Saturday, August 21, 2010

Learn Filmmaking Online

Filmmaking would seem to be one of those subjects which you can't learn at home on your own, like medicine. Although some smaller aspects of the process, like screenwriting, might be learnable at home, the whole process of filmmaking seems to be just too big to fit in the garage. Anybody who's ever been to a film studio has seen the warehouse-sized studios where they work, along with the room-sized equipment that's used to piece the film together afterwards. And filmmaking requires the participation of so many people. The end credits of most movies list the names of hundreds of people. All in all, it seems to be too complicated and too major a project for amateurs. The only way to learn filmmaking must be to go to an expensive film school that might be hundreds of miles away.

Some websites challenge this presumption. Wikibooks' Movie Making Manual and the Film School Online both offer free filmmaking lessons. Both websites offer a detailed description of the filmmaking process from the original idea to postproduction and marketing, and the process isn't as overwhelming as it might seem. It isn't necessary to have a warehouse full of equipment, and the film can be edited on a laptop with a software program like FinalCut. It's also possible to get background music without having an orchestra in the living room. The Film School Online has numerous book recommendations which can supplement the filmmaking course.

These websites can be an enormous help to an aspiring filmmaker who wants to start with short films and to go on to larger projects as they gain experience. Anybody who wants more hands-on experience might attend a workshop in filmmaking as a supplement to self-study and still come out of it in a shorter time and with less debt than a traditional film school student. Anybody who's planning on going to film school anyway can be familiarized with filmmaking through these websites before making a commitment to it.

There seems to be some debate as to whether or not traditional film schools are worth it. Not long ago I found a forum in which some of the posters had been through film school but wouldn't go through it again. It's been argued that most film school graduates don't work as fimmakers, but as teachers in other film schools, and that it might be a better idea to put the money that would have been spent on film school into producing an independent film. An idea might be to combine independent study in filmmaking with business subjects, which aren't usually throroughly covered in the film schools. Whether one decides to go to a brick-and-mortar film school or not, it's a good idea to do one's own research as to how the film world works before making a final decision.

More Reasons to Homeschool College

Anybody who reads homeschooling forums and blogs is well familiar with school horror stories from the grade schools, which often involve mobbing, violence, bad teachers, and/or poor academic standards. Many people believe that colleges and universities are a step above this. However, I recently found two blogs which help to prove the contrary.

Rate Your Students and College Misery are websites which are well worth visiting for anybody considering a brick-and-mortar college. Both blogs are written by college professors, and most of the comment writers are also professors. Rate Your Students gives the horror story of the day, in which a college writing class is devoted to teaching the students how to write on lined notebook paper, complete with six rules for doing so, ie, don't write to the left of the pink vertical line.

Another post at Rate Your Students is written by a professor who swears in class, partly to make her students aware that they've entered the adult world. This is a good example of the modern tendency to confuse negativity with maturity, as there are many adults, even college students, who don't swear and find it offensive. Movies which contain pornography and violence are often referred to as "adult" entertainment. This attitude ignores the act that it's only been very recently that foul language has become socially acceptable, and that even today, there are many places in the adult world where swearing isn't allowed. For instance, many TV and radio stations don't allow their anchormen to use foul language.

College Misery reveals the hostility which often exists between the professors and the students. At least one post refers to the female students to as "snowflakes," and the professors' overall view of the students seems to be that they're mostly drunk and lazy. Reading the posts, and the following comments, gives one the impression of an environment in which the professors are frustrated and burned out, and who are dealing with students who don't really want to be at college nor learn anything there. As neither of these blogs is limited to professors of only one college, it shows that the problems with today's colleges are widespread throughout many schools.

This situation might also make one wonder if the traditional college experience is really necessary. As I was reading the horror stories, I kept thinking about the expense of college, and whether the hostile environment there really offers enough benefits to be worth the trouble. At one point, I considered becoming a college history professor. These blogs make me glad that I didn't.

There's another benefit to doing college homeschool-style. There was one night last winter, when the temperature was below freezing, the sidewalks were covered with snow, it was ten 'o' clock at night, and I was studying economics. It was an enormous relief that I only had to turn off the laptop and pull out my sofa bed, instead of traipsing out into the freezing cold to get home.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Free Online Homeschooling Books

This is an ongoing collection of links for homeschooling books which are available for free online.

Ambleside Online - This website contains extensive information about Charlotte Mason and her approach towards education. Some of its features include copies of her books which have been translated into modern English. (Charlotte Mason lived in Victorian England.) The website also includes a Charlotte Mason curriculum going up to the 11th grade. Much of the curriculum's reading material is available online for free.

Deschooling Society - Although Ivan Illich wrote this book 1970, his ideas on the damages of institutionalized schooling are just as valid 40 years later.

The Underground History of American Education - This book by former schoolteacher John Taylor Gatto reveals the origins of the public school system and who really gained from its introduction. This book does an especially good job of showing how the real intent behind public education was to end the tradition of independent livelihoods in America through creating an institutionalized school system in order to make Americans dependent on institutionalzed jobs.

Education: Free and Compulsory This book on the Mises website is short enough to be read in one evening, and also does a good job of showing how the purpose of the school system is to create an obiedient public rather than to offer the students the path to a better life.

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Save Money on Textbooks

One of the best things about doing college through independent study is the fact that you can choose your own learning materials. You no longer feel obligated to buy a certain textbook which can cost over $100 at the college bookstore, even if there's another, cheaper title that you think is better. Independent students can choose how long they're going to take to complete a course. If you think that you can prepare for a CLEP exam in U.S. History within 30 days, you don't need to sign up for an expensive course that lasts for three months. Therefore, independent students have numerous options when it comes to saving money on textbooks.

The cheapest textbooks are free. An earlier post on this blog lists numerous textbooks which are available for free online. offers a wide variety of online textbooks which are supported by advertising, mostly in business, science, and mathematics. Another free source is the public library, if you can arrange things so that you're done with the book within the 3-6 weeks that you're allowed to have it out.

Buying used books is a well-known way of saving money on textbooks, but in some cases, the used book isn't that much cheaper than the used one would be. Along with the well-known Amazon and Ebay, is a good source for used books. It's worth asking yourself if it's absolutely necessary to have the latest edition of the book, as an earlier edition can often be had for only a few dollars. Although the latest one might be necessary for computer-related subjects, where the content often needs to be changed, an older book might do well for something like history.

A newer option for saving money on books is renting textbooks. A text can often be rented for a fraction of what the new book would cost, and you can pick a rental period based on how long you need the book. One book rental company offers a French textbook with a retail value of $94 at rental rates of $17 for 30 days and $27 dollars for a 125 day semester. A world religion book at the same company which sells for $110 retail is rented our for $35 per semester.

Etextbooks are another money-saving option, which normally costs about as much as renting the textbook would. These can often be dowloaded onto a device like an iPhone or iPad, making them a convenient option for those who'd like to study while on a bus or train. For a student attending regular classes, this option creates a lighter backpack than carrying a load of heavy, traditional texts. Another form of etextbooks are paid for both by advertising, like free online textbooks, and a small fee. offers a variety of textbooks in mostly business subjects starting at $4.95 with ads, and from about $6.95 for ad-free versions.

Homeschool Buzz offers an extensive listing of homeschool blogs which are worth seeing.

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