Homeschool Hours: Listening Hour

posted in: pedagogical | 3

Here we have another hour, and though it doesn’t fit the pattern of independent and tutoring times, it does fit as an hour block that can be fit in to any part of the day. For some reason, this is a revolutionary concept for me. I tend to set up my “ideal flow” and if, say, listening time is supposed to flow after Circle Time and Circle Time doesn’t happen or we have something else after Circle Time, then that means we just don’t do Listening Time.

Thinking of these hours as separate blocks will, I believe, be a sanity saver during late pregnancy and new baby days. It’s not that I don’t have an ideal flow we will work for, but hopefully this will help me get over my “Well, it didn’t happen when it was supposed to so it’s just not going to happen at all” thinking.

listening to read alouds

Listening Time is what most people call “Read-Aloud Time.” However, this year all our read-alouds are on MP3. Awhile back Matt installed Airport speakers into the living/dining room, so I can turn on a playlist from my iPad or iPod and have it piped loud and clear into our dining room. When the reading aloud doesn’t depend on me reading, it means I can give “serious eyes” to a whiny preschooler, wrangle an active toddler, pass out new coloring pages, quietly confiscate misused crayons or pencils, and otherwise manage the situation without interrupting and stopping the reading time. Plus, if hands-on management is not required of me, I get crochet or cross-stitch time, which I find calming and satisfying.

During Listening Time the preschooler and toddler will be free to play nearby; they do not have to sit quietly the whole time. They will be welcome to sit and color at the table with us, or play in the same area (we will be in the dining room, which is open to the living room), or move between the two options, as long as they don’t squabble.

Plus, when I am tired in the third trimester & newborn days, it will be easier to hit play than to spend 45 minutes reading aloud.

Here’s our plan for Listening Time this year:


  1. 5-10 minutes of listening to the KJV audio Bible. This year I hope to make it through Genesis, John, Psalms, and 1 & 2 Corinthians.
  2. 2-5 minutes of poetry from A Child’s Introduction to Poetry. We’ll be listening to the same 5 poems (one for each day of the week) for a whole term.
  3. 15-20 minutes of history from Story of the World, Volume 1: Ancient Times.
  4. 5 minutes of either Grammar-Land by M.L. Nesbitt or Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare.
  5. 5-10 minutes from Pilgrim’s Progress.

While we listen, the older boys will have Dover coloring book sheets related to ancient history to color. We have about 30-40 minutes or so of listening, then Jaeger (2nd grade) will write 2 sentences about one of the selections we listened to and Hans (4th grade) will write 4 sentences on one selection. Most likely we will finish in under an hour, in which case everyone gets a break and recess — after cleaning up their stuff and clearing the table.

Listening to the KJV this year is all Brandy’s fault.

A Note on Our History Plans

So, I promised some unconventional plans. Using audiobooks so extensively is somewhat unconventional, but wasn’t what I had in mind.

One unconventional plan is our history plan. This year we begin our history cycle for the first time, with the ancients. Classical conversations does a history cycle in three years; Story of the World does it in four years; Veritas does it in 5 years. How does one decide how long a cycle should be?

Back up from the practical, “What will we do this year?”, question. What is your goal in history? What end are you hoping for? My goal is that my students enter high school or adult life with a strong sense of the flow of history, with large, solid “pegs” of the major events from Creation to the present. Then they can build detailed and deep knowledge in those later, more mature, years, depending on their interests. That goal is the filter I use for making our history choices. I don’t particularly care about memorizing the name of each Pharaoh — two important ones will suffice — or even all the periods of Egyptian history. We are memorizing the Veritas timeline, and Veritas spends a good deal of time learning about each kingdom of Egypt. But I’m not going to spend most of a year studying ancient Egypt. One term is enough to give us an overview of Egypt’s contributions, especially at a 2nd & 4th grade level, and particularly because I’m also not interested in sugar cube pyramids or mummifying chickens.

So, since I want a solid overview in the elementary years rather than supposed depth or fun projects, we’ll do a 3-year history cycle: Creation to Christ, Rome to Reformation, and then Modernity. This way, each student might actually complete more than one whole cycle, which from my observations, frequently doesn’t actually happen.

However, memorizing the Veritas timeline CC-style (the entire 160 event timeline each and every year), gave me sudden inspiration. Why not use Story of the World the same way? If my goal is a solid overview, then listening to Story of the World — all 4 volumes — is a pretty effortless and interesting way to do so, particularly if we get the entire flow every year, which we can with just 15-20 minutes a day, 3-4 times a week.

So that’s what we’re doing: every year we’ll listen to the audio version of all four volumes of Story of the World. Even if a listening time like this ends up not in the cards some years, it wouldn’t be hard to get all 4 volumes in during car time for the year.

Our focus on ancient history this year, then, will come during independent work and independent reading. The books we get from the library and the books assigned to the boys will focus on ancient times, even if we are listening as a group about Henry VII or Napoleon or Apollo 13.

Our Homeschool Hours

Academic Hours Introduction

  1. Morning Hour(s)
  2. Circle Time Hour
  3. Listening Hour
  4. Independent Work Hour
  5. Independent Reading Hour

3 Responses

  1. Julie Zilkie

    A couple of questions for you! So, will you listen to just Story of the World Vol 1 this year? And will you be doing her Activity Book at all with it? My children are a year older than yours, and they have been in CC for the last two years, but this year, we decided to just forgo the program and be at home. So I am trying to decided whether or not to continue with the CC format or do SOTW, which I really like as well. I LOVE the idea of the audio reading, as I am expecting our 6th baby in Sept, and I can’t possibly see how I can read to them myself for this time, but still want to have our quiet hour. This seems like a great option! I can’t thank you enough for your ideas!! Julie in St. Louis

    • Mystie Winckler

      Sorry! I reread the post and realized it was unclear. :)

      We’ll be listening to all 4 volumes this year and every year (Lord willing) for the next, oh, 8-10 years. :) I don’t have and won’t use the activity guide. I already have history-related coloring books (Dover coloring books), I don’t want tests, and I don’t do projects. :) We’ll just listen to history as an unfolding story and save the “studying” for middle and upper years.

  2. Brandy @ Afterthoughts

    Oh sure, blame the milkmaid. ;)

    I am *loving* all these posts, Mystie. You are really getting me thinking through my day. I might even change some things! :)