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Free Homeschool Web Hosting
12 Point Design is a webhosting and design company owned and operated by Shawn and Annette Hall. We have both been active in the homeschooling community for many years. Homeschooling families may know Annette from the years she served as California Homeschool Network's Legislative Chair. She is active in many homeschooling groups and is an advocate for family rights and CPS issues. Shawn provides technical and design support for Homeschooling Webmasters and on Design Advice for homeschoolers who maintain both large and small websites.
We provide free web-hosting to homeschool families whose sites are primarily about homeschooling. Your site does not need to be solely about homeschooling, you may include family or other information, or sell products and services through your site.
Our free homeschooling offer provides up to 25 mb of space (enough for hundreds of pages) and 5 gb of bandwidth (enough for well over 100,000 page views a month).
For example, on my wife's Local Homeschool site, many of the hundreds of sites listed for local groups are using free services like Tripod, Geocities or the "space" that comes with an AOL account or other ISP. All of these sites are at the whim of your provider, many of them use popup advertising or collect information about your visitors for marketing purposes. I've seen people change ISP's then have to keep paying for the other account just so they can keep their "/~gibberish" website!
Advantages for Homeschoolers
Having your own domain means you won't have to change E-mail addresses if you change hosting providers, which means your visitors will always be able to contact you. If you own and operate your own business this can result in higher profits for your company. If you use E-mail to communicate with family, this could prevent you from losing contact with family members who can't remember what ISP you use "this year".
Take my advice: Get a domain ($12.95 at 12PointDesign) and move your homeschool site over here. It'll cost you a mere $12.95/year for the domain and I'll host it for free. If you currently host on geocities or tripod, moving your site to 12PointDesign will mean your pages load faster, keeping your visitors from leaving before they read your message.
What's the Catch?
The catch is that you must include some unobtrusive, text-based Google ads, such as those below, on your site to defray expenses, and a footer that includes the text "Hosted by 12PointDesign" with a link to 12PointDesign on each page. Our ads will never include popup advertisements or 'in your face' advertising. You can have the ads in the most unobtrusive part of the page (as long as they are not obscured), if you would prefer, or below the rest of the content near or even in the page footer (view example on Universal Preschool).
You choose the text color, the link color, ad size and positioning of the ads. This flexiblity provided by Google Adsense, which allows you to blend the ads to match the color scheme and layout of your website.
Inevitably, with enough promotion and enough use, your site may outgrow the confines of the 25mb space allocation. If that happens, or you want to remove the Google Adsense ads from your site, you need only pay 50% of the rate for the hosting plan you require. We'll still give you half off. You could get the same 25mb of space for only $56.50 a year, with no ads.
The plans we offer are listed here:
All plans include unlimited E-mail addresses (limited only by the amount of space required to create them - which is explained on the Hosting page), database access, server-side scripting, rss feeds, access to a premier templating engine/content management system and other nifty tools and features I would be happy to explain in greater detail.
When you sign up, I create a default catch-all E-mail address for you (as yourname@your-domain, if you have no objection) and a "webmaster" account. You can add both accounts as additional E-mail accounts in Outlook (or whatever E-mail client you use) rather easily and if you wanted, you can change the "default" E-mail account in Outlook (or whatever E-mail client you use) so it uses your new E-mail account as the primary E-mail address.
Again - these offers are only for your homeschooling website. You're welcome to host anything else you want to with me as well, but we gotta eat, too.
As homeschoolers, raising and homeschooling our ten year-old son on a single income has it's difficulties. We have no regrets, but we recognize that the expenses faced by homeschoolers can be significantly more than those of our publicly-schooled counterparts, and would like to provide what help we can to other homeschoolers. We can best accomplish this by offering free webhosting to homeschoolers. It's our business: it's what we do; our hope is that, even if we never make a dime off the ads on the sites we host (and the income we generate from them really is negligible), the homeschooling community will think of us when they need web hosting or web design services even when they don't need hosting for a homeschooling website.
Hosting should not be expensive, and it's not fair to those of us who have sites purely to share information or to provide a central location to share our homeschooling group information with others to have to drop the money that we do into them. I speak from experience. I really did start a hosting company because I was sick of paying as much as I did just to have a site up that wasn't making me any money - it's sole purpose is to share information. Now our site is finally generating a small income through our Google ads, but just enough to cover the expenses related to hosting that one site.
This solution helps us both: I get free promotion and maybe even a few cents from the Google ads being on your site, and you get free, reliable and secure web hosting and E-mail. You can also use your site to generate an income through either alternative advertising or by providing an alternative service. The Internet enables us to simultaneously use our creativity to solve problems and to make ends meet.
Our hosting includes every feature you could want 'out of the box' (internal search, rss, blogging, real counter, stats, sitemaps, marketing platform, anything you could possibly want with E-mail...). The only limitation is the space and bandwidth. Our free hosting offer provides up to 25 mb and 5 gb of bandwidth, but the 50% hosting offer applies to all plans and we can custom build a plan to suit you if you need variable space or bandwidth.
One of the features provided with 12PointDesign is an Article Management System (AMS). Basically, it's an easy way to create a library of links you want to provide visitors access to. An example display can be found at Homeschooling News. These are very simple to manage, and it can be as simple as clicking a link in your browser toolbar to prefill the data used by the AMS. You may flag articles under any number of topical areas, which you can also manage and control. For example, you could create categories for Unschooling, Mason, Events, Christian, Legal, and any other categories you might want to flag a given article. You can select as many of these entries as you want to apply to any given article.
Another feature our hosting includes 'out of the box' is an RSS feed, which helps to generate return
visits by pushing new articles, posts and pages to rss aggregators, which can get you return visitors.
An example of how this works is on my wife's site here:
In the top navigation toolbar you'll see a couple buttons, one [xml|rss|rdf], one [add to my yahoo] and one [My MSN +] - the first is a direct link to the RSS feed which they can include in the rss aggregator of their choice, the second is a link to add the rss feed directly to their yahoo homepage so they will see what's new from your site within minutes of it being posted, the third does the same thing for those who prefer MSN.
The Templating Engine
One amazing feature of hosting with 12PointDesign is the "Templating Engine" provided for use on all customer sites.
You do not need to know how to code. You learn a few things, like how to make a paragraph and a list, and you add those to the text - you're done. The basic layout of the entire site is all controlled by a half-dozen files you will rarely, if ever, need to change, and the actual interface for each page is either controlled by 'settings' at the top (also simple text) or they default to what the page 'thinks' it should be. When you know what you want it to look like you just cut that design into those 5 parts (I will gladly help with this) and copy them to a special location on the server. All the actual pages on your site need very little actual code in them (as few as two lines). For the most part you can do it in Notepad and just make sure that the top and the bottom of the file have a couple lines of text that have to appear there.
The Templating Engine also provides the ability to easily create advertising links and banners for Amazon, Google, Christian Books, Clickbank, Chitika, Yahoo Publisher (Overture) and any other affiliate program you could want to use.
Another feature provided is the Local Search Engine. It's literally Google for your site. The results are provided by Google within the same template as the rest of your site. Results appear exactly the way the rest of your content appears, and you can use the same remoting engine as a plugin on other pages to provide other nifty features like generating a list of related pages or common search terms on your site in the sidebar.
Here are a few example sites using the Templating Engine:
Here are a few example sites using the WordPress Blog engine:
I'm sure I'm forgetting several sites I've worked on recently, but the gist of it is that they don't have to look like cookie-cutter websites and they expose a bunch of nifty features and don't require any previous web design experience to create. Below you'll see the source of an example page on one of the sites, but suffice it to say that the only *required* text on the page are two lines, one above the content and one below. This creates the menu, the header, applies the layout and design, and helps you allocate your time back on the content where it belongs.
I've included the contents of a file on one of the my sites. This is the text as it appears in notepad,
but if you look at the page on the site you'll see how significantly different it is:
Sample Templating Engine Page
Basically, I provide any and every feature you could ever want (including very cool E-mail services) *except* FrontPage Extensions. FrontPage Extensions are the least secure webservice out there so I refuse to use them on my servers. This does not mean that FrontPage will not work with our hosting services. It means that FrontPage must be configured to use FTP or SFTP to connect to the server and some of the native FrontPage 'interactive' elements (like Java buttons) will not function. Every one of the features that FrontPage Extensions provide can be accomplished using other features on the server.
Just about any application can be used for web design. I personally use Notepad for much of my development, and for the rest I frequently use DreamWeaver or other WYSIWYG editors. You need not purchase a $300 HTML editor or graphics editor to be able to create a webpage. There are many freeware and open source equivalents that can do it for you, and soon you will have the ability to use a web-based interface to create and edit pages across your hosted site on 12PointDesign.
Listed below are some *excellent* alternatives that are free and provide almost all the same features as high-end programs like DreamWeaver.
Probably the most impressive 'alternative' is ASP.NET WebMatrix, if you need to be able to 'see it'
while you're working on it.
For 'coders' like myself, and people that are not offended by a text-only display, I don't think
you can do better than Crimson Editor:
Both are free and provide just about any major feature you could need.
Likewise, there are many free and open source graphics editors.
The GIMP is a favorite for many:
Project DogWaffle is no longer free for the newest version, but they still provide a free version
with many features:
Lastly, every Windows user should have IrfanView:
If you do not have a domain yet you can register your domain with 12PointDesign.
We provide domain name registration for the low price of $12.95/year. After your domain is
registered you will need to let me know your domain name and set the Name Servers for the
It usually takes between 24 and 48 hours for the domain to propagate throughout the internet, that means that the domain may not be known throughout the world for up to 2 full days. If you want to see the site before then, you can upload your content directly to the IP address of the server and you'll have a temporary access domain ( yourdomain.stage.12pointdesign.com ).
However, if you set the correct Name Servers (ie; use my DNS) during domain registration then most internet service providers will be capable of detecting the new domain within minutes of registration. If you've already created a site but have not purchased the domain yet, this method can have you up and running, literally, within minutes.
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