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How to Set Up a Homeschool Resource Center

By Eric Wallace
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #3, 1993.

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Eric Wallace


A well equipped Home Education Resource Center can be the most critical part of your church's home education ministry. Beyond any shadow of a doubt this is the case at Harvester.

Why is a Resource Center Important?

The Resource Center ministry is important for two basic reasons. First, it meets the ever-increasing need of having an identified place where homeschoolers, whether rookies or veterans, can go to get resources that they need. You probably wished more than once that you could go to one place and view materials you either want to borrow or consider buying. Through a resource center, parents can find materials year round instead of having to wait until that hurried, whirlwind, checkbook-happy curriculum fair once or twice a year. This is especially important for first-time homeschoolers. Getting started can be hard enough without the added burden of searching for the resources you need!

Secondly, a resource center is important because it is a ministry to all church families. Our Resource Center provides materials that center on family issues as well as materials that address academic issues. Many families who don't home school can benefit dramatically from the biblically-grounded family based resources to be found in the work of people such as Gregg Harris.

Choosing Resources

Although you will want to tailor your resource center to meet the specific needs of your group, I would like to suggest some criteria that would be useful for establishing the most basic resource center. Let me say that it is a good idea to involve your pastor or other church leader who has oversight of this ministry to assist in selecting materials which will be faithful to the scripture and your church's theology. Involving church leadership on this simple level will help them become more aware of the needs of homeschoolers and begin to see -- with your help -- how some of the resources can be useful to other families.

  • First, determine if the resource can be found in the public library. If the resource can be found there, then don't waste your money.

  • Second, purchase resources which can be used by all or a large number of your families.

  • Third, choose resources that supplement core curriculum texts or unit studies. These items will in most cases only be used for a short period of time and then returned for others to use.

  • Fourth, try purchasing big-ticket items such as math manipulatives. How many times have you cracked the plastic only to find that you really couldn't use what you purchased or that it was really only useful once? A second advantage to having big ticket items: you can actually see the item and use it to determine whether or not you want to buy it.

    Purchasing new, unused resources is also a good idea. There is just something unappetizing about introducing as a "new" a book that has pages ripped out; a book in which little Johnny has already practiced his coloring skills; or that is the infamous volume 2 estranged from volume 1 and 3 of a three volume set. New resources have broader appeal and they last longer.

  • Fifth, keep a balance in the materials that you purchase. Consider buying materials that appeal to a broad range of needs. For example, purchase materials which offer: practical academic assistance in core subject areas, basic philosophical resources, and family related helps.

    An excellent idea to achieve broad appeal and maximize funds would be to purchase the whole set of convention tapes from your state's home school organization. The set will cover a diversity of topics and you'll only have to pay around two hundred dollars. More people will listen to tapes than will read a book and you can't beat the genuineness and practicality to be found in those home school Moms and Dads who speak from battle scar experience!

Funding

Have you ever been in the middle of a really great dream and then for one reason or another you wake up? I can remember preparing for many trips to Hawaii, only to wake up right before I get on the plane! The funding issue can be a call back to reality. But not to worry. God pays for what God orders.

Everyone pays his share. You can actually use three basic alternatives. The most obvious alternative is that each of the families can pitch in their share of what the total cost of resources will be for each year. Depending on your goals, the number of families you have and the availability of "extra" finances, this system will work. It may be that you simply include resource center expenses into the annual membership fee for your group. (Families in your church who don't home school but want to use the resource center can be asked to simply make an annual donation toward the purchase of new supplies.)

The church funds it. A resource center meets a broad range of needs which pertains to the teaching and training of families in the ways of Christ our Lord. Therefore, it is a legitimate ministry of the local church and it should receive funding from the general budget at least in the initial stages.

For the first three years, the HTS resource center was funded totally from the church budget. The more broadly your resource center appeals to the whole congregation, the greater your chance of getting funded from the church budget. If you're going this route, you will especially want to highlight the benefits of your resource center, where applicable, to families who don't home school.

Your resource center would be a logical extension of your church library-if you have one. If your church has a line item in its budget for a library, investigate the possibility of its increase for this purpose.

Church funding plus user fees or donations. Here's a third option that has worked well for HTS. Last year we requested that our families make donations to augment the church budget above and beyond the tithe.

This third alternative is probably the most realistic for the majority of churches because it represents commitment by all who are involved. It will certainly increase the amount of money you have to spend!

To date, Harvester has invested approximately $10,000 in its resource center. (The overall value is significantly higher, approximately $15,000, and includes brand new resources which were donated). This amount does include book shelves, file cabinets, the computerized cataloging program, tape, book covers and other miscellaneous support costs. Just like your monthly bills, the expenses add up fast!

Suggested Starter Kit

During one of the breaks at a Christian Life Workshops (CLW) seminar, I ran to the curriculum hall and upon being asked by an CLW worker, "Can I help you?" I responded, "Yes! I want one of everything!" After assuring that I really wanted, "one of everything" she looked at me like I was some sort of nut. If CLW salesmen received commissions (which they don't), she would have thought she'd died and gone to heaven!

Gregg Harris has a diverse set of resources available from one vendor. They are of the most excellent quality. Through CLW, you can purchase more than his works; you can purchase other basic books which you'll find on my "start-up" list. I will say that his resources have been some of the most widely used by Harvester's ministries and families. If you purchase one of everything you'll have a foundation upon which to diversify your resource center.

Much more could be said about selections with which to start your resource center, but Mary Pride has a chainsaw bearing my name if I belabor this list! I will restrain myself to mentioning only 20 items which represent the most basic resources that you will want to consider for the beginner. See the sidebar for a list of these items.

#1 -- 11 can be purchased from Christian Life Workshops, P.O. Box 2250, Gresham, OR 97030, 1-800-CALL-CLW

#12 -- 18 can be purchased from Lifetime Books and Gifts. Call 1-800-377-0390

Eric's Starter Kit

  1. The Basic and Advanced Home Schooling Workshop Cassette Tape Series by Gregg Harris
  2. Why Should I Home School My Child? VHS video by Gregg Harris
  3. The Big Books of Home Learning by Mary Pride
  4. The Christian Home Educator's Curriculum Manuals, Volumes 1 and 2 by Cathy Duffy
  5. "The Original Home Schooling 6-Volume Series" by Charlotte Mason
  6. How To Create Your Own Unit Study by Valerie Bendt
  7. Prides' Guide to Educational Software by Bill and Mary Pride
  8. The Seasons of Life Seminar 8-Tape Set by Gregg Harris
  9. You Can Teach Your Child Successfully and companion "3R's" set by Ruth Beechick
  10. Learning Language Arts Through Literature by Susan Simpson (a multi-volume set)
  11. The Right Choice by Chris Klicka
  12. A Survivor's Guide to Home Schooling by Luanne Shackelford and Susan White
  13. Successful Home Schooling (book and tape) by Richard Fugate
  14. Hints on Child Training by Trumball (now out of print; expected back in print in August)
  15. Complete Home Schooling Reference Guide by Kay Milow
  16. How To Home School: A Practical Approach by Gayle Graham
  17. "Childhood of Famous Americans" Series
  18. Home Schooling and the Law by Michael Farris
  19. Set of premiere issue of Practical Home Schooling magazine, P.O. Box 1250, Fenton, MO 63026-1850, 1-800-346-6322. Ask for special Support Group rate of $20 postpaid for set of 10 copies of the premiere issue. Use these as handouts for new members, with the suggestion that they subscribe; keep one for a shelf reference.
  20. Complete set of back issues of Teaching Home magazine, P.O. Box 20219, Portland, OR 97220-0219 (costs $105, covers years 1987-1992 inclusive, comes with one free magazine holder per issue; holders fit neatly into 3-ring binder). These back issues are especially useful because they are "themed," meaning each issue goes in depth into a specific topic, so you can find a lot of info quickly on a given subject.

The Ultimate Resource Center

During our four years of operation, HTS has steadily diversified its acquisitions. We now have approximately 1000 volumes (books, audio and video tapes) covering to greater or lesser degrees any topic you can imagine from learning how to home school to teaching science in the kitchen. All of this material is housed in two bookshelves 10' L x 8' H, two lateral file cabinets crammed full of catalogs and support materials representing about 200 venders, VCR and TV, two IBM-compatible 386 computers and printer, etc.

My ultimate vision for the Resource Center is that it become a place where people can come and peruse a sampling of what the major curriculum companies have to offer. This includes the latest in unit studies, supplementary materials for unit studies, curricula teaching art, music and other subjects that tend to get less attention, science projects, foreign language curriculum, and definitely more Christian biographies and edifying recreational reading materials for the children.

How Effective has the Resource Center Been?

Home schooling is the most successful family-reviving movement of our century. It follows then that many of the most useful family-strengthening resources are to be found in home schooling circles. Having these resources located in the church can strengthen your church's outreach and discipleship. In some cases, people have entered other ministries in our church after first coming into contact with us through the Resource Center.

Our church's youth ministry and family-integrated Sunday School classes have capitalized on theses resources as well. Our leaders have referred on a number of occasions to these resources to enhance their own discipleship activities with the parents.

I would like to leave you with the thoughts expressed by one of our members in a recent letter. After reading it, I think you'll be more encouraged than ever that a resource center can be a critical ministry at your church!

"Harvester Teaching Services right in our neighborhood has been a support to us even before we actually began home schooling 2 years ago. To have access to their fantastic resources gave me confidence, encouragement and a head start in home schooling. Many books recommended by experienced homeschoolers I easily found and checked out at HTS' library so I could enjoy all the preparatory reading I wanted . . . Though we don't belong to Harvester Church, we appreciate the convenience and proximity of the Teaching Services and know of home schooling families who travel great distances on a regular basis to make use of this Resource Center which is a gem in our midst!" -- A homeschooling mother


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