Wednesday, June 17, 2015

35+ Road Trip Audiobooks and Books for Kids

So, my younger children (girls ages 6 and 8) are accompanying me on a road trip soon. We will be in the car about 7 hours a day for 2 days in a row. When we return home, we will be doing the same thing. I'm always concerned that they'll be entertained at least a good deal of the time in the car because that means I'll get a lot less "Are we there yet?" and "How long until we get there?" and "Can we stop???"

One of my favorite ways to pass the time on a long car trip is listening to audiobooks. However, my favorite ones are not always kid friendly, so I end up listening to them on headphones off my phone or something.

A few months ago, however, I got a good deal on a collection of Magic Tree House books from Amazon. These are great for my youngest, who is not yet a strong reader and is actually kind of resistant to reading. I put the collection on their Kindles, and they listen to it almost every night before bed.

I thought some new audiobooks would be a great way to keep them entertained on this road trip. So, I jumped onto my favorite homeschooling group on Facebook and asked for recommendations. I wasn't expecting the awesome response I got, and they are so great that I thought I would share them with you. Keep in mind that I asked for 6- and 8-year-old girls, but the recommendations I got were a bit more expansive.

So, here are the recommendations that I received, in no particular order. Depending on availability, I include an Amazon link for as many titles as I can (in Audible or CD format or just book format), but please check your local library and other web sites if you so desire. I certainly will be!

  • Catwings by Ursula Le Guin (Audible, book 1 of the Catwings series) 



  • Scat Like That by Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer (Audio CD): Another nontraditional choice: "musical and silly: tongue twisters, yodeling, scat singing, limericks, great silliness."

  • Leo the Lightning Bug by Erich Drachman and James Muscarello (Book with Audio CD): "My all-time favorite audio version of a book."

  • Oh, The Places You'll Go and other Dr. Seuss Titles (Audible, this one narrated by John Lithgow): "There are so many Dr. Suess books and compilations of books—some read by famous actors, some not—that are really a joy to listen to."

  • Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins (Audible, book 1 of a series)

  • Fairest by Gail Carson Levine or anything Gail Carson Levine for girls (Audible)

  • Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein (Audio CD): "Recited, sung, and shouted by Shel Silverstein." "He is perfect! It's super entertaining!"

 Finally, I received a couple of nontraditional sources for audiobooks:


  • Sparkle Stories: A web site featuring a subscription for audio stories for children and families, including downloadable stories for traveling.
  • The last suggestion wasn't a specific audiobook but a great way to get audiobooks on the road, from an unlikley place: Cracker Barrel. They are all over the place when you're traveling, right? Well, they have an audiobook program, where you can rent an audiobook at one Cracker Barrel and return it to another. When you rent the book, you actually purchase it for the full price, but when you return it, you receive a refund for all of the purchase price except for $3.49 per week. I haven't tried them out yet, so I don't know how many kids books they carry or what is available at each restaurant, but it's worth a look!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Are You a Scanner or a Specialist?

I am so excited! I just learned some new words to describe how I am: a scanner, a polymath, a multipotentialite!

I have described myself before as a Renaissance soul–this is a term I only learned within the past few years. It was so nice to know that I wasn't alone, that there were enough people out there that couldn't seem to "stick" to a passion that someone had written a book about it (The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One by Margaret Lobenstine).

Today, I came across this TED Talk video by multipotentialite Emilie Wapnick.

She's a writer, a speaker, filmaker, musician, and the list goes on. She describes multipotentialites as being "wired differently." As the mother of a child on the autism spectrum, I've often thought about people and different wiring, but I never applied it to myself. Watching this was a bit of a revelation.

Wapnick discusses our culture's seeming obsession with finding your one true destiny, your one true calling. "What do you want to be when you grow up?," we're asked over and over again.

It reminds me of another one of our culture's obsessions, the idea of your one true love. It makes those who are or have the potential to be compatible with more than one passion (be that a person or an interest) seem a little odd and out of sorts. I'm not speaking about monogamy or polygamy, just the idea that there are multiple people with whom it would be possible for you to make a good life.

Careers are a little easier. Your career is not going to be upset if you cheat on it.

Embrace your multipotentiality, Wapnick says, and learn your superpowers, including adaptability and idea synthesis.

This is where I am now. I haven't figured out how to make a career out of intersecting all of my passions yet, but writing about them is a start.

I still remember when a tenth-grade teacher called me wishy-washy. That hurt, and it stuck. It has reinforced the idea in the back of my mind that something was wrong with me because I couldn't stick to just one thing.

I'm finding my multiple interests to be an advantage these days. It's certainly an advantage in homeschooling: my kids don't just learn one thing—why should I? Learning along with them is so much fun because I love to learn as well. Also, I am much happier when nurturing different passions and letting myself take a break and letting go when I am bored with one particular idea.

I love learning. I love mastering new skills. I have always had trouble understanding how someone could show an interest in a topic and not want to dive fully in and find out what it's all about deep down in the meat of it. Mastering skills also helps me build my self-confidence. I know that I will always be able to get by because I have not just one or two but many well-developed skills to fall back on.

So, what do you consider yourself? A specialist, someone with a dream, someone who has always known what you wanted to be? Or a scanner, a Renaissance soul, a multipotentialite? Someone with diverse interests who is always moving on to the next thing?

Tell me what your interest(S) are. If you're like me, maybe you will give someone an idea for his or her next big thing :)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Our First Foray with Brave Writer

We are mostly unschoolers around our house. You know, we let the kids follow their own passions, be it Minecraft or gymnastics, and let them learn through their life experiences. Unschooling can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different homeschoolers. It's easy to find hot debates over whether someone is really an unschooler or not.

For us, sometimes unschooling means using structure or a curriculum, especially when my child comes to me and says that he wants a writing class. You'd think as a writer, I'd be all over that, but I was a little daunted and wanted some guidance.

So, as we all seem to do, I searched the Internet far and wide and finally came back to a site I had touched upon many times over the years but never committed to. Brave Writer. A hefty discount from the Homeschooler Buyers Co-Op helped out, too. I purchased The Writer's Jungle and a couple of the "magazines" that amount to guides that correspond to a certain book and help guide you in writing "assignments" that go with the book.

I admit that although I started it back in March, I still haven't finished The Writer's Jungle. It is a hefty volume that has given me a lot to think about. I enjoy Julie Bogart's philosophy, which is why I picked Brave Writer. It uses some traditional methods, such as copywork and dictation but still leans heavily on the child's own interests and wishes and finding ways to make writing useful for them. After all, who is going to be inspired to do something that they consider useless?

Although I'm still working my way through The Writer's Jungle, I've spent a bit of time listening to Julie's podcasts and reading through the Brave Writer Lifestyle discussion group on Facebook. It was there that I found my seeds for actually getting started and doing something concrete with this program. It had been months since my son's request, and I buckled down and promised him that we would start by June 1.

A file in that Facebook group suggested that you start with just one element of the "Brave Writer Lifestyle"—this is more than just a writing curriculum, folks—and get that established first before incorporating more elements into your life and routine.

For my son, I decided a read aloud with copywork would fit the best, and he agreed. So, on May 31, we started reading The Hobbit. It felt a little funny reading aloud to my 14-year-old for the first time in a long time, but after a while, it was very enjoyable. Because my voice was still recovering from a throat infection, we didn't even get through the whole of Chapter 1, but even that was enough to have me relishing the experience and remembering why Tolkien is so revered. His use of language is far from traditional and sometimes not even "correct." My editor's brain tried to switch on so I could add commas and separate all those run-on sentences. Then, I laughed at myself, thinking about how brash I must be to think I could edit one of the masters! It actually is more than just fine the way it is. My son listened quietly, never complaining of boredom, even though he generally prefers nonfiction.

Next came the copywork. This is where the issue of Arrow we had purchased came in handy because it includes prepicked quotes for dictation and/or copywork. We copied the opening passage of the book (both of us in our separate notebooks). Being a bit of a word nerd, I enjoyed it myself, savoring the writing and the passage itself. My son wrote his passage a little more slowly. Handwriting has never been his strong suit, but he chose to write it instead of type it, at least this time. I realized that he was even having a little fun when for one line, he switched to his nondominant hand to see how well he could write with it (not very!).

For my girls, being 6 and 8, I have chosen to start with poetry teatimes. This includes every little girl's fantasy tea party with real treats and drinks plus poetry! But it's not just for girls! My 6-year-old is kind of antireading (she prefers watching videos on her tablet or listening to audiobooks instead), so with her I try to be gentle and find ways to make reading fun. The poetry teatimes should help. We will have our first this Monday, even though we will be at their grandfather's house. Then, next week, we'll go all out with china, tea or lemonade, and a treat or two to enjoy while we pick poems to read. While they eat, I'll also read a bit more of Harriet the Spy, which we started this week.

I've started and quit many a curriculum. I hope that this one, especially with our slow approach in getting to know it, will be different. Why? Because when I read The Writer's Jungle, I find myself wishing that I'd been taught that way. Bogart encourages mindfulness, observation, and a host of other techniques that can improve a child's writing (and probably just their way of learning in general).

I'll definitely post some updates when I can and let you know how things are going with Brave Writer.

In the meantime, what inspires you in your homeschooling journey? Let's start a discussion in the comments!