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    Using PBS to Acquire Schoolbooks

    May 28, 2008 by Brandy Vencel

    I am a big fan of PaperBackSwap. I make this no secret. But unless you’re a big fan of trashy romance novels, PBS is a game that takes a bit of patience to play. I’ve been known to wait six months for a book I want. And there are other books I have yet to get that have been on my Wish List since its inception who knows how long ago.

    Because we use Ambleside Online for the bulk of our liberal arts education here at the homeschool, we can know what we will be reading far into the future. I tamper with the book lists here and there, but so far I’m happy with what I’m seeing. The few books I have taken off the lists are some that I plan to use when our kids are a little older.

    All of this is to say that knowing what we will read before we need to read it {often long before we need to read it} is an advantage.

    My basic strategy in using PBS to acquire school books involves packing my Wish List with every version of the coming year’s books I can find. For kindergarten, I was able to find about 50% of our books at PBS. This year, I’ve been preparing early because of the baby, and I only found two books. However, this still saved me approximately $15 compared to purchasing the books new.

    I am almost done with planning the 2008/2009 school year. Instead of relaxing and knowing that I’m finished, I plan to jump into the 2009/2010 school year a bit. I’m going to clear out my Wish List, ridding it of all the books I bought for this school year. I’m going to go through all of the books on the Ambleside book list for Year Two and add them to the Wish List right now.

    This gives me a full year to sit and wait. If any of the books are available now, I’ll take them. After all, I will already know I’m done for the coming year. I did this for kindergarten {sat on the list for a year, I mean}, and that is how I was able to get 50% of the book list. They didn’t all come at once, on the day I was ready to order books. Rather, they trickled in, even throughout the school year.

    Another way to use PBS for school is to use it to build the Free Reading List {the stack of books available for kids to read for fun in their spare time or during Quiet Hour}. For the record, finding a book on PBS is directly tied to that book’s popularity. So I’m much more likely to find The Boxcar Children Number 16 than I am a near-classic like Ruskin’s The King of the Golden River.

    PBS involves patience, especially if you are like me and want to use it to build your family library. Planning a year in advance {or even two if you’re up to it} should give me an edge and help me save money.

    It definitely works for me.

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  • Reply Brandy May 30, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    Ellen, You are a lucky girl! πŸ™‚

  • Reply Ellen May 30, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    Ahhh… our library is literally 2 minutes from my doorstep. Don’t know how long it will be, but for now, I’m lovin’ it.

  • Reply Brandy May 30, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    I love success stories like that, Rachel! I used to get fearful when I heard statistics like “homeschooling costs, on average, $400 per child per year.” Even though that is much, much cheaper than private school, that would be a lot for our family to shoulder, year in and year out. But with this sort of planning ahead (I also carry printed lists in case I run across used bookstores when we are traveling), I have found that kindergarten cost me around $80, and Year One will cost less than $200 and that is including our legal insurance! Planning and anticipating those future needs surely makes all the difference.

  • Reply Rachel R. May 30, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    We have acquired some schoolbooks this way, too. Ariel is in kindergarten, but I have added to my wish list most of the books we’ll need for elementary and middle school! That should give us quite a head start. πŸ™‚ So far I’ve probably saved well over $100.

  • Reply Brandy May 29, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    Kansas Mom,

    How nice to have a library on your way to somewhere you regularly go! We don’t even have a bookstore that is truly “on our way.” (Perhaps this is because I rarely leave…Hmmm…) I love the idea of being able to test drive unfamiliar books before committing them to the Wish List.

    I must say that the books I have waited for have, upon arrival, please us very much. Many were hardbacks, some were beautifully illustrated, and all were in wonderful condition. I don’t know if I have just happened to be unusually blessed, but it certainly encouraged me.

  • Reply Kansas Mom May 29, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    My husband hasn’t been very impressed with PBS yet as we’ve mailed a bunch of books and have received very few. I think it’ll work out great in the long run, though. I recently got my first couple “off the Wish List” books. One was a replacement of a book I’d lent that I decided was never coming back. The other, though, was one of Ruth Heller’s books, which I think are beautiful. We won’t be using it for a long time, but I knew I’d want it.

    Our library is luckily right on the way to day care, so I often stop once or twice a week on my way to pick up the kids. (Our library has a great program. I paid $25 for the year and they pull all the books for me, even from other branches, so all I have to do is stop by the desk to pick them up — a very valuable time-saver.) We don’t have any books on the Wish Lists (including the Amazon ones friends and family use) that we haven’t already read from the library and know we’ll want to own.

  • Reply Brandy May 29, 2008 at 5:04 am


    I think your comment dovetails neatly with the post I was considering for tomorrow…That’s all I’ll say about that. πŸ™‚

    Shari Ellen,

    Yes, the patience in a must. Which is why I broke down and bought myself a resource-type book I’d been wanting when I purchased the remainder of our 2008-09 schoolbooks yesterday. I just didn’t want to wait any longer! πŸ™‚

  • Reply Shari Ellen May 28, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    PBS sounds like a great idea. It’s a great way to share with others too. I would struggle with being patient, but if I planned ahead like you then it might work for me too.

  • Reply Kimbrah May 28, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    You just reminded me that we forgot to stop by our favorite used book store in San Diego when we were there this weekend. Rats! If you are ever in S.D, I highly recommend Adams Avenue Bookstore.

    There used to be a GREAT children’s bookstore down the street called The Prince and the Pauper but they have since closed. They had a castle for the kids to sit in and read quietly and also a pet macaw that talked. It so sad that such a wonderful place closed down and went solely online. πŸ™

  • Reply Brandy May 28, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    I am sure that a number of the books would be at the library. Unfortunately, at current gas prices, round-trip to the library costs me about $8, which is more than some of the books on the list cost. And a number of the books will be used over the course of the next few years.

    However, if we had a library that was truly local, it would have been especially good for kindergarten, when the books are smaller and so many more are read in a week.

    The library would also be useful for books that we don’t actually want to own. Some books are a one-time read, for sure.

  • Reply Ellen May 28, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    Can you get some of these books at your local library? Would that work, or does it take too long to read the book, and you’d need it longer than that? My mom still has a ton of the books we used in homeschool, and after years went by, saving most of them was much too much. I’d like to be able to buy the best and take the rest back the library.

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