|Corinne Jacob|

The impulse of youth and the unquenchable desire to make a difference led me to travel the world and volunteer when I could. If there was one thing to connect all the varied places I visited, it was the homogeneity of the education system. It focuses more on drilling in cold, hard theory, rather than inculcating a healthy sense of curiosity and self-discovery. I remember the deep sense of shock I felt the first time I encountered this situation. Having grown up in a family where my “experiments” were encouraged (even if it meant the inevitable destruction of something or the other at home), I realized the value of facilitating the learning of critical thinking skills.
I also realized that the idea of using out-of-the-box learning techniques is somewhat taboo. I can still picture the way the teachers and students looked at me – one like I was completely insane and one like I was the coolest person on the planet. I didn’t think that a simple screening of ‘The Lion King’ one clear night on the foot of Mt Kilimanjaro could cause such differing reactions. To use teaching mediums such as movies, music and play time is considered too radical and yet their benefits outweigh their cons.
While there are copyright issues when it comes to what movies you can and can’t show in a classroom setting, I have used movies as a teaching tool as a homeschooler to varying degrees of success. Learning techniques are different in different children and making sure your children have the visual stimuli they need along with other learning methods is a great way of ensuring holistic education.
How Movies Help Kids
It teaches kids about cultures that are different from yours, making it easy for you to appreciate unique differences rather than being closed off and fearful of them.
It gives space for children to think about and discuss the important concepts of the movie – this develops the kid’s critical thinking skills and encourages free vocal expressions of their ideas and thoughts.
It becomes a supplementary resource for teachers who can supplement their teaching curriculum with movies that address their class’s learning objectives.
It creates stronger bonds with the people you watch it with, be it family, classmates or friends. A movie is an experience and sharing an experience builds a child’s sense of community.
Not only are the movies great story-tellers, they teach technical skills and improve your language and vocabulary skills.
Movies to watch out for in 2014
Being as media-saturated a society as we are, it’s hard for a homeschooler like me to pick out movies that I know will be an enjoyable experience for my kids without being fully loaded with age-inappropriate themes of sex and violence. However, 2014 looks like a good year for kids movies. Make sure you take your kids to see these.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 – Releasing on June 13th
The first movie navigates themes of self-esteem and self-discovery. Through the eyes of a little Viking boy, Hiccup, the movie speaks of what courage is, how to deal with adversity and negativity and also about encouraging scientific discovery. How to Train your Dragon 2 explores the story of Hiccup as an older boy who is keen on learning even more by exploring uncharted territory.

Planes: Fire and Rescue – Releasing on July 18th
2014 seems like the year of sequels. Planes 2 follows the story of Dusty, a crop duster plane, who, despite all the odds, wins an around-the-world race. On learning that he can never race again, Dusty joins a firefighting team and learns what it is to be a real hero. The movie will continue to explore similar themes of never giving up on your dreams and the value of friendship.

The Box Trolls – Releasing on September 26th
I am personally most excited about this movie – the idea seems unique and it is bound to thrill audiences of all age groups. The story is about a bunch of Box Trolls who have a fearsome reputation of being vicious. A closer look shows how they are eccentric and endearing creatures who love cheese. Along with their adopted human, Eggs, The Box Trolls seems like a movie that will explore themes of team work and family.
I can hardly wait to have movie marathons with my children and engage in discussions with them about what they thought and what they have learnt. They always seem to bring up things that have never crossed my mind. I am, however, curious to know if any of you have had similar experiences with using movies as a teaching tool. Has it worked? If it has, what are your favorites?

About the author: Corinne Jacob is a wannabe writer who is convinced that kids learn best when they’re having fun. She is constantly on the lookout for new and exciting ways to make learning an enjoyable experience. Corinne loves all things that scream out un-schooling, alternative education and holistic learning.