Screen learning: Some of our recent movie finds

When I was in school, “movie watching” was one of those things that was held out as a treat.

You know what that was like.

If you can muddle through your class’s study of the Civil War in eighth grade, we’ll pile you all in the auditorium and screen Gettysburg. Two weeks before the end of 11th grade, you’ll get the honor of watching a Shakespeare remake on the wheeled-in TV cart with VCR.


Lights out = Joan out.ย Asleep. Unconscious. Kaput! Zzzzzz…

OK, I like to sleep, but more than that, I was tiredย of those topics by the time we got through all the boring stuff before the movie. Even something I was interested in, like Beowulf, I’d dissected through so many essays that I couldn’t take any more by the time the Bonus Movie Screening rolled around.

I’ve also never been the world’s biggest TV or movie fan. I have no problem with screen entertainment, but I never sought it out.

Enter Ashar’s dad, Chris, who dubbed himself recently “Homeschool A/V Guy.” He can recommend a movie for every possible topic of interest.

And he’s smart about when to bring them up: We often START with a movie, and see where we go from there.

Case in point: Ashar had been doing just a little bit of reading about William Shakespeare in an issue of Kids Discover, and it mentioned the Leonardo DiCaprio/Claire Danes version of Romeo and Juliet.

Well, we kept an eye out – and spotted that movie in our OnDemand choices soon after.

Ashar loved it. This version uses all the original dialogue, but modern settings – which is more than a little bit trippy at first, but it really grows on you!

That, of course, spurred her to pick up a copy of Romeo & Juliet we had upstairs and start reading scenes. She had browsed our Shakespeare collection before, but for a visual learner like Ashar, the film was really the spark to dig deeper!

Next up came an interest in Treasure Island. Would you believe, when Ashar got her new cell phone, she immediately went into the Google Books app and noticed it had Treasure Island for free? She dug in – but the language was hard for her to follow.

Two days later, we’re at the Redbox kiosk, and we see the 2012 edition of Treasure Island, complete with Eddie Izzard and Elijah Wood! I didn’t even know that existed, but it was perfect.

(Perfectly long, too, by the way – 3 hours, spread over two parts.)

Anyway, we watched the whole thing – and again, Ashar became immersed in the story. Now, as she’s reading the book on her phone, it makes more sense. She has context and an idea of the plot… and, because of the trailers, she’s now thinking she might be interested in Moby Dick as well!

These both fall into the category of strewing – Chris and I going out of our way to take the things that we know about Ashar and put potentially interesting things in her path.

We didn’t set this up like “school movie time.” It’s much more a case of “Hey, whoa, they have a movie version – do you want to see it?” In both these cases, it was a total win.

Lest you think all of our movie watching is of the enriching classical variety, I must mention another recent viewing success.

It’s a scientific classic.

A lesson in relationships, knowledge and technology.

That’s right, I’m talking about Short Circuit, baby! It was always one of my comedy favorites.

Ashar, meanwhile, has been into robots this year. Even so, this wasn’t a case of me thinking, “OOOH, educational value movie.” Mostly, I just thought Ashar would like it.

The thing is, after we watched it, Ashar and I started talking about technology, and about what it means to be “alive,” and about having a soul.

And it really hit home to me, that when I get on my blogging high horse about unschooling and about learning from life, that I still have some unconscious distinctions in my head about what’s “valuable” and what’s “entertainment.”

Pssh. What do I know??

OK, but then came Chris’s choice of one of HIS old comedy favorites, The Goonies. And then I got firmly back on my high horse again and said, “OK, no educational value whatsoever.”

And then Ashar talked to us about what foreclosure is and why people who are different stick together, and I realized I absolutely needed to write something about how amazing movies are for us, and just forget about the “educational” nonsense!

Because, really, have you seen The Lorax? AMAZING. Deep. Insightful. And based on a preschooler’s book!

We have a few things in mind to watch in the coming weeks.

We’ve already seen a couple of clips from From the Earth to the Moon.

I have to give props to Homeschool A/V Guy, aka Chris, here, because I had no idea the clips were from an actual “thing.” So now we’re scoping out a copy of the miniseries; if anyone has a spare, we’d love to put it to use!

And last but not least, Ashar found an illustrated edition of White Fang in Target’s dollar bin this week, and her question after reading the first chapter?

Is there a movie of this?

(As it turns out, there are quite a few, so if you happen to recommend a particular adaptation, I’d welcome your comments!)

What have YOU been watching lately?

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19 thoughts on “Screen learning: Some of our recent movie finds

  1. I love how movies ignite questions from my kids. For instance, last night we watched ‘Batteries Not Included’. It dealt with life and death, forclosure and forgiveness.

    ‘Short Circuit’ is a favorite for us too.

    • Oh, Sue, that’s a good one; I’ll have to add that to our list!! I think you’re right, too – ANYTHING that gets you into someone else’s perspective will spark questions, and isn’t that the cool part of movies?

  2. I love that we have the freedom to stop what we are doing and watch a movie if the time is right. We pop a bowl of popcorn, curl up on the couch with the dogs and don’t feel guilty that it may only be 11am!

  3. So love this post Joan. We use movies in our school so often and just for FUN! I just put that version of Romeo and Juliet in my queue. I have been meaning to do it forever and finally did it. Short Circuit is one of my favorite comedies too. I think Keilee would love that too. Isn’t homeschooling just the best? Have you ever seen the site “Teach With Movies”? It is very cool.

  4. This is great Joan! We watch videos a lot…it’s one of our favorite things to do…plus, while we don’t have cable, the antenna reception that we have for our TV gives us some great PBS stations. There is always something on if we’re in the mood to watch something. There is value in most anything, although I do think there is some stuff that is not valuable (like Disney channel shows like iCarly and who knows what else…my girls don’t even know what all that is!). Maybe someone else feels there is value in that, though. Anyway, sometimes I feel a bit funny because lots of people discuss limiting screen time, but here we all get so much enjoyment, and so much value!, from watching movies and “educational” and “how to” programming that I don’t really limit it. We do strive for balance in viewing versus other activities, but we don’t have an imposed limit. Great post Joan!!

    • Susan, I think that’s the key – balance does not necessarily equal limits (and limits do not always bring balance!) We have times we watch a lot, and times we don’t turn on “the box” for days, and both have their place. The “how to” stuff is great – Sarah loves to watch the cooking channels especially!

    • Tereza, I love it! I haven’t seen Mars Needs Moms yet – but I want to! (Also, I’m dying – no pun intended – to see ParaNorman, which I hear is great.)

      Meanwhile, as an update for everyone, we took Sarah to see the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” movie the other night, and while I could go my whole life without reliving middle school ever again, it was pretty surprisingly funny – and insightful!

  5. You mentioned Sarah has shown an interest in Shakespeare. Are you familiar with Orangemite Studios in Dover? Each fall they do a Shakespeare in the Barn. I am not familiar with the next one which is Timons of Athens, but I plan to attend a performance which are scheduled for Oct. 12, 13, and 14. Two Dover alum, one is a former student of mine, created the group, and a number of my cherubs have participated over the years. They have written and performed original plays and musicals as well. Since I am not familiar with this play, it may not be the best way to introduce Sarah to Shakespearean theater, but they are great performances. The original dialogue is used and the costuming is amazing. The stage is actually in a barn, and you sit on folding chairs on both sides of the stage. Here is their website in case you are interested-

    • I did see that! I don’t know much about Timon either. Our two “live Shakespeare trips” are going to be to both YCP and PSU’s performances of Romeo and Juliet this fall/winter.

      Chris says we should just go to England. I’ll get right on that. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. It might be a little too old for Sarah- but I have really enjoyed “I, Robot” with Will Smith. Then go and read I, Robot by Asimov. Short stories about living with AI! Such great philosophical discussions.

    We also love Stargate for that reason- it brings up so many philosophical questions.

  7. Thank you so much for this. I’ve been resisting movies too much I think. Time to hit the Netflix and see what we can do to fix that! Visiting from Favorite Resources. (Just a week late)

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