How Listening to Audiobooks is Making Me a Better Homeschooler

two young children look at a boombox

Many times in my homeschool journey, I have discovered that the simplest changes are often the most effective. This was the case with copywork, which wrangled together printing, spelling, and writing mechanics all into a single task. It was also the case with pulling up works of art for picture study on our tablets using Google image search, rather than lugging heavy books home from the library each week. But my favorite simple fix by far has been the use of audiobooks and podcasts in our homeschool.

It all started with Harry Potter. My daughters had seen the first movie, and they were hooked. I knew they would love the book too, and since we were doing a lot of driving at the time, I ordered it on Audible. For weeks, we sat in riveted silence as we drove around town, listening to Harry’s adventures being read by Jim Dale, quite possibly the world’s best narrator. When the story ended, my girls stared at me with sorrowful eyes, “Now what?”

I ordered the second book. Then the third. We’ve now listened through the end of the sixth and I’ve finally put my foot down. No seventh book for a few years—it’s just too intense. But that didn’t mean no more Audible. We loaded up the entire Ramona series, listened to Astrid Lindgren and Roald Dahl. We drove to Louisiana listening to Matilda and James and the Giant Peach, and came back listening to Mary Poppins, a BBC dramatization of Little Women, and the entire My Father’s Dragon series.

It didn’t end with Audible, either. My phone’s memory is filled with podcasts—fairytales, science podcasts, and nature talks. I indulged, too, binge-listening to homeschool podcasts Audible books while I wash dishes or run errands.

Audiobooks have single-handedly made me a better homeschooler in so many ways, and the benefits are still being revealed. Here are just a few:

1. Audiobooks Make Me a Learner Alongside My Children

There’s something magical about being read to. This magic, I’ve discovered, doesn’t fade away with age. It’s still awesome as an adult. I’ve also discovered that I listen differently when I’m being read to, than when I'm the one doing the reading. When I'm listenting, I go into the story with my daughters, hearing things in a different way. It’s easier for me to see where nuances were lost on them or where we may want to go on a rabbit trail. I feel what they feel, and am often taken by surprise.

2. Audiobooks Make Me a Better Narrator

How Listening to Audiobooks is Making Me a Better HomeschoolerListening to Jim Dale read for fourteen months, I’ve picked up on a lot of the finer points of storytelling and oration—the cadence, the art of the pause, the joy of doing different voices for each character, and the best places to insert variation in volume.

Despite our love of audiobooks, I still read a great deal each day to my girls. Audiobooks have helped me to improve the way I do that.

3. Audiobooks Free Me Up

One of the more practical benefits of audiobooks is that they afford me a bit of freedom. I can clean, work, drive, and prepare supplies for the next homeschool lesson, all while we are listening together. For someone who loves efficiency, this has been a fabulous development. We can even do homeschool on the go, while we drive to lessons or take a road trip. I can find audio content for almost anything we’re learning about.

4. Audiobooks and Podcasts Indulge My Own Curiosity

Falling in love with podcasts and audiobooks has given me my own second education. I’ve learned about search engine optimization, moss and orchids, organic gardening, the history of the ancient world, and the national parks. I’ve listened to Shakespeare, Pablo Neruda, Elizabeth Gilbert, Richard Louv, and Leo Tolstoy. I’m a student again, too.

5. Audiobooks and Podcasts Show My Children That Learning is for Life

It isn’t lost on me that my daughters also see me learning on my own with audiobooks and podcasts. They see me taking notes as I listen to a book on digital marketing, or flipping through seed catalogs as I learn about natural fertilizers. They witness me taking my education into my own hands, even as an adult. By example, I’m teaching them to honor their curiosity, take the reins when they want to learn something new, and chase their interests. It shows them that learning isn’t just something that happens when we’re “doing homeschool.” It happens everywhere, all the time, forever.

With literature-based homeschool curriculum, audiobooks are a natural addition. Passing off even some of the reading to an audio recording can benefit both student and parent. And audiobooks don’t have to be expensive. Many libraries carry impressive collections on CD, or allow audiobooks to be borrowed with simple downloads. Librivox has an extensive library of audio recordings from the public domain, online for free. Even if audiobooks are only used for extra read-alouds and supplementary resources, they can add a rich layer of learning to any homeschool.

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About the Author

Kristina GarnerKristina Garner is an artist, a writer, and a homeschooling mom to her two young daughters. She writes regularly on her blog Blossom and Root about secular, nature-based homeschooling with a focus on STEM and the arts. She also enjoys traveling, making a fantastic mess with paint, exploring the beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountains, rock climbing, and reading.

Kristina’s top tip for homeschool planning: create a weekly, running checklist of all the things that you hope to get done. Each night, write what you actually did into a planner, including things that weren’t on the list. Move any lingering tasks into next week’s list. This allows for just enough organization and structure while allowing for interest-led learning and inspired activities to happen.