When it comes to our son’s education, my family tends to lean more toward the unschooling side of things. This relaxed style works quite well for such an antsy, curious little boy, and it meshes nicely with our traveling lifestyle.
That said, our decision to unschool should not be confused with laziness (something that many people do). Our family is far from lazy when it comes to learning. In fact, we make an effort to seek out the education in everything we do. This means that everything from cooking breakfast to visiting a museum becomes schooling in the most fun and laid-back sense.
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Of course, this attitude carries over into our screen time experiences as well, meaning that Netflix, YouTube, and other video services play a pretty significant role in our son’s schooling. We have found that this is a fabulous way to help our kindergartener get a clear understanding of more complicated concepts and expand upon his interests.
Want to use videos in your schooling? Here are a few tips and tricks for weaving movies, shows, and short videos into your school day while keeping the educational ball rolling and without allowing them to take over entirely.
First and foremost, you will want to be sure to choose your videos carefully. Try to find media that compliments things you have been studying or ideas your child is interested in. However, make sure the video is engaging and suited to your child’s level of comprehension.
When possible, watch videos before showing them to the kids to be sure they are appropriate.
Don’t Force it
Watching movies and shows should be fun for your child. If they are resisting, skip the video and move onto something else. You may be able to come back to that option at a later date, or you may find something else that does a better job of piquing their interest.
By keeping the video watching fun, you will be able to use media as a tool for capturing your child’s curiosity even when books and discussions aren’t doing the trick.
Skip the Browsing
YouTube is a vast and unknown place. And the design of Netflix can quickly lead to unhealthy binge-watching habits. Therefore, it is best to take charge of what your little guy or girl is watching by giving them a list of options rather than allowing them to browse freely.
Set Clear Boundaries
While we do consider screen time to be learning time, we don’t allow our son to spend his entire day watching YouTube or binging on Netflix. This is, of course, not my son’s favorite rule. However, we believe it is important for him to get out and experience real life. Therefore, we try to make a point of setting clear boundaries before starting any videos.
We keep our video time in check and ensure a more peaceful family when we communicate with such phrases as, “After this video, we are turning the tablet off,” or, “You have 30 minutes of screen time, and then we are going outside.”
Expand and Connect
One of the most fun parts of learning is the connections you make. Video is an excellent tool for expanding upon current learning and making those connections. It is also a great jumping-off point for discussions and further exploration.
Take the time to talk with your child after each video and help them make connections between what they just saw and other things in their world. This conversation will ensure that the information sticks and make the whole process more exciting for them and for you.
Not sure where to look for great educational videos? I have a few suggestions to offer:
YouTube — Filled with videos on every imaginable subject, YouTube is a fantastic resource. We enjoy watching cooking shows and science videos at the moment, but you can find almost anything you like on this one website.
Netflix — Netflix is the perfect place to go for documentaries. There are also plenty of full-length movies from which to choose. We often use historical-themed films as a way of expanding upon certain parts of history, but you can discover a variety of movies on Netflix.
Hulu — We haven’t used Hulu for schooling purposes, but if you have an account, it’s worth checking out.
Amazon Prime — From what I hear, the streaming videos provided by Amazon Prime actually include quite a bit of educational material. For instance, the Popular Mechanics for Kids series, loved by many young engineers, is an available option. Additionally, they have some great higher-level math videos.
PBS and PBS Kids — The PBS.org website has many educational videos that are fun for the whole family to watch. Additionally, PBSkids.org has a few videos for younger children that come in handy from time to time. I particularly appreciate the Odd Squad and Wild Kratts videos.
Amazon FreeTime — My son has Amazon FreeTime on his Kindle Fire tablet. While I don’t love everything included in this program, there are some good options. Cyberchase and Reading Rainbow are two of our favorites included here.
Khan Academy — Khan Academy is an incredible learning tool. They have an enormous number of videos available for learning almost anything you can imagine. While many people seem to believe these videos are all geared toward older children and adults, there are actually quite a few options for younger students as well.
Udemy — If you have an older child who would like to learn something in particular, you might check out Udemy. This website offers online lessons—many by video—on a variety of subjects. This is ideal for those looking to dive deeper into a particular topic.
Homeschooling with Netflix and Other Media — Looking for a particular type of video? I highly recommend joining the Homeschooling with Netflix and Other Media Facebook page. These folks know their stuff when it comes to learning via video, meaning you can ask for what you want and they will point you in the right direction.
By using these great websites to find videos, you can add a bit of excitement to your school days and feel great about allowing the occasional screen time session.
What are some of your family’s favorite media resources?