Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Our greatest bargain ever: The Library

Pikes Peak Library District is amazing.

We pay something under $50 a year in property taxes to the library district. Less than a dollar a week. Today alone, I probably recouped this year's expense. And when I consider that lately, I get about 1/2 of our Sonlight books from the library... well, as for today...

The East Library was putting on a workshop - Homeschool Tools. I drove in to town, did the little registration/name tag thing, found a seat, and read through the materials provided. Nothing spectacular so far.

But the first session I attended was on the Teen Zone (the section of their website devoted to middle school and high school). WOW! All kinds of stuff I didn't know existed, or barely knew about. Such as:
  • BrainFuse - the kids can go on (3rd grade and up) and get free homework help from teachers. So when I am hitting my head against a wall, trying to figure out a different way to explain a math problem -- I don't have to. Send 'em online to have a math teacher do it, in real time, using awesome technology.
  • Or they can submit their writing assignments, and within 24 hours get it back with comments. Someone other than Mom can tell them about those run-on sentences. Maybe they'll believe me if they hear it from someone else too.
  • Science Resource Center - with a gazillion topics. Links to magazine articles, scholarly journals, and so on, and links to multimedia stuff as well, on all kinds of topics. So maybe Connor can do Nuclear Science -- not necessarily a credit's worth, but something anyway.
  • History Resource Center - with world and US topics. Timelines, articles, primary sources, and resources on how to write a history research paper
  • Biography Resource Center - short and longer biographies, and you can do things like search by occupation. So when I am trying to inject scientist bios into our program, I can come here, I don't have to know who the people are first, I can search by "nuclear scientist" or anything else.
  • Literature Resource Center - one of the things I'm pushing Connor to start doing this year is to know a bit about the authors of the books he is reading, and we'll be discussing some things about why they wrote what they wrote. Now that will be easy. We have easy access to criticisms, biographies, bibliographies, and on and on.
  • Testing and Education Resource Center - oh WOW! Free practice tests for all kinds of exams (SAT, ACT, GRE, Civil Service, CLEP, and on and on). Access to online test prep books for all kinds of tests. This part of the site is incredible.
  • And free access to Tell Me More for foreign language study
The second session was nearly as amazing, this one focused on the Kids' Web stuff, and I won't repeat things I learned about in the Teen one.
  • They have the makings of timely unit studies... September includes a Back to School section, a Hispanic Heritage Month section, and a section on Labor Day
  • TumbleBooks - online books that can be read by the computer, many are interactive in one way or another, some audiobooks can be downloaded, and many, many are available in other languages
  • A database of Series and Sequels. So I no longer have to go insane trying to figure out which book comes after Hatchet, because it is nearly impossible to figure these things out from the library catalog
  • A blog that is geared to 8-12 year olds, everything is moderated, and they encourage kids to be submitting stuff.
  • An amazing Colorado history page, that could definitely be the spine for at least a semester of state history study
  • Access to the paid section of Britannica Online, including the Kids' version of that
  • Homework help - the librarians are compiling links to good web-content in loads of content areas. Most of the websites I saw listed were not things I already knew about, but the few that were are things I love
They also fed us lunch, had a little local resource fair, where I found out about a few places I didn't know about, and where I could grill the homeschool guy at the local community college about the feasibility of a 13 year old taking college math courses.

There was another session on using the online catalog, which was good, but not terribly informative for me (I'm already something of a power user!)

What a great day!!


Johanna said...

Wow! It sounds like your library is great. Mine is not helpful at all with homeschooling. If I had to rely on my library for homeschool books, I wouldn't be able to do Sonlight, for sure. I don't think there are too many homeschoolers in my town, so they aren't really very inspired to do more for us...

Debra said...

Johanna, I know my library is wonderful. I am so very grateful for it. So does your library have any online reference materials? That is where the bulk of what I learned about at the seminar is found. Most of it is clearly intended for public school support, but very usable for homeschooling too.

I think it is sad that so many libraries don't embrace homeschoolers though. My librarian always jokes that she can tell by looking at the circulation numbers whether I'm out of town...