T.V. & Homeschooling

by Cheryl Demas

I have a love/hate relationship with my TV. I've had days when I wanted to throw it out the window, when I've been shocked and upset by what passes as family entertainment.

However, I haven't yet gone as far as one mom I know, who fought a constant battle with her family and their TV. She would unplug the TV, and they would just plug it back in. She took it away and put it in the closet. The children searched the house until they found the TV, and set it up again. Finally, one night, she was trying to get her children to turn off the TV and come to dinner. They were engrossed in a program and not listening to her. This time, instead of just unplugging the TV, she unplugged it and then cut off the plug.

Her children sat staring at her with their mouths open. They thought their mom had gone crazy. Last I heard, the power cord had still not been repaired. And we all know how Elvis handled his displeasure with his TV.

No, I haven't shot my TV, nor have I done any physical damage to it. Now, I'm actually seeing the benefits TV viewing can add to my daughter's education, and we're both enjoying the TV.

Here are some ideas for using your TV in the following subjects:

English: First of all, we've watched several movies that were based on novels my daughter has read. We've noticed the differences between the book and movie versions of her favorite stories. My daughter has written papers exploring the reasons moviemakers choose to make the changes they did, and whether she felt the changes helped or hurt the story. She has also written about how she would adapt her favorite books for the screen.

Here's a sample of the movies we've found at our video store:

Book: Jacob Have I Loved, By Katherine Paterson
Movie: Jacob Have I Loved, starring Bridget Fonda

Book: James and the Giant Peach, By Roald Dahl
Movie: Disney's James and the Giant Peach

Book: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, By Roald Dahl
Movie: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Starring Gene Wilder

Book: Island of the Blue Dolphins, By Scott O'Dell
Movie: Island of the Blue Dolphins

Book: Sounder, By William H. Armstrong
Movie: Sounder, Starring Cicely Tyson

Science: We are currently working through a weather series from Nova called Wild Weather. It comes with three tapes: Lightning! Tornado! and Hurricane! The series comes with lessons plans and ideas for enrichment activities. Nova produces several classroom "field trips" on subjects ranging from Biology to Physics. You can learn more at http://www.pbs.org/ or call Nova at 1-800-255-9424.

History: When Titanic frenzy was at its peak last year, we got a group of homeschool students together to watch the A and E Titanic series. It made them realize that Hollywood doesn't always present a factual representation of historical events. They were caught up in the true stories of the passengers aboard the Titanic, those who survived, and those who didn't.

To culminate the unit, we planned a Titanic dinner party. Each student prepared a dish from the cookbook "Last Dinner on the Titanic" by Dana McCauley. Each child chose one first-class passenger to portray. They researched their characters, dressed for their parts, and role-played their way through the dinner. It was one of the highlights of our year.

The history channel and A and E have a wealth of information online. Lesson plans and program schedules can be found at http://www.historychannel.com/onair/class/

Math: Yes, math. We're now using an algebra video series we purchased through The Teaching Company. The Teaching Company (1-800-832-2412) records lectures of teachers throughout the country, who are recognized experts in their fields. Watching the videos breaks up the monotony of daily problem sets, and introduces the students to people who have a real passion for the subjects they teach.

When we first started homeschooling, I was under the impression that TV viewing would not be part of our school day. However, I've come to find that careful TV use has actually enhanced my daughter's education. I've only scratched the surface with the above examples. There's a great deal of wonderful resource material out there, and it's all as close as your TV screen.

Cheryl is the founder and publisher of WAHM.com. She lives and works at her home in California with her husband and two daughters. She is also the author of It's a Jungle Out There and a Zoo in Here and The Work-at-Home Mom's Guide to Home Business.

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