Tuesday is our usual Books & Libraries Day in the River Houses, and on the several Tuesdays of September — the first month of the new homeschool year — we (re)introduce some of the general library resources that we recommend to all homeschoolers. This week, why not get reacquainted with the Library of Congress, the national library of the United States and a rich and valuable resource for every homeschool parent and homeschool student.
The Library of Congress was established in 1800, specifically to serve the legislative research needs of the U.S. government (as its name suggests). In one of the great tragedies of the early Republic, the Library was burned in 1814 (along with the Capitol, the White House, and the Treasury) during the British sack of Washington in the War of 1812. The story of its recovery is one every American student should know: Thomas Jefferson sold his personal library, then the largest private library in the new nation, to the federal government as a replacement. Here’s a great five-minute video that tells the story of the Library of Congress from its founding to the present day:
The Library of Congress is located in Washington, D.C., right next to the U.S. Capitol, and you can pay a visit to it yourself in person some day on your homeschool travels. The main building is the Thomas Jefferson Building with its grand reading room. Across the street are the newer Adams and Madison Buildings.
The front page of the Library of Congress website will point you to a vast range of online resources, all of which can be put to use by homeschool teachers:
There is a specific section of the website for educators, with lesson plans, videos, primary source guides, and more, as well as a large selection of thematic blogs on the arts, music, literature, science, prints and photos, maps and geography, and many other subjects:
One blog, Minerva’s Kaleidoscope, is specifically designed for kids and families (and homeschool teachers):
The Library is also offers a range of crowd-sourced projects that members of the general public — like you and your students— can join and contribute to. We recommend them to homeschoolers as part of our own Lunar Society project in the River Houses:
So here’s a universal homeschool assignment you can implement on any day of the week and at any time of year when you don’t know what to do. Just say this: “Go to the Library of Congress website and tell me all about one of the items featured there today.” Get your students talking, and ask them questions, and a brand new little lesson will be underway.
What educational discoveries have you been making in your favorite library this Cygnus Term? 😊
❡ Dukedoms large enough: Have you found all the local libraries in your area? There may be more than you realize, and there’s no better homeschool field trip than a field trip to a new library! The WorldCat Library Finder will help you find all the library collections near you — public and private, large and small — and the WorldCat catalog itself will help you locate the closest copy of almost any book in the world. 📖
❡ Books in the running brooks: The sidebar on the River Houses website has links to several wonderful online library collections that we like to explore. Why not sit yourself down at a large screen for a while (rather than a phone) and give them a browse. 🖥
❡ When in doubt, go to the library: This is one of our regular Homeschool Books & Libraries posts. Add your name to our weekly mailing list and get great homeschool teaching ideas delivered right to your mailbox all through the year. 📫
❡ Homeschool calendars: We have a whole collection of free, printable, educational homeschool calendars and planners available on our main River Houses calendar page. They will all help you create a light and easy structure for your homeschool year. Give them a try today! 🗓
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