You, Homeschooling Parent, need a break. Here are some educational shows for homeschooling via TV.
There’s a seemingly endless supply of really great and educational movies out there that can aid in homeschooling. So, too, there are a myriad of excellent TV series that are at least quasi-educational.
You need a list of educational shows for homeschooling – for when you need to plop your offspring in front of a screen and give yourself some down time.
Or you can watch them together, because “A children’s story only enjoyed by children is a bad children’s story.” (Thanks, CS Lewis. Can I get an Amen?)
So – I’ve done the work for you. (You’re welcome.)
Here are 22 educational shows for you homeschooling mamas (and papas), so you can take that much-needed break.
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Educational Shows For The Youngest Ones
1. Little House on the Prairie
This was a must-watch for my family when I was a little girl.
Melissa Gilbert stars as Laura, and she was basically my BFF. My parents say if the tv station cut off the ending credits too early before I could see Laura jump in the meadow after running down the hill, I would cry.
Excellent for learning about frontier life, pioneers, homesteading, friendships, faith, and family.
2. Reading Rainbow
It’s no secret I have a huge crush on Levar Burton, and Reading Rainbow is why.
The show ran for over twenty years, won a billion awards, and etched itself into our national consciousness. In it, Burton reads children’s books and features little vignettes that teach about and help further illustrate the topics in the books.
So while your little ones have books read to them, you can lose yourself in Levar’s dreamy eyes.
3. Wild Kratts
Starring brothers Chris and Martin Kratt, Wild Kratts will teach your youngsters about animals and conservation.
This cartoon-and-live-action series does it in such a fun and funny way that your kids won’t even know they’re totally learning.
4. FETCH! With Ruff Ruffman
This was my girl’s favorite show when they were smaller (they’re grown adults now, waaaa!).
FETCH! With Ruff Ruffman is a PBS reality game show, and it’s actually really funny and clever.
Ruff is an animated dog who gives assignments and challenges to kids aged 10-14 (real kids, not actors, which is why it works so well).
Your kids will feel like they’re a part of things as they learn about everything from training cats to space shuttles to stand-up comedy.
5. Between the Lions
Okay, I just now got the punny title. Ha! Between the Lions is partly live-action, partly animation, and it stars a family of lions who run a library.
There are lots of funny skits and plenty of episodes to choose from, and they’ll all teach your children about the magic of books.
6. Faerie Tale Theatre
Another blast from my past… I loved this series so much growing up!
In this fun and educational show, Shelley brings along some of the biggest stars of the 70s and 80s in her witty retellings of classic fairy tales.
My favorite was always Robin Williams in The Frog Prince. Or maybe Snow White with Vanessa Redgrave and Elizabeth McGovern…
Or Cinderella with Jennifer Beals! No, wait, The Princess Who Never Laughed with Howie Mandell!
There’s just too many great episodes.
Be advised, just like a really good fairy tale, some episodes are a little dark so if you have easily frightened youngsters, you might pick and choose wisely (and skip Rapunzel).
7. Schoolhouse Rock
Another vintage, but a goody! How many of you parents out there can still sing some of these classic Schoolhouse Rock songs?
It’s a proven fact that you learn better and faster (and more long term) when you learn in song.
(That’s a big emphasis in the uber-popular homeschooling program Classical Conversations.)
Educational Shows For The Middlers
These shows are ideal for your middle schoolers.
This is currently my twelve year old’s obsession, and the rest of the family likes it too.
It’s super witty and clever and you’ll get smarter just listening to the British accents to boot.
Horrible Histories is all about the gory, goofy, funny, rude, bizarre bits of history that your preteens especially will find hysterical and memorable.
The History Teachers
The History Teachers isn’t a show, but rather a fabulously clever channel on YouTube. These refashioned pop songs will bring history to life in ways that will make you and your kiddos laugh and learn.
Our favorite is The French Revolution set to Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance. Or maybe Cleopatra set to Fergie’s Fergalicious. Or Henry the VIII set to Money, Money, Money, by ABBA.
It’s so hard to choose, but with something like 57 videos, you won’t have to pick: just hit Play All.
Brain Games is a treat for hungry minds who love to know little-known facts or the answers to weird questions.
It’s a fascinating show good for the whole family that will teach you all sorts of things about your own brain you never even thought to ask.
Bindi the Jungle Girl
A spin-off of The Crocodile Hunter with Steve Irwin, this gentler approach to wildlife and conservation stars his itty-bitty daughter, Bindi. Perfect for your budding zoologist!
If you can find it, that is. It’s not streaming on Netflix, Prime, or anywhere else I can find.
These kids can cook! I can’t get through an episode without mock-yelling at my kids for barely being able to crack eggs.
MasterChef Junior is super fun, and because it’s about cooking it definitely qualifies as an educational show in my book.
During the reality-TV explosion of the early 2000s, PBS decided to jump into the fray with this unique social experiment.
Frontier House takes three contemporary families (who aren’t already experienced farmers or what have you), and sets them in quiet Montana valley to experience life as American pioneer homesteaders, circa 1883.
The goal was to supply the family with 1880s items in a covered wagon, give them each a large plot of land in the valley, and have them work the land over about 5 months, building (or finishing) log cabins, planting crops, chopping firewood, milking cows, and generally trying to survive the conditions faced by homesteaders of the past.
It’s a fascinating show, as you see the families alternately complain, bicker, and ultimately step up to the challenge of old-fashioned frontier life over the course of many months.
Along the way you’ll learn about living conditions of the 1880s, frontier culture, and how hard it is to “bust sod” and plow a field. How hard everything was, really.
Perhaps most fascinating of all is the postscript episode, where the camera crew interviews the families a few months after their return to contemporary life. Very, very interesting stuff.
So interesting, in fact, that it launched numerous other versions of the show. I have seen all of these, but for the most part none have surpassed the original Frontier House show:
- Victorian Slum House (2017; families experience living in a Victorian-era tenement)
- Colonial House (2004; living in the New World circa 1628)
- Manor House (2002; British class system of the early 1900s)
- Pioneer Quest (2000; this is the original Canadian show which inspired Frontier House. It’s interesting, but not quite as good. Less authentic, less detailed, and less dramatic)
Educational Shows For The High Schoolers
What boy especially, and a lot of girls too, don’t love the idea of fighting for survival and making a life in the wilderness?
Starring two frenemies, military-trained Dave Canterbury and naturalist Cody Lundin, Dual Survivor is an educational series that explores what it’s really like to be on your own… and how to survive.
The Curse of Oak Island
My preteen drifts in and out with this one, but my hubby and I are kinda obsessed.
The Curse of Oak Island is the story of an island off the coast of Nova Scotia with a fascinating history of buried pirate treasure, the ark of the covenant, and the Knights Templar.
Do they find anything? And does the narrator begin every sentence with a question?
Yes, to both.
Kings of Pain
This one just makes me wince, but my son assures me it’s very educational.
If by “educational” you mean “subjecting yourself to poisonous bites and stings,” then yes. Very educational.
“They’re creating the ultimate survival guide!” my son says.
Listen… Kings of Pain is not for the faint of heart. There’s blood. And snakes. Sooo many snakes.
“But Mommmmmm, it’s educational!”
Forged in Fire
Got a metal worker in the family? Combining welding, swordsmithing techniques, historical weaponry, and more into a sword-making competition with cash prizes, Forged in Fire is fun reality show that will surprise you with how much you learn. Talk about a lost art!
Archaeologist Josh Gates leads his crew on journeys through time, discovering ancient artifacts along the way.
Gates has an academic approach, but it doesn’t dampen the fun. Exciting, witty, adventurous, and, yes, educational, Expedition Unknown is a fun exploration of legends, treasures, and relics.
The Carbonaro Effect
This show stars real-life magician, Michael Carbonaro, and it combines magic tricks with hidden cameras.
Michael isn’t just talented at magic, he’s a great improv actor too, and the combination of the two just works.
Some episodes are so funny that you (along with your kids) will be howling with laughter. Anyone who enjoys magic and humor will love The Carbonaro Effect.
This one is fine for your younger ones too. Occasionally his pranks will have people cursing, but it’s bleeped out.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
This clever YouTubes series takes Jane Austen’s beloved novel, Pride and Prejudice, and puts it in modern life.
The episodes are only about five minutes each (there are 100 in all to get to The End). The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a really fun distraction from math and social studies, and Mom will enjoy them too (especially if she knows where the story is going).
It is a little more PG-13-ish, mostly due to little sister, Lydia, who is extra naughty, but it’s nothing you wouldn’t find on many other “family friendly” shows.
This is another type of survivalist show, but with a twist: the participants in this reality show are completely (you guessed it) alone.
No camera man, no buddy, no communication other than the walkie-talkie they are given, which is expressly for emergencies or when they are ready to “tap out.”
And tap out they do, until there is one winner left.
Alone is a quiet show, but will leave you on the edge of your seat (and make you realize life during a pandemic wasn’t that lonely after all).
The Amazing Race
The Amazing Race is one of my favorite shows ever, and it’s pretty family friendly (when they do curse, it’s bleeped out).
It’s been on for pretty much forever (362 episodes and it’s possible I’ve seen every one… ahem), so it will keep your kid (or yourself!) occupied for quite a while.
The concept is simple, though it does get more complicated and crazy as the seasons go on: teams of two race around the world in a huge scavenger hunt/test of skills.
What’s really fun is the “ringers” at the beginning aren’t always the winners at the end: little things like a taxi driver who doesn’t know where he’s going, or missing luggage, or a flight that gets cancelled, or any little thing can get you out of the race for good.
If you have a budding crime-fighter in your house, this real-life ride-along with American cops will be a hit!
One of my favorite little girls from ballet class (yep, I teach ballet), the cutest, sweetest, munchkin, plans on being a police woman and she endorses this show whole-heartedly.
More Family Movie Watch Lists
Here are some more ideas to put on your watch list.
- 47 Great Educational Movies – My list of movies to put on for the kids so you can take a break and feel like they’re getting at least quasi-educated
- 11 Feel-Good Indie Movies – Mostly for you parents and your older teens, these 11 “indie” films range from PG to R, but they’re all witty, clever, and maybe a little bit weird
- The MASSIVE List of Family-Friendly Movies That Grown-Ups Love Too – A long list of the best movies that are PG and under