While visiting my sister who has cable television, my young children were drawn into a Discovery Channel show called HowStuffWorks. Even knowing my children as well as I do, I wouldn't have thought they'd be interested in watching how a fire extinguisher is made.
On the other hand, the show reminded me of the segments on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood where he took us inside factories to see how things were made. I loved those segments. I still vividly remember the baker man using his really hairy arms to mix huge vats of cake frosting.
Using TV and Online Video for Education
I didn't order television service, but I have since added some valuable "videoschooling" resources to my family's virtual library. See also an unschooling TV media debate.
- Netflix. We use this streaming video subscription to watch some entertaining and thought-provoking shows, including MythBusters, MonsterQuest, IMAX movies, and whatever else catches our interest.
- Discovery Education Streaming. We use this extensive searchable online video library to watch Discovery Channel episodes and segments. I got the subscription at discount through Homeschool Buyers Co-op.
- Zui.com. This website is like a YouTube.com for kids, but it also includes links to games and websites.
- Watch TV online. The Discovery Channel, History Channel, and Science Channel each have a corresponding website where your child can watch video clips and read more about topics presented in the shows. You can search websites such as TV Links for free episodes, but watch out, it's ad-based and not all the uploaded videos have appropriate legal rights.
Making Their Own Educational TV Shows
Inspired by other kids like Enzo of Enzoology, my children now make their own educational TV shows. They study up on the topics they want to share and we use OneTrueMedia.com to create and publish the shows.
TV is a Starting Point to Further Learning
Some people might say "That's just watching TV." I would argue that with all the educational and reality type programming available, it's hardly just watching TV. Children learn from everything they encounter. TV and video can expand their world. My children now have some knowledge of what goes on in a factory, where before it was a mystery.
Even silly cartoons introduce the kids to new subjects, new ideas, and new social questions, which all lead to more learning and personal growth.
Unschooling advocate Dayna Martin addressed parental fears about television watching in her video the benefits of TV.
You don't need cable TV to enjoy educational shows. Netflix is an inexpensive option. In addition, many popular channels and shows have corresponding websites where kids can watch relevant video clips and find even more information.