I’m a big advocate of integrating entertainment and learning. And if you let your kids watch YouTube and Netflix and other services out there with supervision they are probably learning more than you think.
One day, my son was talking about Einstein’s theory of relativity. Yes, for realz. And I asked him where he had heard about this stuff. His answer was, of course, YouTube. Because, although he watches plenty of stupid YouTubers, he also watches TED talks and other videos that could loosely be considered educational.
(I always joke with him that if he saw it one YouTube it MUST be true. And then I remind him he can actually read once in a while).
As we were talking about my elementary knowledge of time travel and the theory of relativity, we tied in a movie we had seen on Netflix, Interstellar. You know, the one where Matthew McConaughey is the grooviest astronaut this side of Jupiter.
This is how annoying words like “edutainment” have actually become legitimate words. We need words for the way kids (and adults) are learning today and frankly, I’m finding it to be awfully effective.
Earlier this year, there was a question raised at the dinner table about why we celebrated Presidents Day. It started a long discussion (turns out I was right) about how much we don’t know about American history and our own political system. And I set out to find ways to learn American History on Netflix.
Now, watching tv is never just watching tv. It’s pausing to verify information we just heard, even if it’s a fictional series. It’s stopping to look up on IMDB where we’ve seen that actor before. And, worst of all, it’s invited Google Home and Alexa to chime in on what we’re learning.
Can you relate?
I know my family is nerdy enough that we like to watch Netflix documentaries. And my husband and I like the “inspired by true stories” docudramas (we just started Narcos and OMG!). But I wanted to see what my other friends thought. You know, the ones that aren’t obsessed with entertainment. And it turns out that Netflix is used as a learning tool by a lot of families, including homeschoolers and just straight up knowledge seekers.
“We love the magic school bus for science, or we watch the food shows to show measuring examples or for cooking class!”
“We watch documentaries all the time on Netflix for homeschool. There is even a homeschool Netflix group on Facebook.”
“All of our kids are obsessed with Anne Frank so we let them watch the BBC miniseries on Netflix.”
“There was something on Titanic that my oldest watched in the summer to have context for a book he was reading.”
“This is why we’ve had Netflix since 2001. And not just for historical topics. We watched three different versions on Macbeth one year. We watch movies in whatever language my kid was studying. It’s especially good for visual learners. Also, it encouraged my less-enthusiastic readers to read the books after.”
If you’re rethinking that “screen time” that you so preciously hold over your’s kids’ heads, maybe you should be suggesting edutainment (there’s that word again) that expands their horizons and inspires their curiosity.
For the littles, check out The Magic School Bus Rides Again and dive deeper into science.
For the Disney lovers, watch Moana and take the time to learn about the geography (Motunui is a real place!) and mythology (Maui is a demigod of mischief!) that inspired the film.
For a taste of the classics, watch The Little Prince, part of the Cannes Film Festival, and relive the story you read in your early French classes.
Whatever the topic you or your kids are interested in, there’s bound to be something on Netflix that gets the conversation flowing and the light bulbs lighting. And if you’ve found something on Netflix that I should add to my edutainment list, please let me know!
This post is part of my role on the Netflix StreamTeam.