If you’ve ever been to a homeschool convention, book fair, or even a homeschool book store, you’re probably very aware of the vast amount of products out there geared towards families who educate their children at home. Even though I often feel like I’m nothing more than the target market for these companies who just want my money, I still believe there are A LOT of great products out there that are worth the investment. Sometimes I get overwhelmed just because there are so many things that look great, yet I don’t have the time or money to try everything available. I’m a huge fan of books and audio products as a means of entertainment instead of television, so I’m definitely always on the lookout for stuff like that. Over the past year or so I’ve discovered quite a few book series and children’s products that have turned out to be been huge hits for us, so I thought I’d share some of those.
Focus on the Family Radio Theatre Dramas
We’ve been listening to Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey since Elliot was about three and Caroline was…well, basically since she emerged from the womb. We absolutely love it and currently own probably about 100 CDs. So when I learned that Focus on the Family also did theatre-style audio stories, I was really excited about trying them. Unlike a regular audio-book, these are like listening to movies. They have all been very good, but our absolute favorite has been Anne of Green Gables. Caroline is now in a hurry to read the Anne series with me because she has been so enthralled with the radio theatre version.
In Grandma’s Attic Series
I scour lots of book lists online looking for quality books to read with the kids, and I’m especially partial to older books. There’s just something about them I love. They seem more “wholesome” and better written than a lot of the more modern books for children. I saw this series listed several places, described as an “old favorite”. Up until pretty recently they were hard to find, but in 2011 new editions were published making them easily available once again, so we took a chance on the entire series. I was pleasantly surprised by the incorporation of faith, prayer, and family values throughout the books. These books are excellent! Caroline and I have read through all four of them and look forward to reading them over again sometime.
I came across the Swan Lake Maestro Classic at the library when we were studying Tchaikovsky. By the end of the first time we played it, the kids were singing along and wanted to play it over and over again. Who doesn’t love a good story accompanied by classical music? I’m sure we’ll be collecting a lot more of these.
Greathall Productions Audio Stories
“Intelligent Entertainment for the Thinking Family” is the tagline for this product and I’d say that is a good description. These are classic stories told by Jim Weiss, who is really able to draw you in and hold your attention from the very beginning. In addition to the classics, there are also a lot of selections that would be great supplements to a variety of history studies on things such as ancient Egypt, Greek myths, the Renaissance, American explorers and pioneers, etc. They are available as CDs or MP3′s, so they couldn’t be easier to acquire and listen to.
Puffin has been publishing classics for a long time, but not long ago I discovered their most recent editions of them and I’m completely addicted to collecting them. I love building up our home library and it’s been my goal to find a nice set of classics since I’d like to read as many as I can to the kids. As far as I know, most all of these are complete and unabridged (all of mine say so on the back) so they are not watered down versions. The covers are charming and colorful, making them very attractive to children. The text is large enough to read pretty easily, compared to other versions of classic books I’ve looked at. I love everything about these! So far Elliot has read Five Children and It, and he also read Alice’s Adventure’s In Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass to Caroline. I read The Wind in the Willows to both of them this summer, and though is was a more challenging read, we enjoyed it. I can’t wait to read more of these.
This is my favorite find of the year! Lamplighter’s tagline is “Building Character…One Story at a Time.” Mark Hamby, the founder, has been searching out old books since around 1994 and republishing them so that today’s families can enjoy them. They would otherwise be pretty hard to come by. He edits them just enough to make them understandable now (but in my opinion, they still have that neat old antique feel…they are definitely not modernized). All of the stories have an underlying christian theme, with a lesson that builds character. The themes include things such as obedience, self-control, salvation, peer pressure, perseverance, diligence, choices and their consequences, etc. They also have mad many of their most popular stories into audio dramas. We’ve found the quality of the audio dramas to be excellent, just as good, if not better, than Focus on the Family Radio Theatre. We have quite a few of the audio dramas and I’m working on collecting up some of the books as well.
Seeds Family Worship
Okay, so I didn’t just discover these. We’ve been listening to Seeds for years and our memory verses last year were based mostly on songs from the CDs, but no list of my favorite things would be complete without Seeds. I can’t say enough about the value of these CDs. My kids know SO MUCH scripture because of these catchy songs (that are enjoyable for adults as well…these are not your average Bible songs). When I was at the Teach Them Diligently convention, I stood in line at the Seeds booth just to talk to someone to confirm they’d be making more. I was glad to hear they are working on it as we speak! As long as they keep making these, we will keep buying them. Period.