Why Use Science Audiobooks? (An Apologia Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures MP3 CD Review)

Pin image for Why Use Science Audiobooks? An Apologia Science Review of Zoology 2 Audio MP3 CD, by the Oaxacaborn blog

Do you struggle with the available options for teaching elementary science? Over and over, I hear from overwhelmed parents who are stuck trying to figure out how to fit science in to an already-full homeschool schedule.

Maybe that’s you.

Maybe science is the one subject which keeps getting pushed down the priority list, and tends to eventually get left out altogether. Maybe you have the idea that science needs to be heavily hands-on, with dramatically impressive experiments all the time. Realistically, you can’t be the mad scientist too, on top of all the other hats you wear. And maybe you even feel a little guilty about that.

Why Use Science Audiobooks? An Apologia Science Review of Zoology 2 Audio MP3 CD, by the Oaxacaborn blog

But here’s the thing:

Let go of the guilt. Elementary science doesn’t have to be teacher-intensive.

It doesn’t have to mean fizzing volcanoes and plastic-bag lungs every week. (Although, it can. But you’re not obligated. Really.)

If you’re a weary mama with a science-minded kiddo begging to learn more, take heart.

You can still deliver solid, in-depth science education without having to dedicate loads of time to teaching each science lesson.

In our homeschool, I am a big fan of audio resources. (Did you catch my post on how I use audio to create a completely independent morning time?) And when it comes to making time for science during especially busy seasons, I rely on audio resources there, too.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a half-price discount on the Apologia Zoology 2 MP3 Audiobook from Timberdoodle in exchange for writing and publishing this post. I chose this product because I’ve used other Apologia audiobooks before in our homeschool, and I love them!

Why Use Science Audiobooks? An Apologia Science Review of Zoology 2 Audio MP3 CD, by the Oaxacaborn blog

A Timberdoodle Review of the Apologia Zoology 2 / Swimming Creatures MP3 Audio CD

This school year marks our third time using Apologia science, and it’s also the third time we’ll be using the MP3 Audio component, too. These audiobooks are AMAZING. But when I mentioned to some friends that I’d be taking advantage of the optional MP3 CD, I was surprised by how many responded with the question —

“Why use an audio book instead of reading to your kids yourself?”

My immediate reaction is, why not? Audio resources are a tremendous boon to a homeschool routine, and have so many positive benefits to supercharge your day. It’s common to find novels, biographies, historical fiction, classics, and even picture books in audiobook form, but oft-overlooked audio textbooks are an incredible tool as well.

Why Use Science Audiobooks? An Apologia Science Review of Zoology 2 Audio MP3 CD, by the Oaxacaborn blog

5 reasons you should consider using Apologia MP3 Audio CDs

1. …to encourage independent learning.

Having access to the entire textbook on MP3 means my daughter can just tap the play button and dive into the accompanying notebooking journal, without having to wait for me. The freedom to learn independently has always been valuable and encouraged in our homeschool, but in the last month, it’s become even more crucial.

In the middle of writing this post, I took a slight detour — to the hospital to welcome our eager little preemie. In the ensuing NICU days, any schoolwork my daughter could do independently to maintain a little routine (and sanity!) was such a lifesaver. And now, in the newborn blur, the audiobook means we don’t have to skip science or shuffle it away to the back burner. (My science-obsessed daughter is thrilled about this!)

2. …to streamline your day so you can multitask.

The audio component frees up my time to focus on tasks I’d be unable to accomplish if I were facilitating the science lesson. Though I remain nearby so I can offer input and answer questions as needed, I’m usually actively working on something else while my daughter is doing her science lesson. With the audiobook’s help, I can write a blog post, work on a freelance project, or fold a load of laundry while she’s immersed in a science lesson. (Or, you know, change a diaper.) Multiply that throughout the school year, and wow! What a great return on the purchase price.

3. …to allow for repetition and review.

When you’re a science-obsessed kiddo, sometimes science is so exciting you simply must to listen to a certain topic again — or even again and again.  Audiobooks are great for repetitive listening. (Word to the wise? Headphones are a good call, too.)

And if your student is working in the notebooking journal as she listens, she may need to double-check details before completing an activity. The MP3s make review super easy: just replay the track.

Why Use Science Audiobooks? An Apologia Science Review of Zoology 2 Audio MP3 CD, by the Oaxacaborn blog

4. homeschool on the go (in the car, in waiting rooms, etc)

Headphones and an MP3 player mean school gets done even in a quiet waiting room. Time spent at appointments can really add up, and the ability to still mark off subjects while away from home is a huge advantage.

5. …to lessen the workload on you, mama!

There’s no shame in my audio game. I’ve heard (a lot of) chatter in the homeschool world about audiobooks not being an equivalent substitute for cuddles and read-alouds. While that’s true, there’s also a time and a place for using audio as a learning tool. (Using an audio resource for a subject or two or three doesn’t mean you don’t snuggle your kids!) If you click or tap the audio play button for science this year, instead of reading the textbook yourself, it is absolutely okay.

Audiobooks are not cheating.

Homeschool mama, you’ve already given up thousands upon hours of alone time to homeschool (and likely a full income and a career as well.) You’re with your children 24/7. You can incorporate audio into a subject or two with absolutely no guilt.

You really can.

You have my permission.

Let’s dive in (marine pun intended) to some more specific details. (Shoutout to my closed Facebook group, The Oaxacaborn Homeschool Community, for asking these great questions about the audiobooks.)

Why Use Science Audiobooks? An Apologia Science Review of Zoology 2 Audio MP3 CD, by the Oaxacaborn blog

How long is each average lesson?

Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day contains 13 lessons, which means you definitely won’t be listening to an entire lesson each day. Instead, think of each lesson as a chapter. Within each chapter, the tracks range from about twelve seconds for a simple narration prompt (reminding the student to pause the audio and narrate back what they’ve learned thus far) to four minutes for longer topics. Most, tracks, though, run about a minute and half in length.

The notebook journal — I’ll have a review on that coming later in the school year — offers a pacing guide to help you schedule the 13 lessons across 26 weeks. This averages out to roughly 11 tracks per week, or 18 minutes of audio weekly. Of course, when you add in pausing for narration, time needed to complete the work in the notebooking journal, and additional hands-on activity time (optional) your total time investment will be higher. But, since kids can do some of the journal activities while they listen, the audio component ends up being a terrific tool for time management!

Why Use Science Audiobooks? An Apologia Science Review of Zoology 2 Audio MP3 CD, by the Oaxacaborn blog

How long is the entire Zoology 2 audio CD?

The Zoology 2 CD has a total run time of 7 hours, 53 minutes.

Can I skip to specific sections to listen to just the part I want to hear?

Yes! The CD has 283 tracks, each labeled clearly with the lesson number and a short topic description, such as Lesson 12: Non-nettle Jellies or Lesson 7: Sting Rays. This is also fabulous for review, or for replaying especially fascinating sections. (Did you know a blue whale’s heart is the size of a Volkswagen beetle? That’s in Lesson 2: Whales!)

What marine biology topics does Zoology 2 cover?

Aquatic animals, whales, seals and sea cows, aquatics herps, primeval reptiles, fish, sharks and rays, crustaceans, mollusks, cephalopods, echinoderms, cindarians — and more.

.Why Use Science Audiobooks? An Apologia Science Review of Zoology 2 Audio MP3 CD, by the Oaxacaborn blog

Does the audio recording exactly follow the book text?

For the most part, it does. The main exception is sections which tell you how to conduct the activities and experiments. The narrator doesn’t read these instructions aloud, but instead indicates where to pause and refer to the book in order to complete the hands-on activities. (We generally don’t pause, though, and instead do any desired projects on a different day. You can do this, too, without guilt. You can even — yes, I said it — skip the experiments altogether.)

A few words in the main text have been adjusted here and there, in order for the spoken audio to flow smoothly — the intro track to the CD explains this, too. So, if you’re following along closely the textbook, you may notice slight differences from time to time. We haven’t found this to be troublesome, though, and my daughter has a very precise sort of personality.

Why Use Science Audiobooks? An Apologia Science Review of Zoology 2 Audio MP3 CD, by the Oaxacaborn blog

What’s the narrator like? Is the audio engaging?

Each of the MP3 Audio CDs in the Young Explorers series is read aloud by the author, Jeannie Fullbright. We love her! She wrote the books in a very narrative style, speaking directly to the reader, so the audio flows incredibly well. It’s not at all like you’d imagine a traditional textbook to sound. You can listen to an audio sample of Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day to see what I mean..

Is the audio available as a download, streaming, or as a physical CD?

Timberdoodle sells a physical CD, which I actually prefer to streaming (it works without the internet AKA distractions!) Note that these are MP3 CDs, so if you want to play the content in a car, you’ll have to first upload the files to a device like an iPad or iPhone, then plug in or connect to the vehicle’s speakers.

Where can I purchase Apologia MP3 Audio CDs?

Timberdoodle! You can browse Timberdoodle’s entire selection of Apologia Science online, or request a Timberdoodle print catalog to see all their super fun homeschool offerings.

Why Use Science Audiobooks? An Apologia Science Review of Zoology 2 Audio MP3 CD, by the Oaxacaborn blog

Want to grab the same science curriculum we’re using this year?

You’ll need —

Have more questions?

Comment below, or join The Oaxacaborn Homeschool Community and jump in to this discussion thread, where we’re chatting about Zoology 2.

Facebook image for Why Use Science Audiobooks? An Apologia Science Review of Zoology 2 Audio MP3 CD, by the Oaxacaborn blog

What does science look like in your homeschool this year?


Interactive Notebook Labels: FREE Printables

pin image with text: FREE Interactive Notebook Labels / Printables

Label your school notebooks by subject with FREE notebook cover labels!

Looking for free printables to help you organize your notebooks, so you can quickly visually differentiate between subjects?  I’ve created two sets of FREE school subject labels, one sized for standard spiral notebooks, and one for bound composition books. They’re perfect for interactive notebooks, or just for everyday school notebooks.

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These free interactive notebook labels are black-and-white, so super inexpensive to print at home — and they’re already formatted to print centered on an 8.5″ x 11″ printer paper at just the right size. You could jazz up your organizational game by printing on bright colored paper, too, if you wanted. All you need to do after printing is cut out the labels around the bold black border, then glue on to the front cover of the notebook.

Then look at you!

So organized.

What school subject labels are included?

Each set of school subject notebook cover labels contains 23 different options —

  • HISTORY, and a duplicate version for
  • MATH, and a duplicate version for
  • MATHS (UK)
  • SCIENCE, and a duplicate version for
  • ART, and a duplicate version with a customizable write-your-own label
  • GRAMMAR, and a duplicate version for
  • LANGUAGE ARTS, and a duplicate version for
  • SPaG (UK)
  • WRITING, and a duplicate version with a customizable write-your-own label
  • READING, and a duplicate version for
  • and two more with BLANK customizable write-your-own labels.


Why the term interactive notebook?

This is a common term for when lapbooking and notebooking elements are glued into bound composition books or spiral notebooks, rather than glued onto file folders, loose cardstock, or organized into three-ring-binders. To tame the paper dragon, I’m a huge fan of this neat and tidy organizational method. Long live interactive notebooks!

These printables can be used to label any type of school composition book or spiral notebook.

You don’t have to utilize interactive notebooking or lapbooking in your homeschool or classroom to use these school subject labels, of course. They’re simply a great way to easily tell notebooks apart. Our math notebooks, for example, won’t have any fancy glued elements inside; they’re used for scratch paper, and for showing work. (Although, the other day, my daughter did write the phrase “work is unshowable…I just knew it”. Sound familiar? But at least the notebook has a cute cover, ha!)

Grab your FREE printables to organize your spiral notebooks and composition books

Oh, and one last note. Please don’t share the PDFs directly. I’d love it if you can point friends to this blog post, instead. You can also share easily by copy/pasting this shortlink:

Not ready to organize yet? Save this post to Pinterest!

Follow me on Instagram @oaxacaborn, keep up with the latest updates on Facebook @oaxacaborn, or request to join my closed Facebook group, The Oaxacaborn Homeschool Community


Deconstructing Fundamentalism (without Rejecting Jesus)

A Response to Josh Harris:

When it comes to breaking news in Christian media, I don’t generally write a hot take. I tend to mull over disparate issues, ponder how they’re all connected, then write a response. And as a second-generation homeschooler who’s seen the good, the bad, and a whole lot of ugly, my responses usually focus on the cultural and theological shifts within homeschool subculture. (My article “Christian Homeschooling is not a Formula for Success“, for example, was a result of years of conversations with those inside — and outside — the conservative Christian bubble.)

But Josh Harris’ recent “I am not a Christian” announcement isn’t a hot take. It’s connected to that larger story arc, that ongoing cultural shift, that wide expanse of connectivity between rules and rebellion, between legalism and losing faith.

Lest you think his story is an isolated anomaly, it’s not. It’s one I’ve seen played out over and over and again in the wake of an expansive movement which repeatedly elevated outside appearances — the condition of the body — above the condition of the heart. Morality culture harms; it doesn’t produce Jesus-followers. Courtship culture doesn’t produce pure people. A belief system built on rules and control can’t guarantee outcomes. In fact, a house of morality can only control moral behavior for so long, and then it all comes crashing down.

If you haven’t heard yet, Harris posted on Instagram, “I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is ‘deconstruction,’ the biblical phrase is ‘falling away.’ By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.”

The whole evangelical and ex-vangelical world is in a frenzy, clamoring loudly, claiming exclusivity on rightness, practically frothing at the mouth to screech I told you so at the other side.

But here’s the thing. When the fundamentalists rise up to cling to the strongholds of rules and control — and when the deconstructionists whisper freedom without Jesus — they’re all falling prey to a false dichotomy.

It’s not an either-or.

There’s another way.

See, despite what it sometimes seems, it IS possible to deconstruct fundamentalist culture — and fundamentalist theology — without deconstructing Jesus right out of the picture.


In American evangelicalism, everything needs an explanation. We’re far too quick to provide pat answers to difficult questions, and trade complexity and nuance for quick rules and formulas. Doubt makes us uncomfortable, so we sweep it under the rug, bury it, condemn it, and rush onward. We read the psalms and the prophets from the pulpits, but scurry away to silence anyone who asks the same questions or raises the same laments from the pews.

I sometimes wonder if this drive to have all the answers is also what drives people away. Explanations, after all, are what American churchianity is built on. Explanations drive Christian book sales, and pack the seats of mega churches.

When I read the Bible, I certainly can never pretend to explain it all. I’m not saying there’s no place for systematic theology and apologetics; I’m saying there’s also a place for crying out. I’m saying we would do well to embrace a little mystery.

Kallistos Ware muses, “We see that it is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question, but to make us progressively aware of a mystery. God is not so much the object of our knowledge as the cause of our wonder.”

Wonder is not the opposite of faith. Questions aren’t what crumble the foundations. Wrong answers are what cause it all to come crashing down.

It’s time to loosen our grip on all the wrong answers, no matter how attractively they’ve been packaged and marketed.

For those of us who have been deeply wounded by legalism, there’s another way. Deconversion, deconstruction, and losing Jesus are not the only ways out. We can lose our culture, and keep Jesus. We can sift through the lies we’ve been fed, and let go of the dross.

We can let this fiery crisis refine us.

We can throw out all the false crap we were raised with — and still hold on to Jesus.

We can throw out our old white-washed revisionist homeschool history books, the arrogant morality tales masquerading as literature, all the “try harder” sermon notes — and still hold on to Jesus.

We can throw out I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Boy Meets Girl, and Not Even a Hint — and still hold on to Jesus.

We can even raise a cynical side-eye to country-club churchianity — and still hold on to Jesus.

It’s absolutely possibly to be angry, without rejecting Jesus.

It is possible to be angry at courtship culture, and reject it — without rejecting Jesus.

It is possible to be angry at totalitarian and graceless parenting advice, and reject it — without rejecting Jesus.

It is possible to be angry at deception, deceit, self-righteousness, scandal, abuse, neglect, and reject the systems which propped up all the lies — without rejecting Jesus.

It is possible to renounce fundamentalism without renouncing Jesus.

God lets us ask questions. He lets us pound into our pillows and ask him why. While the rains are raging and the wind is howling, He invites us to cry out, to tell him we’re hurt, we’re confused, we’re angry, to tell him we don’t know which way to turn.

But there are two houses right now in this storm.

One is sinking, fading, crumbling, about to be washed into a deadly sea.

The other house stands as a refuge, built on the rock of Jesus. The storm will continue to surge, the water will rise higher and higher, but the rock never wavers.

He’s standing there, arms outstretched, strong, able to save.

But you have to let go of the crumbling house.

You have to let go,

and hold on to Jesus.


How to Create a Hands-off, Independent Morning Time

PIN IMAGE with text: How to Create an Independent Hands-Off Morning Time in your Homeschool

With the exception of coloring books, our homeschool morning time is designed to be nearly all audio. (And I’m talking tech, not read-alouds.)

Most homeschool morning times are family-centered, and are traditionally more teacher-intensive. But unlike the communal morning basket with read-alouds, I created this all-audio routine to be completed independently by my daughter, as a launching point for her day. She craves structure, and this set sequence of audio tasks calms her and settles her (and me!) into a great headspace for the day. We used this same routine last year, too, and it worked out so well for us.

While a morning time that’s not also family time might seem odd, the way I see it, we homeschoolers are together with our kids 24/7 — sometimes that even feels like 25/7 or 8. So I’m not too worried about letting go of some together-time for an hour or so in the morning. In fact, it’s been a lifesaver.

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All-Audio Morning Time, Part 1: Bible

The first part of morning time is Bible, comprised entirely of iPad apps which don’t require looking at the screen — just listening. I grouped the apps into a single iPad folder, in the same order they’re to be listened to, so there’s no distraction looking around for the next one in the sequence. This can also be done on an iPhone, or on some WiFi-connected iPod Touches, depending on age and app compatibility. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar enough with Android devices to know if these app developers offer an Android version.

Some of the Bible resources we use contain liturgical elements. If you wish, you can simply use the audio Bible app, and skip the apps with liturgy. But as I previously shared in 100 Essential Tools for Homeschooling Gifted Kids: “Structured worship…is especially meaningful for a routine-dependent, sequential, rigid-thinking child. The orderly format [of liturgy] calms her, and she knows what to expect from day to day. This speaks to her soul in a way that abstract, spontaneous worship would not. I think it’s crucial, especially for an easily-overwhelmed science-minded kiddo, to show that the world of worship can be just as orderly as the world of science.”

  • Mission St. Clare App (FREE)
    • This app allows you to listen to beautiful hymn recordings each day, according to what hymns are listed for that particular day in the Book of Common Prayer. It can be glitchy at times, but when it works, it’s lovely. When the app doesn’t play audio, we listen to a few songs from Ancient Faith Radio instead.
  • Ancient Faith Radio App (FREE)
    • This app offers free streaming Orthodox hymns, in various world languages (English, too.)
  • Mission St. Clare Website (FREE)
    • Providing different content than the Mission St. Clare app, above, the Mission St. Clare website website has a short (approximately 15-minutes) recording of a service at The Episcopal Church in Garrett County, Maryland. Updated daily with a new service.
  • BCP: Daily Office Readings by Logos Creative, LCC (FREE app)
    • This app utilizes the ESV (English Standard Version) and reads aloud from various books of the Bible, according to the Scripture references listed for that particular day in the Book of Common Prayer
  • The Bible App by Life.Church (FREE)
    • Another great resource for listening to audio Bible. My favorite feature? You can set a timer which automatically pauses the audio playback after the timer expires. And there are lots and lot of translations from which to choose.

Drawing / Coloring / Notebooking Resources to Accompany Morning Time

While my daughter listens the audio from these apps, she colors, draws, or notebooks quietly. Here’s what’s on our IKEA Raskog cart

If your kids hate drawing and coloring, you can always swap out the pencils for something like a jigsaw puzzle. In my experience, though, you’ll want a somewhat special hands-on activity that is reserved only for morning time, so the novelty factor stays strong.

All-Audio Morning Time, Part 2: Recitation / Memory Work

After the Bible app portion of morning time is completed, the second part of morning time is designed to double as memory work. Memory work is a foundational component of the grammar, or primary, stage of classical education. And setting recitation assignments to music is such a beautifully painless way to memorize!

At the beginning of the school year, I upload audio CDs to iTunes on my iMac, and use iTunes to select certain tracks from each uploaded CD to create a custom morning time playlist. I then sync this playlist, via iTunes, onto the iPad. (You could also, of course, simply create a playlist on a PC and play it from the PC, rather than transferring it to a tablet.)

My daughter listens to this same morning time playlist each day — and chants or sings along.

The history timeline song stays on the list all school year, since it corresponds with our year-long history curriculum, Veritas Press’ New Testament, Greece and Rome. But as other songs are mastered, I swap them out and update the playlist with new material.

This year, like last year, I’ll be pulling from the following list of audio resources. Since there are so many tracks from which to choose, it takes multiple years to get through all the CDs. And that’s great news for the budget!

(Although some are available via streaming services, I prefer purchasing the CDs or MP3s. This way, I’m able to launch the full morning time playlist in iTunes, without needing to access internet streaming.)

So that’s how we start each school day — with a tech-powered, independent morning time. You can see some of these resources on my Amazon Influencer Storefront, under the Memory Work / Morning Time board.

(An additional note on audio books: we personally haven’t added a chapter a day of an audio book to our morning time routine, because we tend to use audio books during afternoon downtime, while in the car, or while waiting for appointments. But you could absolutely include audiobooks if you wanted. We like the streaming services Hoopla and Overdrive, free with most library cards, for access to audiobooks at no cost. These usually let you download the audiobook fully while you’re on WiFi, so you can then listen from your device, without needing to access the internet. Edited to add: If you live in a rural area / have a small library, scroll down to the comment section to read Jen’s amazing tip about gaining access to these digital services!)

As your kids get older, don’t be afraid to set your kids up to do independent work. Don’t let the homeschool mom guilt get to you. (Audio books aren’t cheating.) More often than not, implementing some hands-off practices in your homeschool will make everyone happier. Plus, it’s a gentle way to begin teaching the importance of independent learning, self-motivation, and diligence.

Here’s to happy, orderly, peaceful mornings!

Questions about creating your own hands-off morning time? Ask away!

There’s also this fantastically helpful Q+A thread, all about the practical, nitty-gritty aspects of implementing an independent morning time like this. The discussion is in my closed Facebook group, so request to join!

(Pictured in this photo: How to Draw almost Everything, a bamboo Otis & Eleanor Bongo Speaker and Prismacolor Pencils.)


Using Hands-on History to Teach a Global Worldview in your Homeschool

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary Hands-On History Project Kit from Sonlight Curriculum in exchange for writing and publishing this post. Aveline’s outfit is compliments of Mabo Clothier. All opinions are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Homeschoolers love to talk about the best way to teach homeschool history. Everyone has an opinion, right? If you’re new to homeschooling — actually, even if you’re not! — it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Searching Pinterest for hands-on history project ideas, for example, can be  like drinking from a firehose. Phew. 

Continue reading “Using Hands-on History to Teach a Global Worldview in your Homeschool”