Best Library Hacks for Homeschoolers (from a Librarian!)

Homeschoolers and homeschooling families love public libraries. And why shouldn't we? Most of us have chosen to foot the bill for our children's education with little or no outside support from our state or local governments. So we really appreciate the access to books and materials that we couldn't enjoy otherwise.

As I've talked with other homeschooling parents, I have been impressed with how knowledgeble we are as a group and how much collective wisdom we have to share about how to do our incredibly important job as educators on whatever budget we have available to us.

I've also seen that not everyone is aware of how to best find and most easily use ALL that our libraries have to offer. Here are my top ten library hacks, tips, and tricks for easily getting the most value from our free public libraries.

Reading Goals for 2020

For the first time ever, I decided to list out some reading goals for myself! I do this with full permission to change titles and even completely walk away from my goals if I'm not enjoying myself. Just being honest :-)

I've chosen books for two challenges: Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge and the Schole Sisters 5x5 challenge, but I'm double counting, so the same book can appear on both lists.  I'm purposefully only listing a very few difficult titles, with many books being ones that I was hoping to pre-read ahead of our next homeschool year. Yes, that means many of the books were written for a juvenile audience. So hopefully this will make completing the challenges more manageable.

Thus far, I'm off to a very strong start to my reading year, so I have high hopes of completing both challenges. But with a new baby due in July, anything can happen!

My Year in Books: 2019 Reading Recap

I tallied them all up from the beginning of the year until now and I've read 36 books this year, which is very in keeping with my overall pace of 3 books per month. I know that some people find the time to read MANY more titles than this in a year, but without any effort, this is the natural pace I seem to keep year after year.  And it works for me!

This number does not take into account family read alouds, or any book that I have read before, but it does contain several children's books, which were either read for my own pleasure because I missed them during my own childhood or part of my hit-or-miss prereading for homeschooling.

I've grouped the books into some broad categories and I love to see that I haven't read too narrowly. However, this year and every year recently, I've picked up books without any prior planning. Either they piqued my interest from my library's new books feed, I came across them online, a friend was also reading it, or it came into my life from a book sale.

I really do love choosing books serendipitously. However, sometimes it feels a bit scattered. Next year, I'm going to try an easy-to-accomplish reading challenge to branch out just a little bit more,   Don't worry (I say to myself) there will still be plenty of room on my reading schedule to choose books on the fly.

20+ Best Poems for October and November

We love our morning time habit of reading the same poem every day for one week! It is how our morning time began over 5 years ago and it continues to add beautiful words and ideas to our family culture . . . . and our imaginations!

I love just picking up any poem that speaks to me and sharing it with the kids. But I also like choosing poems that especially call to mind the seasons and upcoming holidays.

Here are our favorite poems for October and November that bring to mind the joys of the season: the spookiness of Halloween, the crispness of ripe apples, the nip of frost in the air, and the colors of the changing leaves.

Huge List of G.A. Henty Books to Download for Free from Google Books

I had never heard of G.A. Henty until I heard the Read-Aloud Revival episode about his audiobooks.  At the time, I had no idea of how popular he was with homeschoolers of all types--from die-hard school-at-homers to unschoolers!

This extremely prolific author from the late 1800s is still hugely popular for his exciting novels set throughout dozens of historical time periods. However, he has also faced harsh criticism (both historic and contemporary criticism) for racism and his positive view of British imperialism. You can read more here but always preread and be prepared to edit on the fly especially if you choose to read some of the more contentious titles.


To date, we have read just two of his novels and we found them to be historically interesting and exciting. But what would Charlotte Mason, who had so much to say about the best books for children say about Henty's exciting, mass-produced stories? To find out, I popped over to the Charlotte Mason Digital Collection. My search wasn't exhaustive and I know there are many more Henty references--I just looked at the first few results and here is what I found:

5 Totally Free Books We are Loving in our Homeschool Right Now

We have several totally free books in rotation in our homeschool morning time. These books are definitely living books because each one is inspiring my kids to such deep thoughts and interesting questions!

Sure, a physical book is the best way to go, but why miss out on the best books just because they are out of reach for our budget and not available locally to borrow? Here are five we are enjoying right now . . . and for a change, not all of them are "old" or in the public domain.

Homeschool Break Week Snapshot

As many homeschooling families I know are gearing up for their first day of school and our public school friends are settling into their new school routines, my family, well, we are thrilled to be taking a little rest and enjoying a slower pace of life during our much-loved break week!!!!

In our homeschool, a break week means we have already logged another 30+ days toward our required 180. And it usually marks the halfway mark or end of one of our 3 terms. It is a time to reset and regroup and it gives each member of the family the extra time that we crave to go deeper into our interests.

Break week is also a time for me to schedule field trips and doctor's appointments and time outside with friends so that it won't feel like one extra thing heaped on our already full schedules (i.e. if the baby misses his nap, I won't lose my mind). Here is a brief snapshot of how we are using this break week to the fullest.

Kindergarten Homeschool Plans, 2019-2020

Recently, a few different people have asked me about kindergarten. Then I realized, wow, this is my 3rd time homeschooling kindergarten!!!!

I can vividly remember the odd panic I felt attending a playgroup in 2015 during the week that my son would have been starting kindergarten. A circle of mainly well-intentioned mothers starting peppering me with questions.
How will you do math?
What about socialization?
How long are you going to do this?
How are you going to teach all the subjects?
What about high school?
The questions they asked were so silly! But I remember asking similar questions of a friend who was planning to homeschool her then-preschooler. I was curious and interested to learn more about this so-called homeschooling!

Four years later and I'm only feeling more confident in our decision to homeschool and more sure of my ability to make plans that are appropriate for my children and our family.

2nd Grade Homeschool Plans, 2019-2020


This is my third year of planning a full Charlotte Mason style curriculum for our homeschool but it is only my second year planning for 7-year-old John. I still have a lot to learn about how to listen to what my children need and marry that with short, morning lessons on a wide variety of subjects according to a strict timetable designed to fit our family. I love to consult Ambleside Online, a Catholic Charlotte Mason curriculum, as well as Wildwood Curriculum for ideas, but I put it together in my own way.

I have tried to note in [ ] whether I'm using a free book or how much I paid for each of the resources we are using. I am committed to homeschooling with free or really cheap books as part of our journey to be debt-free while living on one income.

4th Grade Charlotte Mason Homeschool Plans, 2019-2020


This is our third year of doing a full Charlotte Mason style curriculum with short, morning lessons on a wide variety of subjects according to a strict timetable designed to fit our family. I love to consult Ambleside Online, a Catholic Charlotte Mason curriculum, as well as Wildwood Curriculum for ideas, but I put it together in my own way.

I love our homemade Charlotte Mason plans so much for many reasons. I can plan knowing myself and my children to ensure that we can actually accomplish 90% of our plans. I can choose affordable books of the highest quality and I can keep everyone in the family in the same historical time period on a 4-year history cycle with up to three different streams of history (our country, a near neighbor, and ancient). Finally, I can avoid books that I do not care for . . . even if everyone else in the world thinks they are wonderful or appropriate.

I have tried to note in [ ] whether I'm using a free book or how much I paid for each of the resources we are using. I am committed to homeschooling with free or really cheap books as part of our journey to be debt-free while living on one income.