nova

Monday Pep Talk No. 41

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

Need a little Monday morning pick-me-up to get the week going?

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

Sunday marks the 53rd anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and there’s no better way to appreciate one of the world’s best known speeches than by listening to the original recording.

Mark Pluto Demotion Day (August 24, 2006 was the date Pluto officially got knocked down from “planet” to “dwarf planet”) by watching NOVA’s “Chasing Pluto,” which includes information from the New Horizons flyover.

As pool season winds down, transform those pool noodles into backyard games fun.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

It’s still gazpacho season!

Mix up your August grilling routine with coffee-crusted grilled pork chops.

Possibly your new favorite sandwich: Grilled cheese with zucchini, bacon, basil, and Gruyere

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

I discovered The Midnight Folk in childhood because it’s one of the books mentioned in Edward Eager’s Magic or Not? (I love Eager’s habit of paying in-the-text tribute to the authors he loves), and I’m so glad I did! This is a playful, charming fantasy story that deserves a spot on your shelf next to the Chronicles of Narnia or Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.
— Andy Rooney

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

best-ever pina colada


Monday Pep Talk No. 29

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

3 fun things to do this week

Test your pi intelligence with the Pi Day challenge, a series of puzzles created by a group of logicians for March 14.

A fitting way to mark Moth-er Day (on Monday): Get to know some folks who’ve made learning more about moths their passion in this BBC Radio Four program. (Pick up a Pocket Naturalist Guide series edition for your area to start identifying local moths.)

Go inside a submarine with NOVA’s Submarines, Secrets and Spies to celebrate Submarine Day (on Thursday).

 

3 ideas for this week’s dinners

Satisfying that late-winter craving for crunchy, crispy food: roasted carrot summer rolls with cabbage

Ready to go beyond corned beef and cabbage for your St. Patrick’s Day dinner? This lamb and sweet potato shepherd’s pie is Irish-inspired goodness.

Break out of the chicken rut with orange and balsamic chicken.

 

one great readaloud

The Ides of March: A Novel
By Thornton Wilder
 

Beware The Ides of March—Thornton Wilder’s novel-in-letters about the life of Julius Caesar and his friends—and enemies—in Rome.

 

one thought to ponder

“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.” 
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

in case of emergency {because sometimes you need something stronger than inspiration}

buena vista fizz


Family Time: A Few of Our Favorite Documentaries

Family Time: A Few of Our Favorite Documentaries

Ever since my boys were babies, we have had a lunchtime ritual of watching documentaries with them. Since our boys are still young, they enjoy nature documentaries the most, but we have veered off into some science and cultural documentaries too. As they get older, we will probably add more history and social documentaries to our list.

When they were smaller, I was hesitant to watch T.V. during mealtimes. (Isn’t that some kind of parental sin?) But I don’t believe the hype that T.V. is bad for kids. I believe some kinds of programming and how it is administered is bad for kids, but watching together as a family is different.

I dare say I think my boys learn more from our daily dose of documentaries than from my formal lessons with them. And I think it rivals my son’s projects in educational value. Because when we watch documentaries, we are all engaged and learning together. We comment on it, create more questions to answer, refer to our globe, and delight at what we see and learn. It has fostered a desire to explore, learn and appreciate our world. The programming has informed my son’s projects and given him more ideas to pursue too.

As I said, we do it together. We always look forward to where “we are going” that day. Sri Lanka? The Galapagos Islands? A raccoon’s den? These programs have opened up the world up to my sons. They understand much better than I did at their age that we live in one small place on a very large planet. It may not be the same as actually traveling there, but at this age, it’s just about perfect.

Another important note to share is that, yes, some of the programming is hard to watch. Watching animals eat each other or battle the elements is not always easy. By watching together from the time they were little, my sons have learned, as one documentarian noted, that “Life depends on death.” This hasn’t made them insensitive. I think my sons cherish nature and their own lives more. My eight-year-old has even told me he wants to be a conservationist when he grows up.

We love David Attenborough so much we wrote him a letter—and he wrote back1 Photo by Shelli Bond Pabis

We love David Attenborough so much we wrote him a letter—and he wrote back1 Photo by Shelli Bond Pabis

We have watched countless documentaries, and I can’t list them all. I try to keep a list on Pinterest, but sometimes I forget to post what we watch there. I can give you a list of documentaries that stand out in my mind as some of our favorites. Before I do that, though, I’ll tell you what we don’t like:

Every documentary maker has to somehow weave narrative and cinematography into a form that will hold our (the viewer’s) interest. So all documentaries use suspense or splice different frames together to tell a story. We have had good conversations with our sons about how sometimes that lion isn’t stalking that gazelle. It’s two different moments put together, but certainly lions do stalk gazelles, so it’s depicting something that is real. Or how the music and script make things seem more suspenseful. We explain how the photographers probably spent months tracking animals just to get one shot. Sometimes the script will give animals human-like qualities and emotions, which isn’t always fair. These are all things to be aware of.

There are some documentaries, however, that can get a little annoying when they dramatize things too much or repeat the same sequence over and over again, holding onto the outcome until the end of the show, to add to the suspense. We’ve noticed that the Discovery channel documentaries lean in this direction, so we usually avoid those. (Not to say that we haven’t seen some excellent Discovery documentaries too.) Once in a while, my husband will hear facts that are contrary to some science article he just read. It’s always good to let your children know that we can’t rely on a documentary (especially older ones) just like we can’t rely on everything we read. If you are interested in a subject, you should do more research on it.

That being said, here’s a list of a few favorites that we have watched over the years. It’s really hard to pick just a few. (We watched these on Netflix or PBS. Unfortunately, some of them are no longer available, but some of them you can find online or through Amazon.)

 

The Life of Birds :: Anything by the BBC and narrated by David Attenborough tops our lists of favorites. This series about birds was especially wonderful.

 

PBS Nature :: We have never seen a Nature documentary that we didn’t love, but these stand out in my memory: My Life as a Turkey, Fabulous Frogs (probably because it’s narrated by David Attenborough + I just love frogs), River of No Return, An Original DUCKumentary, Honey Badgers: Master of Mayhem, Birds of the Gods

 

Disneynature Wings Of Life
Starring Meryl Streep
 

Wings of Life by DisneyNature :: This has got to be the most beautiful documentary ever made. If you are studying plants or pollinators, you must watch it.

 

NOVA’s Making Stuff by PBS :: My eight-year-old has watched this series about the science of materials several times. Every time I watch, I learn something new. It really is a favorite of the whole family.

 

Dogs with Jobs Season 1
Starring John Ralston
 

Dogs with Jobs :: This is a series of short episodes we found on Netflix, and this show was excellent on so many levels. If you love dogs, you have to see it. Even if you don’t love dogs, this show will introduce young children to people with disabilities, workers with dangerous jobs, and how we rely on this incredible animal to help us with incredibly important tasks. Dogs are amazing. (Preview first, if you have sensitive viewers.)

 

Saving the Ocean :: This is also a series of short episodes. Incredibly interesting, and I love how Carl Safina focuses not just on the problems hurting our oceans, but on the solutions and good things many people are doing to correct them. You can find several full episodes online.

 

When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions by Discovery :: This is one of those exceptions for Discovery documentaries. It was excellent! My kids learned so much about U.S. history as this documentary took us through all the NASA missions. I highly recommend it, especially if you have a kid who loves rockets!

 

What are your family’s favorite documentaries?