Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Learning in the Fast Lane: Our Favorite Carschooling DVDs

We spend a LOT of time on the road.  Last year, we drove 10,147 miles from home to duPont for doctor and therapy appointments.  I was letting the boys just watch videos on their iPads, but then we were offered videos from Curiosity Quest to review, and I had an "AHA!" moment.  If they're going to be staring at a screen, why not make it something educational and count it for schoolwork?  However, "just two DVDs" was not going to work for all the time we spent on the road.  The "bridge hospital" (DuPont Bryn Mawr) is a bit over an hour each way, and we blew through both of the review videos in one trip!

Our Favorite Carschooling DVDs (PK & early elementary)

It seems like a lot of kid videos now are much more "entertainment" than learning.  Understand, I'm not saying you can't learn from SpongeBob.  Luke and I recently discussed the characters as a personification of the seven deadly sins, but I think that's a bit above Jude and Damien's grade levels.  It was a bit tricky to find videos that suited both of them.  Damien is still good with preschool shows, but Jude is between age groups - a little beyond the Blues Clues phase, but not quite ready for the re-enactments of the History Channel.  I also didn't want to buy DVDs of shows they watch on TV.  Yes, there are some great ones on these days, but can I be honest?  I'm so tired of them, and the "official" rules of the road says the driver gets final say on what sounds come out of the radio, right?  Over the last few months, I've been adding to our "school DVD" Collection.  While our library contains several other educational DVDs, here's our list of favorites:

Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?

1.  Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?    

These have become Jude's second favorite shows (next to Liberty's Kids).  He's become a real history and geography buff, and these suit him perfectly!  The collection is a 4 DVD set, with 40 episodes of Carmen (the entire series) plus bonus features: a full length movie (The Secret Garden) plus the first episode of Liberty's Kids.   This has become our favorite program to watch in the car, and I love how episodes encompass so many fields - history, literature, geography, music, and more - without being overwhelming.

Super Why!

2. Super Why!

I am giving this series full credit for Jude's ability to sing the ABCs.  We had tried just about everything to practice learning the alphabet in order, and he just couldn't grasp it.  He fell in love with Super Why!  I have no explanation for it - because he's seen plenty of other shows, but this one just works for him.  Damien also loves the show, and thanks to it can identify letters and their sounds, sing the alphabet, and is starting to recognize cluster phonemes (like /ch/ and /sh/).

Bear in the Big Blue House

3.  Bear in the Big Blue House

I admit, this shows just how many generations of preschool TV we have been through.  Bear was one of Luke's favorite characters when he was a toddler and preschooler, and of all the shows we've seen, this is one of the few I miss.  Finding suitable Bear DVDs was a little tough, because most really are focused on preschool themes.  The first one I ordered was "Dance Party" and it quickly became a favorite. (Who doesn't love a good "Bear Cha Cha Cha" to groove to?)  Much to my surprise, Mr. "I-don't-interact-with-videos" Jude has been singing along!  Since then, we've added "A Bear for All Seasons" and "Storytelling with Bear" to our collection.

Disney Animation Classics The Wind in the Willows

4.  Walt Disney Animation Collection: Classic Short Films

The Wind in the Willows was the first of these we added.  I chose it purposely for its literature angle - this disc contained not just the title story, but also included
  • "The Grasshopper and the Ants"
  • "The Ugly Duckling"
  • "The Wise Little Hen"
  • "The Robber Kitten" 
  • "The Golden Touch" (the story of King Midas)
Disney's American Legends

We will be adding others from this series soon, so that we have a variety of these short stories to enjoy.   Luke just finished a unit on the American "Tall Tale" genre, so we added Disney's American Legends to our stash as well.  He liked watching the different interpretation of the stories -- these legends have taken a life of their own and he has enjoyed hearing their version of theses tales.

Old School Sesame Street

5.  "Old School" Sesame Street 

Who doesn't love Sesame Street?  I got these particular DVDs because they are of "old school" Sesame Street.  While Children's Television Workshop has compiled some "themed" videos (featuring vignettes of letters or numbers grouped onto a single offering), I love these classic episodes of a live action story interspersed with single-concept skits.   They don't necessarily fit a particular class category (like our Bear DVD for "music" and phonics from Super Why?), but they are a great "learning but you don't really know it" show for relaxing with on the ride home.

Educational DVDs are a great way for us to not feel like we are wasting hours of driving time.  While the boys think they're getting away with a treat and watching a video, it's a practical way for us to cover some of the subjects I want them to learn in a way that doesn't leave us overwhelmed with ground to cover in the appointment-shortened days. As everyone gets older, we can add in other videos - like the History channel ones or movie adaptations of literature and play. I've already got my eye on some classic Schoolhouse Rock! videos...

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  1. Mu son is 10 and I give full credit to Super Why as well for his being able to read by the time he was 3 1/2. My kids used to absolutely love that shows.

  2. Great ideas!!Thanks for sharing at the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop!


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