Homeschooling With Audiobooks

Homeschooling With Audiobooks: Is It Cheating?

We have been homeschooling with audiobooks for almost a decade. At first, I treated them as extras. Now, I’ve come to see them as a valuable resource in our homeschool. Here’s why.

Homeschooling With Audiobooks

Last week, my son’s doctor asked him about school (always a good time for a homeschool mom).

He told her all about the current book he is reading.

“I am really getting into Edgar Allan Poe again. I studied him last year and this year, I am reading more of his short stories.”

The doctor was clearly impressed, until he mentioned something about listening. Her face contorted a bit and she responded.

“Oh, you’re not actually reading those books. You’re just listening to them”

Why Do We Treat Audiobooks As Cheating or Less Than?

When my son is working on “reading” (something that is quite difficult for him as he is profoundly dyslexic) we practice reading the written word.

When my son is discovering literature, practicing language and vocabulary, completing character studies, and discussing brilliant literary themes, why should it be considered less if he “reads” through audiobooks?

Homeschooling With Audiobooks

Homeschooling With Audiobooks

I am really, really proud of this kid (and I am really, really tired of responses like the doctor’s above).

So far this year, in just five weeks, he has listened to:

  • Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows (one of his all time favorites)
  • The Murders In The Rue Morgue
  • The Purloined Letter
  • The Pit and The Pendulum
  • The Fall Of The House Of Usher
  • The Tell-Tale Heart
  • The Cask Of Amontillado
  • Frankenstein
  • The Invisible Man
  • The Strange Case Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • The Phantom Of The Opera
  • The Crucible
Homeschooling With Audiobooks

In what world is this list somehow substandard for a 15 year-old boy?

Yet, time and time again, my well-read child is made to feel shame over how he accesses literature, instead of supporting his intellectual accomplishment.

How We Learn With Audiobooks

The New York Times recently published an article that contradicts how we typically prioritize reading books above audiobooks.

…examining how we read and how we listen shows that each is best suited to different purposes, and neither is superior.

In fact, they overlap considerably. Once you’ve identified the words (whether by listening or reading), the same mental process comprehends the sentences and the paragraphs they form.

Indeed, research shows that adults get nearly identical scores on a reading test if they listen to the passages instead of reading them.

Is Listening to a Book Just as Good as Reading It?

This has certainly proven to be true in my own home. My son’s access to and interest in listening to audiobooks has given him a college level vocabulary on standardized testing. More importantly, he is becoming more and more thoughtful, well reasoned, open to new ideas, and interested in people from different backgrounds because of his exposure to audible literature.

He is excited to listen to difficult texts and decipher their meaning, something that would virtually impossible for him to do with a the written word.

Audiobooks are essential in his education.

If You Believe Audiobooks Are Cheating

If you think his doctor had a point, I will respond to you here in the same way I did to her in the office last week.

Audiobooks make literature accessible for my son. He is one of the most well-read kids I know, because he surrounds himself with the language of books all day, everyday. Confining his access to this type of creative and intellectually stimulating content to merely what can be found on a written page is archaic and counterproductive.

And, let me add, you’re just wrong.

Homeschooling with audiobooks is one of the best decisions we’ve made.

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7 Comments

  1. I think people view audio books as cheating because deep down, they don’t believe learning disabilities are “real” disabilities. Imagine telling a blind person reading a book in braille that he’s cheating! He is using a different sense (touch) and the literature is in a different form (braille). It’s the exact same thing when a dyslexic person uses a different sense (hearing) and the literature is in a different form (audio). It’s not cheating. It’s simply accessing the content in the way that makes the most sense for the individual.

  2. I’m sorry you had that experience with the doctor. Although I believe listening is a different skill from reading, it is still a way to experience, enjoy, and engage in story content which means it’s equally as effective. We use audiobooks a great deal in my homeschool. My son does not enjoy reading. I suspect mild dyslexia and will know after he’s tested on Oct. 1 for sure, but this has always been a struggle for him. So audiobooks is our jam. I also read aloud to him quite a bit, even at age 15. Honestly, I think the doctor sucked for this comment. Very disappointing.

  3. I love audiobooks! I went for several years without reading books at all because my kids were babies and I rarely took my eyes off of them and had not yet discovered audiobook content on library apps and Audible. I started using them two years ago and have read SO much while driving, cooking, folding laundry, cleaning, and exercising. Being able to do something with my hands/body helps me focus while listening and I can get things done at the same time; win-win! Two of the best Christmas gifts my husband has given me were Bluetooth earbuds and an Audible subscription.

    1. Yes! Same and it’s so awesome! I did not know the science behind reading vs listening was the same. That makes it even better and takes away any guilt from using them in homeschool.

  4. Thank you SO MUCH for this! Currently struggling with my child who refuses to learn to read at almost 8-years-old, but she loves audiobooks. This gives me great hope that literature can still be a significant part of her life as she grows older and potentially has reading challenges. Also, if your son were blind, would the doctor have responded the same way? Probably not. One more sad example of the judgement people with neurodiversity face every day, especially children!

  5. I have 3 teens with dyslexia. Audiobooks are the best! The psychologist who evaluated one of them wrote a paragraph about how odd it was for someone with severe dyslexia to score in the 99% on vocabulary. Thanks for informing the doctor. Kids with learning differences work so hard and comments from professionals hurt.

  6. I think there is something vital to say when people say an accommodation is a crutch, “Are you in the habit of removing crutches from people who need them?” As a dyslexic, I was one who could never read Lord of the Rings… but I loved it when I listened to it.

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