Enhancing homeschool educations
The homeschool programs at the Hammond Community Library have grown tremendously in just the last few years. So much so, that many times the group’s Friday weekly activity must be held at Foster Hall across the street to accommodate the number of participants and their families.
Library director Michelle Johnson said this fall she has had 20-35 homeschool students (eight to 10 families) attending the library’s homeschool programs. While the library hosted activities for a handful of homeschool students in the past, the last three years have seen consistent growth and the programs are now a permanent fixture on the library’s schedule. Johnson credits the dedicated parents for being instrumental in the programs’ popularity.
She labels the programs a “one room schoolhouse” setting, with all grade levels taking part together. Older students help younger students, and parents are encouraged to participate and pair up with students who may need adult assistance. For example, homeschool parent Susan Marquand and her daughter taught the group how to finger knit and arm knit in December. Johnson was impressed with how well all the kids worked together to learn the skill.
“They took off,” Johnson said of the students. “They caught on like there was no tomorrow.”
Johnson said the programs cater to mostly elementary and middle school students, though a few high schoolers take part as well. The programs are open to everyone, not just homeschool students. Subject areas covered focus on reading, science, literature, speech and creativity/art.
Examples of offerings include a virtual field trip to Washington D.C. and the Museum of Natural History; a pop art class lecture focusing on artists Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Wayne Thiebaud and Jasper Johns; writing poetry; and pick an explorer research day.
Many homeschool parents in the area appreciate Johnson’s willingness to offer programs that enhance their homeschool curricula.
“I appreciate most the opportunities to give speeches or informally speak in front of a group as this is the hardest thing for us to do at home,” said homeschool parent Leann Belz. “Michelle is very flexible, asking for feedback from everyone on what would be the most helpful programs to offer.”
The library’s homeschool programs are hitting their third year mark, so Johnson is trying to “up the bar” by offering as many unique classes as she can. Many parents have been asking for classes on skills that are becoming lost arts, such as basic sewing, leatherwork, knitting and crocheting.
Johnson is looking forward to the upstairs of the library being usable once the renovation is complete. The large, airy space will provide space the group so desperately needs. She hopes to add more “classroom setting” items, such as laptops and smartboards.
“The program will grow and we’ll grow with it,” Johnson said.
The area around Hammond is very rich with families that have chosen to homeschool, Johnson said. While families may choose to homeschool their children for many different reasons, Marquand cited a couple of reasons as to why her family has chosen that route.
“The first reason is the freedom to include our faith in Christ into our everyday conversations and learning,” Marquand said. “The schools have really stifled all talk of Jesus, yet other religions and faiths are talked about at length. Secondly...we do not agree with the direction education is going. Due to all the rigorous testing and standardization, it has increased the amount of labeling of children. That really bothers me as a parent. Many children are labeled ‘challenged’ or ‘gifted,’ by not fitting into the ‘normal’ category. Why can’t they just be kids learning in different ways?”
Belz said her children went to a private Christian school for one year, but she chose to homeschool due to the cost (money and time) of driving the kids to school in another town. She also wanted to spend more time with her children.
Regardless of the different reasons why area parents decide to homeschool, they appreciate the programs for their kids at the library. Marquand said it allows her kids to break away from the normal routine for a bit and interact with other families.
“It gives my children the opportunity to learn in a multi-age setting, and they learn new concepts and fun skills from other amazing adults and kids,” Marquand said.
Belz appreciates the array of materials offered at the library, such as homeschool curriculum materials and books from interlibrary loans.
“I have heard more than once that the best tool for teaching your children at home is a library card, and I would have to agree,” Belz said. “That would be my advice to anyone thinking of homeschooling: get a library card and use it.”
For more information on the library’s homeschool program, which usually meets on Fridays at 11 a.m. (location and times vary when field trips are scheduled), contact Johnson at 715-796-2281 or email@example.com.