Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Review: SmartKidz Media Library

I have found that learning happens most effectively when we approach it in a multi-sensory manner, using multiple means to explore the subject matter. Often I spend so much time perusing the library's catalog, or YouTube, trying to find video clips or books that will enhance whatever we are studying, especially in the areas of History and Science. Although I enjoy 'browsing', I often find it frustrating to not find exactly what I am looking for, and wasting so much time.

When we received a one year subscription to the SmartKidz Media Library for Homeschoolers from SmartKidz Media, I was thrilled to find an entire online library of digital books, music, and videos ready for us to investigate! I was excited to see how we could incorporate it into our everyday learning. 

What is the SmartKidz Media Library? This is a complete online resource that streams video, music, and e-books. There are also fun interactive games and puzzles. All the resources are geared towards children and family friendly viewing. Many of the videos are award winning educational documentaries or animated features. 

Easily navigate the site through this menu on the home page.

A sampling of the videos available in the animal & wildlife collection

Where can it be played? SmartKidz can be viewed on any device that you currently use to stream online content, including computer, iPad, and iPhone. Basically, wherever you can log in to the account, you can watch videos. I am told that it can also be streamed to a TV using a Roku device, but we don't own that, so I wasn't able to test that out. 

What types of video programming are included? There are so many different categories of videos available that it is almost overwhelming when you first sign up! You will find child friendly videos on everything from cooking, fitness videos, history, exploring cultures, animals, science, travel, and learning sign language.

What else is available? There is a varied assortment of music available, which is pleasant to stream live from the iPad while the children are working on something else. We especially enjoyed the classical music selections. There are also e-books with plenty of classical stories, including the entire series of Aesop's Fables. Children can read along as the story is read, and watch the pages turn, bringing new illustrations to view. We didn't use the e-books much, as they seem mostly geared for younger children. The "fun zone" allows your children to play educational games and online puzzles. 

Example of an e-book

Study Guides: There is a complete section of study guides on various topics available for the student to expand their learning and vocabulary after watching the videos. As we wrapped up our Geography lessons for the year, we used the study guides on land forms to review the new terms that the girls needed to remember. 

Example of a study guide

Is there any limit to how much can be watched? There is no limit - once an account is set up, it can be accessed at any time, anywhere, as frequently as you wish. 

New Content: While I don't think even the most avid users could work their way through all the videos currently available, the site does have quite a bit of new content that is being added over the next few months, including some history videos that we are highly anticipating.

Kelly's favorite video

How did we use our Media Library? By the time we started this review, we were finishing up our formal schoolwork for the year, so I wasn't able to match videos to our current studies like I will this fall. During the summer, I always require the girls to choose at least one non-fiction book per week from the library to read, just to keep them growing and learning new things. I have used the SmartKidz Library in this way, allowing them to explore the site, and choose what topics interest them. After watching the videos, we discuss what they have learned, and they tell me at least one new thing they learned about the subject of the particular video they watched. They have also enjoyed playing the games in the fun zone, even though they are a little bit on the easy side for our ages (10 and 13). 

Our favorites: Since Melissa is interested in everything France, she has enjoyed watching the French cooking demonstrations, and even trying some of the recipes on her own. Kelly's go-to videos are always the animal ones, and she has been sharing an endless supply of facts about all different types of animals, especially sea creatures. Personally, I have enjoyed watching the travel videos that teach about different cultures. I have found them fascinating. 

Melissa loved the French cooking demonstrations. 

What do I think? With it's pay-one-price subscription, this Online Media Library is a tremendous resource for homeschoolers. I love that access is available at any time, and that it is very easy to navigate the site, with the menu bar across the top of the screen. I appreciate the color thumbprints of each video, and the short description when you hover your mouse over it. This really helps to identify the content of each video. While we haven't even scratched the surface of what's available, we also haven't found anything that I would consider offensive. There are several of the history and culture videos whose themes may be considered more 'mature', but I felt they were tastefully presented and we watch those together. (Parents of younger children may want to preview content to make sure they want their children to watch those). Through the science videos we have watched, I have not found the typical "evolution-heavy" content that usually is a given with these types of videos, and I really appreciate that. I am comfortable allowing the children to go online and access the program on their own, as I feel it is a safe environment free from the usual 'garbage' that clutters most online sites, including advertisements and inappropriate content.

Mom's favorite section - learning about other cultures

Wish List: There are only a few things that I would add to make this wonderful site an even better fit for us: I would have some type of "search" or "index" so that I could type in one or two keywords and easily find a short list of videos that contain that subject matter. I would also make a way to select videos and put them on a playlist, so that I could choose videos and assign them to various members of the family to watch. The children wouldn't mind having a "favorites" playlist, and it would be great to have some type of highlight or check mark on the videos that have already been viewed. Several times the children would get partially into a video and realize they had already watched it, so they wanted to try to mark off videos as they were watched.

SmartKidz Media Library is a well-planned resource that we will continue to enjoy regularly! I am so glad to have it as a part of our home school!

Try it for yourself! SmartKidz Media offers a free 14 day trial membership for families to check out their site to see if it's a good fit. 

Connect with SmartKidz Media online:

See what other members of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of their SmartKidz Media subscriptions:

SmartKidz Media Review

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