Words and Images – Using Video in Homeschooling

Angela Newsom, Cross and Quill Media


I admit it: I was a little lost. With my kids ranging from ages two to 10, I was trying to make Ye Olde One Room Schoolhouse work—you know, teaching multiple ages at once—and I was having trouble keeping their attention. The words and ideas from the textbook pages I was reading to them were attempting to cross over into my kids’ minds, but were often not surviving the journey. When I asked questions, I saw blinks and blank stares. What was I doing wrong?

I wasn’t sure. But I knew there had to be a better way.

One problem is that textbooks are usually not the best way to teach anything, but that’s a story for another day. Beyond that, I wanted to experiment with enhancing all the reading we were doing with videos. So I started looking for short films, documentaries, classic and contemporary movies, whatever I could find to add a little visual life to our studies.

Why videos? Here are two reasons: first, by virtue of repetition in a different form, kids are better able to remember the stories and ideas they are learning.

Second, watching a film is a kind of literary-historical study in itself. While movie-making is only a bit over a hundred years old, those were years of incredible change. And we can learn, by watching the films created throughout the decades of the past century, what the people of those very different parts of the century believed and valued. Film scripts, after all, are an important part of the literature of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries (indeed, for too many people, films are the only literature they encounter), much as the plays of Shakespeare, though written for visual performance on stage, are an important part of the literature of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

So I began to use videos to supplement our reading. And I started noticing something: my kids were learning more. They were also paying closer attention to my reading. How did I work that magic?

For one thing, I taught them to be detectives. In the videos we watched, the children were required to point out any discrepancies between the film and what we had read (and even the best historical videos are sometimes less than accurate). This brings up an important rule for us: read first, watch second. Not just because we should prefer words over images (though there is perhaps something in that), but because the peoples of the past left their stories primarily in written form.

So the kids had to be on the lookout for errors. And they had fun with it. They learned more, I think, from comparing videos with books because they were being trained to watch for variations from fact.

But I encountered a problem: while I found an abundance of films that looked like they might work, reliable reviews did not always exist, and I wasn’t always sure that particular movies or documentaries were a good fit with our theological and moral standards. And at the time, options for filtering our selections were rather limited.

Then I found the Dove Channel. I had used the Dove Foundation website for checking on movie reviews for our family, but the Dove Channel was new. What is the Dove Channel? It’s a streaming video service that has been described as a more family-friendly version of Netflix, which includes films, TV specials and series, animated shorts, classic movies and documentaries.

And—this is the best part for you homeschoolers—Dove Channel now has a dedicated homeschool shelf to help you easily find relevant films for the subjects your kids are studying. I consulted with Dove to help them come up with the current lineup of categories and the videos in each: Bible, History, Literature, Pre-School, and Science.

All these films have the Dove seal of approval, and include suggested age levels. Dove reviews are included with the description to help you decide whether a particular film is an acceptable choice for your family. You can also set up password-protected parental controls: this option allows you to choose what is acceptable for your family to watch, while your children will not be able to access any other videos without a password.

I have thoroughly enjoyed using the Dove Channel for many of my media choices for homeschooling. I regularly post about various videos on the Cross and Quill Media Facebook Page, where I include all streaming options to help with homeschool learning. The Cross and Quill website also has a growing collection of videos listed by subject and age. Care to join me and thousands of others in using streaming videos for homeschool? We’d love to have you!



Browse Categories