Use Your Library

by Catherine Livens

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An old proverb says, "Wear the old coat; buy the good book." That could certainly describe some of my book loving friends, and because books are vital to education we need to know when to cut corners and when not to.

There was a time when books were so expensive that schools didn't use them. The lecture system of classroom education came from that situation -- the teacher had to convey his knowledge to the students without any books. Thankfully, that day is gone!

Ordinarily, I write about the Charlotte Mason method of education and one of my favorite aspects of that method is the fact that it can be done very economically and there's no expensive curriculum to purchase. For the most part, the books you use in any method of home schooling can be obtained from the library at no charge, which is the most economical source for all kinds of books. Incidentally, my ideal library would be a place where we could checkout resources (such as microscopes) and educational tools, and not be limited to printed matter. Let your local lawmaker know that you'd approve of your library expanding its stock to include more hands-on learning tools. Even though it would come out of your taxes, in the long run it may prove more economical to share than to have each household owning its own microscope.

If you find yourself thinking, "But I need curriculum -- not books!" the truth is, you need both. Try reading a library book on chimpanzees or whales. You'll learn and retain more information from one book than you are likely to get from a textbook entry on either subject. The library has biographies, poetry, and huge coffee table size art appreciation books. They also have periodicals on bird watching, sewing, gardening -- anything you can think of is available in one form or another.

Between library visits you'll want to frequent garage sales, used bookstores and large thrift stores, keeping your eyes open for interesting books on educational topics and classic literature. While you're looking, keep in mind to be well read is to be well educated. Because it's difficult to read an entire classic during a library loan (even with renewals) you'll want to start an inexpensive collection of them. One used book per payday is how I managed to obtain a rather large collection. I always looked for a readable format in an inexpensive book. I want it to open comfortably and have a good, wide margin so that the text doesn't run into the spine of the book. Nobody will enjoy reading a book that wasn't constructed properly -- and if no one reads it, you've wasted your money.

Home schooling families are often on a limited budget due to the one income lifestyle they've chosen. It's usually a necessity to have one parent home to be available to teach the children. So when you find that the money for books is scarce, think on the bright side. Your collection will reflect the fact that you had to be choosier concerning your purchases. Fewer but excellently written books, is something to be proud of.

Catherine Levison is a long-term home schooling parent with over a decade of experience. She is the mother of five children and a grandmother. Catherine's a popular public speaker with parenting and educational audiences throughout the United States and Canada, as well as the author of the book, A Charlotte Mason Education: A How-To Manual, More Charlotte Mason Education, and Catherine's latest book, A Literary Education: An Annotated Book List. Catherine resides with her family in the Seattle area.

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