Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

My Wordless Wednesday post is one to inspire contemplation, especially by me. I don't make resolutions, but I do have goals for this year. I hope you achieve all of yours.

Monday, December 29, 2014

An Update on Scribd

I have blogged previously about how much I love Scribd. It started out as a file sharing service a long time ago - a place to upload documents you wanted others to be able to access. It definitely preceded Google Docs. I know I used it way before Google Docs, anyway. In the past couple of years, though, Scribd completely reinvented itself. I found about that reinvention through a Plum District deal. I think I got 6 months of Scribd for something like $20 - I don't know; it was ridiculous. In any case, I was completely hooked. Scribd is now a book subscription service like Kindle Unlimited (which I also love and to which I also subscribe), but even better. Why? They have added audiobooks! Yes, Kindle Unlimited has Audible narration included with some of its books (and lets you purchase the narration at a heavy discount with a whole bunch of others), but Scribd has over 30,000 audiobooks completely independent of its print book selection. In fact, it has many cases of books that have audio, but no print. Given that it's subscription fee is $1 less than KU per month, I say if you have to choose, choose Scribd.

So what are some of the best offerings on Scribd? How about The Boxcar Children on audio? Or The Books of Bayern (and Shannon Hale's other books) in print and audio? My 10 year-old daughter is a huge fan of Lois Duncan's Movie for Dogs, Hotel for Dogs, and News for Dogs audiobooks. She's not old enough for my favorite Lois Duncan books (did anyone else read her teen suspense once upon a time?), which are available in print on Scribd.

Michael (10) "reads like he owns every book in the world" (one of Scribd's catchphrases - which I love because it describes me and my book hoarding/collecting/ADHD self so perfectly) since we got Scribd. Although I always make sure that I have books checked out on Kindle Unlimited for him, he prefers Scribd. Because I can save books to my library (with a special "Kids" collection), he can browse just the books that I have set aside for him. I would definitely not recommend letting kids do an open search on Scribd. Inappropriate results are a definite possibility. In any case, Michael has read hundreds of books on Scribd in every genre. I can do a whole post on books of interest to 10 year-olds if anyone is interested (if so, please do comment).

Do you need to justify Scribd as a homeschooling expense? Let me help you. Check out Princeton University Press's offerings. Or maybe you have younger kids? How about Laurie Carlson's books:

Janis Herbert's books are here, too:

Maybe you have a high schooler about to take the SAT. $8.99/month is a small price to pay for so many SAT prep guides (this is a just a tiny sample):

If you're Catholic, then maybe you, like me, have had your eye on this series, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture:

Not Catholic? There's Bible Commentary for you, too:

Are you studying geography this semester? I love all of Kenneth C. Davis's books. Most of them aren't available on Scribd (I know! I'm so spoiled that I actually get sad when something I want isn't there!), but Don't Know Much About Geography is! So is Ken Jennings's Maphead. Or maybe you want an audiobook to quiz your kids on states and capitals. For all around knowledge, how about the Handy Answer Book Series?

It's probably pretty clear that I could go on like this forever, but the best way to discover Scribd is to go play on it yourself. I have to warn you that if you are a bibliomaniac bibliophile like I am, you will lose far more time than you lose on Pinterest. I don't work for Scribd, although it would be my dream job and if I could work remotely, I would be watching their job postings like a hawk, but the link in the first paragraph will get each of us a free month if you subscribe through it. Don't worry about me, though, because with or without a free month, I am a Scribd subscriber for life. I can't imagine being without it! If you subscribe, let me know what you think.

Just a couple of details: Unlike KU, with Scribd you can be reading as many print/audio books as you want. There are apps for your phone, iPad, computer, and Kindle Fire. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Podcasts Part 1

I am one of those people who listened to podcasts years ago. That's probably not surprising, given that I am a huge fan of both talk radio and old time radio. Podcasts are like the love child of that union. After awhile I guess I burned out or missed audio books or something. Recently, though, I was with my sisters and they were talking about their newest obsession, the podcast "Serial." Well, in the course of looking up "Serial," my OCD/hoarding tendencies overcame me and my phone is once more loaded up with podcasts. I think I am currently subscribed to 100. I won't bore you with all 100 (although I would not subscribe to an inferior podcast!), but this post is the first in a weekly series of what I think are the best podcasts for homeschoolers. Each week, I'll discuss five of the best podcasts out there for homeschoolers. In the penultimate week, I'll give you the list of podcasts that aren't necessarily homeschool-related/friendly, but are really great. In the final week, I'll throw in all those podcasts that are my guilty pleasures (the ones I would never let my children listen to).

Yes, it's an oldie, but it is definitely the bestie (did I just coin a phrase?!). Stuff you Missed in History Class (NB - I'm linking the RSS feeds - I know I am awesome for making it so easy for you to subscribe - you're welcome) is just simply terrific. I have a degree in history, and I learn something every single time I listen, even when the subject is one with which I have more than a passing familiarity. If you want to teach your kids without their even being aware of it, just put on this podcast in the car (be aware that some topics are not appropriate for all ages, but the hosts are fairly good about warning of suspect topics at the outset of the podcast - even better, common sense usually tells one when a topic will not be appropriate for kids, but most are just fine). They will be hooked in no time, even those kids who say they hate history. Also check out Stuff to Blow Your Mind and Stuff You Should Know, all brought to you by the awesome website How Stuff Works.

Witness is my new favorite podcast. I can't get enough of it. Each episode is 9 minutes long and covers an event in history through primary source documentation. Often it is through an interview with the person who lived through it. Sometimes it is through the compilation and reading of newspaper or journal accounts. Often it is supplemented with BBC news reports from the time. Best of all, it is a daily podcast and there are archived episodes going back to 2010 (although there are only 41 episodes in 2010). One of the neatest things about it is that it is, of course, a production of the BBC, meaning that the perspective one gets on topics is not Americentric. The best way to understand why it is so great is to give it a listen. It's just terrific.

99% Invisible is a podcast that is hard to describe. It calls itself "A tiny radio show about design, architecture, and the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world." Each 15 minute episode (and there are just under 150 of them) discusses something you've probably not thought about - like the two schools of vexillology (that would be the study of flags), or the design of chairs, or those huge inflatable men used for advertising purposes. The reason I say it is indispensable listening for homeschoolers is that it will give your kids ideas about how to look at the world in unconventional ways. It will show them that there is more to *everything* than meets the eye. It will teach them to seek the story or the deeper meaning behind the everyday object. It's fascinating.

A History of the World in 100 Objects may be familiar to some people as a book, but there is a

companion podcast of 15 minute episodes, each of which is about one of the 100 eponymous objects. Again, just as with the preceding podcast, these are not objects you know a lot about or ones that you would automatically think of if you were to create such a list. The concept is very cleverly executed and it is another one to play for kids who won't realize it's history at all - it just comes across as great stories. As an example, some of the objects covered are a suffragette defaced penny, a throne made of decommissioned weapons, and a Sudanese slit drum. Again, not all episodes are appropriate for all ages.

BackStory is a longer podcast, coming at one hour per episode. Its format is also a little different than the ones presented thus far. Headed up by two historians, each show looks at a specific topic (recent ones include "What Gives," a history of philanthropy and giving in America and "Tyrannophobia," a look at the history of the use and abuse of executive power. The "American History Guys" bring in other historians and experts and even engage callers as they explore the topic over the course of the hour. Again, it's amazing how much I find I don't know (and, I'll admit, it's edifying to find out how much I *do* know!).

Sunday, December 7, 2014

I've aged out of a checkbox...

I now have four children 10+. I could ruminate for hours on how that happened, but the answer is plain old time (and not the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff - the boring old linear stuff).

Somehow this:

Became this (when my twins turned 10 on 12/4 - they don't look like twins anymore!):

And it makes me kind of sad...