Monday, May 4, 2009

Listening to Learn - a review

Okay, it’s been a couple days.  I started to review Listening to Learn by Amy Blevins the other day (here), and I am about to actually finish it.  

Amy was forced by life circumstances to learn a lot about audio schooling.  She is the perfect person to be writing up a book about incorporating listening into your school life, and I am really glad she put this e-book together.

What I liked about her book, for me, is that she reminded me of the benefits of utilizing audiobooks and other audio products in your schooling.  Periodically, I go through times of major self-doubt about whether or not listening to The Hobbit instead of me reading it aloud is “cheating.”  Amy provides ammunition against that doubt, and I know I’ll be pulling this ebook up to reread when that guilt hits.

There were a lot of great links to audio resources, including a couple I’ve never seen, and a few I had forgotten.  Amy includes some awesome little tips about some of the less usual ways to incorporate audio in your schooling, and I’m not going to give those away in this review!

Okay, so the nitty-gritty part.  The book is organized into seven chapters, and the organization is quite logical.  I’m not going to outline the whole thing, but a few highlights:

Chapter 3 gives technical info -- the nuts and bolts of what you need, what you might like, how to use an iPod in the car, how to burn a disc, what a playlist is, etc.  This chapter includes some nice illustrations for some of these topics, and is very user-friendly.  This section was not remotely useful for me, however for a non-power-audio-user, the chapter is really great.  Her explanations are solid, and I didn’t notice anything that I thought should be there that wasn’t.

There is content on how to schedule audio, with some nice little forms.

There is content about types of audio content and where to get them.  Both where to get FREE stuff, and where to go to buy things.  This is one of the largest sections of the book (about 1/4 of it), and I think most people would find this to be valuable.  Tons of links, great suggestions, but definitely skewed towards elementary ages.

Chapter 6 goes into recommendations by subject, and is also about 1/4 of the book.  This section is probably my favorite.  She goes through various subject areas and lists both some general suggestions and specific resources.  Scripture memory, general memory, different historical time periods, music history, holidays, etc.  And she has sections broken down by age groups.  The preschool and elementary sections are excellent.  Of course, one thing that makes me say these two sections are fantastic is that I have already used, loved, and recommended, a HUGE portion of the specific resources she suggests!  She must be brilliant if she is recommending things I already like, right?

The final chapter is short, but very important, and I was very glad to see it in here.  That has to do with resources for MOM.  Even with the fact that audiofiles are essential in our homeschooling, I do think that the best part about iTunes and my iPod is that I have the ability to pull up a homeschool speaker and listen to encouragement -- I try to get at least a few new things on mp3 every year. Listening to Dr. Wile tell me (okay, a bunch of people in a workshop) that I can teach high school science, or listening to Andrew Pudewa tell me (well, I *was* in that room when he spoke) about teaching writing to boys who would rather build forts, or going back to a Focus on the Family broadcast about the value of stay-at-home Moms -- there are days that these things are pretty close to the only thing that keeps me from grabbing my purse and making a run (alone!) for the border (the real one, not a fast food restaurant)... Other homeschool moms are probably better at all of this than I am, but I have moments where I *need* to hear some affirmation.

Okay, so overall, my opinion on Listening to Learn?

Amy did a fantastic job of putting together a solid basic resource on audioschooling, so for anyone who hasn’t done much already, I absolutely recommend this ebook.

Amy has also done a good job of creating a resource with a variety of links for sources of audio materials, and ideas as to where to look for more.  So for people who do already have iTunes loaded, and who do use a few things now and again, I absolutely recommend her ebook.

For people like me, though, who are already making extensive use of a huge variety of audio resources, and are generally confident about that, the book may -- or may not -- be worth the money, unless you have a husband, or other important party who is questioning your use of so many audiobooks, or any situation where a well thought-out rationale for their use would be helpful.  Still, I did find the ebook to be well worth the time to read, and I am very glad to own it.

And now... I need to get a list together for Amy to consider for more junior high level resources, and maybe those will show up in a future edition.  

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