Read-aloud Cop Out: Audio Books in the Homeschool
Six years ago on my previous blog, when my oldest who were 4 & 2, I wrote this:
I have a secret. I can’t believe I’m making it public.
I dislike reading aloud.
Oh, I enjoy listening to books, whether it’s Matt narrating or it’s a book on tape. I highly enjoy taking books in through my ears.
I just don’t like being the one to vocalize them.
It’s Friday and I think I’ve read a total of three books aloud to the boys — all week.
Even in the contemplating of the lovely theoretical and ideal scenes of homeschooling, pictures like this one
actually make my heart sink a little bit, and not just because of the Victorian garb. The first reason to read aloud, says R.C. Jr., “and it is sufficient in itself to be the last one—it’s a great deal of fun. Having your children gathered around, calm and at peace is a great blessing, to which we add a story well told. Why wouldn’t we find time to enjoy this pleasure? What other inducement would you need?” And although I cognitively agree even with this point as well as all the others — after all, I enjoy listening to books myself and I enjoy sharing books with Matt by listening to what he is reading — I simply don’t relate to the pleasure part in being the reader.
So I tell myself that when Hans turns 5 or 6 my reason will win over my preference and we will do lots of reading and probably someday, maybe by the time I have that many children, I will actually delight in being this mother — without the Victorian garb — and I will enjoy all the children hanging all over me, all invading my personal space at once.
Is it even allowed for a homeschool mom to not enjoy reading aloud?
The times I have to read aloud are still not my favorite part of the day, but it’s not as bad as it was six years ago partly because I’ve simply become better at it through practice. Still, part of the reason I don’t like to is that I am sick of my own voice after a full day of schooling + parenting, and I imagine (or can clearly see) that some sons of mine are, as well.
I’ve developed a few strategies for minimizing the reading aloud that I do without sacrificing [much] of the quality content that reading aloud provides:
- Have older children read to younger children.
- Have older children read the Bible passage or lesson.
- Buy the audio versions of Story of the World and other school books
- Use old iPod shuffles (they have no screen, just a play button & volume control) for younger children with the stories they love to listen to over and over again (and catechism, of course). I got the shuffles for $10 or $15 on Craigslist a couple years ago – cheaper than a basic boombox, and there are no CDs for children to take out and ruin and it’s easy for me to change up what they listen to.
Why I Love Using Audio Books
Let me count the ways.
- My voice and throat and energy get a break.
- The children’s ears get a break and a change of pace.
- We all get exposed to different voices and styles and well-done elocution (unless it’s librivox, which I generally avoid because the point is to rest our ears).
- Accents and old language are executed well, making the story easier to understand.
- Different characters have different voices (I am totally incapable of this feat).
- If I am sick, audio books and puzzles (particularly GeoPuzzles) keep the day from being a total wash (and from being total chaos).
- The recording continues even if the baby cries or the toddler needs to be taken out (of the room).
- I can fold laundry, wash counters, or even crochet while we’re accomplishing some school (except for times like now where I and my arms are occupied with a baby).
- We can listen in the car and redeem that time.
- We can listen to a playlist with a queue of multiple books and I only hit “play” and don’t have to keep a stack of books nearby (and not strewn throughout the house by little hands, necessitating last minute hunts) with bookmarks that stay in place and without the downtime of fumbling and coughing and drinking water between selections.
Audio Books We’ve Known and Loved
- Story of the World read by Jim Weiss
- Poetry Speaks to Children
- Pilgrim’s Progress
- ESV Audio Bible
- Winnie-the-Pooh (Winnie-the-Pooh seemed like nonsense to me until I heard it read by Peter Dennis; I didn’t get it until I heard it read well)
- Little House series, complete with fiddle music
- Narnia series
- The Hobbit
- Curious George (only the real, original ones)
- James Herriot Treasury (I am not a fan of animal stories, so I like delegating these)
- Wind in the Willows
Right now we are listening to Huckleberry Finn read by Elijah Wood and it is fantastic! We’ve listened to Pinocchio, Heidi, Robin Hood, and many others. Our library has a great selection, though library CDs are notoriously terrible (and living at our house doesn’t help them any). Now they have the option to digitally check out MP3s right from my home computer (through Overdrive) and I am loving that! It’s definitely worth looking into if your library offers that service. In addition to always working and never skipping, I also can’t lose them or return them late – a huge bonus.
I love, love, love using audio books for school!
And so, I am so excited to find that Amazon and Audible are giving some audio books away for free! Check out my list of free or cheap Audible audio books available through the Whispersync for Voice deal!
The links in this post are affiliate links, so if you end up purchasing anything through them, I’ll get a small percentage, which I will use to grow my own physical and audio library. Thanks!