Educational movies and TV shows for homeschoolers, or for anyone else, are an awesome way to get the kids learning without them even realising they’re doing “school”. I call it stealth learning and I’m a bit of a stealth learning ninja.
One of the things I love about educational movies and TV shows is their portability and adaptability. Wherever you are in the world and whatever subject you want to explore, you can usually find something online. If you have Netflix, YouTube or Amazon movies, you should be able to find something educational and enjoyable to watch.
I’m not a huge fan of excessive screen use, but a good TV show or movie is a wonderful thing, particularly when it’s shared by the whole family.
Some of these movies and TV shows you can just let them watch by themselves but I think it’s always best to watch with the kids and be on hand to answer their questions and have a bit of a discussion with them. If you take a movie like Animal Farm, you’ll probably have to prompt them and explain what an allegory is and tell them that a famous author called George Orwell wrote the book. And so on.
Here are some of our favourites. I bet you can think of more. If you have any great recommendations pop them in the comments section and I’ll add them to the list. I’m working on adding as many links as I can.
Some of these movies are not suitable for small children.
Educational Movies and TV Shows for Homeschool Kids
Music Shows and Movies
Peter and the Wolf. Prokofiev’s suite tells a story through music. Check out some of the teaching notes on this Pinterest board for further teaching ideas.
The Beatles Yellow Submarine. The Beatles are part of music history, every child should know about them. Also great for surrealist animation.
Amadeus. The life of Mozart and an Oscar winner.
The old Rogers and Hammerstein musicals are a wonderful way to expose kids to music.
History Shows and Movies
Horrible Histories. This TV series is awesome. I wish it had been around when I was learning History. Check out the Horrible Histories DVDs here.
Spartacus. Romans, slavery and gladiators. ( you may want to skip the slightly rude scene)
Gladiator. Similar but only for older children.
Doctor Who, Fires of Pompeii. A nice introduction to volcano day. There is also a good documentary about Pompeii on Netflix.
Amistad. For older children. Slavery and American history around the time of the civil war.
The Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck’s classic novel adapted as a movie is set during America’s great depression.
Cleopatra. Ancient Egypt and Rome. It’s on Netflix.
Cartoon movies such as Hercules, The Emperor’s New Groove and even Asterix can all be great for introducing kids to an era.
Gandhi. Indian history and the incredible difference one simple man made to a nation.
Religion Shows and Movies
The Prince of Egypt. Disney’s version of the book of Exodus and the story of Moses.
Jesus Christ Superstar Great tunes and a basic look at Jesus’s story it’s on YouTube.
Little Buddha. Keanu Reeves as Siddhartha Gautama, the young prince who found enlightenment.
Science Shows and Movies
Gorillas in the Mist. Dianne Fossey’s work in Rawanda to protect mountain gorillas from habitat destruction and hunting.
Apollo 13 The mission that almost ended in tragedy
The Right Stuff. The birth of the space programme in the 60s.
The Fantastic Voyage. Yes, the one where the scientists are shrunken to travel around the human body. It’s quite good for explaining the human immune system.
March of The Penguins. Penguin life cycle and adaptation to environment.
Doctor Who, it’s full of timey-wimey sciency-wiency stuff. There is a vocabulary that goes with science, new words are hard to remember, TV science fiction and books can introduce new terms that stick in kids’ memories.
Art Shows and Movies
Vincent and The Doctor A wonderful episode of Doctor Who in which he travels back in time to meet Vincent Van Gogh. A great introduction to the artist’s work and mental turmoil. Van Gogh is my boys’ favourite artist because of this episode.
Dali and Disney’s Destino. A surrealist collaboration between Walt Disney and Salvador Dali. It’s on You Tube here.
Literature Shows and Movies
Nothing beats reading the books, but you can give children an introduction to authors and their classic works through movies and TV.
Animal Farm the cartoon version is very watchable and on Netflix.
Jules Verne’s novels have been adapted and movies over the years, there are a few to choose from.
The Old Man and The Sea. Hemmingway’s classic and a stunning performance from Spencer Tracey. For a shorter animated version, try this on You Tube, it’s incredible. My son loved the movie so much he went straight to his Kindle to read the original .
Lord of the Flies. The original black and white version doesn’t contain anything too graphic, I haven’t seen the colour version so I don’t know.
Charles Dickens makes an appearance in Doctor Who. The kids will remember the name if nothing else before you introduce his books through movies.
A Christmas Carol. Be it the Muppets version or the Patrick Stewart version, it’s still Dickens.
Oliver! More Dickens, and music. Oliver Twist.
Shakespeare. Animated adaptations of Shakespear’s classic stories are on YouTube. Try A Midsummer Night’s Dream here. You can buy all 12 Animated Shakespeare Tales here, they were originally broadcast on the BBC.
Geography/Social Studies Movies and Shows
Last night we sat down and watched a Top Gear Christmas Special, the one where they take 3 great British cars all over India. My boys have a fair idea of what India is actually like now! ( Update: They’ve now spent several months travelling in India – they know exactly what India is like). Silly little things like that, it all adds together, links start forming and their worlds start expanding. There are some incredible documentary series that belong in this section, but we’ll save those for another post.
Himalaya. Tibetan Buddhism and sky burial. One of my favourite films.
Walkabout. Western and Aboriginal traditions, older children only.
Socialisation And The Media
The word socialisation actually means acquiring your local culture and learning to live in your society. The media content children are exposed to can shape their perceptions of the real world and how to behave in it. With that in mind, it pays to be careful about what sort of content your child is exposed to. Racial and gender stereotypes may be set in your young child’s brain through movies and TV. Take out the nasty, replace it with the good and their socialisation will be more healthy.
Where To Find Educational Movies and TV Shows For Kids
You can find a lot of these movies and TV shows on You Tube or you can watch them for free if you sign up for a 1 month trial of Amazon Prime or Netflix. Of course, you could always do it the old-fashioned way and Buy them on DVD from Amazon or Fishpond or your favourite retailer.
Movies, Films and Videos are an Educational Tool
Passively watching and absorbing information while being entertained is a way to learn. Of course, there are plenty more ways besides visual media. Conventional tools we homeschoolers use include workbooks, online learning programs, reading fiction or fact, computer games and real life experience. We can knock up science experiments in our kitchens or, if we’re not quarantined, can visit the greatest museums and most important historical sites. Homeschooling is a wonderful way to live life and to get an education and we’re glad you’re giving our way of learning a try.
Great post! There are so many great movies on this post that have real educational value for students. A picture can be worth a thousand words, and the emotional connection that films can make with viewers in an hour can teach lessons that might take months to drive home otherwise. For anyone interested here are links to educational PDF movie guides that go along with some of these films. (Note to the webmaster, please feel free to update this blog post with the links below if you deem them worthy : )