Homeschool classrooms have the opportunity to be a center for learning that we can shape and transform however we want. Its only restraints are the expectations we tend to have and hold ourselves to of what our homeschool lesson plans should look like. However, there are many different ways to get your teen the education they deserve, and seeking fun learning opportunities through various media, such as films and graphic novels, can be a great way to engage students in learning. There are a ton of learning opportunities in movies, TV shows, and even social media. (And no, we don’t actually mean challenging students to imitate the characters in the new Netflix thriller “Bird Box” by performing everyday acts while blindfolded.)
Balancing Media and Education
Although books have long been a favorite in the classroom due to their invaluable contribution to learning — such as teaching kids to read, improve their spelling, and grow their vocabulary, imagination and understanding of world literature — there is a lot to gain from other forms of media. Film as literature is a class that can give students the background knowledge and tools they need to analyze films and use movies to better understand the literature they consume.
While there are a large number of films and TV shows with educational value, it’s important to use media with intention to ensure your child gets the most out of their homeschool education. Educational documentaries like “Planet Earth” can help kids learn about wildlife and sustainability, while shows on the History Channel can illustrate major historic events. However, it’s important to incorporate these shows into lesson plans so that your students receive context on what they’re learning, and don’t simply get distracted by the visual elements.
Another valuable aspect of TV shows and films is that they can teach kids about various careers to aspire to, as many shows revolve around accomplished professionals, such as nurses and doctors in medical dramas, detectives and lawyers in mystery thrillers, and more. Medical dramas have been hit shows for decades, and they can inspire students to put in the work in the classroom to go to medical school. These shows don’t always portray characters accurately, however, and at times, media can minimize nursing positions in shows. If your child shows an interest in nursing or medicine, it can be helpful to use their aspirations to encourage them to focus on STEM studies.
Children should certainly be exposed to various career paths during their teenage years to help them focus in on areas of education they find intriguing. Now that 3D printers are becoming more accessible, they are being used as props in big TV shows like “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Bones”, “Big Bang Theory”, and “Portlandia.” Whenever a child shows an interest in reading and writing, or science and innovation, it can be a sign that their brains work in a way that can create and invent. If this is the case, introducing students to the applied science of mechanics and computers, like 3D printing, could show them ways to create their ideas.
The cost of 3D printers ranges greatly by the quality of machine you’re looking to invest in. If your teen is interested in building and inventing products, you could gauge their interest in a 3D printer and gift them a beginner printer if they get good grades. This could give them a chance to get an upper hand on their competition when they get to college, and could make them really familiar with the machine. However, it’s important to give them the proper tools to clean the printer to ensure it maintains its well-cared for and can be used for many years. By exposing them to new technology and learning methods, you can help them find their calling for innovation in the homeschool classroom.
Remembering the Classics
Although there are tons of new and innovative ways to teach your student anything from history and English to math and science, it’s important not to forget the strong foundation of learning we’ve been using for centuries. Giving kids the raw materials they need to learn subjects on their own can help their minds and independence grow — which is why we stick to the classics of pen on paper and books for learning. They minimize distractions students may receive from electronics and allow them to focus on exactly what’s in front of them.
For decades, homeschooled students and those in public school have been reading books from classic literature lists that are believed to have great educational merit. Although it can be worthwhile to allow students to watch adaptations of these timeless books, they gain the most value from the stories if they read the actual book and write a book report or analysis afterward. Classic books like Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne can give your high schooler a powerful insight into various eras in world history, which can not only increase their literary knowledge, but can increase their understanding of past world ideologies as well.
Reading classic literature should be a part of any student’s curriculum, but there’s no reason your student can’t also focus on other types of reading. Graphic novels have been around since the 20th century and can provide kids with an easier storyline and more engaging style of reading that can help their imaginations grow. If you’re trying to engage your teen’s brain by finding media they will enjoy, consider turning them on to graphic novels.
Any type of reading is better than no reading, especially because when children lack hobbies, they can waste an unhealthy amount of time on social media. Social media can be a valuable medium where students can build connections and be exposed to culture, but it can also be an area for easy distractions and can cause your student to focus on the wrong things.
There are learning opportunities in every form of media — as long as you frame it that way. Learning happens in every place, every single day. We are always learning. As a teacher, it’s your job to find ways to engage your children and pull teaching moments out of their hobbies and passions. The most important thing you can do is plant a seed for a love of learning that you can help nourish through thoughtful lessons and attention.