The ugly truth about homeschoolers (stolen from Amy)

Today, I read on Amy’s blog a post entitled The ugly truth about homeschoolers.  It was about her huge fine at the library.  Hah!  She’s got nothin’ on me!  Lightweight.  Her fine was $17.73.

Earlier today, I blogged about the kindness shown by my husband in light of my own gigantic fine at the library.  Lisa asked me to ‘fess up and divulge all the ugly details, something I was considering anyways.  Really, I was was wanting to know if other moms have a problem similar to Amy’s and mine, or if we’re alone in our irresponsible library usage.

I’ve tried to apply a tourniquet to my fine hemorrhage, but the deeper problem, apparently, is still unfixed.  I guess it boils down to irresponsibility.

I signed up for Library Elf, which is a fine service that notifies me, for free, when my books are coming due.  Then, I go online and renew them, if I know we won’t be able to get to the library to refresh our books.  That’s great, but if I have managed to amass a fine $5 or greater, my library system won’t let me renew online.  When we typically max out our card at 35 items, and books’ fines are $0.10/day, and DVDs’ fines are $1.00/day, it’s easy to get to $5.00 in a hurry.  AND, our library system currently has no option to pay bills online;  you have to go in person.  So, many times my Library Elf notices pop into my inbox to tell me, “More books are late.  And, since you can’t get to the library for at least a couple of days… and your fine is already at $7.00… you know, ha ha ha ha ha, this notice simply serves to inform you that your fine is just growing.”

OR, since I have to pay for my card, since I live outside the city in which our favored library resides, if my card expires before the length of time for which the items will be renewed (one week for DVDs, three weeks for books), I can’t renew online.

Or, if we’ve already checked an item out three times, we can’t renew them again.  (Though the librarian let me know that they’ve removed the limits, and now anyone can check items out indefinitely.  That’ll help a little.)

Add these restrictions to my basic irresponsibility to the Thanksgiving holidays, and I had a $26 fine.  So… I went to the library last Friday with $40 cash to pay my fine, plus renew my card (I live in a city different than my preferred library, so I pay $10/quarter for the card).  Imagine my shock when the librarian said, “Oh my.  Your fine is…







How did that happen???

I burst into tears.

I am not normally a big cry-er, and I loathe lady-in-distress tears, especially those intended to manipulate others.  But this time, I absolutely couldn’t help it.


  • it turns out that anyone with a fine greater than $25.00 is immediately turned over to collections and assessed a $30 fee.  I didn’t know that.  As bad as my struggle is with fines, at least it has never (to my memory) gotten over $25, before this.
  • Plus, we had two books that were listed as lost, because we had had them for so long.  I had no idea where the books were.  Those books had huge fines, plus “lost” fees.
  • Normally, my library has a cap of a $5 per item overdue fine.  However, for reasons still unclear to me, a number of items were assessed this fee twice.  So, a bunch of items were $10.  I appealed to the library for this portion of it, to no avail.  They wouldn’t bend.
  • Plus the “normal” overdues, twenty cents here, forty cents there, times at least 35.

All of that totaled my unimaginable library fine.  ALL of the fines and fees had accrued over the course of one month, December.

I took the kids back out to the truck, cried, nursed the baby, cried some more… the kids were silent as I fed Fiala.  They so lack perception about what is appropriate, when.  But, thankfully, they could tell that this was serious.  Except for Audrey.  She’s two, so I extended her some grace.  🙂

I got home, cried some more.

Part of my woe was from the fact that this is, to my husband’s consternation, an ongoing problem.  I probably rack up $10-15 in fines per quarter.  Added to that is that money is SO tight, and we have been doing everything we can possibly think of to economize.  My husband balked at paying $2.50 for a pair of baby shoes that were on clearance.  What would he think of $104 in fines?????  I thought I’d calm down a little, think of how to approach him on it…  The library put me as “payment status” which meant I had six weeks in which to pay, and in they wouldn’t assess any more fines.  I thought of ways I could earn the remaining $64.15 (after paying the $40 I already had) in that time.  Then, he called.  I started crying.  I couldn’t help it.  I was crying so hard, he couldn’t understand what I was saying.

And, what did he do?  Get angry?  Say, “How could you???”  I’m sure I would have.  He didn’t.  He just said that we’d pay the fine, return the books (which we did find, after turning the house upside down, emptying all our very many bookcases), and just not go back to the library for a while.


I certainly do not want to repeat that.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do, because Ethan will finish his Sonlight Core in about two weeks, and afterwards, I was going to figure out some unit study — using library books — that he could do until we can afford to buy the new Core.  😦


About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on January 16, 2009, in Books for children, Books I'm Reading, Homeschooling, Sad Things, The Dear Hubby, The Kids. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. ouch… that sucks that they wouldn’t work with you.

    ours is rather picky about the collections thing.. anything 2 weeks or more overdue is listed as lost and charged for the book, which pretty much automatically gets you there.

    but then you get to the kicker…. once to goes to collections, ours won’t remove the book charge. so if i’m paying for the book either way past two weeks, what would make people return it after that? and its not like 2 weeks is uncommon when people forget about books.

    i’m the only person i know with a library fine on their credit report.

  2. wow, that is a sad story. the extra fees made it overwhelming. I’m so sorry this happened.

  3. OK- I have to admit when I read your first entry about the library fine, I thought to myself, good grief, it’s a library fine! How bad could it be? Congrats, my sweet friend, that’s pretty bad. 🙂 It is so frustrating when you can’t take care of things in a timely manner, and utilize the helpful tools available. But girl, cut yourself a little slack. You have 4 kids and just had a baby. I can’t believe you can’t haul all those kids to the library all the time to take care of this….NOT!!! But I TOTALLY get the overwhelming despair and finding out you owe money and don’t have the money to pay. For our third year anniversary I booked a hotel room for one night at a place just outside Minneapolis. Somewhere along the placing the reservation and us checking out, they got their wires crossed and charged us almost a hundred dollars more than what was agreed upon. Tim was in school and working part time I was working full time and we had just enough money to do what I had agreed to. We got out to the car and I started bawling. I figured we could go without food for a day or two to make up the difference. God love my hubby. He went in told them what the arrangements were that I reserved the room under and that I was crying in the car because of their mistake. They gave us back the difference. Whew! I felt almost guilty for crying and making it feel like I was manipulating the situation, but I was truly freaked out! So I feel your pain, Babe. I can only imagine after this experience you will be all over the library book thing.
    Love ya!

  4. Oh, Karen! I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with that!! What a nightmare! I have to say I have a little anger towards your library right now! How about a little grace for people! Sometimes things happen that we just can’t control – your situation being one of those!! I can’t believe they would charge that much in fines to one family!!

    You need to come to our library. 🙂 We go every Tuesday so we’ve made “friends” with one of the librarians and she expects us each week now, knows us by name, etc. She won’t even let me pay fines when we are late with something – she just takes it off. I racked up some fines during December as well because it was Christmas break and I just forgot to go! She was full of grace again and removed them even though they were quite a bit more than we’ve ever had before. Like you said, when you check out the max it adds up quickly. 😉

    Our library also does a food drive every so often and they’ll eliminate fines if you bring in food. I wonder if there is a different library that you can go to that does things like that? Or is this basically your only option?

    I hope you can find a solution that works for you. I know how vital the library is to a homeschooling family!! 🙂

    By the way, yea for your hubby!!! That was awesome how good he was to you about it. 🙂

  5. Bummer! Triple digits is a shock. Have you checked out I don’t know if it would work for you because it requires multiple trips to the post office, but it might be an inexpensive way to get a few school-related books. You post books you don’t want online. Then you make a wishlist of books you want. You mail people your books when they order them, and vice versa. I think it works out to about $2.50 a book, plus your unwanted book, once you count mailing cost and listing fees.

  6. Yeah, Erin has a great idea! We’ve gotten a LOT of books from paperback swap and it’s awesome!!! We love using that. 🙂

  7. I just buy books from Goodwill. 59 cents for paperback, 99 cents for hard-backed (at least in my area). I travel to different area Goodwills and check them all out … and I’ve found some really great stuff. Might be worth a try.

  8. So my fines have been up there too but not quite that bad. At least all at once. We have paid for lost books that we or the library eventually found and we have paid for lots of destroyed books.

    We didn’t check out over Christmas and the kids are banned from checking out stuff until after the baby is born. My husband gets quite frustrated with me too.

    One thing that we have a problem with is the kids taking the books to their room and never returning them or putting the DVD cases in empty. So we started making them pay (big kids that mow lawns) or working off the fines, because I didn’t feel that I should be responsible for that. (like books behind beds, etc.) I still have a Rocky soundtrack to return that they took out of the bag right before we left and then didn’t put it back on like I told them too.

    I used to never have a problem but in the last 2 years it has turned into a HUGE money pit.

    I completely understand.

  9. Yikes.

    That’s… well, rather impressive.

    It really bothers me when I get slapped with fees for not paying something. I once had check bounce from one of our accounts, so they slapped me with a fine, which caused the account to ding again, so I got another fine… three times in a row.

    And I had more than enough money in my other account.

    I lost it. Thankfully, after several phone calls, the situation was resolved.

    May your situation work out even better than mine.

    Hang in there!


  10. actually, KJ, my fines the year we did My Father’s World (instead of Sonlight) were over $150.

    And this time, my $17 fine is for a book we DID RETURN but THEY lost. Which has happened 2 other times in the last couple years. Eventually they find it and reinstate my card, erasing my fine. But we can’t use the card in the interim. Luckily we each have a card so we just put everyone’s books on a different card.

  11. boy do i feel blessed! i have a library that does that FOR ME!!!!!! and i can check online for them at any time. Still i had a $20 one time….innerlibraryloan costs $1 a day.

  12. I can totally identify with your dependency on the library…and funny thing…I just got a call today that I had an overdue book out. Uh-oh. I had completely forgot about it. It’s a history book that I have renewed about five times, but haven’t used it much since before Christmas break. Fortunately, my library doesn’t charge fines, unless they are extremely late. I haven’t received any fines for books, but our movies were late once. That was $2 a day for 4 movies. Ouch! I will pray that you can get by without the library. I know it will be hard to do.

  13. Wow, that is bad! I home schooled for about 8 years and my worst fine was in the $80.00 range. I never told anyone! You are the first person I’m admitting it to! There, I feel better!

  14. Hey,

    I totally understand, although ours has not reached that high.

    We do this:

    1) Renew Online (I keep all acct info on a sheet of paper by the computer and check them on a given day)
    2) I go to the Library on the same day each week or month and ask them to auto renew anything outstanding.
    3) Have a special place for library books and books to go back. We have a bag hanging up to go back and a place for library books. Kids can’t take them to their rooms cause I will never see them again.
    4) In Phoenix, they have a program (during certain times of the year) where you can bring in canned food to lower your fine. I go find cans that are god but lower than the fine price and at least my fine is cut in half.
    5) If you have a relationship with the library, which most homeschooling families do, ask for help. When we had a incident when we went out of town for a funeral, they helped us as a one time deal. It never hurts to ask.

    P.S. – Too funny about our AZVA connection huh? 🙂



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