Not long ago I discovered that ‘The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones’ TV series is available on Netflix. I remember seeing a couple of installments of this show in 2007 on Saturday mornings, and I was really impressed by what a great show it was. So I was thrilled to see it available for me and the kids to watch the entire series on Netflix. And after seeing several of the hour-and-a-half long episodes of this series, I must say I’m totally in love with this show! After a brief history, I will tell you why I love ‘The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones’ so much.
George Lucas created the series that ran from 1992-1993. It was originally called ‘The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles’ and aired in one hour episodes. The show got great critical acclaim and was nominated for and won several awards; but after three seasons it was canceled due to high production costs and low ratings, although I read that in Europe and other countries the series was very popular. Apparently Americans found it a little too ‘cerebral’, because, wow; along with what I consider some pretty rip-roaring adventures, this show was actually about interesting historical characters, moral dilemmas, history, art, different cultures, religion and philosophy. The purpose of this series was to educate, in an entertaining, personal way, about world history of the early twentieth century by having young Indy meeting many of the great historical figures of the time. A concept, I’m sad to say, that may be even more unappreciated in this country today than it was twenty years ago!
But then in 2007 the series was re-edited (as Mr. Lucas is so fond of doing) and re-packaged as ‘The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones'; combining two original episodes into single 2-hour (one and a half without commercials) episodes; leaving out a lot of stuff, but making the time line of events more coherent. Over the years the series has also been shown on several different networks, including The History Channel. There were also four made-for-TV movies of Young Indy a few years later; as well as a series of novels and a Darkhorse comic book series that filled in more of Indiana’s later adventures.
But let’s get back to my mini-review. The series begins when Henry Jones Junior (Indy) is ten years old. The first series involves his father, the famous professor of Medieval History at Princeton taking his family and Indy’s tutor, Miss Seymour, traveling to England, Africa, India, Greece, Italy, China and Russia in 1910 on a whirlwind lecture tour. This was an absolutely brilliant concept for an educational series; based on an adventurous, beloved character who amazingly gets to meet dozens of historical figures like Teddy Roosevelt, Norman Rockwell, Picasso, Leo Tolstoy, Lawrence of Arabia, young Krishnamurti and Ernest Hemingway, among many others. Later, back home, when Indy is sixteen years old he solves a mystery with the author of ‘The Hardy Boys’ daughter, meets Thomas Edison, joins Pancho Villa’s army (narrowly missing death on numerous occasions), and the last one we watched Indy is just heading off to Europe with his friend Remy to fight in World War I. Much of the later shows involve Indy’s experiences during the Great War.
Every aspect of this series is awesomely done! The production value of each episode is like watching a feature film. The filming locations are breathtaking. The actors are all incredible, not the least of which are the actors who play Indy at age 10 (Corey Carrier) and the older teenage Indiana (Sean Patrick Flanery). Lloyd Owen, who plays Indy’s father, Henry Senior, is also really wonderful. He speaks and sounds so much like Indy’s father from ‘The Last Crusade’ that when I close my eyes I actually see Sean Connery! The way he says “Junior!” is remarkable!
The series adds tremendous richness and character development to the ‘Indiana Jones’ saga and fills in a lot of backstory about the father/son relationship. In some ways I actually enjoy this series more than the original movies. They’re grounded in ‘the real world’ as opposed to the mystical craziness of the films. Actually I love the first and third Indiana Jones movies, but pretend that ‘Temple of Doom’ and ‘Crystal Skull’ never happened! ‘Temple of Doom’ got so damn dark and sadistic (I only have watched it once, when it first came out); and the last Indy film from 2008 (Nuking the Fridge, anyone?) just left me awfully disappointed. I had such high expectations! (It was nice to see Marion again). But watching this wonderful show has been a delightful experience for me, and the kids both love it! It’s entertaining, educational, emotionally moving and funny as hell at times. It shows both the lighter and darker sides of twentieth century history; the rich complexity of clashing cultures and human nature. It shows how a young boy changes through his experiences to become the man we know from the feature films.
I would highly recommend this series for young or old; as entertaining storytelling and as a great way to teach history and culture. It’s also a rich homeschooling resource for me! I’m including some links to much more information below.
Young Indiana Jones Unofficial Home Page: A wonderfully thorough resource for all things Indy!
DVDPlanet: The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones (Good prices for DVDs! Also available on Amazon and other places on-line).
One of my children’s favorite TV series is a PBS show called ‘Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman’. It’s on our local PBS station at 5 o’clock on weekdays, usually when I’m making dinner, which is handy for all of us. Lately Fiona has been watching a lot of episodes of ‘Fetch’ on-line when she gets the opportunity. And Arthur loves it, too. One of the neat things about this show is how extremely educational and humorous it is. I’ve also noticed many times over the last few months that both of my kids (ages 6 and 9) will often bring up some really interesting tidbit of knowledge, and I’ll ask them, ‘How did you know that?'; and they’ll say, ‘I saw it on Ruff Ruffman’.
The show is a mixture of animated characters (led by Ruff) and real kids who Ruff sends on missions that involve finding clues, figuring out puzzles and participating in all kinds of mentally and physically challenging activities. It’s a wonderful demonstration of learning by doing, coupled with mystery and drama and some very funny dialog. Even older kids, (myself included) find this show a lot of fun to watch. But check out the above website and THIS for more information. There’s also a Facebook page HERE.
Just recently while I was looking up info about the show I discovered that Season Five of Fetch, from last year, was the final season. After about 100 episodes, due to a lack of funding, no new episodes of Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman will be made. And this makes me genuinely sad! My kids love watching the old episodes; but it bums me out that another witty, creative and informative show has gone away because of a lack of money. I also discovered there’s an on-line petition addressed to WGBH in Boston, the station that produced Ruff, to try to bring new episodes back in the future. There’s another on Facebook as well. I added my name, of course, and if you want to also, it’s HERE.
That’s all I have to say right now. Since it’s just a couple of days till Halloween, I’ve also added a link to an informative article about the many origins of this often misunderstood holiday/holy day.
I’ve recently discovered a neat website that is very handy for homeschooling; or for anyone who needs writing practice. It’s called ESL Writing Wizard, and it lets you create your own personalized practice writing sheets for printing or cursive, which you can save or print directly from the web browser. Since I tried it out last week our kids have both taken a sudden interest in practicing their cursive handwriting. It’s great! It’s more fun for them since they can create whatever words or sentences they want to practice and then immediately print them.
Another interesting resource I found is called Alison.com. It’s an on-line university of sorts with high school and advanced college courses that is free to use. This site is definitely geared more toward higher education and adult learners; with course offerings covering digital literacy and IT, financial and economic courses, business, health and safety, English language skills and diploma courses. I discovered it through This Article which goes into more detail about it. My kids have really been enjoying Khan Academy videos and exercises, and this follows that growing trend of redefining free, on-education for the future.
With the sky-rocketing cost of conventional educational institutions (not to mention the absurd level of student loan debt in this country) it will be interesting to see where all this goes.
I realized the other day that even though we homeschool our kids, I’ve never written much about it here. Writing about the wonderful resource of the Khan Academy the other day got me thinking about it. I still hesitate about whether I should write it ‘homeschool’ or ‘home school’. The WordPress spell checker (spellchecker?) doesn’t seem to like it combined as ‘homeschooling’, but I just noticed it also doesn’t approve of the spelling of ‘WordPress’ either. I’ve seen it written both ways on the internet, but I think I prefer it all as one word; so for now on I shall use ‘homeschool’ and ‘homeschooling’ when referring to the way Stephanie and I educate our children. Also, Dictionary.com tells me homeschool is a proper word. So there!
But back to the subject; homeschooling is something that seems to have gained a lot of popularity over the years. I guess there are different reasons why people homeschool their kids. Many parents seem to do it for religious reasons, I suppose to more thoroughly instruct their children in their particular belief system. Or to protect them from the ever-lowering moral standards of average American society (I can certainly relate to that!) Then there’s the general state of fear, intimidation and violence that kids can be exposed to in schools these days. Even in suburban schools or in more ‘affluent’ areas, the bullying and violence that we hear about fairly often was unimaginable when I was a kid back in the sixties/early seventies. Heck, when I was a kid it was pretty rare to hear about someone getting a punch in the nose, let alone worrying about if some psychotic classmate was packing heat, or having death threats sent to you by email for being the least bit different!
My wife used to work with kids in the public school system, so I know part of the reason we homeschool our children is from the horror stories she’s seen first hand of what kids are capable of doing to each other in modern schools. I also think a major reason many parents choose homeschooling is because we’ve learned that there are many different ways that people learn, depending on the individual. I certainly don’t have anything against schools or teachers in general; but most public schools are limited to a certain style of instruction in a crowded environment and cannot give attention to a student’s individual needs the way home schooling can.
Another reason we chose homeschooling is that we want our children to be creative people, to be free-thinking individuals who follow their own core values as opposed to following the dictates of their peers or cultural fads or the false fulfillments of advertising that seems to dominate our culture. I think some people may thrive in an environment of group mentality; of doing what you’re told and conforming to the will of the masses; of competition over cooperation. But I also think that those who do well in our test-oriented superficial system of education do so in spite of the system, because of their own inane intelligence that is fostered outside the school environment by parents and relatives. And also there are the statistics that show again and again that America has fallen behind other nations, especially up-and-coming third world nations; in the sciences, technology, history, culture, the arts. And because of the decline in our general economy over the last decade or more, the things that I think matter most like Fine Arts, Music, Literature and Philosophy are the first things being cut from our school systems. Short term memorization has become more valued than cognitive thinking skills. And what can teachers do? Their budgets are constantly being reduced. Or teachers are losing their jobs. Resources for education dwindle, especially in the inner-cities, until it seems only the rich and entitled see any hope for a better life than their parents had.
I recently heard that the Rochester, New York City School District, near where we live, has a high school graduation rate slightly lower than 50%! And the Rochester area is better off than many cities in this country. That’s pretty scary!
But I’m getting off on a rant now, and I was really trying to avoid that! There are lots of reasons for homeschooling your precious offspring. And many different philosophies of home schooling, from unschooling to homeschool co-ops to Montessori . I supposed we’ve used a little of everything so far. But I can only say that at eight years old, my son reads voraciously and knows so much on such a wide range of subjects that I have little doubt he will grow up to be a well-rounded, compassionate, witty and highly ‘educated’ individual. As will his younger sister, who at five years of age has an amazing number of interests and talents. And we are very fortunate to live in an area with many large homeschooling groups and communities with all kinds of resources for sports, activities, education and socialization.
But primarily, life is our school. As it has been for thousands of years of human experience. Organized, institutionalized school systems are a rather recent development of the Industrial Age, after all. Every waking moment is a natural stimulus for exploration and study and experimentation. As little children, we found a natural delight in experiencing the world of our senses. That’s what I think ‘education’ is really about. You know, it cracks me up when someone will ask me (like last week) “So do you take time off from homeschooling in the summer”, or something like that; and I am dumbfounded for a moment at how to answer! Because most of us are so conditioned to think of ‘learning‘ as something that happens in an institution, or within the walls of a classroom; as something formal and separate from what the brain does in any other waking moment. So I suppose I could say “No, we don’t generally categorize life into ‘learning’ and ‘non-learning’ time. We learn just as much by playing and exploring as we do reading a book. Whenever we encounter the strange or unfamiliar or beautiful or frightening or puzzling world around us, we’re always learning. And everyone we meet and everything we see and hear and feel and touch is our teacher.
A while back my wife told me about a great home schooling resource called ‘The Khan Academy’. We’re home schooling our kids and I’m constantly in search of new resources besides textbooks and other written material we already have. There are numerous websites, TED, and other on-line educational resources, but I finally got around to checking out The Khan Academy the other day, and it is brilliant!
The website was started by a guy named Salman Khan, a successful hedge fund manager who originally made some algebra videos for his cousin and decided to branch out and create a ton of videos on Youtube covering a wide range of subjects. It has now grown into a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing a quality education to anyone (with a little help from Bill Gates) for free. But instead of me going over the story here, check out the links below for more in-depth information.
The range of topics covered on The Khan Academy site are incredible! Not just tons of math, but history, biology, physics, astronomy, economics, politics, SAT preparation; to name just a few. And the format of these videos is brilliant! This is not your average televised talking head type of video. It’s more like computer blackboard illustrations that go along with the narrative, all done by Sal Khan himself, that last approximately 10 to 15 minutes in length. And there are also interactive practice lessons available. My son and daughter love watching them, and so do I! There’s material for every age range right up through college level instruction. I’ve been spending at least an hour or so a day watching videos with the kids.
Such a simple idea, but I think his really could produce a revolution in education. But check out the Khan Academy for yourself. I love this guy!