Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Homeschooling with Netflix

When listing my top 5 resources for homeschooling, I have to include Netflix.  Several times each week, we turn to Netflix for documentaries, educational videos and sometimes simply entertainment.  I use these movies when I want to work with one child and another needs an activity or the kids have worked really hard on something and need a little down time.  One day a week I go to my office and I am blessed to be able to take the kids with me.  On that day, they are allowed to watch a movie in the afternoon when their book work is complete.  We also use Netflix on our family movie nights by rewarding our kids with the opportunity to choose a movie (from our pre-selected list) if they have completed X, Y and Z.  Although we rarely use it, I have been known to pop a movie into our portable DVD player for a long car ride on occasion.  Something that we began using to replace television has become a valuable resource for our homeschool.

Every couple of weeks, I visit the Netflix website and add movies to our queues.  We have two queues, one for instant movies streamed to our computer or wii and the other for DVDs mailed to our home.  We can watch the movies in the instant queue in any order so this one is easy to maintain.  Any movie that offers the choice for instant queue, that is what I choose.  As for the DVD queue, the movies are listed in the order they will be shipped.  I am careful to rotate movies to please everyone in the family, so sometimes I have to adjust the order of these movies.  There are a few types of movies that make their way into our queue.  We watch a lot of documentaries about topics we are discussing, especially in social studies and science (Drive Thru History).    When we have read a book and there is a movie version available, we watch those (most recently The Hiding Place and Chronicles of Narnia).  Our youngest daughter likes to watch the cartoons that have a little lesson in them (her favorite is Sid the Science Kid).  As for entertainment, we use Netflix rather than the theater or most other rental places.  We sometimes wait longer for movies, but we don't mind.  Our recent favorites have been The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry and The Ultimate Gift.  We definitely get our money's worth each month.

Tips before adding movies to your queue:

  • Check the source of the movie before showing it to your kids.  You don't want to be caught off guard when a science video states something as fact that is simply theory or a history video promotes a point of view that disagrees with your beliefs.  I'm not saying don't show the video because sometimes these are great discussion starters, just be prepared. 
  • Know that it's OK to only show parts of a movie.  You pay a flat fee for Netflix, regardless of how many movies you watch.  Take advantage of this and share clips with your kids.  There have been several occasions when we have used bits and pieces of movies to emphasize a specific something and known that we never would watch the entire movie.
  • As with anything, take caution in what you introduce. There have been occasions when we have told our kids before watching a show that we are watching a specific portion for a specific purpose and this will not be a regular part of our queue.  This has helped us avoid heartache with some particular series that have a good portion here and there but are not generally on our approved list.
  • This may be a no-brainer, but talk to your kids about what they have watched and train them to be discerning.  We have an on-going dialogue about what is and isn't appropriate for our family.  Our kids (even the young ones) are great critics and have decided without prompting to turn some things off.  This is success to me because I want to raise people who can make responsible decisions for themselves, not just do what I tell them to do.
Disclaimer: In no way do I want to promote an idea that movies replace one-on-one instruction.  We use a variety of teaching methods and tools, primarily hands-on learning supplemented with books and other resources.  This is just one of those other resources.  Also, we are grateful that our children have a deep love for reading.  If this was not the case, I would probably be more reluctant to use movies as much as we do (which isn't much).  I encourage you to use the resources in the best way to meet your family's needs.

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