Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Homeschooling: Building a Homeschool Library

You don't even have to be a homeschooling mom to know the importance of having a great home library! There is such pleasure watching your kids reach for a book off the shelf and just spend time perusing it, soaking up images and words to further their knowledge.

As an avid reader myself, I have always created large libraries for my boys since they were babies. As they grew, I would find out what authors and/or subjects intrigued them, and I would add books whenever I could. Outgrown books were always donated to libraries so that they could get longer shelf life.

Even now, my boys have full bookcases in their rooms with books that follow their interests. Our home library is filled to the brim with leadership resources, American History, biographies, classics and books to enrich our Christian life. (There is also one shelf dedicated to my fiction favorites!) 

When we decided to homeschool, I first shopped our own bookshelves to find resources that could be included in what we have decided to learn this year.  It was such a blessing (especially to our budget!) to find that we already had a great selection of books that we could reread and reference as we worked!  

Don't misunderstand, we LOVE the library!  Where we live, we have two libraries that we can utilize. One of these is very family friendly, (and my high school son has been volunteering there for over 2 years now) but it is a newer public library and does not yet have an extensive non-fiction section.  The other library has been around longer, but is still too small for good research. While we will continue to visit our local libraries and the much larger libraries in Austin, there is still much to be said about owning books on favorite topics of interest and study.  Here are my tips for growing your library on a bargain budget.  

Where I Find Bargain Books

Goodwill Stores
The best place for finding book bargains for me has been Goodwill drop-off locations. Here in Texas, (and maybe where you are too), Goodwill has several small "drop-off only" locations that have now evolved into mini book stores.  These locations take all their book donations and move them directly to shelves in the store for resale.  They do a great job of catagorizing too, so you can easily search for treasures. My favorite finds: piano music books, Classics in like-new condition, elementary age chapter books and education workbooks. 

Half-Price Books
This retailer has stores in various parts of the country, but are very prevalent here in Texas. The great thing about Half-Price Books is that you can sell any books, movies and music you don't want anymore and get a credit toward in-store purchases. The store works like their name: find a book and pay half-price the original retail price. They have books in any genre you can think of -- including DVDs, CDs, computer software, LPs and more.  There are even new books sold at discount.  Find out more about Half-Price Books and their online search at their website:  My favorite finds:  used homeschool textbooks and curriculum, Classics, Christian Fiction.  

Library Sales 
Libraries get more donations than they can use and book duplications they do not need. Many will have an annual sale to get these books into the hands of patrons and make money for the library in the process. Some libraries have a separate room where their book sale is always available during library hours.  Ask your local library what they do with unneeded books.  For an Austin library resale location, check out     

Free E-books
I have written a popular post on where to find free e-books HERE.  Our family does have a Kindle and iPad, but I am finding that even my kids prefer the actual book in their hands.  If you are an e-book family, definitely look out for free downloads of books that you may not need now, but can use in the future.  Favorite finds:  Classics! There are always several that are free (or cheap!) to download on websites like  

Don't underestimate the importance of a home library!  I truly believe that having books accessible in areas of interests for your kids will grow them into avid readers and continual learners! 

Monday, July 01, 2013

#musesofamom: Homeschooling Has Become Our Future!

Monday, June 17, 2013 marked a special occasion for our family.  We began homeschooling!

The decision to home school my teenager started this past January, when my husband and I concluded that even after two years in a exemplary rated high school, our 16 year old son just wasn't reaching his potential.  It appeared as though he was just going through the motions with nothing to inspire him to learn or to help him toward the career path he wanted to take after high school.

By April, we all agreed that Matt would be finishing the year and then staying home for the rest of high school.  With only two years left until graduation, taking him out was in no was a simple decision!  However, knowing Matt as we do, we are confident that he will make bigger strides in these next two years at home.

It was one of the last days of school that I had the opportunity to talk privately with my youngest son's fourth grade teacher.  The conversation was enlightening and frank and helped confirm some other hesitations that I had about homeschooling Joshua.  It was only a week later that my husband and I agreed that we would home school Joshua as well.

What was I getting myself into?

From a mom who went from "No way!" to homeschooling to "I'm all in!" -- Let me share a couple tips that I have learned that could be helpful to you if this is a consideration for your family.

1.  PRAY.  As parents of the possible home schooled child, this is imperative.  We knew our family dynamics would change. The "Go" from God is necessary. With His direction, we are at peace about what we are doing, no matter what may come.

2.  Get advice from other homeschooling moms.  I have friends who have been homeschooling for some time, and it was highly beneficial to sit for coffee and get their opinions, suggestions and recommendations.  While choosing curriculum and the method for schooling is solely your husband's and your decision, encouragement from others is certainly appreciated! I haven't yet met a homeschooling mom (or past homeschooling mom) who regretted her decision.  The best comment I heard was from a friend who said: "Of course you can do this! You'll be great!"  Sometimes that's all you need.

3.  Refrain from sharing your decision right away with moms (or family) who don't home school.  When I started mentioning our intentions of homeschooling both boys, I received a lot of  "Wow. I could never, ever home school my kids!" and even "That's too much for you to handle."  Hearing this from friends and family, I began to wonder if I should rethink my decision. (Thank goodness I followed Lesson #1!)

4.  Once you decide, start. We started June 17th.  Why?  Because one to two days a week for a couple hours is perfect for all of us to get our feet wet, and I can observe with intent the best ways that my kids learn.  My teen is a great independent learner with not as much hands-on needed; my youngest works better when I am sitting right beside him.

5.  Start simple.  We chose two summer subjects for each of our boys.  They will be completing Music Appreciation  (the curriculum was free online), our teen is doing English Literature, and the youngest, Science. Because we are not on anyone else's schedule, we can take as little or as much time as we need this summer. And since they are already reading, I make sure they are getting books on the subjects they enjoy!  

6.  Start looking for lessons in the day to day. Things to begin teaching are right in front of us. My husband gave the boys a horticultural mini lesson as they helped him with landscaping last week. The reason that Josh is learning weather science this summer is because he has been completely enamored with watching the series "Stormchasers" on Netflix.  We are also incorporating American History by planning a couple stops on our summer vacation road trip that will give both boys a learning experience about the Civil War. (How I put together curriculum for free will be shared in a subsequent post.)

Since the goal of Muses of a Mom is to minister to women of all stages of life, sharing my homeschooling adventures seems like a natural progression.  Hopefully my muses here will be helpful and insightful if you are thinking about homeschooling, preparing for homeschooling or you are already in the thick of homeschooling!  Nothing is better than knowing that someone else out there is going through the same experiences!  More to come.

Are you currently a homeschooling parent?  What is a lesson you learned as you started on this adventure with your family?