As parents who took the active and on-purpose step of homeschooling their children, one becomes acutely aware of the creative permutations available in the process; there are brilliant thinkers out there, finding ways to hack the process into something far more effective and individualized while conversely diluting Common-core homogenization.
Yet, creative homeschooling also allows for those who might like Common-core approaches to take that road entirely, if they’d like. There are even forums and support groups that allow for healthy debates about what these approaches bring to the game.
Being able to meld the inherent educational needs of our children with interfaces that perhaps sweeten the deal is also one of the great upsides. “Unit studies,” a way of having a child research in depth singular topics that interest them at the time–is one such approach. They may love horses, but by the time they’re finished with a unit study on them, they’ve now broached veterinary sciences, pathogens, and even taken a number of lessons on the proper care, feeding and interactions with these magnificent creatures.
History happens to be one of those subjects that either invoke immediate interest–or a complete bungee-jumping session into the abyss of lethargy.
Enter Doctor Who. To my mind, my attempts to watch this thing was thwarted when I saw the futuristic underpinnings of narcissism and plastic surgery played out as a character devoid of a body–and relegated to nothing more than a talking, facial membrane stretched out like a canvas; I got the joke, but my brain was just too tired to go the foot-miles necessary to follow.
Meanwhile, my 14-year-old would like nothing better than to build a TARDIS (basically a phone booth/time machine amalgam) in her room.
So yesterday, imagine the smile on my face, when a FaceBook buddy posted link to Amy Dutsch’s Traveling Through History With Doctor Who. A phenomenal idea. Not even that complex an idea–but a lot of genius ideas aren’t–they just need someone to breathe life into its nostrils.
Think about it. Doctor Who (played by a myriad of actors, as they change seasonally), travels forward and backward in time, engaging some sort of peril. The episodes nearly always depict genuine, world-historical events and people in each episode, and while many of the ancillary characters and villains are campy and one-off, the historical figures are kept within their integral bounds. Sure, Charles Dickens might be interacting with people 150 years in the future, but at the end of the day, his sense of anachronistic interference is abated.
The course is currently free for the independents who handle their own grading (such as R-4s), but it can most certainly be rung in as extra credit, even in the public school environment with a teacher willing to accept it. The graded course is either full, or nearly full as of this writing.
Essentially, the synopsis is thus:
Students taking this course will learn history though the fun and exciting world of Doctor Who. Students will watch a historically based Doctor Who episode each week, discuss the event or historical figures and research the event/figures. At the end of the course, students will choose their favorite episode to write a small research paper on the historical event/figure in the episode. While various perspectives are welcome, we will not focus this course on any religious basis, but polite discourse is welcome.
My favorite line from the layout is:
***The episodes WILL go out of order. A basic understanding of Doctor Who and the doctors’ regenerations and time travel is very helpful!**
Of COURSE I’m already running with a wheel in the sand here. I’m dad. I can’t possibly be cool enough to have a “basic understanding”of Doctor Who’s devil-may-care penchant for anachronistic volleyball. I’m not entirely convinced I know which Doctor is which–or why I got a flag on the proprietary 40-yard line for abbreviating “Doctor” in a text:
“The tenth doctor, that’s Benedict Cumberbatch, right?”
“Dad, that’s David Tennant. Everybody know that!”
And perhaps that’s the wedge–the motivation–the essential glitter of intrigue it carries for my kids: The idea that they become the cognoscenti of their own historical supplementation.
All that is required is a Netflix account with access to the episodes, or some other interface, a willingness to confront death, famine, mortality and the general declining state of affairs, and a sixth-grade reading level.
Which, last time I checked–WAS the nature of history.
Er . . . maybe I will head back over to season #1. They might have something with that whole “membranic visage” thing. Or at any rate, engender a cameo from Mikey Rourke.