I teach my kids how to watch movies. I love movies and have loved watching them since I was a kid. I loved TV, too. Cartoons for girls and cartoons for boys (because I am in-between two brothers). I still enjoy watching movies and cartoons. Let me clarify that. I meant good movies and cartoons. There’s a lot of movies out there but we have some favorites that we keep going back to. I teach my children to study a movie and to dissect it, not take it all in blindly. But I also teach them to enjoy the movie, too.
I decided to use movies as a way to teach my kids about life, as well. Movies are, after all, stories with characters, plots, actions, location, dialogue and the like. I have found that it is easier to teach stuff life character traits, values, morality, the arts and even some science using our favorite movies. I also try to teach my kids to learn to differentiate between what’s real and what’s not through movies.
Here’s the first 4 of our Top 7 movies of all time and the mileage we’ve gotten out of them:
Mulan – This is actually the Beloved’s favorite. Why? Because it’s the story of a daughter’s deep love for her father. There’s a lot I got out of this one such as a study of character traits like obedience, sacrifice, responsibility, honesty, courage. We also used it as a brief study of ancient China – history, cultural practices, art, fashion (my daughter always has an eye out for the outfits of the characters) and music. And of course, it’s a funny movie.
Kung Fu Panda (1 and 2) – This one is my favorite. I love martial arts. I earned a Green Belt in karatedo ages ago. I’ve forgotten most of it but my interest in martial arts has never left me. I like Jackie Chan and Jet Li. I also like Steven Segal and those Chinese traditional movies with the kung fu in them (just can’t remember all the titles). But for the kids, Kung Fu Panda is the family-friendly version. The animal characters were an interesting study in themselves. Like Mulan, we used this as another short study on ancient Chinese culture and martial arts.
How to Train Your Dragon – Dragonlore is a contested topic in science but one that interests my boys very much. With this movie the kids were introduced to the Vikings (which they wanted to study more of afterwards) and to dragons (another opportunity to talk about Genesis and other Biblical references to dragons and dinosaurs). It was also a good opportunity to talk about myths and legends. There weren’t that many colorful outfits to interest my DD so I pointed out John Powell‘s wonderful (Oscar-nominated) musical score instead. She learned a lot about different musical instruments from that movie alone.
Transformers – What?! This is what happens when you grow up with 2 brothers. I loved the 1986 animated movie. I can still remember the songs from the movie and even some of the dialogue. A classic character study on sacrifice, courage and responsibility and memorable music with the 80’s flavor. I let the kids watch it and it’s now a current favorite of the LS and DS. As for the Michael Bay creations, we liked them, too but I found them a bit on the violent side. We still watched them with strict guidance of course. The Transformers Trilogy offered an excellent introduction to evolution versus creation science, machines (transportation, war, communication, space travel) and character traits like responsibility, honor and courage. Like Mulan, the movies were good springboards to talk about War and it’s sad results. I felt this was important for them to know because we had our own protracted war in the southern part of the country and it was something we heard often in the news.
In Part 2 I’ll talk about the other movies I found useful in teaching the kids about life.