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Have you been wondering how to get the homeschool books you need for a curriculum?
I don’t know about you, but many curricula need a lot of books. And if you have more than one child, the cost of buying all the books gets pricey.
So should you purchase all the books for a curriculum, use the library, or use what’s at hand?
My answer is: it depends. It depends upon how long you’ll be using the books, how easy it is to substitute a book, and how expensive the book you need is.
So let me walk you through the process I use to determine where I obtain my homeschool books.
Print the Book List
My first step is to print the book list. As I go work through the list, I’m going to be taking notes and adding commentary. So I like a fresh list to work with.
The notes will include if I have the book or if I have a possible substitution. They’ll also note how long the book will be used and where I can find the book.
I also note who will be using the book. It will make a difference later down in the process.
So it’s helpful to have a book list to work from.
Check the Books I Have
Next, I check the books I have in the house. Do I have the exact book needed? Or do I have a possible substitution?
I check off every book I currently have and move them upstairs into my homeschool area.
I want to be able to grab the book when I need it!
I’ll also move books that are a possible substitute as well. It gives me a chance to judge if the book will fit our needs or not.
Check the Library
Now I sit down at my computer and pull up the library catalog. And I search for every book that I don’t have on my shelf including the books I may have a substitute for.
As I’m searching, I’ll also note whether or not the library has a possible substitution that may work.
After all, we’re trying to keep the cost down!
Determine Which Books to Purchase
After all this research, you now know what books you have on your shelves and what books the library carries on its shelves.
You’re ready to determine whether or not to purchase the books you need!
Who Will Use the Book?
My first question is who will use the book. I’ve found it’s more important to have the exact book for high school than it is for elementary school.
In high school, the questions asked in the curriculum are much more specific. The kids need the exact book required to answer the questions – either written or in the discussions we hold. Not having the required book will change my ability to use the curriculum effectively.
Now, in elementary school, the kids are being asked for general ideas and concepts. Most books on a topic include similar information, so I can easily substitute a similar book and not affect my child’s education.
And I’ve found that middle school falls somewhere in between. They’re being asked for more specific information, but it’s still much more general than what’s needed in high school.
How Long Will the Book Be Used?
I like the books to be used for at least 4 weeks before I purchase them. Many books are only used for a couple of weeks.
It gets expensive to purchase that many books! So if a book is only used for a couple of weeks, I use the library or find a substitute.
Any book that’s used for more than 4 weeks by my high school kids is definitely purchased. I want to have it on hand and not have to worry about someone else using the book when I need it.
Is the Book a Core Book or Supplemental
For younger kids, I take a look at whether a book is a core book or supplemental.
A core book is a book that gives the kids most of their information. For instance, The Story of the World Vol. 1 which covers ancient history, I consider a core book. Just reading through the volume will give the young kids all the information they need about ancient history.
Supplemental books are books that add interest and depth to our studies. These are books on the pyramids and pharaohs. Books that introduce kids to the lifestyle of the Ancient Greeks. These books are important, but I’ve not found that having one specific book is critical. Usually, I can find a good substitute on my shelves or at the library. Especially for younger kids.
Core books are purchased for all children. They’re also used for a large part of the year, so it’s best to have them available when you need them.
Pros and Cons of the Library System
I love using the local library system. It has many of the books I need, especially for the younger grades.
Using the library system has saved my family’s budget over the years.
But it can be hard to get the exact book you need when you need it. Someone else may be using it instead. This is even more likely when you’re using a popular curriculum such as Story of the World and looking for supplemental books.
Sometimes books go missing. I’ve planned on being able to check out a book only to find that it went missing sometime during the school year.
I suddenly found myself making a quick and unplanned substitution.
Also, libraries around the country shut down this year. My library didn’t even offer curbside pick-up. Any book I needed was simply not available.
Talk about frustrating!
I purchase the core books for all the children.
I purchase books used for more than 4 weeks by my high school teenagers.
If the budget allows, I purchase books used for more than 4 weeks by my middle school kids and then my elementary kids. But keep in mind that the younger the child, the easier it is to substitute a different book.
And can you use the curriculum if you only have the core books for the kids? Or will it affect the education you’re able to offer?
For younger elementary kids, I don’t stress if we’re only covering general information. I’m laying down pegs for future learning.
My high school teens need the required books so they can answer the questions and do the work assigned by the program we’re using.
Hopefully, this helps by giving you some guidelines for how to get homeschool books for a your curriculum!
What criteria do you use when deciding how to get homeschool books for your curricula?