February 28, 2007

YouTube Schooling

If you were on my Google Chat list that is what my status has said all day and it is pretty accurate. I did not start out the day intending to make youtube my curriculum it just sort of evolved into that.

I started with my morning bible study/prayer group and came home expecting to take Serona off to work and have the car today for some activities we had planned. Well the best laid plans have to change and adapt - Serona needed the car and we were staying home which is just fine.

Now it was early and the kids were already fed and dressed, an accomplishment here so where to start. I decided to tackle reading time with Ciaran first. We recently made him a rule that he can only play video games in a 2:1 ratio with his reading time so for every hour he reads he can play a half hour of video games. He strongly dislikes this rule since his favorite thing to do is play Gamecube and reading is a challenge to him and something he does not yet love. But so far it seems to be working out well.

I sent him off to pick out readers for himself and he returned with books he wanted me to read to him - since I had no real strong plan I decided to go with it. Sirah was playing in her oatmeal "sandbox" and Rhia was off reading her latest book so we had some quiet time. He asked me to read "Nature's Fury" a book about natural disasters and the harsh effects of weather. He kept asking question after question and wanted to dig deeper. I decided to find a video clip for him of an avalanche which was hard to describe and very easy to understand after the first one you have seen.

I head over to google video search and end up with clip after clip from youtube (no surprise since google purchased them a little bit ago) and he was really getting interested. Then he started asking to see clips from all the other things we talked about. So we were sitting side by side on my laptop. Both Sirah and Rhia wandered down to see what we were doing and Rhia asked after trying to find a way to climb behind me to see my small screen if we could put it on our school computer (which is linked to our wall mounted wide screen tv) so everyone could see.

Then we spent the next few hours going through youtube clips about whatever they wanted. We spent most of the time on natural disasters like: tornadoes, avalanches, mudslides, hail storms, hurricanes, floods, etc and then Sirah wanted to find kittens so then we moved on to animals and watched a blue whale swimming, frogs eating other animals (including mice), kittens nursing from mama, kittens playing, horses being trained, and so on. Of course there were things like surfers and snowboarders thrown in as well. Basically they went around and around taking turns what the next clip would be. It was great fun and really I think they learned a lot more than just the book was showing them. Something about seeing a tornado tear down a row of trees and a snowboarder trying to outrun an avalanche sticks more than reading about it.

A few words of caution though. This is scary stuff if you have a sensitive child. Our kids don't seem sensitive to this stuff but are really sensitive to other things that we would not let them see. Most of these disaster clips are in real time and you see actual houses topple in a mudslide, people get caught in an avalanche (all the ones i clicked on specifically said the people survived so I could start out that way with them)and hurricane katrina from a parking garage. We often did not watch entire clips if I thought they were getting too intense.

Another word to the wise - play these clips on MUTE. The sound effects are at times chilling and since people are in scary situations the language matches those of a wide variety of people in intense situations. Also people sound scared and that at times I think is more frightening than seeing the actual clip. I learned this quickly and found it worked much better to keep the mute button on. If I wanted them to hear the actual sound effects I tried to judge a moment in the clip when people would likely not be speaking.

A wise parent probably would have previewed all the clips ahead of time but as I said this was impromptu and we managed without them seeing anything too much and nothing inappropriate. Though I will say you need to think through your search terms and use prudent judgment before clicking on links from search results. Using google video search also adds another layer as you can set your filters to be more restrictive.

We spent pretty much our whole morning on http://youtube.com. Ciaran did read for about 45 minutes so far today - he is working on his first Nate the Great book - with lots of help from me. It is a nice change of pace from the Primary Phonics readers that we love but use every day. Then I agreed today could be a math games day for math so they played Chess and Grid Works and are set up to play Parcheesi after quiet time (one of the best counting games) and they had to spend time listening to their skip count cd's, in a different room from me :)

So school was lots of fun today and lots of learning and practicing still managed to get done. I am working on updating reading lists this afternoon while the kids play Parcheesi - while I usually play with them - I can use the two hours to get a few things accomplished today.

Try youtube schooling some day it is interesting and fun and really it is like having on demand science videos at your fingertips. Sure they are short clips but there are a whole lot of them to choose from.


  1. Sounds like fun. Another caution with YouTube: don't scroll down to look at comments - the language there can be really bad for any young readers in your group.

  2. I love supplementing my son's lessons with YouTube clips. Sometimes I have a few bookmarked for "in between"... Fun stuff, like slow motion jello explosions and magic tricks. I also like bringing up clips from the past, like news events and such.

  3. Anonymous10:01 PM

    try www.teachertube.com for pre-screened clips.... it's great and you don't have to worry about obscene language or inappropriate comments.