How to use audio stories in your homeschool

When kids hear the words “Once upon a time...” something magical happens. Find out how spoken storytelling remains one of the best ways to share knowledge and impart wisdom, not just in homeschool but in all of life.

Sparkle stories audio books for kids

By David Sewell McCann 

Stories are the most effective teaching tool there is — and audio stories make that tool as easy as pushing a button or opening a book.

That is a bold statement in this age of free downloads, interactive curriculum, and subscription teaching services — but it is undeniable when we acknowledge that storytelling is the language of children. How many times has a lecture or explanation been politely ignored? How often does attention drift in the middle of a set of instructions? How regularly do we need to say “just five more minutes” when explaining something to our kids?

Now ask yourself — what happens EVERY time you open a storybook or utter the words “Once upon a time…?” Eyes relax into soft focus, the jaw slackens, and your child becomes a willing audience to whatever comes next.

Children love stories. We all do.

We’ve all suddenly become alert during a boring presentation when the speaker says, “This reminds me of a story…” The speaker now has our attention because she has indicated she is about to speak in the way in which we are compelled to listen.

We are wired to pay attention to stories because it has been the medium for distributing valuable information since we developed speech. Stories were how our ancestors taught their children how to find food and water, how to be safe, how to manage the changing weather, how to live rightly.

Stories were how our brains adapted and evolved into incredibly capable processors of the unprecedented information overload that is standard in contemporary society.

Boy looking at iPad screen

These days storytelling comes in many forms: books, movies, video games, graphic novels, podcasts, and audiobooks.

Wading through the content can be a full-time occupation — but once we find “storytellers” we like, we tend to commit to them. We follow them.

We subscribe to their service. We even binge on their content because it feels uniquely reflective of who we are or who we want to be.

This is natural. This is how storytelling works.

So keeping that in mind, it only makes sense to bring storytelling into our homeschooling. Whether your child is struggling with math, history, grammar, self-esteem, conflict resolution, social inclusion, competition, and any other parts of life, storytelling is ready and available to help.

Here are a few ways you can use storytelling in your homeschooling:

1. Podcasts

The world of podcasting — or audio blogging — has blown up to the point where there is a podcast for every interest, subject, hobby, and perspective you can imagine. There are so many, however, that finding the most appropriate producers can be a massive undertaking. To make things a little easier, we have compiled a list of our recommendations of the best podcasts for kids.

Little girl listening to music on headphones

2. Audio stories

I can’t go much further without recommending Sparkle Stories, the audio story subscription service my wife and I started six years ago. We offer content for academic subjects such as history, as well as social/emotional pedagogy, learning differences, and developing empathy. Kids can listen while they're doing virtually anything: curled up on the couch, in the car, doing chores or colouring in. Our stories are created to be simple, delightful and to inspire children to marvel and wonder.

If you’re looking for places to start exploring, here are a couple of favourites:

“Martin and Sylvia” is a series of over 300 stories that follow the lessons and adventures of a homeschooled brother and sister who do their learning in the playhouse, the creek, the neighbor’s farm, and the downtown library.

“FIFTY” is a new series offering 50 fictional stories that focus on historic events from each of the 50 United States.

"How to Be Super" is a series for older kids that incorporates classic stories and Greek mythology.

Many Sparkle Stories include accompanying recipes, nature studies, crafts and tutorials. Sparkle are giving Mulberry readers an exclusive offer to extend the regular 10 day trial to 15 days. Just enter the code MULBERRY15.

*Code expires 1 March 2018.

3. Tell your children stories

When you tell stories yourself, you have command of the content, can adapt it to fit your unique listener, and can have a lot of fun at the same time.

The most difficult part of telling your own stories is overcoming self-criticism and fear of failing. We all tend to take storytelling far too seriously. 

Girl huddled with mother on beach

Yes, it is incredibly effective, but no, it does not need to be done beautifully. Well-intentioned and honest but poorly-told stories can be just as impacting — if not more so — than professionally told stories.

Before I became a professional storyteller, I was an elementary school teacher for many years. I learned through trial and error that stories could bring transformation to the most difficult situations: rowdy post-Halloween classrooms, dyslexic learners who did not want to be singled out, children with attention challenges whose behavior was disruptive, national disasters, and frightening world events.

We all tend to take our storytelling far too seriously... Well-intentioned and honest but poorly-told stories can be just as impacting — if not more so — than professionally told stories.

Before you employ the latest interactive app or youtube video or online game, consider pressing play on a podcast or streaming story — or open your mouth and say, “Once upon a time...”

How do you use storytelling in your homeschool? Tell us in the comments below.

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How to use audio stories in your homeschool
Jenny Diaz

David Sewell McCann

Chief Storyteller

Sparkle Stories is an audio story treasure chest designed to educate and entertain the whole family. Over 1,000 original stories can be accessed via the Sparkle app or website, and related crafts, recipes, and homeschool study pages help families make the stories come alive.

*Sponsored post.

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