Thursday, July 29, 2010

Printing Public Domain E-books at a Low Cost

Since we follow a Charlotte Mason-inspired curriculum, many of our books can be found online as downloadable public domain e-books. This saves quite a bit of money, but reading the texts can cause a problem. The books can be read off the computer screen, but this isn't always convenient, and usually involves some special set-up by mom to get the margins at a convenient width and get the brightness adjusted to it is comfortable to read for a longer period. Another problem is that the computer will be tied up sometimes because our math curriculum (Teaching Textbooks) requires computer use.

We don't own a Kindle or other electronic reader, and that is not in the budget for our school.

Last year, I printed off a couple of texts with our ink jet printer, and that worked pretty well. I finally calculated the cost of that, and found that I would have been better off buying a used book!

This summer, I came across some good directions* for printing e-books at a low cost. This website is focused on the Robinson Curriculum, which also uses many public domain books. A black and white laser printer will print these books for a much lower cost, so I researched and found a printer on sale this summer for $60. I calculated the cost according to their method, and found that in almost every case, I could print a book for less than I could buy it used. I make my books half-size, as they recommend.

A tip that I have learned is to format all your printing on MS Word (or your similar software) and do not change any printer settings except for asking it to duplex, either manually or automatically. Print small samples of just a few pages to make sure your printer is going to do what you want.

I am currently experimenting with different binding methods to find what works best for my family. More on that later.

*I have found that these directions work for almost everything, except poetry and Shakespeare's plays. For that, you are better off printing as-is on half-sized paper. If poetry is included in the text, you will have to manually format it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Preparing for the Fall

I have spent the past few days getting my schedule ready for next year. Last year we used AmblesideOnline for our core, and we are doing the same this year. We really enjoyed getting into a more Charlotte Mason-inspired curriculum, and I feel like this is where we will stay.

To plan our year, I started out by choosing which years we will be using from the AmblesideOnline site. This year my daughter will follow Year 6, and my son will follow Year 4. There are different reasons why we chose not to combine both kids in one year, and I will go into that on another post.

To get everything lined out, I made tables in MS Word with five days across the top, and each subject down the left side of the page. I made separate tables for both children, although some areas are the same for both of them. This way, they will be able to see their weekly chart and tell how much they need to do for the day.

Here is a small shot of what they look like:

AmblesideOnline gives you the suggestion of work that should be completed each week of the program. I spaced things out so that Mondays and Fridays are light days, and Tuesday - Thursday are our heavy days. This will work out best with the schedule of outside activities we are planning. I also added a tweak based on my experiences last year. Instead of 12-week terms as AmblesideOnline suggests, I fit everything into 11-week terms. This gives us a catch-up week if we need it, or a field-trip week.