How the Local Library Can Be a Homeschooler’s Best Friend!

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As a mom, I am all about being cost-effective.

And this isn’t just about hard times. If I can save money on one thing, that means I have money to splurge (…I mean to spend responsibly…) somewhere else.

One way of saving money while adding free value in the education department is the library.

I have a growing appreciation for the library, and depending on where yours is located, and how advanced their services are, you might find your local library comes in handy too.

Let’s grab the free stuff and learn about 4 ways you can utilise your local library to boost your homeschooling experience AT NO EXTRA COST (more or less).

Your Local Library is a Great Source of Free books

The first and very obvious use of a library is its selection of books you can use and often take home for free.

This isn’t a book rental programme my friends. You can walk into your local library, become a member, and walk out with a book without paying for it!

In Jamaica, there is a limit of one book per child (three per adult), and books are loaned for two weeks. I like this arrangement, especially for my children. I have children whose interests are both diverse and sometimes fickle.

Imagine having to buy several books for multiple topics for all three children all the time. I would end up having to start my own library!

So, we use the library to feel out new interests, and when the excitement has waned, the books are returned.

It’s a win-win!

Some of the library books my children have borrowed
Some of the library books my children have borrowed

 

The general division of the books is in one section for adults, and the other section for children. Within each of those general sections you will find other subdivisions that include:

  1. Reference books – these are typically not allowed to be taken home but if you have a curious child who wants some fun facts or extra reading, let them go and hang out in this section.
  2. Non-fiction – these are available for taking home and will include topics ranging from transportation to marine life, and even history.
  3. Fiction – this section has all the tales and stories that make reading fun for children. My children have found some really memorable books in this section, like Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey! (Leave a comment if you know this great book!)

Your Local Library is a Great Source of Free Computers!

Yes, you read that right! Just walk into your local library and request the use of a desktop (and in some cases, a tablet) and the library staff will sign your children on to one – free internet included!

How sweet is that?!

What’s the catch, you ask?

There is no catch – unless you consider being restricted to 45 minutes for each session a catch? But I think that’s very reasonable, especially considering the short attention span of a typical child anyway. Plus, if there’s no-one else waiting to use a computer, your children can ask for an extension on their time.

My children have used library computers for online class and each class time is a whole hour. The library staff graciously extended the time usage for them!

How can a homeschooling family use free library computers?

If your family does not yet have enough computers to go around, there is still no excuse for your children to be technologically ignorant. Here are just a few of the ways you can still educate your children using devices they don’t even own!

  1. Keyboarding – allow them to practice correct body and finger posture for typing
  2. Computer science – let them explore different parts of the computer and their functions
  3. Internet – have them learn how to navigate websites, do research, and use online learning platforms like Zoom or Google classroom etc.
  4. Computer apps – teach them skills such as word processing, file creation and even digital art!

Why use Library Computers for Homeschooling if you Have Devices at Home?

But wouldn’t it be redundant to use the library’s devices if you already have yours?

Not necessarily.

You see, although homeschooling is great, it comes with its challenges. One potential hurdle is the need to keep things fresh and new. Mixing things up in terms of content and materials is always a good thing to keep your young learners inspired.

Another option is to switch up your location. That might be as simple as moving from the living room to the verandah. But one more drastic location variation is to leave the house entirely!

That’s where the local library comes in! So, although we might have all the devices we need at home for home education, we sometimes enjoy learning in a different environment. By using the library’s computers, we don’t have to lug all our devices around and the children have something extra to look forward to as part of their school day.

It’s also a plus when you’re fortunate enough to be in the Falmouth area. That’s because we can take to the sea that’s right across the road from our local library after classes!

Beach time after lessons at the library
Beach time after lessons at the library

Here are some cautionary notes when using the JLS computers:

  1. As is true for any library, it is important to keep noise at a minimum. It’s not that you can’t talk at all, but as was the case for my children’s online school, you would need to supply your own headphones.

2. Although using a JLS computer for word processing and research is free, printing is definitely not. So, if you want to have material to take home, consider saving it to your own thumb drive, sending it to your email, or saving it to a cloud-based storage. It’s either that or you can ask the library staff for instructions on how to send your files to their printer and pay for it!

As at the time of this writing, printing costs were as depicted below:

Jamaica Library Service Printing Fees
Jamaica Library Service Printing Fees, Source: https://www.jls.gov.jm/programmes-services/

3. The JLS devices are used by the public. That means you insert thumb drives at your own risk of malware. It also means you should exercise extreme caution when it comes to entering personal information.

4. The library devices are used by children. Translation? Be very aware of anything that could be considered unsafe for children to be exposed to. You might not want to visit certain sites or download certain content if it’s even remotely possible that a minor could still see it long after you are gone.

Your Local Library is a Great Source of Free WIFI!

Although this is related to the previous point, I mention it separately because it has a distinct advantage. In the preceding point, I emphasised access to devices which can actually be used without internet connection. (Like typing, for instance.)

Access to free Wi-Fi is a different benefit of the Jamaica Library Service because it means you can take your own device and use it outside the library. This translates into even greater flexibilities and freedoms.

For instance, if your children will be using smartphones or laptops, they won’t even need to be within the physical walls of the library. Once you obtain the library’s Wi-Fi password and your devices stay in range, you and your children are good to go.

We’re talking again about that much-needed change of environment for lessons, assignments and studying. Then there’s the added benefit of space to vlog and engage in more fun through social media (if your children are so inclined).

Because of the free Wi-Fi at your local library, you can potentially spend the day at the library without ever entering the building!

Here are some pointers to remember when using free Wi-Fi at your local library

  • Because it is a free, publicly accessible internet, extreme caution should be used when conducting secure transactions.

If you can avoid entering information like credit card details, personal information and other financial account information in that space, please do. This is a tip you should pass on to your children as well.

Let your children know there should be no sharing of their address and parents’ names and telephone numbers without your permission!

  • If you’re not using one of the library’s free tablets, then it means you are using your own device.

Depending on how long and intense your usage is, your device will eventually need some power. Although we as Jamaicans love the freeness, you will have to pay to charge your device inside the library. (Well, at least at the Falmouth branch, where they charge $150 per hour at the time of this writing.)

And just so you know, don’t go calculating how much you’ll pay for half an hour like I did – it is a flat rate! (I learned that the hard, almost embarrassing, way, lol!)

  • From my experience at the Falmouth library, using free Wi-Fi outside must be well thought out as regards seating arrangements.

You see, there are no nice, comfy, cozy chairs, tables or desks outside for either you or your children to sit at. And there isn’t any designated shelter either.

You will either have to bear the burning of your shoulders and posterior end because of those hard metal “seats” or have the foresight to bring a fold-out chair or lawn towel with you.

But even then, you will need to keep a watchful eye on the sky so you all can make a run for it if the weather turns!

Your Local Library is a Great Place for Socialising!

If you are familiar with discussions surrounding homeschooling, one consistent concern is the socialisation of homeschooled children.

Once again, your local library can help to save the day.

How?

First, the library is always getting used by a steady stream of clients. Your children will have a rich tapestry of people to interact with every time you take them to the library. My children have met adults, children, Jamaicans and foreigners by just being at the library.

(I must say that the Falmouth library is a gem in this regard since they get to regularly see tourists because Falmouth is a cruise ship destination.)

Second, the local libraries offer a range of programmes that your children can get involved in: National Reading Competition, Summer Programme, Story Hour, and a whole lot more!

Third, (and once again, our library here in Falmouth is in the spotlight for this), there is the potential for outdoor fun. In our case, the children see the library as a place for crab-hunting, having picnics on the grass, and going to the beach. There is also an impressive land space for good old free play.

The Lewis children enjoying the Falmouth library
The Lewis children enjoying the Falmouth library

Can You Access the Library’s Free Resources as a Visitor to the Jamaica?

If you are a visitor to Jamaica and you like what the Jamaica Library Service offers, the JLS can accommodate you! Once you can present a valid photo ID and pay the stipulated refundable deposit, you can be registered as a temporary member.

That means you can borrow books and use the services of our local libraries just as a resident would.

When you are ready to leave the island, simply return the items along with the receipts you were given, and your deposit will be refunded. (See Section 3.3 at this link)

How cool is that?!

Who knows? You could end up meeting the Lewis family at the Falmouth library if you ever take a cruise to our town!

 

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