What We Watch

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on July 30, 2014.

It seems like I’m in the minority when it comes to the amount of television I let my children watch. Most of the parents I meet will surprise me by making comments on how they’ll let their children watch “20 minutes of a movie” at a time or one “thirty minute show” while they are taking a shower. (I kind of think they’re crazy.)

I used to keep silent, but I finally wrote several detailed blog posts about how much T.V. we watch, and now more moms have been willing to tell me that they let their kids watch T.V. too, so I know I’m not alone. It’s not like we let them watch all day long, but when you homeschool, and your days are full of cool activities, field trips, play dates, lessons, reading and more, television compliments your busy schedule. It’s a time to relax as well as a time to learn.

I am amazed by the educational benefits of television these days. When I was young, I loved the occasional Marty Stouffer’s Wild America, but now we have Apple T.V. and Netflix, and beautiful, thought-provoking documentaries are available whenever we are ready to sit down and watch – and that’s the key to today’s technology. We can access it when we’re ready for it. We don’t have to wait a week to see our favorite show.

Recently Apple T.V. has acquired several channels that offer free programming. (We have to pay $8 a month to access Netflix, but that’s worth it to us.) One of the free stations is PBS. PBS offers most of their programming on Apple T.V. for a certain period of time, so you have to watch it while it’s available, but generally the shows are up there for several weeks or months, so we don’t have to worry about missing something.

We have watched every single PBS Nature program on there with the boys. We usually do this at lunchtime. Although I don’t consider watching T.V. a substitute to going out into nature, it makes a great compliment. We take our boys out into the woods as much as we can, but every single day they are learning something about nature and animals through those programs. I think it has been a great way to instill a respect for nature in our boys.

We were thrilled to see that the GPB show Georgia Outdoors is available through Apple T.V. (and it’s online), so we’ve been watching an episode everyday for a few weeks now. What a wonderful show! The narrator, Sharon Collins, has taken us on tours of the Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia’s waterfalls, its coastline, and there’s a great episode about fly-fishing in Georgia.

Collins talks about the history and ecology of each place she visits in Georgia. The show is introducing us to lots of places we’re hoping to take our boys, and we’re learning about places we weren’t aware of. I think we’re all so proud to live in such a beautiful state after watching this show, and that’s a great thing to instill in my little boys.

While my boys are young (they are seven and four now), nature programs seem to interest them the most, but we have watched some science programs and history programs, and there’s more waiting for us when they get old enough.

In the evenings, we watch other kinds of shows on Netflix. Stuff that’s family oriented, but more for fun. We’ve watched Everybody Loves Raymond, The Andy Griffith Show, Family Ties, and we have even watched a few episodes of Duck Dynasty on the A&E channel on Apple T.V. That may not suit everyone’s taste, but I think it’s hilarious.

Believe it or not, these shows have led to some great conversations and learning opportunities. It’s not that we have serious, adult-talk; we keep it on a seven- and four-year-old level, but I think it has been a good experience for my sons because we watch with them.

For example, we talked about history while watching The Andy Griffith Show and how the roles of men and women have changed since then. My seven-year-old liked the character of Michael J. Fox in Family Ties so much that he wanted to learn about the actor, and that led to a mini-lesson about Parkinson’s disease.

My boys also have opportunities to watch children’s programming by themselves, and I’m grateful to have Netflix so that they don’t have to be bombarded with ads for toys while watching them. Not to mention all the shows they watch are very educational, and even some of their most recent favorites like Ninjago and Super Heroes teach good lessons.

I grew up with a lot of television shows, and I have nothing but good memories of watching them. As I look back on my childhood as an adult, I can see how I learned from my parents, my teachers, my friends, and those shows. As long as parents are monitoring what their children watch, and they use it as a compliment to a lot of other good activities, I think television is a phenomenal way to learn, relax and be entertained.

5 thoughts on “What We Watch

  1. I feel the exact same way. I just don’t worry about the amount of time my boys watch tv. Our days are so full and we’re out of doors exploring, doing art, adventuring around the city… They watch for a bit, they get up, they play (acting out scenes from their shows, or other games entirely), they come back to it sometimes. They have seen every episode of wild kratts and watch animal/nature documentaries, they absolutely love anything with Jeff Corwin. I’m going to check out Georgia outdoors! Thanks for sharing your blog link on the PBH Facebook page, I’m looking forward to following along.

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  2. We also let our kids watch TV. However, not just turn on the tube and let them sit there for hours. We have a ton of movies that I KNOW are appropriate (Leap Frog, Magic School Bus, Planet Earths and bunch others). We also spend time as a family watching shows like Chopped, Naked and Afraid (this is a little controversial to some), and other cooking/reality shows. These shows have been the most educational for my kids. My 6 year old loves to create strange things to eat (i.e. Ritz crackers with hummus and a slice of octopus on top). We have also in depth conversation about survival skills and what is truly needed.
    I think TV can be very educational and worth it if you look at what it can offer in the right time and place. I saw a little boy at a restaurant watching Sponge Bob. I am not sure if that show is educational (from what I have heard I think the answer is no). I take every opportunity to teach my kids a lesson. Restaurants you learn about sitting in your seat and eating and using manners. Church you learn about being quiet and respectful until you can understand more about what is being discussed.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Robin. You know, once we were on vacation and saw one episode of Sponge Bob. Definitely not on my favorites list, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought either! My seven-year-old has gotten so many ideas for building things from shows like Curious George and Blues Clues, etc. I don’t mind him doing a “craft” when he picks and chooses and is in control of what he’s doing. It’s really fun to see how screen time can translate into productive, creative thought.

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