19 January 2013

Use Your TV for More Than Just Watching Doctor Who

As homeschoolers, we do everything we can to make sure our precious childrens' neurons reach that optimal level of development that will allow them to single-handedly cure cancer (or at least the common cold).  One of those things is usually relegating the TV to a dusty corner of the family room and only letting electricity flood through its creaky circuits in cases of emergency, such as flu infestations or, well, anything that involves a puke bucket, really.

The new smart TVs, however, do more than beam episodes of Caillou directly into your little darling's brain.  The smarter they get, the more we can use them to enhance our homeschooling, and some of the things they can do now are pretty darn cool.

1. Documentaries

This is the obvious one, but if you've been living under a rock for the last half-decade, you might not know that most of the TVs on the market now are wifi capable, and if you have a Netflix account, you can stream any one of hundreds of documentaries to your TV.  Perfect if you need to supplement almost any subject and still get the laundry done.

2. Art and Music Slide Show

This one is something I didn't even figure out until we started Meet the Masters.  As we tried to crowd around the smallish computer screen to ogle works by Van Gogh and Mondrian, I found myself thinking, "Gosh, I wish we could look at these on a bigger screen."

Oh.  Duh.

Out came the flash drive, and after a few minutes of saving and transferring pictures, we found ourselves watching a mommy-directed slideshow on the thirty-two glorious inches of the living room TV.  I got to sit back on the couch, moving between paintings with a flick of the remote while leisurely reading the information to Syd.

If you're especially techy, you can stick all of your fine art images into one folder on the flash drive, load up another folder with your favorite classical music, and set the whole thing to go as a slideshow with music. 

3. Microscope for All!

This one might take a little more doing, depending on your microscope and TV, but if you have one microscope and more than one child, you've doubtless had to referee a pack of snarling and pushing kids while they try to get their turn to observe one of your hair follicles.  However, if your computer has an HDMI port, as many now do, and your microscope has a camera and computer hook up, you can stream the image to your TV!  (Yes, you could just stream it to your computer, but if you have five or six kids, that's not going to help much with the shoving problem.)  Because really, who wants to watch Avatar when you could be observing the finer points of mom's toenail clipping at 90x magnification?

Pretty neat, isn't it?

Now the technical details of all this magic will differ depending on your specific equipment, so if you have questions, consult your manual, the manufacturer, or your resident geek.

Oh!  I almost forget.

4. Watching Doctor Who

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