Homeschoolers are often ahead of other teachers in taking advantage of resources on the Internet. That makes sense, because in many home school situations (of course, each family’s is different), finances and space may be limited.
Getting started with ebooks in your homeschool – free!
Ebooks are especially appropriate for and adaptable to homeschool programs, with or without an ebook reader. With free software, the family computer can morph into a virtual Nook (more) to read .epub books or a virtual Kindle (more) to read .mobi books, and the computer most likely already has the Adobe Reader to read .pdf books.
Even better, the free software Calibre (which you can download here) includes a reader that accesses those formats – and more.
Give your homeschool an amazing library – free!
So, without spending any money (assuming you already had a computer), you have your equipment. Now, you can offer your homeschool students thousands (and thousands, and thousands) of free books. You can begin building your library by reading about the three main sources for free ebooks here.
Since most of the books available for free are older — out of copyright — they will most likely be family friendly. For some classes, such as science, since the books are older, they may not be appropriate, unless you are interested in classic scientific books, such as Jean-Henri Fabre’s informative and entertaining writings about insects, such as this.
Of course, these free ebooks would be most useful in classes on history and literature. I recently read Bill Bryson’s book At Home (not available for free, at least, not legally), which is about everyday life in England in the nineteenth century. I was able to find almost every book he referred to in the Internet Archive (here).
You might not want to use Bryson’s book in your homeschool classroom, but from the free online libraries, you can find the original books and other documents discussed in his book as well as in history textbooks. For instance, Bryson refers to Jane Loudon’s Gardening for Ladies (1840), significant because it was written for women in the new middle class, so besides gardening, it says a great deal about social classes and the roles of women. It is not a book that you or your local library would likely have, but now, you can download the ebook here … or you could go to the library of Harvard University, where the paper (“dead tree”) original can be found.
Don’t forget magazines and newspapers for your homeschool – free!
Enough about books that may be out of date, how about free subscriptions to current newspapers and magazines? Just imagine… enhancing your foreign language instruction with current magazines and newspapers that do not cost anything.
Of course, you can visit the websites of many newspapers and magazines to read their content online, but thanks (again) to Calibre, you can subscribe for free to have newspapers and magazines downloaded to your computer in English and other languages. Learn more about obtaining free (and environmentally friendly) newspapers and magazines.
Get the Encyclopedia Britannica for your homeschool – free!
The eleventh edition (1911) of the Encyclopedia Britannica, although published a century ago, is still highly regarded for the depth, not to mention length, of its articles. Although there are attempts to preserve it online, such as the LoveToKnow Classic Encyclopedia (here), you can download the entire set of the original text in your choice of ebook format. You can find a listing of the Encyclopedia Britannica ebook pages here.
Get your homeschool students motivated – free!
A creative teacher (homeschool or otherwise) will come up with many ways to use free ebooks in the classroom. You can create your own anthology or textbook. You can help your students learn how to search for information online, and that is, after all, where they will be looking for information.
A very important advantage to using ebooks with students today is that, even though you are expecting them to read something as foreign to their world as Romeo and Juliet (which you can find here) or The Red Badge of Courage (here) or The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (here), you can make the reading material more appealing by having it in ebook format. You can point out to them that you are trying to motivate them. You don’t have to add that you are also being a cheapskate, or maybe you could take advantage of a teachable moment about sticking to a budget.
Update: I had planned to write an article on ebooks for children beyond an educational setting – reading for fun! But The New York Times has published and article “E-Readers Catch Younger Eyes and Go in Backpacks” (here) that covers that topic so well that I’ll just refer you to it.
Check this index to my articles on “How to Read Ebooks for Pleasure and Convenience.”