Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Fridays are Fantastic for Homeschoolers

A commenter on this blog wanted to know a little more about our programming for homeschoolers, so I'm here today to tell you about Fantastic Fridays, our monthly program for homeschoolers.

Fantastic Friday is held the second Friday of every month at 10:00am and we do something different each month.  We talked with some of the homeschooling families that frequent the library to figure out what would be a good date/time to try some programming for homeschoolers and found out that Friday mornings are usually pretty open (no religious meetings, etc.).  In addition to our normal program publicity (press releases to newspapers, library program calendar, library website), we send information to local homeschooling groups.

We started Fantastic Fridays in January 2010 and it's been quite a success.  We usually have between 10-30 kids each month, which is a great turnout at our library.  We advertise it for ages 5 and up, but the whole family is welcome and we really try to be flexible about allowing younger kids to participate if they come.  Sometimes we split the kids up into two groups and do a program for the younger kids and a different program for the older kids, but lately we've been leaning towards keeping everyone together.  For the times we split them up, we had a storytime and craft for the younger kids (approximately ages 5-8) and another activity for the older kids (book discussion, database workshop, tour of the teen area, etc.).  If we split them up, we let parents and kids decide which group they'd like to be in.

For the past few months, we've been keeping everyone together in one group and our attendance has been skewing younger.  We typically have kids ages 5-8 and maybe a few older kids (usually older siblings attending with younger ones).

The programs we've done include:

  • Bug stories and coffee filter butterflies (for younger, while the older kids had a tutorial on how to use the library's databases)
  • A "trip to Ireland" where we shared information, food, and music from Ireland
  • Superhero stories and making a superhero flip book (for younger, while the older kids had a book discussion) 
  • A family piñata workshop
  • Native American stories and making "totem poles" out of paper towel tubes 
In December, two of my staff members are doing "A Pioneer Christmas" and making corn husk dolls and cinnamon bread.  For next year, I'm planning a storytime and craft on snow in January and a Black History Month program where we'll share the work of black illustrators and do art in the same style.  The Indiana State Library has a collection of Big Idea Kits with materials for sharing math and science concepts with young children, so we may use one or more of those in the spring.  I'm also thinking about science projects or a poetry program...

Here's the secret: programming for homeschoolers doesn't have to be any different from your typical programming for the public.  We hold it on a weekday morning and we advertise it in specialized avenues, but otherwise it's exactly what we'd plan for the general public.  Sometimes (like the piñata program), we'll offer a program for our homeschoolers and then repeat it on an evening or afternoon for the general public. 

I do think it's a good idea to talk to some of your homeschooling families and get an idea of what dates and times might be best.  There may be special events at local museums, zoos, parks, churches, or other religious facilities that you don't know about that would affect your attendance.  

For our community, it's worked to have the program on the same day each month (second Friday).  We also have a signup sheet for the next month at each Fantastic Friday program.  That way if people have had a good time and want to go ahead and reserve their spot for the next month, they can!  We encourage registration because we leave it open for all ages and that way we can get an idea about how old the kids coming will be.

Who else does programming for homeschoolers?  What do you do?  How has it turned out?