Picture a quiet room where you stand surrounded by shelves full of homeschooling books and curriculum. In the middle of the room there is a table flanked by comfortable chairs, where you can sit and flip through everything you've ever wanted to use to with your children: history books, math curriculum and that great new writing program you read about recently.
There is such a place, and it's called the Homeschool Mom's Paradise. (Ok, I'm kidding, but that is what it feels like.) It's actually called the Homeschool Resource Center. Unlike homeschool convention exhibit halls, where most homeschoolers spend hours on their feet studying homeschool products, you don't have to pay to enter. The Homeschool Resource Center is located in the midst of a public library. All you need is a current library card to borrow anything you want from the center for six weeks.
Located in the Johnsburg (Illinois) Public Library, the Homeschool Resource Center is the brainchild of homeschool mom Kathy Wentz. In 2001, Kathy established the center with the help of librarian Maria Zawacki and a $55,000 grant from the Illinois State Library.
Kathy spent countless hours choosing books, magazines, curriculum, games and equipment to lend to area homeschoolers. She added telescopes, microscopes, test tubes and other equipment for the scientifically minded. Math manipulatives and foreign language tapes were also purchased.
It didn't take very long to use up $55,000. Since then, Kathy has raised money to fund new items for the center by organizing used curriculum sales. The proceeds allow Kathy to pick and choose among the many new products constantly being developed for the homeschool market; she knows savvy moms will be looking for them.
Kathy also spends one morning each week at the Homeschool Resource Center, offering free consulting to homeschoolers looking for help or advice. The donation of her time in this way is part of her ongoing commitment to the center, which she says is something her faith has led her to do. She has been gratified to see the enthusiastic response of not just local homeschoolers, but also those who come from some distance and make a day out of their visit.
If you are excited by the thought of having a homeschool resource center in your own community, perhaps you may feel led to establish something similar. Kathy says that while informing other homeschoolers about this concept is good, what's most important is informing librarians. They need to know that this concept works, and that it is needed by their patrons. Most homeschoolers are frequent visitors to public libraries, and will use such a valuable resource regularly.
In order to promote the idea on a national and even international level, Kathy has written articles published in library journals that have garnered positive responses from librarians. So if you approach your own library about starting a homeschool resource center, you may find that your librarian has already heard of the concept and has been waiting for a patron to ask for it.
For more information about Johnsburg's Homeschool Resource Center visit the Johnsburg Public Library's Web site (where you can access the Homeschool Resource Center's resource list). You'll find the link here. Kathy Wentz may be contacted via email at kwentz8992 (at) comcast (dot) net.
© 2008 Barbara Frank