“Back to School” no longer means buying clothes in time for the school year, and then sending your child off to school. For many parents, and grandparents, it now means the school comes to you, or you yourself are teaching your child or grandchild.
Here are some fun crafts that you can add to your curriculum. These are easy, inexpensive and fun!
Doodle and Paint on Animal Portrait – Select a picture of your family’s pet, or your child’s favorite animal, and learn how to draw it abstractly, and then add paint!
Roll With It : Back to School Ideas with Scotch Tape - This is a great idea, using different types of tape you can teach your child how to apply a book cover, make a mood board for the room, or even decorate office supplies.
Washi Tape Decor - Perhaps you have an older child, that in addition to learning how to make something attractive, they can, at the same time, make something for themselves or for friends. Here they will learn how to use washi tape to make a clock, a frame, or come up with something themselves.
Luminaria Candle Shades – Ah…something for the teenager in your house! With this video they will learn how to make very stylish luminaries. In fifteen minutes your teenager, or perhaps yourself as well, will be able to bring the outdoor inside with this very attractive luminaria.
All these ideas come from the fantastic database CreativeBug!
As we find ourselves in this back-to-school-season during unique times, here are two recommendations in unique classroom settings. Recently I watched MISS KIET’S CHILDREN, a documentary about a Dutch teacher and her classroom of refugee students. She is ever enduring with her struggling students, teaching them language skills, and discipline with a healthy dose of self-esteem lessons as well. It reminded me a little of one of my all-time favorite films,TO BE AND TO HAVE, that takes place in a one-room schoolhouse in rural France. It follows a school year in the classroom of a dedicated and caring teacher with his memorable students...you will be inspired by this teacher and fall in love with little Jojo!
I do love films about students and teachers, so as a bonus here is a school-ish LIST of movies that will hopefully make this back-to-school time a little more fun too!
No back to school list would be complete without the legendary Roger Corman's cult classic Rock 'n' Roll High School. Corny and fun, this film tells the story of Riff Randell (played by P.J. Soles) and how her devotion to her favorite band The Ramones saves her school from a principal that rules with an iron fist. Corniness aside, Rock 'n' Roll High School has a killer soundtrack that heavily features The Ramones as well as songs from Devo, Brian Eno, Nick Lowe, and Alice Cooper.
This might be a bit of a tenuous link but when I learned the current theme was Back to School I immediately thought of the song "Broken Boy Soldier" from their debut album Broken Boy Soldiers by The Raconteurs. It contains a line that to me serves as a metaphor for finally growing up and taking responsibility for one's life and actions:
"I'm gonna go back to school to day
But I'm dropping myself off
I'm throwing the childhood scenes away
I'm through ripping myself off
I'm done ripping myself off"
So much has changed this year, especially with how our kids (and adults) go to school. Even with all that's different, some things remain the same, including how creatively students can endeavor to get a day off. You can experience this and so many other educational moments, with No School Today from the long-time bassist of They Might Be Giants (Freegal has more Danny Weinkauf to stream or download).
The Bazillions have put together a Rock-n-Roll Yearbook to chronicle the events of a typical school year and Justin Roberts reminds us all to celebrate the joys of Recess (also available through Freegal). And, if you're feeling nostalgic for the songs that many of us started our educational careers with, you can check out Sesame Street Old School, Volume 2!
Prepare for Astronomy, or get inspired to take it, by watching Cosmos A Spacetime Odyssey. This docuseries is hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and features a cool Cosmic Calendar!
School of Rock - This is a great family movie, where ousted band member played by the hilarious Jack Black, takes a job as a substitute teacher and teaches his students the gospel of rock nd roll. His ultimate goal is to get them to compete against his former band for a cash prize. It was later made into a successful musical, which Jack Black attended. He told the cast, "You made me laugh. You made me cry. You made me rock!" You can also check out the cast recording.
The Hobart Shakespeareans - Watch as super dedicated teacher Rafe Esquith turns his 5th-grade students from an under-privileged central LA neighborhood on to Shakespeare, Mark Twain and mathematics. The end of the semester culminates with the kids performing "Hamlet". But the most moving scene for me was seeing a young boy overcome with emotion as he read aloud from Huckleberry Finn. This might bring tears to your own eyes.
On the Way to School is the story of four students from different parts of the world that travel long distances and sometimes encounter dangers to attend school. These small stories are like heroic journeys in their own way. It won Best Documentary Film at the Cesar Awards. Also available to stream on Kanopy.
Mad Hot Ballroom is a very entertaining and inspiring look at a diverse group of 10-year old New York City school kids learning ballroom dancing as part of a public school program. They reveal their unique personalities and funny observations as they perform rumbas, tangos, foxtrots and swing, preparing for a city-wide competition. A good movie for the whole family to enjoy.
A course in music appreciation would not be complete without an education in The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. A deeply personal expression of Lauryn Hill’s experiences with love, relationships, motherhood, and more, this one-of-a-kind album is worth studying over and over again. Miseducation is also available to stream/download on Freegal.
The films Center Stage and Napoleon Dynamite could not portray more opposite school experiences.
Center Stage follows a talented group of young dancers with dreams of ballet stardom who are training at the prestigious American Ballet Academy in New York City. Napoleon Dynamite, on the other hand, revolves around an oddball teen from an eccentric family in a small Idaho town who is trying to get his friend Pedro elected as class president.
But what they do have in common is a triumphant end-of-film dance number choreographed to the cathartic dance track “Canned Heat” by Jamiroquai. Get down with highly danceable soundtrack Center Stage: Music From The Motion Picture on Freegal. Or check out the Napoleon Dynamite Original Motion Picture Soundtrackon CD.
As someone who's starting school this fall, for this prompt I thought I would find tips for starting the new school year. Instead, I found a lot of thought provoking documentaries about how school can be a difficult experience and that there are no easy ways to improve it.
High School is a compilation of clips shot at a Philadelphia high school in 1968. It's fascinating to see how school differs from then to now in general, but this documentary also presents the case that the school is too authoritarian in trying to instill values in its student body.
Under the Same Sky is a short look at two students in China - one with an extremely scheduled life in the city, another in the countryside with more time to be a child, but not a lot of chances to get out of poverty via education.
Oyler follows a school in Cincinnati over the course of a year as it attempts to raise the achievement of its students so the principal isn't asked resign.
I'm so glad I found The Philosopher Kings during my research for this theme. This documentary interviews custodial staff at a few different universities. All of the people interviewed have had very different experiences in their lives and were drawn to their job for different reasons. This one is a little more hopeful than the other documentaries in this list.
All of these are available on Kanopy.
Extra Credit Video for less than perfect students.
I often turn to these classics for both good and bad examples of teachers.
Sidney Poitier is moving and inspiring as a teacher who abandons traditional methods to help a bunch of rejected students in To Sir With Love. The movie is great and features the international hit title song by Lulu available on Freegal.
Less inspiring, but still compelling, is Maggie Smith's Oscar winning performance as a misguided teacher inspiring her students in the wrong direction in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. The Oscar nominated song Jean by Oliver is less school driven but still worth checking out on Freegal.
Movies & Music - Question of the Week
John Hughes both wrote and directed the following classic ‘80s high school films EXCEPT for this one.
The Breakfast Club0
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off0
Pretty in Pink0
Last week's trivia answer was: Kool and the Gang