Yes, it’s still summer in these parts, but with “back-to-school” around the bend for us, I’m looking to YouTube for educational videos that might get my kids thinking about something more challenging than who has the best ice cream in town.
There are some great educational channels that will help kids brush up on topics and get introduced–and hopefully inspired by–new subjects. Here are some of this homeschooling family’s favorite educational channels on YouTube that might help keep the learning going all season long, without feeling anything like summer school. -Christina
Shmoop is a new find for us, and it’s been a hit, using funny graphics and a dose of coolness that makes it seem less ‘schooly’ to my kids. The topics do skew a little older–the Literature section features To Kill a Mockingbird and The Fault in Our Stars, for instance–though some of their history and math lessons are understandable to my almost fifth grader too. The videos we’ve watched end with the prompt to “Shmoop amongst yourselves” which is an invitation to talk things over a bit more–always a great idea.
Want to get the kids more interested in science? Check out Steve Spangler’s Sick Science channel which is full of easy, and really cool, experiments. With no dialogue but just easy-to-follow instructions written on the screen, you can discuss the results with the kids and maybe even test them yourselves at home.
John and Hank Green’s Crash Course, with over 160 videos, covers a wide array of subjects from Chemistry to World History to Literature. With their dry wit, rapid-fire talk, and loads of visuals, I sometimes watch this channel after the kids go to bed to brush up on something we’ll be covering in our homeschooling lessons. These two brainiacs do whip through things pretty quickly, so make sure your kids can handle the pace before you push “play” and walk away.
We’ve long been fans of Ted Talks, and you’ll find that their TED-Ed Channel is filled with smart videos for brainy types. Our favorite sub-channel within TedEducation is the Superhero Science series which examines different superpowers and sees how scientifically realistic they would be for a regular person to possess. The comic-book-style art helps deliver some advanced physics concepts in an accessible way to kids. Plus, it’s really funny to learn why being invisible may not be all that it’s cracked up to be.
We’ve been talking about Khan Academy for almost two years and for good reason: This huge stable of videos explain everything from basic fractions to advanced physics on a simple blackboard with hand drawn visuals. It is almost like having a tutor appear in your computer to help your child. If your child is struggling to understand a concept or needs a refresher course before school starts up again, here’s where I’d take them.
I can thank Vi Hart for turning last summer into the Summer of the Hexaflexagon after my tween saw her video on these little folded pieces of paper that I still find under beds or in couch cushions. Her channel is full of math-y videos that involve her fast-talking, fast-drawing, and fast-folding through math concepts in a way that will make your tween say, “COOL!” to things like the Mobius Strip or Pi. (And we’re thrilled to hear that she’s now a mathamusician for Khan Academy!)
Super-smart, bubbly, and totally likeable, Alex Dainis’ Bite Sci-zed science-themed videos are made for older kids who just want to know stuff like why caffeine makes them so jittery, or why you get a headache from eating ice cream too fast. I love that she makes science topics so interesting without watering down the content, and she’ll get you thinking about science in much the same way that Vi Hart gets you thinking about mathematics. Plus, yay! for more girl representation in the maths and sciences!
Confession: I never took physics in school, so I feel a bit intimidated by the entire subject. But my science-loving kids think physics is pretty cool, in part because of the Minute Physics video series. This is brainy stuff but presented in little chunks with great kid-friendly graphics that are not so long as to bore anyone to tears. Even me, which is saying something.
Do you have any favorite YouTube education channels? Feel free to leave them in the comments.
As with anything on YouTube, I recommend parents preview all videos before sharing them with their kids to insure the point of view and content is okay for your family. Also, to make YouTube a little less–um–colorful, check out how to enable Safety Mode to help hide inappropriate content and all comments. But, since that isn’t failsafe, I try to remain nearby when the kids are watching anything on YouTube.