The homeschooling community tends to be a tight-knit group, and may be a bit of a mystery to those who aren't a part of it, which is why we're thrilled that homeschooling mom Gladys Schaefer offered us a glimpse into the unique challenges and triumphs of teaching at home, and how audiobooks helped bring her family together.
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It all began one rainy day in Alabama. The book list was ready, the children were not. How to get all of the wonderful words into their little hearts and minds?
A homeschooling life is not always an easy one. Each July, the books would arrive, carted in by the beloved UPS man. Beloved because he brought the books, each a new world, right to our doorstep. Reading aloud had always been a staple in our family. Daddy read The Hobbit
, by J.R.R. Tolkien, each evening for a solid season. Firelight, marshmallows and cozy chairs carried us inside the adventures of our favorite little creature.
The girls were older now and the box had arrived, the problem, however, was that not all of my children were reading at the same level. The truth was, the youngest, was not reading at all. Diagnosed with dyslexia at nine, she was being tutored and the foundation was being laid in a systematic, multisensory way. What to do…what to do…
That is the season I discovered the magic of audiobooks. My father-in-law teased me that I wasn’t homeschooling; I was “van schooling” because of our various ballet, ice-skating and church activities. Audiobooks became our constant companion. It was the perfect way to redeem the time. Moments spent in traffic or whizzing down the interstate, we were together as we listened and we learned. We were in our own canoes, but we were traveling down the same river.
The audiobooks leveled the playing field for our children. All of us could, together, enjoy the stories, in our own particular way. The oldest might understand the symbolism, but the youngest would be mesmerized by the tale itself.
That is how it all began, but that is not the end of the story.
Children grow up and head off to college. That is the way it works in our house. The first four kiddos took to the process like little ducks to water (Make Way for Ducklings
by Robert McCloskey). The fifth, diagnosed with Dysgraphia at thirteen, struggled in her writing, but tested well and headed off behind her siblings. The youngest watched them go, and incidentally became a singer/songwriter once the house was empty and quiet, but she needed a little more than the typical path to high school success. Frankly, she needed, not just her classical literature on audio, but her biology book and her philosophy material accessible in an audio format. It changed the world for her.
We listened through F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby
last year, before we knew it was to be a movie. We knitted scarves and listened. We cooked lunch together and listened. This year it was Henry David Thoreau and Walden
we shared. We took nature walks and came back to the kitchen, pulled out our watercolors and dry brushed leaves and twigs and flowers and listened as Thoreau talked to us. We built that cabin with him and we shared his simple meals. We narrated to each other his tale. Together, our lives became richer. Learning Ally and their vast library now places the world at our doorstep.
Today, I have graduated from eighteen years as a homeschooling Mom and what do I do when I crank the engine to my SUV? I connect my phone to the auxiliary and I listen. I listen and I drive. Old habits are hard to break and this is one that I have no desire to change.