Meet Lindsay Leiviska, brilliant educator and homeschool mom of 3.
She’s also the founder of A Heart For All Students, a site dedicated to helping homeschool families with neurodiverse kiddos.
Today, Lindsay is going to share how podcasts fit into her home education plan and why Pinna is an excellent choice for every family — especially those with learning challenges. Lindsay is a wealth of information and we’re so fortunate to get to chat with her today.
Lindsay is the first of many homeschool parents we’ll be interviewing because Pinna is such a versatile teaching tool for kids both at home and in school.
Let’s get started.
1. Hi there! To start, will you tell us a bit about yourself and your homeschool?
Thank you for having me. My name is Lindsay Leiviska and I’m a wife, mom of three, and an educator with my Masters Degree in Teaching… and I have ADHD. I’ve been working with children for over 20 years in a variety of settings and have been homeschooling my own for more than 12.
We have a whole-brain focused homeschool because my kids and I are all neurodivergent in some way. We all have ADHD. Additionally, we have a fun mix of Autism, FASD, Auditory Processing Disorder, speech and language disorders, as well as dyslexia.
We have a homeschool culture that emphasizes emotional intelligence, interpersonal relationships, and academics. It’s been a wild ride to say the least!
2. What led to the choice to homeschool your kiddos? Any advice for parents out there who’d like to do the same?
It’s funny because I made the decision to homeschool my children when I was in graduate school. I was doing my student teaching in a low-income elementary school at the time. It was in that 2nd grade classroom that I became keenly aware of the diversity of needs and developmental levels within one classroom. I knew it would be impossible for one person to individualize instruction for 20 kids in one classroom.
At the time I had no children yet, but something about that experience convinced me that I’d homeschool my kids one day. I wanted to provide my children with an education individualized to their learning styles, needs, and strengths.
Thankfully, my hubby agreed and I started “officially” homeschooling our first daughter when she was 4. Since then, my two younger ones have joined the party and we’ve been homeschooling for more than 12 years.
To any parent who has considered homeschooling, but is afraid to make the leap. You can do it! All types of families homeschool, including single-parents, full-time working parents, and more. There are so many resources out there to assist you in this process.
Don’t be afraid to try it! And in the end, know this: You are your child’s greatest teacher anyway. You can do this!
3. Okay, inquiring minds want to know…what is your family’s favorite Pinna production?
Hands down, our favorite is Grim, Grimmer, Grimmest!!! Oh my word! We love it! Adam Gidwitz is one of the best storytellers and the entire production is top-notch and engaging.
So let me tell you how our homeschool love affair started with Adam and Grim, Grimmer, Grimmest. My middle daughter had just been diagnosed with a complex form of Auditory Processing Disorder. APD relates to the way the brain receives and processes auditory information. For many children, including my daughter, that meant she had a difficult time processing auditory information. This impacts a whole host of areas including reading comprehension, following directions, and even navigating their social world.
One of the strategies I began to use to help her strengthen those language processing skills was having her listen to highly engaging audiobooks. Because she loves fractured fairy tales, Grim, Grimmer, Grimmest fit the bill perfectly.
4. Pinna has an entire section of the site devoted to educators. What type of resources do you find most helpful when listening to podcasts and audiobooks with your kids?
Pinna does have a fantastic selection of podcasts and audiobooks! No doubt about it.
As an educator with a focus on neurodiverse kids, I’m always being asked how to best equip kids with ADHD, Autism, dyslexia, and other learning differences. When asked how to help these kids improve in reading, writing, and language comprehension, I always recommend high-quality audiobooks!
This is what I look for in quality audio content for kids:
- Enthusiastic and engaging storyteller! This is crucial. In order to capture the attention of kids, audiobooks and podcasts MUST be read by someone who’s excited to share the content! No monotone narrators.
- Sound effects when possible: Sound effects offer an entirely different dimension to storytelling. There’s a huge difference between, “The cat screeched in horror,” and “The cat screeched in horror,” (INSERT SOUND OF SCREECHING CAT). When the goal is to teach or capture the attention of children, sound effects are an excellent teaching tool.
- Rate of Speech: Kids with ADHD, Autism, dyslexia and other processing issues often get lost when the rate of the storyteller’s speech is too fast. There is a difference between “hearing” words and processing them.
- It’s important for storytellers to maintain a rate of speech that is slower than they may be used to. If they do have a higher rate of speech, at minimum, it’s important to “chunk” monologues into sections, with a two to three second pause to allow kids to process what they just heard.
- Listening Guides: It’s often helpful to provide children with listening guides that help them stay on track with the audio. This can be something as simple as a fill-in-the-blank when they hear the answer to certain questions in the story. It can also be a basic coloring sheet. Ultimately, the goal is to help kids better focus on the audio.
- Extension Activities: Pinna does a great job providing extension activities and worksheets that students can use to more deeply engage with the content. More importantly, Pinna provides printables for multiple ability and grade levels. I also really like their use of graphic organizers. I personally love graphic organizers for kids with learning challenges. Additionally, for classroom teachers who are concerned with learning objectives, Pinna provides that information on each lesson.
- Quality Content: In the end, I’m always looking for quality content for my kids. Whether it’s fictional storytelling or non-fiction podcasts, as they say, “content is king.” I love the variety of content available on Pinna.
- From Pinna Shorts, to visualization techniques in Hey Story Go! (this is a critical skill for struggling readers, BTW), to history-focused audiobooks like the I Survived series, there is so much quality educational content on Pinna.
5. What fun and unique tidbits have your kids learned from listening to Pinna?
Ok. This may sound silly, but one of the greatest lessons they’ve learned is from the opening audio of Grim, Grimmer, Grimmest.
Adam opens every episode with a practical self-regulation strategy. He gives kids a specific example of what to do when they start to feel scared.
He teaches kids a few things including the following.
- He normalizes hard emotions so kids don’t feel alone with their feelings.
- He teaches them to recognize and own their emotions.
- And he gives them a strategy for handling that emotion (i.e. turn down the volume and count to 5. Then turn it back up. If you’re still scared, turn it back down and count to 5 again.)
It’s a small part of the show, but it’s genius.
Also, when listening to Made By You! podcast, Zach taught us that lizards in the Carolinas, where we’re from, have adapted to withstand the intense hurricanes in this area. We have so many lizards in our yard so this was BIG news to my youngest son.
6. Audio entertainment is an excellent choice for parents who want to keep kids entertained and engaged while limiting screen time. Can you name a few other screen free activities your family enjoys?
We play a lot of board games and card games in our house. We’ve got a scheduled Tuesday/Thursday dinner game night that lasts for hours. It’s been a great family ritual for us all. Our favorites are Phase 10, Uno Wild, and Sorry.
My middle daughter is an artist and always drawing. My two bookend kids are both martial artists and spend a lot of their time training.
7. What are your top tips for incorporating podcasts and audiobooks into your homeschool day?
- Use them all the time. I encourage parents to allow their kids to listen to audiobooks in conjunction with books. So many children are struggling with reading comprehension and often shut down when faced with a book. By allowing children to listen to audio versions of these same books while physically reading the book, you increase comprehension and overall reading fluency.
- Last year, for example, I purchased the audiobook version of my high schooler’s science textbook in addition to the hardcopy version. Allowing her to “listen” while reading the text greatly increased her understanding of the stated learning objective, biology.
- Listen to audiobooks and educational podcasts in the car as part of your carschooling.
- If you’re studying ancient history in your homeschool history book, listen to Pinna’s I Survived: The Destruction of Pompeii, AD 79.
- Or listen to the selection of The Magic School Bus audiobooks as a way to enhance your science studies!
- Better yet, while you’re working with an older child, have your early or emerging reader listen to The Magic School Bus audiobooks while “reading” the text version.
8. Pinna has a collection of Study Beats and Gaming Beats that are fun to listen to and meant to improve concentration. What are some ways you include music in your homeschool routine?
It's awesome that Pinna does this! The brain was made for music. We play brown and white noise when we need to concentrate and drown out background noise.
Additionally, we use music to memorize Scripture, history timelines, math facts, scientific formulas, and more.
9. Before we wrap up, can you quickly share what’s on your Pinna playlist?
- Grim, Grimmer, Grimmest
- The Magic School Bus series
- I Survived Series
- Blueberries for Sal
- The Totally Unauthorized Minecraft Fan Show (my son is obsessed!)
- A to Z Mysteries: Clue Club
- Hey Story Go!
- ExtraBlurt Jr!
10. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today! Will you share with our readers where they can keep up with your family and work?
Yes, thank you for asking. I founded A Heart For All Students with a mission to support moms parenting and homeschooling children with ADHD, Autism, anxiety and other complex backgrounds. You can find me and access tons of resources there.
Thank you so much for having me, Pinna!
Pinna is an excellent tool for screen-free learning and fun all year round. Keep your kids engaged and entertained with Pinna’s comprehensive and growing library.
We’re all ears!
What are your best tips for making podcasts and audiobooks a part of your homeschool routine? We’d love to hear from you! Find us on all our social platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest – or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.