Creative Learning Connection

Educational Resources from a Veteran Homeschool Mom

Tag: audio books

Personal Libraries

Happy New Years

Happy New Years to all of you! I hope you are each ready for 2018 – I’m still trying to figure out where 2017 disappeared to. I might have skipped today’s blog post, but it’s already been almost a month since I last posted one on this site, so I thought it would be better to do a “short” post rather than wait another couple of weeks!

Holidays and visits to and from family are certainly part of why I’ve been absent from writing for so long, but there has actually been another big distraction for the last few weeks – I’ve been redoing my personal library.  I knew it would be a big task, I really did. But, whew, now that we’ve been working on it for so long, I’m not sure we really had any idea just how big it would be. (And on more than one occasion I did wonder what we were thinking!)

Do you have a Personal Library?

But, before I get into more about that, I would like to ask – how many of you have personal libraries? Since most of the readers of this blog are homeschoolers, I hope that most of you can answer yes to that question! I realize that here in the twenty-first century we live in a digital world that didn’t exist when I started homeschooling over thirty years ago, but there is still something very special about “real” books that sit there on a shelf, reminding you they are there and that they are meant to be used.

A Long-time Love Affair with Books

I’ve always loved books – I can credit my parents for implanting that love many decades ago. And it is a love that I have strived to pass on to my children. (Games and books have been the largest category of gifts in my family for as long as I can remember.)

Libraries and Homeschooling

And as a homeschooler, I really can’t imagine not having had a personal library all those years that I was educating my own children. We happily moved thousands of books across the world and across the country as the Army moved us from place to place. In fact, when we were heading stateside from Germany, we started to worry about our weight limit, and we were willing to get rid of furniture if need be, rather than get rid of any of our books. My best guess puts my library at about 7,000 books when we moved into our current home and converted the “formal dining room” into a library. My husband graciously filled three of the four walls with wall to wall, floor to ceiling bookshelves.

Purging Books

As my homeschooling came to an end, I started trying to purge my books, though I don’t think I’ve managed to shrink my current holdings to much under 5,000 books.

“New” Bookcases

When I closed my physical store at this time last year, we chose to keep more than a dozen of the bookcases that had graced the walls of Creative Learning Connection for the previous decade. But for the last year the shelves have sat in our storage unit awaiting the time and energy to put them back to use. So several weeks ago I decided the time had come to bring the brown bookcases over and replace the white shelves that had served our needs for so long.

It was mid-December and company and holidays were just around the corner – but my son had some time off between semesters and I wasn’t going to get a better opportunity to do this! To increase the chances we wouldn’t change our mind – I scheduled someone to come clean our carpets on December 15. So we were committed. We had to remove thousands of books, so that my son could then remove the dozens of shelves that were already there.

A BIG Project

Several students helped remove and box some of the books on Wednesday, and Thursday three of us worked until late into the night (or early into the morning) to finish the task. But we did it! We cleared out the room, the carpets were cleaned and the following week we were ready to reverse the process.

It’s a good thing the Liquor store gives away free boxes! This is NOT all of the boxes either.

Of course, removing the books and the shelves was actually the easy part. The next week, the fun really started. I determined I had space for seven bookcases in the library. The problem was that our brown bookcases were actually two different styles – so in order to get seven that matched, we had to get three of them from the storage unit, and then also trade for the two in the office and the two that were in my second floor bedroom. And, of course, the four that were already in the house were already full of books and/or games! So before those could be moved they had to be emptied.  My son and two of his friends brought over the bookcases we needed from the storage unit (including two to replace the ones in the office – the bedroom replacements will have to wait until this part of the project is completed.) Meanwhile my daughter and I were removing books and games as quickly as we could.

Is the End in Sight?

By the end of Monday the bookcases were in place in the library. The shelves still had to be installed, and then 100 or so boxes had to be emptied. Two weeks later, we’re approximately half way through the process of installing those shelves and putting the books in their proper places. (If I’m going to all this trouble, I want my books to be more or less organized!)

I think this is where we were in the process a week ago.

We’re not where I had hoped to be by today, but we’re getting there. I have knee surgery scheduled for January 10, so finishing before then is the new target. (We’ve already missed the before Christmas company deadline.) In the meantime, we try not to trip over the stacks of boxes and books that really are shrinking!

Happy reading.

Cathy

The Wonder and Value of Audio Books!

Books on Tape

I’m sure by now most or all of you have enjoyed some form of “Books on tape.” For those of you too young to remember the things that came before CDs (or are even CDs becoming old school now?), my earliest memories of books on tape were when my Dad was in Vietnam in 1970. He read aloud a book for us, recording it on a cassette tape, one chapter at a time and mailing the tapes to us in the United States. My husband did the same thing in 1999 when we were in Germany and he was in Saudi Arabia with Desert Storm. (My dad read a horse story and my husband read Mouse and the Motorcycle.)

Audio Books vs. Read Alouds

Since those times, I have listened to hundreds of audio books, and I don’t think the best narrators out there will ever surpass those experiences. But I will say that many of the narrators I’ve listened to make the power of the written word come alive in some pretty wonderful ways. And while reading aloud to our children should be a regular part of parenting, sometimes it’s nice to be on the receiving side of read-alouds, and not just on the giving side.

One of the nice things about audio books (as opposed to read alouds) is that they can be listened to again and again without wearing out the narrator (read: parent or older sibling). And they can be enjoyed at almost any time. One of my sons who learned to read late commented recently that he would have LOVED to have had more audio books available when he was younger. (We tended to have enough for road trips, but certainly not near as many as “real” books, so he and other late bloomers were at the mercy of their older sibling’s reading time when they wanted to enjoy a good book together. (Chronicles of Narnia and the entire American Adventures series were popular read alouds.)

Traveling with Children

We tend to listen to A LOT of audio books while traveling, regardless of who is in the car. Obviously the choices of books vary, but the act of listening to books is a common part of road trips in our family. In the early years it was generally CDs picked up from the library or tapes and CDs that we had purchased. Even the one vehicle we’ve owned with a DVD player in it (our 8 passenger Toyota Sienna), involved much more listening than watching. (See the blog post on travelling on the Lewis and Clark trail for more information on how we handled that.)

When traveling with children, I can’t even imagine not having a vast variety of audio books to help fill the hours with fun and education.  As I mentioned in the Lewis and Clark post, we have a special love of Odyssey, Jungle Jam, and Jonathan Park stories for road trips that involve children.

Children’s Books

As time moves on, so does technology. So now, we are just as likely to be listening to a book we’ve downloaded, but in many ways the more things change, the more they stay the same. I have been an Audible account holder for three years now, and since that account is more for me, than for others, it does contain a lot of books that I got just for me to listen to. But, in the midst of all of those there is still a fairly good mix of children’s books – from Winnie the Pooh and the Little Prince to the Water Horse and Pippi Longstocking (and the Hobbit, if you can include that on a list of children’s books, which I have mixed feelings about). I’ve listened to this particular recording of the Hobbit all the way through twice, and if you won’t think less of me, I’ll even admit to having listened to the Water Horse and Pippi Longstocking (actually I’ll admit to those either way – they were fun books). I have only listened to the beginnings of the other two, but in time, I hope to add those to my completed list. (Maybe I’ll look for an opportunity to share them with my grandchildren.)

Educational Value of Audibles

For children learning to read, the ability to hear a book and follow along on a physical copy can be very fruitful. And for older students, the amount of educational materials available on Audible is quite impressive.  Their collection of the Great Courses lectures series alone makes Audible invaluable. The lectures are aimed at college students and other adults, but with careful use, many of them can also be very useful for high school students.  (More on Great Courses below.)

My Personal Audible List

My listening library is as eclectic as my physical library (and the books I write, for that matter). My interests are vast and varied – and a quick look at my audio library shows that. Many of those books are ones that I sought out for one reason or another, but many others are ones I found thanks to one of Audible’s great sales (their “Daily Deal” being one of my favorites – though sometimes I find they can go many, many days before I see something even worth looking at). One of the many things I like about Audible is that when you have a membership they give you 12 months to decide whether you actually like a book or not. (And when an account gets as backlogged as mine does sometimes, that’s a nice time period.)

With that wonderful refund policy, I’ve actually returned about 10% of the books I’ve gotten from Audible. I usually make returns for one of two reasons – I don’t like the narrator or the bad language is just too much to put up with. Or, thirdly, on a few occasions it was because I just couldn’t get into the story. And it’s nice to be able to return a book for any of those reasons.

And, as a result of their specials, and their generous return policy, I’ve discovered a whole world of Audio books I wouldn’t have known existed.

Great Courses as Audibles

I would be remiss in not mentioning one particular category of Audible books that alone would make my Audible account worth having – the Great Courses lecture series.  Almost every Great Courses series that can be bought as just an audio can be gotten through Audible. At just $10 – $15 (depending on your credit costs), I know of no better way to listen to their amazing array of wonderful courses! (And if you watch the sales, sometimes they are even cheaper than that!) I still buy the occasional video-based course straight from Great Courses, but if it will work as just audio, I buy it from Audible!

Just a small sampling of some of my favorite Great Courses Audible books (and I’ve bought over 40!):

Other Types of Books I Enjoy

And of course, I do listen to “real” books in addition to the many lectures I enjoy –  both fiction and non-fiction.  Some of my favorite non-fiction books have included more books on writing, more on history (I’m sure both of those surprise you), in addition to more Shakespeare and economics. My fiction books are pretty well mixed as well, though I have discovered that I enjoy quite a few “political thrillers” and “cozy mysteries,” – with Rhys Bowen being one of my favorite, newly discovered authors!

At $10 – $15 for the “full priced” audible books I buy, and $5 or less for the sale books, I get lots of bang for my bucks for the Audible books I purchase.  If you haven’t already given Audible a try, I can strongly recommend it!

Trying Audible

Now that I’m three years and three hundred plus books into my Audible journey, I’m constantly amazed at how many people haven’t tried it. For $15/month, you get one credit (which equals one regularly priced book), or for $25/month you get two credits. (And it probably won’t surprise you to know that there’s an even more impressive/expensive membership for those of us who want to get an average of more than two books per month.

So have you given Audible a try for yourself and/or your family? What are your favorite books to listen to? I would love to hear what your thoughts and experiences with Audible have been.

Happy listening!

Cathy

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