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Instead of Curriculum: Storyteller Jim Weiss

Instead of Curriculum: Storyteller Jim Weiss

Photo credit: Great Hall Productions; Used by permission

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Among my favorite homeschooling resources are our audio recordings by storyteller Jim Weiss. We have nearly every CD in his collection, and for many years, one of my favorite night-time sounds was standing in the hall hearing multiple CD players simultaneously reeling off Jim’s stories, as each of my sons listened in his own room to a different story (if they didn’t fall asleep first when I was reading to them or telling them a story myself).

These stories provided many important cultural touchstones for my children during their pre-reading and early reading years, introducing them to historical, scientific, literary, and mythological figures and tales. This is where my children first learned of Galileo, Tom Sawyer, Shakespeare, Robin Hood, and Sherlock Holmes.

We also listened on car trips, enjoying Weiss’s artful collections — Celtic myths, Greek myths, tall tales, Old Testament stories, fairy tales, and many more.

Weiss’s stories are well arranged, and he’s an appealing and expressive teller of a tale. One of my kids actually loved listening to him so much that he had nearly the entire Tom Sawyer story memorized, just from listening over and over. One day when he was about four years old, he simply started reciting the story, and we realized he could say practically the whole thing — mimicking Weiss’s intonations and getting his exact words.

The boys continued to enjoy these stories even into the middle grades, and whenever I attended a homeschooling conference or La Leche League conference where Jim Weiss was a vendor or speaker, bringing home a new CD for the kids was my one conference splurge. The kids were so universally excited about each new title that I also made a habit of ordering them for Christmas and birthday gifts. We listened over and over and over.

I was excited to discover that Weiss also had recorded quite a few books by G.A. Henty. These unabridged recordings of Henty’s historical fiction books cover interesting periods of history, and they are written and read in a compelling way. The Henty books each have multiple CDs and last for hours. For example, The Young Carthaginian, set in ancient Rome, is a nine-hour recording — and with an adventure woven into a historical account of Hannibal’s campaign against Rome.

Other Henty books recorded by Weiss include:

  • Beric the Briton (about the Roman invasion of Britain; 62 AD)
  • The Cat of Bubastes (Ancient Egypt; 1350 BC)
  • In the Reign of Terror (French Revolution; 1793)

Each of these recordings was listened to repeatedly, and because our kids were widely spaced apart, they were even revisited years after I originally purchased them. They frequently inspired historical questions and rabbit trailing on the Internet or visits to the library for books on The French Revolution or ancient Egypt.

Not long ago, a friend with kids in the 5th grade asked to borrow one of our Henty recordings. I knew I had it, but when I opened the box of things we’d moved from another house, I found that one of the disks was missing. I wrote to Great Hall Productions, the company operated by Jim Weiss and his wife Randy, and they promptly shipped me a replacement CD, noting that I’d been a long-time customer and they would be pleased to help me complete my set. Our friends listened to the recording on a long drive and pronounced themselves “hooked on Jim Weiss.” Good customer service has its rewards.

Truly, I consider our expenditures on our Jim Weiss recordings to be some of the wisest money I ever spent on homeschooling. Listening to recorded stories and books enhances literacy skills, primes children’s interests in books, promotes fluent reading, and provides a relaxed way to learn about history, science, and classic literature that many might think “above children’s heads.”

A Jim Weiss recording is just one of those things that is better than curriculum.

See what other homeschoolers think in our Jim Weiss Reviews section.

Jeanne Faulconer

A popular speaker at homeschooling conferences, business groups, and parents’ groups, Jeanne Potts Faulconer homeschooled her three sons in North Carolina, Mississippi, and Virginia for twenty years. Jeanne is director of Brave Writer's Homeschool Alliance, which provides homeschool coaching, community, and "grad school for homeschool" for parents. She is the contributing editor for TheHomeSchoolMom newsletter and writes the popular Ask Jeanne column, addressing homeschool parents' questions here at TheHomeSchoolMom. She is a former college faculty member, former editor and book reviewer for Home Education Magazine, a long-time editor for VaHomeschoolers Voice, and a news correspondent for WCVE, an NPR-member station. Holding her Master of Arts degree in Communication, Jeanne has conducted portfolio evaluations for Virginia homeschoolers for evidence of progress for many years.

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