As the amount of information on the internet multiplied by infinity every day, much of that vastness is an uninspiring wasteland made mostly of cat videos and epic fails at it’s best and venomous hate and degrading pornography at it’s worst. Some days it’s hard to find the one gem that’s worth learning from. But there is a lot of great content out there, and I’ve found YouTube to be a particularly great resource, especially to enhance my children’s understanding of the world. Will education on YouTube work in your home? My guess is yes.

While it is wise (given the amount of cat videos on YouTube) to closely monitor your kids’ use of the site, it can be a mother’s best friend. Yes, you can find some more interesting topics: from Hallowe’en makeup application to how to fold fitted sheets to how to make your favorite mixed drink. But in my home, we go to “YouTube School”—we use YouTube videos to supplement the kids’ public school education. Just the other day my son had to complete a presentation on Jewish Immigration to the United States after the war. Using YouTube, my son was able to hear first person accounts of people who fled Europe in search of a new life here and gain a whole new understanding of that time period.

The YouTube search tool allows us to search for specific concepts that the kids are learning and watch videos that help them (and their parents) to understand complex concepts and stretch their learning beyond the classroom.  Here are some of the things we use YouTube for:

Math concepts

I’m the first to admit that I’m not a mathematician. I know basic math concepts, but with my son entering sixth grade and the new “common core,” I’m not up on the lingo. With YouTube, I don’t have to be. When my son was learning about volume and measurement, we typed the key terms from his math textbook into Google followed by “YouTube” and were presented with a wide array of videos to teach those concepts. We figured out how to calculate the volume of a cube using YouTube. Remember the SchoolHouse Rock from the eighties? The 3 is a Magic Number video actually relates to a common core patterning concept and helped my son learn multiplication. From simple cartoons to complex university lectures, YouTube has everything your kid needs to help get math homework done.

World history

Tons of videos YouTube can also enhance your child’s understanding of world history. Learning about the Holocaust and World War II from textbooks is all well and good–but listening to soldier and survivor experiences like my son did for his immigration project has much more impact, and it gives kids an opportunity to witness actual emotion and learn about compassion. Our family watched YouTube videos of Pompeii when my son had an oral presentation coming on the subject. It enhanced his understanding of the period far more than just reading a book ever could.

Learning new technology

I’m the first to admit that technology is evolving faster than I can learn it, and I know that public schools are always behind (sometimes far behind) what’s “current.” On YouTube, information is available instantly, and it’s always current. Does your kid want to learn how to edit and upload YouTube videos? There are several YouTube videos that walk you through the entire process. Our son watched videos this summer to learn how to make stop-motion Lego movies. It was a great way for him to learn something without him even thinking of it as study. It allowed him to experience the video while learning hands-on. It’s not just him though–when I come across a programming issue in WordPress like finding out how to add a Stumbleupon button or if I can’t figure out how to do something in the latest Office version that I learned to do on a previous one, YouTube is my first stop.

As long as you’re closely monitoring your kids, YouTube School can be a mom’s best friend as far as learning goes. The videos are engaging and can explain complex concepts in ways far better than you ever could. And while cat videos are fun…learning can be too.