Smile Politely

Home school fair hopes to educate and entertain

From the Children’s Services Manager at Champaign Library: 

Parents who are homeschooling — or looking into the homeschool option — are invited to visit the free Homeschool Fair at the Champaign Public Library, 200 W. Green St., on Saturday, April 19th. It’s a chance to connect with supportive resources in the Champaign-Urbana community, see a 3D printer in action, and learn how makerspaces and high-tech tools are creating exciting new ways to learn.

I talked to Aaron Carlin about his work and the upcoming fair. His major at U of I earned him a Bachelor’s Degree in Aviation Human Factors, but life lead him to the Champaign Public Library, where he is now working while in school. 

Smile Politely: How did you get involved in this project? What is special about it to you?

Aaron Carlin: I recently transferred to the Children’s Services department in July of 2013 from our Douglass Branch. I’ve had previous successful larger type programs such as this under my belt, and my new supervisor, Stephanie Edwards, thought this would be a good challenge for me. Our Home School Fair is only held every two years and that means a lot of new opportunities for learning arise between events.

SP: What’s your background? Where are you from?

Carlin: I grew up in a very small farm town named Hartsburg, near Lincoln, IL. After escaping into the U.S. Navy at 19 years old, I traveled the world and had many adventures. When the time came for me to be honorably discharged five years later, I returned to Illinois to attend U of I.

SP: What’s unique about this particular fair?

Carlin: I’ve been fascinated with 3D printing and Makerspaces for a few years now, so much so that I’ve experimented with it myself. The science and art that go into Makerspaces along with the do-it-yourself nature lend itself very well to an educational setting. Therefore it’s uber-important that our library lead the charge and continue to introduce and inform the public about new technologies like this.

SP: What’s your exact title and role in the fair and its venue?

Carlin: I am a full time Library Associate in our Children’s Services department. It’s my job to structure the organization of this year’s Home School Fair, reach out to local educational related non-profits to attend, get the word out to local home school groups, and coordinate with our Promotions department to ensure the word gets out about this program. The HSF itself will take place in our large Pavilion meeting rooms near our Latte Da cafe.

SP: What do you hope to accomplish with the home schooling fair? What’s the main goal?

Carlin: As with any program I put on, I strive to give our patrons and the public a valuable learning and entertaining experience. It’s important to me that the library continues to support society with programs such as this and make available new ideas and concepts that don’t always find their way into every household. This year specifically, my main goal is to focus on the incredible learning potential that the growing Maker Revolution is presenting in addition to continually providing support to traditional learning and extracurricular practices as well.

A Community Resource Fair, from 10am until noon, will bring together representatives from more than a dozen local homeschool groups and nonprofits. Champaign Public Library staff will also share information about how the library can help homeschooling families, including how to make quiet study rooms and find and use homework databases.

“From 11 a.m. to noon, staff from three local makerspaces will introduce the Maker Movement and show how their facilities can enhance teaching. Throughout the hour, representatives from the Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab on the UI campus will be available to discuss their programs. A presentation by Makerspace Urbana, a facility housed at the Champaign-Urbana Independent Media Center, is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. A 3D printer demonstration will be featured at 11:30 a.m. during a talk by the Illinois MakerLab at the UI Business School.”

If you attend the Home School Fair, you’ll receive a special discount at the library’s FriendShop bookstore.

For more information, call the Champaign Public Library Children’s Services department at 217/403-2030 or e-mail

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