ERWIN — Homeschoolers will soon have a new space in the Unicoi County Public Library to check out curriculum, network with other homeschoolers and learn hands-on.
Homeschool Headquarters is the brainchild of Laura Elliott, a community volunteer and member of the UCPL board. Elliott, who homeschools her son, said she got the idea for the space after she had trouble finding homeschooling resources.
“I just started homeschooling my son, and I tried to reach out online, on social media, to see the different things that they have available for homeschooling,” Elliott said. “There wasn’t very much out there, not that I was able to see, for homeschoolers at home to get hands-on learning experience. Well, automatically, I thought we need to change that.”
Elliott approached UCPL Director Selena Harmon with her idea, and between the two and their shared passion for learning, Elliott’s idea to make homeschooling resources more accessible grew into Homeschool Headquarters.
“You can see in someone’s eyes, you can hear it in their words, when they’re really passionate about something, and I really liked that and we clicked and we’ve been working together,” Harmon said.
Despite the name, both Harmon and Elliott said the Homeschool Headquarters space is not just limited to homeschoolers, but is a resource for anyone interested in supplementing their child’s education.
“It is not limited,” Harmon said. “Yes, it is homeschool, but that really defines what we’re trying to encompass in the collection. This is education. It’s supplemental education. So it’s not limited just to people who are strictly homeschooling. It’s for people who have children in public schools but they just want to supplement a little more at home.”
Parents can find a variety of curriculum books, ranging from K-12, for checkout in the space. Plans are also in the works to include workbook printouts within copyright laws, magazine subscriptions and learning apps.
“Curriculum on one grade level, just for the children’s books, can range anywhere from $200 to $600, and then when you get a parent’s kit, like when they’re older and you have to learn it yourself, that can be $300 to $500 too, and this is free,” Elliott said.
Homeschool Headquarters goes far beyond curriculum books, though. The library plans to offer do-it-yourself experiment kits, a microscope, a telescope, dissecting kits, a human anatomy model and free school supplies. The space will also be available to rent by homeschooling groups, co-ops or families.
Homeschool Headquarters is funded entirely through the First Dibs UCPL Online Book Sale group on Facebook, where Elliott sells newly-pulled and duplicate books from the library.
“It’s on Facebook, and that funds this homeschool headquarters solely,” Harmon said. “So those monies will be used to purchase additional curriculum building materials from advance to beginner.”
Elliott said her dream for the space is to expand and pull in people from all over the region.
“I hope and dream that people from other surrounding counties will come and that they’ll want to be a part of it,” Elliott said. “I hope the community wants to jump in and help fund this as well. It’s not just for one individual group, it is for everybody to use if they want.”
Elliott and Harmon are working to fill Homeschool Headquarters with materials, and both said the space will continue to grow.
“The possibilities are endless,” Elliott said. “Every day I come up with a whole new setup.”
In order for the space to grow and succeed, though, Elliott said it will take the community’s support, whether that be through donations of money or equipment or through the book sale.
“The importance of growing is community support and funding,” Elliott said. “I don’t mind, as far as books and how long it takes to do it and set up that site and things like that, I don’t mind. But eventually, we’re going to need to get better equipment, better things, and to get duplicates so that more than one person can check out a microscope. Things like that. We do need the community support.”
The First Dibs UCPL Online Book Sale group can be found on Facebook and is open for anyone to join, and several homeschool curriculum books are available for checkout at the UCPL.