Saturday, May 2, 2009

Listening to Learn

Isn't that just a great title?

Amy Blevins has written an e-book with that title, that is available at her website for just under $15.  A couple of weeks ago, she asked if I would be interested in reviewing a copy of the book, and I was thrilled to get that opportunity.  

I have to be totally honest and say up front that one of the reasons I was excited about the chance to do this is that I would not spend $15 for an e-book about integrating audio into your homeschool... but I was really interested in reading the book!

So, a paragraph or two about my audio-homeschool journey, then on to the e-book!

From the start, oh -- ten years ago or a bit more, I was checking out books on tape (yeah, tape!) from the library and using those to give my children  a chance to listen to some of those great little-kid books without me having to read them over and over.  And over.  And over.  When we started doing Sonlight K, I really made an effort to actually be the one reading the read-alouds, and I thought getting an audio version was “cheating.”  Somewhere in there, hmmm, about the time we were scheduled to read Winnie the Pooh, I realized that I was doing a really lousy job (that is a TOUGH book to read aloud, as the dialog keeps switching between characters, and you are a couple sentences into it before you know who is speaking!) and I broke down and got it on CD from the library (and I was *thrilled* to learn that they now had books on CD!)  We all enjoyed Pooh so much more when it was read by someone wonderful, and, well, that did it.  I was hooked on audio-schooling.

Especially for car trips, as we are a good 45 minutes from virtually anything.  Even driving to town once a week, as you can get a lot of books in during a year at 1.5 hours per week.

We had a cheapie mp3 player that I would use on long trips (16+ hour drive each way to visit the grandparents!), but that would hold at best a single book.  Still, it was easier than the boom box that sat in the passenger seat after the car CD player broke yet again.  It was a pain to put stuff on it, and I never really figured the thing out, but for long trips, it was great.

And then... an iPod.  Yep, we are still the proud owners of a 1st generation iPod shuffle.  Cute little thing, and it doesn’t hold a whole lot either.  But after a couple months, I got a first generation Nano.  Wow.... that device totally revolutionized our school life.  I started calling it iPod school (and yeah, I know, iPod is trademarked and all that... but I don’t know the ins and outs of putting little symbols in here.  Check out for seeing these awesome items for yourself.)

I could create playlists, so I had a drill list with songs, chants, Latin prayers, poetry, scripture, etc.  I had 4-5 books on there at any one time.  And, sometimes, it even held some music.

Then I discovered podcasts.  We’ve podcasted our way through the Bible in a year, I podcast Focus on the Family and Christian Worldview, we listen to two different word of the day broadcasts (Podictionary and Merriam-Webster), and many, many more.  We used to get the president’s weekly radio address as a podcast, but since Obama took office, that feed died and I haven’t gone looking for a new one.  I’ll get there eventually.  We also used to get a roughly weekly podcast from our senator, but he stepped down last year, so that’s gone too.

Meanwhile, Dale was given a Nano.  Then we got a free 2nd generation shuffle, which holds so much more than the first one.  And Dale got a regular iPod for a work bonus, and I recently got an iTouch from work too.  So, yeah, we’re a six iPod family... and since that now includes video, we are watching science podcasts, watching CNN Student News, and watching Boy Scout training videos too.

When Connor needed to watch the evening news five days in a row, I wondered if our television could even still be rigged to get a signal.  And then I thought... podcast!  So, he saw five nights of NBC Nightly News.  We could save it, so he could rewatch the segment about Obama’s education proposal (the national issue he chose to discuss from that week).

We usually have at least two books going on audio at any given time, we are using Jonathan Park audio for science at the moment, we are trying to listen through all the Adventures in Odyssey broadcasts, etc., etc., etc.  William can listen and read along, which is fantastic for him.  When studying Shakespeare, we can listen to it, and then use the book to do more analysis.  But Shakespeare is far easier to understand if you watch, or at least listen.

And since mostly switching to Macs about a year ago, we have started to record our own stuff too... things like the Boy Scout Oath and Law.. so that the kids can work on memorizing those without me having to be involved (and yes, I have memorized them too... though I get the Cub Scout oath and the Boy Scout one mixed up, and I always have to think a bit to remember which is the law and which is the oath.)

So... given all of that, why would I want to purchase a book about integrating audio into your homeschool? 

And, again to be honest, the fact that Amy’s children are younger than mine -- her crew ranges from a couple months old to age 9 -- wasn’t a selling point for me either.  I’m not that far ahead of her (ages 3-12), but I do feel like I know the elementary age stuff -- it’s the jr. high and high school level that I’m obsessing about.  

You know, I think I’m going to start a second page to actually review Listening to Learn.  So you need to stay tuned...

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