlocked landlubber gorwing up, I had only a brief passing experience with the Atlantic coast. Imagine my delight when I inspected my first tide pool this summer and watched it in amazement as it became animated with hermit crabs, silvery fish, periwinkles, mussels, clams, crabs, worms, shrimp, tunicates, beautiful seaweeds and algae, barnacles, various rocks, shells and much, much more! Nothing made me giggle so much as walking near a buried mussel and being squirted! Or gawking at hermit crabs having more complicated relationships than any soap opera or Shakespearean comedy or tragedy. Best to you and your son on your fabulous journey of discovery!

Great volunteering and

Great volunteering and learning suggestions, thank you so much! I'm the Volunteer Manager here at NYPL and I always love hearing about what others are doing. In my spare time I'm a Nature Watch Volunteer for the Basha Kill Area Association. We teach visitors about bald eagles, ospreys, and the other creatures of this fantastic wetlands area. Your experience sounds very exciting. Our family loves to volunteer too and we recently participated in a citizen science project about marine invaders at Sandy Hook, New Jersey's Gateway National Park. We love the National Park Service. Their volunteers will be teaching us to kayak this weekend!

Very interesting and useful

Very interesting and useful post, Maura. Thanks. Love the Brain Pop!

Love your post. It's

Love your post. It's incredible and inspiring that your son could do all that, just using the NYPL.

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