On the Road: Our Favorite Audio Edutainment

Last week I highlighted my thoughts on experiential education in a broad sense. I also mentioned that we do have materials we use that are the platform for where we start exploring the world around us. In order to help Fred and George find things they’re interested in learning more about, they have to be exposed to a wide variety of topics right?

That’s where all the hours we spend on the road come in handy. I have a captive audience in a setting with somewhat limited distractions. We have time to listen and lots of time to discuss what we’ve heard. So with that, I give you this breakdown of our favorite roadschooling audio edutainment…

Our mobile classroom.

Podcasts…

  • Car Talk: Educational on so many fronts, this is the clear favorite for Fred and George. Understanding the mechanics and complexity of automobiles is just the tip of the iceberg with Click and Clack. Problem solving, puzzlers, dispute mediation, relationship advice, ethics…they handle it all with a gentle sense of humor. Epic.
  • Fred and George exploring Andersonville Historic Site
  • PRI’s The World Geo Quiz: This is a new one for us but it’s added new life to our studies. This quiz blends geography with current events. We always end up connecting the dots between what comes up on the quiz with something else we’ve come across.
  • Stuff You Should Know: Just one of the many, many podcast offerings from the folks at HowStuffWorks.com, this podcast discusses everything from fractals to lying to labor unions. Because it’s so broad, we never know what we’ll get to explore but you can place pretty good bets it won’t be topics we would have thought to investigate otherwise. (They get bonus points for being based in Atlanta too.)
  • Stuff to Blow Your Mind: Another fabulous podcast from the How Stuff Works crew, this covers a wide variety of science topics that always leaves us asking more questions. Perfect for my turbo-nerds.
  • Stuff You Missed in History Class: Surprise, yet another How Stuff Works podcast! We use this to keep history fresh. They cover topics and include tidbits that we typically don’t find in history books (hence the name) so they always add another layer to our history investigations. Plus, the conversational approach in the podcast keeps it from being dull.

Audio Books…

  • The Harry Potter Series: Obviously this a very entertaining and popular series in and of itself but when we need to just get absorbed in a story, this gets Fred and George’s imaginations humming.
  • Our feet take us places like Kennesaw National Battlefield as we listen to fabulous podcasts, audiobooks, and music all along the way.
  • Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events: This is a wild, entertaining tale that takes place over 13 books but from an educational standpoint it’s fabulous for it’s humor, use of recurring literary devices, and pure storytelling awesomeness.
  • Rabbit Ears Tales: These audio stories are narrated by various celebrities like Holly Hunter, Denzel Washington, and Meryl Streep just to name a few. There are various collections like World Tales, Storybook Classics, and American Tall Tales so they run the gamut of storytelling classics. Fred and George have outgrown them at this point but they will forever remain favorites.
  • Roald Dahl Audio CD Collection: Sure the boys have read these stories and seen the movie versions of these classics as well but like Harry Potter, the audio never fails to engage their imaginations even after repeated listenings.
  • A History of US by Joy Hakim: This is actually the audio version of the American history textbooks we used which was a fabulous series. Having a recorded version was wonderful for spicing our history studies up a bit. It was a change from them having to hear my voice, I could be sure they were listening, and they didn’t feel forced to read something they weren’t terribly excited about. In fact, having the audio allowed us to be more excited and discuss things as questions and comments came up. We used it in conjunction with the books to great effect I think.

Music…

  • Weird Al Yankovic: I know you probably think I’m nuts extolling the virtues of Weird Al Yankovic in learning but hear me out. Weird Al covers so many musical styles he really is an education in and of himself. And because he appeals so greatly to the boys senses of humor they pay close attention. They’ve even taken it upon themselves to research the music styles and artists Weird Al parodies to find original versions of the songs. So not only are they conducting self-motivated research, they’re learning a lot about music.
  • World Music: From time-to-time I’ll toss in a little world music I’ve picked up from the library to shake up our in-car entertainment. I don’t belabor the issue but I like to throw in something unexpected simply to expose their maleable ears to different sounds and rhythms. Hopefully one day we’ll travel far enough to hear some of this music in the countries of origin but until then, at least they have a clue.
  • Historic Periods: I’ll throw in some period music to match our history studies every now and then. I think it fills in the picture of a time period to include it. It gives the eras so much more life! Seriously, what 1960s study would be complete without Dylan, Joplin and the Beatles?

The wrap up…

There are a lot of resources to choose from out there but these are the ones we dived into more than others. The great thing about all of these is that they take the “school” stigma out of learning. In other words, they make learning fun…and better yet, sometimes the boy’s don’t even realize that they are learning.

Obviously your local library is a great place to pick up audio books and it doesn’t require you to bust your budget. The podcasts we listen to are free which is quite nice as well. So clearly it doesn’t have to be an expensive prospect to fill your drive time with sparked imaginations.

I’ve posted some of the audio cds in my Amazon store if you’re trying to find those specific ones I mention but I highly recommend just browsing the library. As much as I appreciate the support that helps keep this website running, the treehugger in me wins out in reminding you that borrowed is much more eco-friendly than bought…unless you’re just downloading MP3 versions, then have a ball! 🙂

And please feel free to share your favorite podcasts and audio books with me. We’re always looking for more great material!

And now for your moment of green…

Sometimes learning is subtle just like the beauty of nature.