every day as a kid. What is amazing to me
is how fully that equipped me to study at
Oxford, how the “experts” there simply
continued the rhythms of independent
learning that my parents had initiated
during my childhood. I came home from
my time overseas deeply thankful that my
parents’ focus as they educated me had
been to make me a hungry and independent learner. I also realized how dependent this kind of education is upon one
thing: easy access to great books.
I have long been an advocate of home
libraries, and I spend much of my time
speaking to parents about how to make
reading a regular rhythm in the home.
However, I have come home from Oxford
with a new realization of the gift of having
a great local library. Now, in my talks, one
of the first things I recommend is that parents take their children straight down to
the library. There is no better place to begin a love for reading in a child, and with
it, an identity as a self-driven learner. And
if your family is anything like mine and
you haven’t quite yet managed to collect
the Bodleian Library for your home, then
the local library becomes a treasure mine.
Local libraries can be a powerful resource for homeschooling families. They
are the treasure horde and symbol of independent learners. If you have a good
library on hand, and your children have a
hunger to learn, there is nothing to hold
them back from ceaseless discovery.
My time at Oxford helped me to remember—and realize—how much my
own family valued and made use of our
local library. Library days were festival
days in my house as I was growing up.
We scoured the shelves for favorites and
added them to the pile of assigned reading that my mom had already collected.
We were probably famous (infamous?) for
the amount of books we took home each
week. When we began study of a certain
period in history or focused on learning
more about a specific author in literature,
we headed to the library to find books
about that particular subject. We sought
out poetry and art books we never would
have found in a store and always came
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. . . Education is the process by which a young
scholar is mentored by an older one, not
brainwashed, but equipped, mostly through the
exploration of great books . . . .
home with a dozen or so picture books by
our favorite illustrators. Audiobooks from
the library were staples for road trips.
Since returning from Oxford, I have
reacquainted myself with my local library and the kindly librarians who run
it. The resources have only grown since
I was a child. Most library databases are
online now, making their contents immediately accessible. Interlibrary loan is
an amazing tool, a system by which your
library can request to borrow from another library any book it does not currently possess.
A “library hold,” in which you can request books to be transported from one
area library to the one closest to your
house, is a wonderful tool that is offered by many libraries. Librarians are
often deeply knowledgeable about what
is available and are particularly well informed about what books might be of
interest to curious children. Audiobooks
are available by the dozens in many libraries, making an invaluable resource
instantly available and affordable.
I always dreamed of going to Oxford
because I wanted to be a writer and
thinker like C. S. Lewis. I thought that
if I studied in the same atmosphere that
he did, I might pick up a bit of his brilliance. I came home with the realization
that his atmosphere was simply that of
good books daily read, discussed, and
loved. Much as I love the beauty of Oxford, I can have an Oxford-style education wherever I live. To get started, all I
need is a library and a little curiosity.
Sarah Clarkson loves good books and
beauty and spends most of her time trying
to create one or the other. She is a freelance
writer who hails from the dappled foothills
of Colorado and plans to write at least one
great novel in her lifetime. In the meantime, she speaks about literature, faith,
and beauty and is the author of Read for
the Heart, a parents’ guide to a healthy
reading life for their family. She blogs at