Screen time can be a complicated thing when you're homeschooling. On the one hand, we've all read the literature about how too much screen time is bad for our kids. On the other, there are just so many great documentaries out there and it would be a crying shame not to exploit them! Because I have to admit I get tired of the sound of my own voice. I don't want my children only to hear and learn things from me. It's important to shake things up, find other teachers. And a really good documentary or TV show can be just that.
Science Max is currently one of the children's favourite things to watch period. It's up there with Star Wars and Coco and many other of their favourite films. Quite a feat. Made by the Canadian company TVOkids, it's secret formula is a young, appealing presenter and a fun concept - let's do everything bigger!
Yes, Science Max takes your average experiment even we can do at home and does it again and again bigger and bigger. The kids absolutely love this especially when it involves Phil the presenter getting wet or dirty. I like it because it repeats the science several times in slightly different ways. This means the kids see the science repeatedly but without it being boring.
Repetition is really important in any learning situation and a show that manages to do this while having my kids and I in fits of laughter is a definite winner.
Absolute Genius with Dick and Dom
A BBC show, Absolute Genius is a fun, exciting watch. The first two series celebrate famous scientists. They explore the concepts they were working on in fun and entertaining ways. In series three and four they explore technological inventions and then 'monster builds'.
As with Science Max there's a high entertainment element to be had from watching the two presenters do stuff. It might be getting inside a Faraday cage or fully clothed in a bath or jumping into canoes to study the principles of Archimedes screw. Whichever, it's always funny to watch as well as informative.
C'est Pas Sorcier
Ok so this one's in French I'm afraid for all you English only speakers out there. But I couldn't make a list of our top three favourite science shows for kids without mentioning it! We love C'est Pas Sorcier because it covers so many different and fascinating topics. It also combines demonstrations with visits to relevant real life sites that illustrate the science. Hey tv show makers out there, why not copy this fabulous french formula for your next science show!
Although some people might disagree I don't believe watching shows, even as good as these, is enough by itself. We use them wisely in conjunction with books and home experiments to help us understand more fully the concepts we're studying. We usually do anything hands on before we watch the TV shows too. This way the kids go into their experiments in the real position of a scientists who doesn't know what the outcomes might be.
What TV shows are great for is consolidation through playful repetition and colourful exposition of the ideas and theories we're exploring. And these shows do this so well that the kids often ask to watch them again and again.
These shows are also good at inspiring kids to see science as being something that's fun. With their goofy presenters, the infallible humour of seeing someone get covered in foam and the excitement of seeing a really big or dangerous experiment they inspire my kids to feel passionately that science is worth being interested in. Without them our educational environment would be infinitely poorer. Well done to all those television makers for making such great shows!