With parents around the world suddenly thrust into the role of homeschooling their children due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, the mere thought of this task can be daunting, stressful, and overwhelming. It doesn't have to be. Today's young people have been raised on technology. They have incorporated into their lives the way that generations before them used the TV and the radio. Think of this not as chore but an opportunity to educate your child in the most hands-on way possible!
Most educators agree young people should have no more than two hours of screen time each day. The reality is that they are going to have more than that. Given the current situation, now is the time to supplement their learning with as much visual stimuli as possible. Why not try and make it the most enriching, educational and entertaining screen time possible you can? Here is a round up of the 38 most educational titles on Netflix. Some of them might get your children to think about larger issues, while others could actually get their bodies up and moving around! Lastly, the titles on this list have been sorted by category so that you can easily find what your need for your daily lesson plan.
Our Planet - TV-PG
This incredibly well together documentary is vast in scope and actually covers the areas of both nature and geography. Viewers get to see parts of the world they most likely know nothing about. Also, wrapped up within this majestic documentary is a (not heavy handed) discussion regarding climate change. With a runtime between 7-8 hours, and broken up into episodic parts, Our Planet is a must for any homeschool lesson plan.
Naledi: A Baby Elephant's Tale - TV-PG
Love elephants? Does your child? Well, get all the information you need in the enlightening documentary, Naledi: A Baby Elephant's Tale. While at times uplifting and at other times heartbreaking, this documentary follows the fight to help a baby elephant that was orphaned in Botswana. This fight is actually a much bigger battle to save all elephants from extinction.
Oceans - G
This Disney documentary has just about everything you could want to help your indoor lessons not feel as claustrophobic. First of all, we are shown how important a resource water is in all existence. This is further discussed in the symbiotic relationship between oceans and how humans affect their environments. They cram a lot of information into this 84 minute documentary, and best of all it is jam-packed with lush visuals.
72 Cutest Animals - TV-PG
With 12 episodes to choose from (each not longer than a 1/2 an hour), this documentary is a great reprieve from simply working in front of a tablet or computer screen. Featuring koalas, gorillas, marsupials, and all manner of adorable creatures, there really isn't an episode here that isn't for somebody in your household. The best part? Eventually, we won't be at home and hopefully the knowledge gleaned from shows like 72 Cutest Animals will go far beyond the home classroom.
72 Dangerous Animals, Asia - TV-14
This counterpoint to the above title is especially interesting because who doesn't love learning about dangerous animals? Whether looking at Asian forest centipedes, sun bears, or black rats, 72 Dangerous Animals, Asia is as fascinating as it is scary! Also, through learning about these animals, kids, teens and adults will become privy to creatures and parts of the world they never knew anything about.
Day the Dinosaurs Died - TV-PG
Love dinosaurs? Or, simply like them? Find out just how they stopped roaming the earth in this insightful NOVA documentary from PBS. So many young people love dinosaurs but they really don't understand what lead to their extinction. This documentary gives a look into the crater that had a hand in their abolishment. We see how factors in their environment changed that made earth a less than inhabitable place. A great documentary for the entire family.
You vs. Wild - TV-PG
Help Bear Grylls survive in the jungle, the snow, and just about every other harsh condition in this fun and interactive series. Basically, Grylls takes us into a place with a tarantulas, and it's the viewers job to make sure that he stays safe. This show is great for a number of reasons. First of all, it shows young people different places around the world that have things they may want to avoid. Secondly, it allows them to use critical thinking skills and not just be passive viewers.
Meet the Trumps: From Immigrant to President - TV-14
Get an inside look at our 45th president. See how the Trump family got their start gold-mining, which eventually led to owning properties. From there, Donald Trump was able to parlay all of that into many millions, fame, and ultimately, the Presidency of the United States. Trump, by virtue of his larger-than-life personality, may be our most recognizable president across generations. This video goes beyond the memes and the viral videos, to give homeschooled youths a broader idea of this complex man.
The Vietnam War - TV-MA
While this will mostly skew to teens and high schoolers, it parallels many present day conflicts (especially in the Middle East) to make this documentary one to incorporate into your lesson plans. Most of the parents who will bring content to their children were in some way effected by The Vietnam War. That will give this material an immediacy and make it a tool to open up discussions that were heretofore not being had. Also, the richness and depth of this documentary (a Ken Burns trademark) enriches every aspect of this series.
The Royal House of Windsor - TV-MA
Always wanted to know more about the Royal family? Have your kids asked you questions and you've been not so quick with the answers? Learn together with this 6 episode look at how the British royals have survived for a century. The best part? With Prince Harry and Meghan Markle recently leaving the Royal family, parents can tie this story into current events!
Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States - TV-PG
While Oliver Stone isn't everybody's cup of tea when it comes to history, at the very least he offers ideas that get people thinking. This series certainly skews toward older teens. It shows us aspects of World War Two, Hiroshima, The Cold War and other historic moments that many probably didn't know about before. It is this unique take that should engage viewers and offer much food for thought.
Five Came Back - TV-MA
For many young people, the atrocities of the Holocaust are ancient history. This 3-part documentary, told through the words of directors like Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, and Guillermo Del Toro, is a must viewing experience. Not only do they get to see the gravity of the things Nazi's did to the people of Germany, but they also get to see how America was called to act in one of its greatest moments. Intended for older viewers, younger viewers can certainly benefit from the message of this Five Came Back.
Secrets of the Shining Knight - TV-PG
Into metalworking? Do you have kids who like sword and sandal movies? Are they into all things fantasy? Then this nearly hour long program is the show for them. Go behind the scenes of the suit of armor. Everybody knows about them, we're in awe when we see one in real life, now find out how they're put together as one is recreated right before your very eyes.
Kevin Hart's Guide to Black History - TV-PG
Kevin Hart gives us his up-close and personal approach to history when he takes viewers into the world of arctic explorer Matthew Henson, astronaut Mae Jamison, performers like Josephine Baker (who was also a spy for the US!) and more. Done in a funny but enlightening way, this hour long show should probably have been a series all its own. The best part? We find out how many of the performers, inventors, and other things we can't live without today are actually directly tied to the ingenuity of the African American experience.
Bill Nye, Saves the World - TV-14
Science can be pretty daunting but Bill Nye makes it easy in this series. Utilizing experts and celebrities, Billy Nye does his best to explain big concepts that effect all of our lives. Some of those episodes discuss addiction, living without water, marijuana, and more. The best part of this series is that every show is broken up to easily craft a lesson plan depending on the ages of your homeschooling audience.
Edge of the Universe - TV-G
The entire family can sit back and enjoy this in-depth look at the universe. Interested in comets? New planets? The fate of earth? Get ready for an awesome visual experience as some of the best astronomers in their field discuss these and other topics. So much astronomy content is available online, however, this series will allow for discussions as well as conjecture regarding where our universe is headed.
Ancient Aliens - TV-PG
You always hear people reply to the question, "Do you believe in life on other planets?" By saying, "We can't be the only things out here." Well, did you ever think that aliens might have had a hand in shaping earth's civilization? Meant to spark a discussion, Ancient Aliens explores whether these otherworldly beings may have visited certain places on earth, caused natural disasters, and used technology that couldn't have been around at the dawn of civilization. Some people in your household will be skeptics, while others will be enthralled at the thoughts and ideas presented here. Isn't that how it always is with education?
Inside Bill's Brain - TV-14
Bill Gates may be our greatest modern-day inventor. Products he's been involved with are essential to all of our daily lives. Discover how he has continued to innovate and what motivates him now in this 3 part series. Younger children and teens from all backgrounds will appreciate how Gates came from a suburban beginning that, most likely, isn't too much different than their own.
The Magic School Bus - TV-Y
Take a trip with Ms. Frizzle and her class as they go into space, a students body, the desert, and everywhere else you can think of in this highly inventive show. The Magic School Bus is a fun, engaging show that most kids (yes, even pre-teens) will enjoy. The best part? These shows can be easily digested during "down time" and young people may not even realize they're learning something until its over.
The Last Man on the Moon - TV-PG
Ever wondered how we got to the moon? Have you ever wondered how we were able to do it multiple times? Those questions (and more) are answered in The Last Man on the Moon. The best part? We get to hear from Gene Cernan who was the last person to be on the moon. Shows like this can be supplemented with nightly looks up into the skies, to really drive home the importance of our moon landings. You need to get out of the house sometime, what better time than for educational purposes?
Mars Generation - TV-PG
This documentary is a nice capstone to any lessons taught on astronomy. Viewers get to see people that aren't too much older than themselves in Space Camp, and from there they see how they look toward the future with the end goal of inhabiting Mars. The ideas and goals discussed here are far reaching but this is the universe we're talking about! Shouldn't we utilize tools like this to encourage young people to dream big?
NOVA: Prediction By the Numbers - TV-G
Algorithms are all around us. Everybody knows what they are even if they don't understand or can't put them into words. NOVA: Prediction By the Numbers is the perfect bridge for all of that, as it shows us how algorithms are at play in everything we do. Everybody loves predicting things and this documentary will certainly get that discussion going in your home. The best part is that this documentary is geared to children of all ages.
Ask the Storybots - TV-Y
This 3 season show definitely skews a bit younger. It isn't an overt piece of math content but there's math at work in it as students learn how music is made, why people look different, and how the cellphones we can't keep them off of work. On the face of it this might seem like a piece of disposable, animated content but Ask the Storybots is perfectly layered for the youth homeschool experience.
Dream Big: Engineering Our World - TV-G
Do your kids ever see pictures and ask "Where is that?" Or, "What is that?" Now they will have a chance to find out as they are taken around the world to see some of the coolest pieces of engineering mastery. In fact, you can even explain to your children that the roads we use, the bridges we cross, the buildings they enter, wouldn't exists were it not for engineering. This video is a great tool to get many discussions underway.
Spelling the Dream - TV-G
This inspiring documentary looks at the Scripps National Spelling Bee and how Indian Americans have been excelling at it for over two decades. It allows viewers to see the pressures of being in a spelling bee, as well seeing what they go through to make it to the top spots. On top of that they are taken into the highs and lows that the contestants experience, which is a great way for younger viewers to see the struggles of people they can identify with.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - PG-13
With a lot of time at home what better way to eat it up than with all three Lord of the Rings movies. The best part? You can supplement your child's viewing with the actual books in this trilogy from author J.R.R. Tolkien. While this tale of Aragorn returning to his role of King might be a lengthy watch for younger viewers, they will no doubt be captivated by the world of Middle Earth that director Peter Jackson created. A piece of content that can satisfy the tastes of younger and older kids? That's an A+ in our homeschooling grade book.
Freedom Writers - PG-13
This true tale of Erin Gruwell (played in the film by Hilary Swank), a teacher who used the book "The Diary of Anne Frank" to inspire her students, is definitely one for your homeschool viewing list. Asking her students to keep diaries of their own lives, she was able to help them relate to Anne Frank's story, as well as tell their own. In the process she inspired her students to exceed expectations and do everything in their power to change their world.
The Boy In the Striped Pajamas - PG-13
Based on the best selling novel of the same name, this book chronicles the friendship of Bruno and Shmuel. Two boys from very different situations. One lives in the European countryside with his parents. The other lives behind the fence of a Nazi concentration camp. The Boy In the Striped Pajamas is solid viewing material for teens and pre-teens alike. It's message of class and the need for humanity is one that can't be taught early enough.
The Little Prince - PG
Antoine de Saint-Exupery published this wonderful story in 1943. This animated film tells the story of The Little Girl, her life is filled with structure and no deviation. She becomes friendly with an aviator who tells her about a young boy who just so happens to live on an asteroid. Being home this much is going to be very difficult for most young people. The Little Prince is the perfect story for them because it will allow their minds to wander. On top of that, it is backed up by literary material, and could also create a whole new interest in aviation.
White Fang - TV-PG
Based on Jack London's seminal book, this animated Netflix tale is a great entry point into this story for younger children and teens. This classic story follows a wolf-dog on an amazing adventure, in which, the dog spends time with three different owners. This tale is fun, serious, and shows us something about survival through all the odds.
The World's Most Extraordinary Homes - TV-G
Given that many of us are in our homes right now, this show is perfect to enlighten young people that not everybody lives the same way. Traveling to multiply countries, architect Piers Taylor and Caroline Quentin explore homes in mountains, forests, and underground. And that's just in the first season! Explore places you can't believe are livable in this insightful documentary. Chances are it will make everybody take an interest in how their homes are laid out.
The Toys that Made Us - TV-14
With 3 seasons to its credit The Toys that Made Us is many different kinds of shows rolled into one. First of all, young people will learn why certain decisions were made on various toys. Second, they will learn about the business of toys which, with billions of dollars at stake, is BIG business. Lastly, they will learn about the balance between creativity and commerce. Whether they want to know about such toys as My Little Pony, LEGO or Star Wars, this show has something for the entire family, even if it might be a few clicks above your youngest child's normal content.
Street Food - TV-G
With pop-up restaurants now a thing, families are no strangers to the culinary delicacies they have to offer. In Street Food, viewers are taken all over the world to learn about dishes like tom yum soup, spiced chole bhature, and soy-marinated crabs among other things. With its global approach, young viewers will get something of a geography lesson and a taste (no pun intended) of what the rest of the world likes to snack on.
Lego House: HomeBrick - TV-G
Lego's are loved by people young and old and in this 47 minute documentary, we are taken to Billund, Denmark. This is the site of a 130,000-square-foot home that was inspired by various LEGO's! It is truly awe inspiring and the fact that it incorporates LEGO's into its design, and also allows people to display their own designs, will certainly get users excited. This is a great way for the whole family to participate in turning their own homes into a LEGO house!
The Twilight Zone - TV-14
If you want to stimulate discussion among teens then you've found the right show. While The Twilight Zone might not be everybody's cup of tea, there are a lot of lessons to be gleaned from the show. Not the least of which are ones about how to act in a crisis. To that end, start with "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" and that one episode is all you'll need to stoke discussion, and gain insight into certain mindsets during the current Coronavirus Pandemic. This show is listed as TV-14 but younger audiences could glean a great deal from watching The Twilight Zone.
Bo on the Go - TV-Y
You're probably not going to get a lot of older people to exercise to Bo on the Go, it is truly great for little ones that are in need of some physical education. In fact, the best part of about this series is that movement and adventure are built into it, so young people aren't simply watching exercise videos. There are 16 episodes to chose from so our youthful friends can defend castles, go on quests, have adventures, and it takes place inside the comfort of your home.
Word Party - TV-Y
This might not be a movement show per-se but like content on GoNoodle and other platforms, this is a party so there are songs centered around learning words. Making this even more educational is that the words are in English and Mandarin so that your kids will be learning (possibly) a new language and not even know it. Some episodes deal with the baby characters trying to figure out what various words mean, while other shows deal with playing safely.