It was early in the morning and I was reading in my favorite chair, drinking my coffee. Then I heard the sound of a bedroom door opening somewhere in the house and waited for the familiar sight of a pajama-attired zombie peering in the living room.
What I was greeted with instead was a chipper 8-year-old ready to take on the world. Instead of a groggy request for breakfast, I heard, “Can I watch my history lesson again?” I told him he would have plenty of time to watch his next lesson in a few hours when it was time for school. He said, “No, Daddy, my lesson from yesterday. I want to watch it again.”
I looked outside at the twilight sky and thought: “You got out of bed this early to learn about Joan of Arc?”
This has since become a regular occurrence in my home, especially since we started using video curriculum to help our children learn.
Video curricula may not be right for every homeschooled student and every subject, but we have found video to be a valuable part of our homeschool day.
1. Well-produced video has been proven to increase student motivation.
Video is an artistic medium that, when made well, can present not just cognitive information but also invoke emotional appeal. This means students can be involved in affective learning.
Visual messages from video are processed in the brain’s limbic system, a completely different part of the brain than that which processes, say, text on a page. The limbic system triggers an emotional response, which aids in both memory and motivation.
For instance, Latin is not a subject my kids find all that motivating to learn, but when we introduced them to Visual Latin taught by Dwane Thomas, they took to it right away (read our review). Here’s my oldest son talking about it (the video is about two years old).
2. Video will save you time.
There have been times when video curricula has saved my wife valuable time.
In addition to homeschooling my kids, my wife also cooks, cleans, does laundry, takes care of our 3-year-old twins, and works on our blog. When she was pregnant with our twins, she was also in and out of the hospital a lot due to difficulties with the pregnancy. There were days that just getting out of bed was difficult, let alone having enough energy to homeschool.
Homeschooling moms can really benefit from video curricula because it can free them up to take care of other pressing matters, take care of smaller kids, get lunch ready, or to just sit down and rest. It can be a life-saver for work at home moms!
And when it comes to science courses like high school Biology that that may seem just plain overwhelming — quality video courses like Experience Biology — allow you to continue homeschool all through high school (even though you’re no science teacher).
3. Video provides an educational alternative to mindless entertainment.
We intentionally try to limit our children’s screen time, but we do let them indulge in movies or short shows from time to time. We love being able to give them educational and enriching alternatives to Phineas and Ferb. When you find that educational program or curriculum that your kids beg to watch, you have found a winner.
A year or so ago I started showing my older kids the Modern Parables video series, which places the parables of Jesus in a modern context (read our reviews). It was great watching my kids emotionally engage in the stories—the same way Jesus’ original hearers might have engaged when they heard him—opening new opportunities to share the Word of God with my kids.
We’ve enjoyed other videos for this same reason, like the JAM films, featuring 5th and 6th grade kids as actors.
4. Video takes students on impossible field trips.
Whether we’re teaching my boys about the land of Israel for our Bible lesson, what the atmosphere is like on the planet Mars, or how the heart pumps blood around the human body, video has served as a valuable tool to take them places we either can’t afford to go or are impossible to show visually.
Our kids are now enjoying the video curriculum, Experience Astronomy, I’ve put together. We get to travel all over the universe together!
5. Video aids in retention of ideas and concepts.
Video is, of course, only one teaching aid parents can use, but in several studies, video has been shown to be an aid in retention—specifically when paired with practical and hands-on activities.
When you can find a great video curriculum that includes other learning methods—reading of primary sources, hands-on-activities, and projects—you have a great resource on your hands. As my kids get into the middle school years, I’m looking forward to using the Dave Raymond’s American History video course, because it includes all these elements to aid in maximum retention (read our review).
6. Video can tap all learning styles.
There are three primary modes of taking in information: sight, sound, and touch. These three modalities relate to three learning styles. Visual-spacial learners think in holistic 3D images and big pictures. Auditory-sequential learners think in words and learn in a sequential, step-by-step process. Tactile-kinesthetic learners take in information through physical sensations and they benefit from demonstration more than verbal explanation.
Video can tap all three learning styles. Obviously, videos are inherently visual. But videos also include auditory explanations through verbal teaching, and they can also include demonstrations that are not otherwise possible in the home (such as complex science experiments).
7. Video provides a unique way to illustrate abstract concepts.
Visual learners can appreciate when an abstract concept is given shape through simple visuals or concrete examples. Video is a powerful medium to do this.
Economics, for instance, can be presented as a dry subject, but when it is presented in the light of the history of industrialism, warfare, politics, and the Bible, economics can come to life. This is exactly what Economics for Everybody does (read our review of this).
8. Video exposes kids to different lecturing styles.
Homeschooled children have their parents as their primary teachers, but with video, students can be exposed to lecturing styles that are different from their parents.
9. Video exposes kids to a modern artistic medium.
For traditional educators, it might be difficult to see video as an artistic medium. For many parents and educators, video is the enemy of education because of the flood of mind-numbing entertainment and the lack of boundaries in the home when it comes to screen time.
But video is a new artistic medium—and one that is bound to be an even bigger part of our culture into the foreseeable future. In fact, much like making a portfolio, the making of videos is a powerful way to help a child internalize concepts and facts.
Compass Classroom has a great video course about filmmaking for high school students, learning from the styles of famous film directors.
10. Videos can teach your kids a subject you don’t feel adequate to teach.
We took our fair share of courses in college about classical Western literature, but I don’t necessarily consider my wife or myself scholars when it comes to epic poetry or philosophy. But we don’t need to be when I use great video courses like western culture.
Can you homeschool without the use of video? Sure, of course you can. You can do so very effectively. But video can become a powerful way of bringing world-class lecturers and dynamic and memorable visuals into your home every week.
When you find a good curriculum that embraces other traditional methods of learning and supplements it with video elements, you can enrich your child’s education in profound ways.