Streaming services with all of their shows, movies, documentaries and short educational videos are a great way for children and adults to learn! They provide us with a visual and auditory experience giving us a fuller understanding of what we are learning. And they often follow a story format, which is how the human brain makes sense of the world.
Videos can be used to supplement curriculum that you are using in your home to bring a greater understanding to the information. Or if you realized the curriculum you spent all that money on is lacking in some way or not a good fit for your family, videos are an effective way to fill in the gaps. Videos are also a great way to keep learning when short or long-term illnesses have derailed your homeschool.
While there are many pluses to using videos to learn, there are a few challenges to overcome. One, is to figure out what shows, documentaries and movies are appropriate for our children. And two is to weed through the one million choices out there and find the best ones!
So first, we are going to cover what the different rating systems mean for shows and movies so you can pick videos appropriate for your children. Then I will share the seven best streaming services for homeschool families with specific shows or movies to start with on each platfrom.
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Determining What Videos Are Appropriate
TV Show Ratings
TV shows have ratings based on age and content. These ratings appear in the top left corner of the screen when the show starts or you can look them up before starting the show. Here is what each rating means:
TV Y…Designed to be appropriate for all children, but especially ages 2-6.
TV Y7…Designed for children ages 7 and up who can distinguish between make-believe and reality.
TV Y7 FV…The ‘FV’ here stands for ‘fantasy violence’. These shows are similar to the TV Y7 rating above, but may have more intense combat than other Y7 shows.
TV G…Designed for all ages and most parents would find this program suitable for all their children.
TV PG…Typically not suitable for younger children. May contain suggestive dialogue, infrequent, but coarse language, some sexual situations, or moderate violence. Below, I share a resource you can use to determine if a specific PG show is ok for your kids.
TV 14…Designed for children 14 and up. The dialogue is more suggestive, there may be more coarse language or intense sexual situations and/or the violence may be more intense.
TV MA...Designed for adults only, 17 and up. Not suitable for children.
Movies ratings are similar to the TV ratings, but are not as specific.
Rated G…Designed for all ages and appropriate for children.
Rated PG…Some material may be inappropriate for children. See below for a way to learn more about a particular movie.
Rated PG-13…Material is inappropropriate for children under 13.
Rated R…Designed for adults and not suitable for people under 17. Comparable to the TV MA rating.
Rated NC-17…Anyone under 17 is not admitted even with an adult.
More Information with Common Sense Media
These rating systems help, but sometimes we want more information to determine if a show or movie is appropriate for our children. Especially those in the PG, PG-13, and TV 14 range that hold good educational value, but also might not exactly be appropriate. And sometimes movies have not been submitted to the Motion Picture Assocation for a rating and we have no idea if they are appropriate. This is where Common Sense Media comes in.
Common Sense Media is a non-profit that works to create “a safe, healthy, and equitable digital world for kids and families.” One way they do this is through their Common Sense Media rating platform. You are able to look up movies, TV shows, books, games, podcasts, apps, and YouTube channels to learn more about their appropriateness for different ages.
For each movie, show, etc. you look up, you will receive the age Common Sense Media thinks it is appropriate for as well as what parents and kids think about what aged child should view it.
You will also see a break down of nine different categories and how the item ranks in each one as well as some detailed information. The nine categories are: educational value, positive messages, positive role models, diverse representations, violence & scariness, sex, romance & nudity, language, products & purchases and drinking, drugs, & smoking.
You are able to search for information on three movies, shows, or books a month for free per device. Or you can pay $3.99 month ($39.99/year) for unlimited searches.
Best Streaming Services
So now let’s talk about what platforms contain educational videos. Below are the best streaming services for homeschoolers, how much they cost, and some shows on each one to get you started.
Of course you are familiar with YouTube for its FREE videos. We have used many in our homeschool. Unfortunately, the videos on YouTube do not adhere to a rating system, but you could set up your kids, ages 12 and under, with YouTube Kids. Here are a few safe and helpful channels to get you started…
Where to start: Crash Course for high school, Ted-Ed for ages 8+, National Geographic, and Sci-Show for lower elementary.
PBS Video App
This is a free app that can be dowloaded to several types of devices, including Roku and Apple TV. It will allow you to view some PBS episodes, especially the most recent ones, on demand. However, you may find that shows or particular episodes that you want to watch require you to subscribe to PBS Passport.
Where to Start: American Experience, Nature, and NOVA.
This is a streaming option for people who live in an area with a participating PBS station. For any show that has a blue compass symbol on it, you will need to have this service. The price can vary, but typically is a $5/month donation. You will need to lookup “PBS Passport” and your local city or region.
Price: Typically $5.00/month
Where to start: Besides the typical PBS shows for younger kids like Sesame Street, you will also have access to episodes of American Experience, Nature, No Passport Required and NOVA. Ken Burns’ collection of documentaries are also available through PBS Passport.
If you have older kids and already have Amazon Prime then you may prefer to subscribe to the PBS Documentaries through Prime Video. It depends how much PBS programming outside of documentaries you want to watch.
If you already pay for Amazon Prime for the free shipping, then you will definitely want to access the Prime Videos that are included. Or you can just subscribe to Prime Video.
Where to Start: Documentaries like Antarctica: A Year On Ice, The Jupiter Enigma, Black History Activators or Inventions that Shook the World.
Curiosity Stream is an edcuational video site with documentaries and other learning-based videos. Categories include: Science, History, Technology, Nature, Art & Society, Courses, Biography, Crime and Originals. There is also a specific category for Kids. There are mixed reviews on the quality and the need to preview videos for appropriateness if you are going to watch a video outside of the Kid category.
Price: $4.99/month or $29.99/year
Where to start: America’s National Parks (59 episodes), European History by John Green of Crash Course, or David Attenborough’s Deep Ocean or Light on Earth
This original streaming service has a huge library of movies and shows for entertainment as well as educationl purposes.
Price: $6.99-19.99/month depending on which plan you choose.
Where to start: The Magic School Bus, Our Planet, Night on Earth, Emily’s Wonder Lab, Human the World Within, Baking Impossible, and History 101.
Discovery Plus allows you to stream shows from a variety of TV channels, some of which are educational such as History, Discovery, and Science.
Where to start: Factory Made, Blue Planet, Birds of Paradise, Impossible Engineering, The American Revolution, and Good Eats.
History Vault is a streaming option from the History Channel that would be great for older students.
Where to start: How the Earth Was Made, Ancient Mysteries, and America the Story of Us.
Do you have a favorite show on one of these streaming services? Or do you think we should add another streaming service? Comment below or send us an email.