Monday, May 21, 2007

A Bleg from a Dinosaur Mom

I have a love-hate relationship with the last two weeks of school, especially as a homeschooling mom.

On the one hand, summer and all the freedom it promises looms closer and closer. Each day another set of dashes appears in the lesson plan books, until only two or three subjects remain to be finished up before June 1, our official 'last day of school.' And every day I have a little more time free to think about what the twelve clear weeks ahead will bring.

On the other hand, the children finish earlier each day, and the problem with the children finishing their schoolwork early is simply that they finish their schoolwork early. When they were younger, an early finish meant some art projects, or some early afternoon playtime outdoors; but as they've gotten older things have gotten a little more complicated--I no longer feel comfortable letting them play outside too early on a school day, for instance.

Today I solved the early finish problem by bringing out an educational video they haven't watched in a really long time. It's about the desert, and desert animals, and is done in a child-friendly yet informative manner that I appreciate. My youngest has been drawing desert animals using this book, which she recently finished, and I thought it might be fun for her to see some of the creatures she's been drawing.

As the girls watched the video, I began to realize that we really don't have many educational videos or DVDs. I remember watching movies like this in the classroom when I was young, and though sometimes the teachers were motivated by the same thing that motivated me today, that is, the need to keep the students busy for a while, there were other times when the educational materials really did enrich the lesson, provide an in-depth look at some unit of study, or round out some information about a difficult topic in math or science.

Why, I wondered, have I never taken greater advantage of the wealth of educational programs available today? Why haven't I looked for some videos or DVDs on topics we've learned, or on electives (such as Spanish) that I'd like to teach in the future?

Then it hit me.

I didn't grow up with educational videos or DVDs. I grew up with the large, clunky audio/visual projectors, the ones that would hum so loudly you sometimes couldn't hear the voices on the audio track. I grew up with slide projector presentations, the ones where the audio, played on a tape recorder, would beep loudly when it was time for the teacher to flip to the next slide.

Compared to the video/DVD/CD-ROM/interactive Internet age, I grew up in the dinosaur years of educational enrichment.

And so, despite the fact that we do incorporate some computer resources into our homeschool, we really haven't taken advantage of the resources available today.

Which brings me to my bleg.

You younger, more tech-savvy moms out there, especially those of you young enough to have had TVs with VCRs wheeled into your classrooms instead of those garish, lumpy audio/visual projectors (why were they so often green??): can you give a DinoMom some hints? Or you moms my age and older, who've already figured this out, what would you suggest? What educational videos/DVDs would you recommend, particularly for middle-school students? Are there any you've tried but haven't liked? I'm open to suggestions for all subject areas, as I don't really have very much of anything right now.

With your help, I hope to build up our video/DVD collection somewhat, so that next year when the children start to finish early before a major holiday or at the end of the year, or when someone's struggling a bit with some particular subject, or even when someone's down with a nasty cold and can't concentrate on regular work, I'll have some resources available.

This DinoMom thanks you.


Theresa said...

My suggestion: Netflix. Try before you buy! They have tons of stuff that we have used to go along with history, science, literature, you name it. And if something really floats your boat, then you can buy it.

Emily F. said...

I second that. We spent a ton of money last year on documentaries, then later realized that Netflix had almost every single one.
Some of our favorites... Ken Burns Civil War, Walking with Dinosaurs, Walking with Monsters, Walking with Prehistoric Beasts, Chased by Dinosaurs, and there is a new one coming out June 7th - Walking with Prehistoric Park... but we're big dinosaur lovers over here. My kids love these films and they are extremely educational.

Red Cardigan said...

Thank you both! We haven't tried Netflix yet, mainly due to my concerns about taking on yet another monthly fee, but this would be a good reason to check it out.

freddy said...

The "try before you buy" option is a great one, and the library can also be of some use there, too.

Travel videos are fun for geography supplements; any play studied that you can find on video is great, especially when they get to the Shakespeare age, and there are oodles of science/nature ones. I also count a good musical as a music lesson supplement.

On the web, there are various places with live web cams that are fun to check out, such as "Old Faithful," and that volcano in Hawaii that I can't spell at the moment.

Have fun!

Michelle said...

I agree: We use Netflix and the library for movies/documentaries. Check out A&E The Classroom videos and The History Channel. Netflix has many if your library doesn't carry them. Garage sales & yard sales are great for picking up movies cheaper than renting in most cases.

I look for specific movies to watch when we're celebrating certain feast days too.